Here’s the press release, in suitably official press release language:
Half the world’s languages are in imminent danger of extinction—but Chittenden County word game lovers have the chance to help stop that decline.
On Wednesday, December 13, area residents of the Champlain Valley region are invited to join the non-profit Endangered Alphabets Project at the Fletcher Free Library to help test and create word games that can be translated into threatened languages and alphabets both in the United States and around the world.
“If you want to revive a language, you have to start with kids, and if you want to engage kids you need games,” explained Tim Brookes, a Champlain College professor and founder of the Endangered Alphabets Project.
Speakers of English and the other major world languages grow up playing word games such as Hangman, Scrabble, Boggle, and word searches. Speakers of indigenous and minority languages often have no such games to develop and reinforce their language skills.
Brookes is working with partners in nine countries to co-create word games for children and adults. The workshop at the Fletcher Free library is one of a series intended to test games currently in development, and come up with ideas for others.
“It would be great if all the Scrabble lovers in Chittenden County showed up,” Brookes joked.
The Endangered Alphabets Project word game workshop will be held in the Fletcher Room of the Fletcher Free Library on Wednesday, Dec. 13, 2017 from 6:30-8 pm.
As we approach the giving season, here is the opportunity to give gifts unlike anyone else’s, and in the process support the global work of language revival.
The federal non-profit Endangered Alphabets Project, which is not supported by any agency, institution, or foundation, lives by its wits, and in terms of funding that comes down to speaker fees, commissions, donations, and the sale of books and carvings. Signed copies of my book can be ordered HERE; donations can be made HERE.
But wouldn’t it be ideal to buy a carving to give as a gift?
Right now I’m offering three.
The first is a piece of applewood–a ring, really–into which I’ve carved the inscription (in Elvish, not technically an endangered alphabet except in fiction) from the Ring of Power in The Lord of the Rings. A perfect gift for a fan of Tolkien or anyone who likes constructed languages. Dimensions: 27″x16″x2″. $300 plus shipping.
The second is a blessing/chant in Balinese, one of the world’s most fluid and evocative scripts: Om and Shanti, Shanti and Om. Clumsily translated, it means “May there be peace for all human kind, peace for all living and non living beings, peace for the universe.”
Dimensions: 23″ x 6 1/2″ x 1″.
The wood is pau rosa, or redheart.
$250 plus shipping.
The third is based on the wonderful Tibetan calligraphy of the Buddhist monk Tashi Mannox. Tibetan is usually written horizontally, but he uses a variety of alignments including circular forms. This is the Tibetan for “Moon,” which of course I have painted in silver.
Dimensions: 8″ x 9 1/2″ x 1″.
The wood is cherry.
$170 plus shipping. By arrangement with Tashi Mannox, a portion of the proceeds of this sale will go to Rokpa International, a non-profit that cares for orphaned and refugee children in the Himalayas.
If you are interested in any of these carvings, please contact me through this site or at email@example.com.
Here, thanks to a ridiculous amount of time on Photoshop (yes, I have been told it would have been easier in Illustrator, Indesign, or even Word), is what must surely be the first Word Search puzzle ever composed in Marma, one of the endangered indigenous languages of Bangladesh.
The words, mostly for animals and fruit of the region, are taken from our six-language children’s picture-book dictionary, available from ourgoldenhour.org.
To be honest, I don’t know if I’m using all the words and letters correctly, so I’ve sent it to our friend and colleague Maung Nyeu to check it out.
But once we get it right, this could be yet another valuable tool in reviving endangered languages and traditional scripts, not only in Bangladesh but worldwide.
It has already inspired a friend to create the first word search in Chakma, another of the indigenous languages of Bangladesh.
Questions? Comments? Suggestions?
Six months ago, I saw this extraordinary piece of apple wood, this ring, and I knew I wanted to carve around its rim the inscription from the Ring of Power from the Lord of the Rings: “One ring to rule them all, one ring to find them, One ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them.”
It was fun, but it’s not my main and most serious purpose. I’d like to sell it to continue to fund the Endangered Alphabets Games we’re now developing to help revive a range of endangered languages. The dimensions are roughly 26″ x 16″.
I’m asking $300 plus the cost of boxing and shipping.
If you’re interested, contact me via firstname.lastname@example.org.
No fewer than two opportunities to see the Endangered Alphabets (and me) this week if you’re in Vermont, upstate New York or Quebec.
On Thursday evening at 6 p.m., the Alphabets are part of a double-exhibition at Norwich University in Northfield, Vermont. One part features artwork from 19th-century expeditions led by Norwich grads; the Alphabets raise the question, “Yes, but what about the explorees?” What is the impact on those whose lands and cultures are “discovered” by those from the West?
On Friday at 6:30 p.m. I’ll be speaking at the new GreenTARA Gallery in North Hero, Vermont, where Alphabets carvings will be displayed and on sale for the next month. Proceeds support the Endangered Alphabets Games–creating games that will help indigenous and minority peoples revive their mother tongues.
Please stop by if you’re in the area!
The next 72 hours will decide whether our Kickstarter campaign, to create word games in endangered languages, succeeds or fails. We have great support–we’re over 75% of the way to our goal–but we need to clinch it now.
First, the reward to end all rewards, the most beautiful thing I’ve ever had a hand in making: the Tibetan Blessing Table.
This circular cherry dining table, slightly under 5 feet in diameter, was made by cabinetmaker Tim Peters, and I carved into the top the phrase “Graceful kindness” in Tibetan six times in a circular band, so it repeats like a blessing, or a mantra. (The Tibetan script is based on a design by world-renowned Buddhist calligrapher Tashi Mannox.)
The table has an unusual organic quality: it is assembled without nails, screws, or glue.
The Tibetan Blessing Table is offered to a single U.S. backer at the level of $5,000. This includes shipping.
And as not everyone has $5,000 to spend, here is the other new reward, of particular interest to games players and designers: anyone who backs us at the $25 level (or above) will be automatically included in all the discussions, over the next year, that shape and design the next three generations of Endangered Alphabets games. You can choose to opt out at any time, but for as long as you choose to participate, your voice will be heard.
Dear friends and faithful supporters of the Endangered Alphabets:
Something remarkable is happening. Actually, several somethings. An incredible surge of support from friends old and new has rushed us almost to the halfway point in our campaign. What I’m hearing is:
On the most immediate level, the Endangered Alphabets Project is doing things that have never been done before. Using artwork to draw attention to the loss of traditional cultures all over the world. Creating learning materials to help prevent that erosion and loss. Writing, illustrating and publishing the world’s first six-language children’s picture-book dictionary in endangered languages. And now…
…designing games that kids (and adults) can play using their own traditional languages, spoken and written.
All these Alphabets activities are having an effect. I recently displayed the game tile carvings in Barcelona and Paris, and spoke about them to UNESCO, and the enthusiasm and encouragement were wall-to-wall. Translators and linguists, game designers and graphic designers, calligraphers and programmers and businesspeople–I’ve never seen such positive response.
Of course: to revive languages, you have to start with children, and to involve children, you have to create games.
The Endangered Alphabets Game campaign is likewise drawing approval and support at an unprecedented rate. Not only are people donating, but they are blogging about it, posting on Facebook, setting up podcasts. I’m being contacted by people all over the world who want to collaborate in the act of creating games that will teach traditional writing systems.
This may be the most important and powerful Endangered Alphabets activity yet. Please support us, and please spread the word. I was recently discussing the subject with a global official in this field, and she used the phrase “dying languages.” I was horrified. “I don’t think in terms of `dying languages,'” I told her. “I think in terms of what we can do to revive them and the cultures that use them.”
And games are what we are going to do next.
As part of this surge of interest and energy, I’m adding a new reward to the campaign: my carving of the Javanese character that announces the opening of a poem, carved in golden-flecked sapele wood. One of the great discoveries of working on the Alphabets has been the ways in which other writing systems encompass symbols we’ve apparently never even considered, or which denote ideas or insights we don’t see, or don’t see as important. The notion of a piece of–what, punctuation?–that invites us to read a text with a different frame of mind! I find that fabulous.
Please help us fund not just the first game, but the first series of games–the games that show others that languages are not dying, but waiting to be revived.
Thanks so much.
PS And speaking of games, our very latest Kickstarter reward just arrived–endangered alphabet puzzles! Based on designs in kid-friendly minority script from the Chittagong Hill Tracts of Bangladesh by the absurdly talented Irina Wang. This one says “storm,” and depicts–a storm. The other says “mango,” and depicts–well, you get the picture.