Thanks to recent generous contributions from Mono Lely, Jill Chase, Michael Dutton, Nancy Nancy E. Randolph and Dutton, we are now one-sixth of the way to our goal, and it has taken us one-sixth of our campaign time to get there. Remember: IF WE DO NOT REACH OUR GOAL, WE GET NOTHING.
The optimist in me cheers and points out that, mathematically, we are on track.
The pessimist points out that the first few days of any Kickstarter tend to be followed by a droop, a slump, a echoing silence.
In other words, we are only on track if we keep working steadily and eagerly. Please donate HERE, if you have not done so. Please keep spreading the word and encourage others to support us. And by all means send me ideas for reaching out and incentives to draw more supporters into the Endangered Alphabets fold.
Thank you. So much.

The Good Birthday News, the Bad Birthday News

Birthday greetings in Malayalam
Birthday greetings in Malayalam

The good news is that I have never received more numerous, more colorful or more multilingual birthday greetings in my life. Rahul Upadhyay created this beautiful pictured item in Malayalam; Naoki Watanabe wrote a birthday greeting in no fewer than 18 languages, several of which he is probably the only speaker on Earth. Many, many others wrote, especially through Facebook, and I thank you all.

The bad news is that we need to raise at least $600 in pledges in the next 24 hours or we’ll be seriously falling behind. If you were waiting to see whether others would back our campaign, please wait no longer. If you were not sure about the value or the impact of the Endangered Alphabets–well, that cascade of birthday wishes from all over the world is the evidence you need. Please support us now by clicking HERE.

The Times That Try Men’s Souls

Save these hands!
Save these hands!

These are the times that try men’s souls.

There was barely any movement all day on our Kickstarter and I felt like giving up carving endangered alphabets and trying something different, like maybe becoming a window cleaner.

Then Janice Perry, Justin Varney, Bob Robert Malesky, Carol Bick, Jesse Williams and Darren Lee Cameron came through, and my blood pressure and pulse began to return to normal.
Please don’t let that happen again. Imagining a future cleaning windows–not a nice way to go. Please zoom over to Kickstarter and help secure the future of the Alphabets.

Now live: our most ambitious Kickstarter campaign yet!


Since the Endangered Alphabets began in 2010, by far the most significant source of funding has been our crowdfunding Kickstarter campaigns. We have just launched our most ambitious yet–to support the creation of a major exhibition of carvings saying “mother tongue” in endangered languages, to be launched on International Mother Language Day in February 2017.

We cannot do this without your support. Please check out the video HERE,  and support our campaign. And please recommend your friends do likewise: we are going to need all the help we can get!



Here we go!

keep-alphabets-aliveThe new Endangered Alphabets Kickstarter campaign is going to launch ON MONDAY–that is, June 20th. We’re setting our goal at $15,000, which we need to create a major exhibition for International Mother Language Day in February 2017. In an effort to set your mouths a-watering, here’s news of some of the rewards on offer for those who pledge:
* Postcards featuring Endangered Alphabets carvings
* The Endangered Alphabets “Mother Tongue” poster, featuring a carving of “Mother tongue” in the endangered Manchu script
* Signed copies of the brand-new second edition of my book Endangered Alphabets
* Endangered Alphabets wall clocks, featuring either the sinuous E of the Cham alphabet or the Tibetan phrase “Graceful kindness” carved twice in a circle, like a mandala
* Signed copies of Michael Horlick’s comprehensive Uzbek-English dictionary
* Carvings of a pair of initials of the donor’s choice
* Carvings in cherrywood of suksma, the Balinese for “Thank you.”
PLEASE SHARE this post and support the work of the Endangered Alphabets.

Coming soon…

poster-01-complicated-orangeHey, everyone.
This is an important heads-up.
As I’m sure you know, the Endangered Alphabets Project draws attention to the urgent and global issue of cultural erosion and loss by carving pieces of text—poems, sayings, spiritual texts, individual words and even letters—in traditional, minority and indigenous scripts.
Since 2009, I’ve done more than 100 carvings in almost all the world’s endangered scripts, in addition to helping create children’s books, coloring books, alphabet wall charts, rubber alphabet stamps and other classroom materials in endangered languages for indigenous children in Bangladesh.
I’ve also displayed and spoken about the Alphabets carvings all over North America, even at the Smithsonian Institution.
This heads-up is to let you know I’m about to launch a major Kickstarter campaign. Kickstarter campaigns are vital to the Endangered Alphabets, as we receive no funding from any institution or foundation. Year in year out, Kickstarters have been the single most significant source of funding for our work.
This particular Kickstarter, our most ambitious to date, is to raise funds for a major collection of carvings for display on International Mother Language Day—February 21st, 2017. Our aim is to raise awareness of the importance of allowing every culture the right to speak, read and write its own language. Once displayed in the U.S., these carvings will be donated to cultural organizations in their countries of origin.
I’m planning to launch in mid-June, so before that date I’ll let you know the link that will take you to the Kickstarter donation page.
I hope you’ll support our work. At the very least, I hope you let your friends and colleagues know what we do, and that we need every penny we can raise.


Endangered Literature!

Our good friend (and member of the Endangered Alphabets Advisory Board) David Crystal has released yet another book–perhaps a little more tongue-in-cheek than his Cambridge Encyclopedia of Language, but surely destined to be another classic. Here is the press release:

H flyer

See the Alphabets live!

I’m going to be showing and talking about a selection of Endangered Alphabets carvings in the near future–at the Lyceum in Bedford, Massachusetts at NOON on Sunday, May 15th, in Room 202.
If you’re nearby, please swing by and say hello!
P.S. Thanks to the citizens of Springfield, Vermont, for a great turnout to my library talk, and all kinds of interesting questions!

Last Chance!

EA First Edition coverThe end of an era: after selling several thousand copies worldwide, only two copies of the first edition of my book Endangered Alphabets are left, as I’m gearing up for an expanded second edition.

I’m keeping one for myself, of course; the other will go to the first person to click HERE and order it.

UPDATE: the last copy has been sold. This means if you own a copy, it is already a collectible! EBay that puppy!


Ainu: a minority of Northern Japan

Ainu proverb
“Everything that comes from Heaven has a purpose”

A few months ago I was contacted by Ivan Brenes, an English-language instructor at Osaka University, Japan, who told me about a minority culture I’d never heard of: the Ainu.

According to the Ainu Museum website, the word “Ainu” means “human.” Ainu culture flourished in the northern islands of Japan, especially Hokkaido, from about 1400-1700. As the mainland Japanese extended their influence into Hokkaido, though, the Ainu fought a series of rearguard battles, losing every time, until a final defeat in 1789 left the Ainu at the mercy of the Japanese.

What followed was the long-sad story repeated all over the world when one culture is dominated by another. The Ainu were oppressed and exploited, prohibited from practicing their own daily customs, given the status of “aborigines,” and forced to observe and practice Japanese customs. In the early 19th century, the Ainu population dropped from some 26,000 to 17,000 as diseases such as smallpox, measles, cholera, tuberculosis and venereal diseases spread among the population, which also suffered the breakup of families because of forced labor.

The historic homelands of the Ainu
The historic homelands of the Ainu

As increasing numbers of Japanese colonized Hokkaido from Honshu, overt oppression was replaced by discrimination—a discrimination that continues in various forms to this day.

In the face of this, the Ainu are making efforts to regain their sense of cultural identity by promoting traditional Ainu dances and ceremonies. Ainu language classes are now being held in various parts of Hokkaido.

The Ainu language, Ivan explained, is utterly unrelated to Japanese, although because of contact they have borrowed a few words from each other.

As an oral society, the Ainu never had a writing system, and simply adopted the ones outsiders have used for documenting the language: the Roman alphabet as used by Christian missionaries and Japanese katakana as used by Japanese explorers and researchers.

The Ainu have an endangered alphabet, then, not in the sense that it is different from any other writing system and may die out from lack of use. They have an endangered alphabet in that any writing in their own language is an expression of a culture that has been and remains under siege. To write in it, or to carve writing in it, is an expression of commitment to their culture’s heritage, and a step toward ensuring its survival.

Ivan sent me an Ainu proverb to carve, and the result is at the head of this post. Over the next couple of days I’ll pack it up and send it out to Japan, where Ivan will find the best person to give it to so it can be displayed with pride.

Tim Brookes

P.S. I’m about to do another carving in Ainu on a beautiful piece of bamboo–but it will cost $70. This is why your donations to the Endangered Alphabets Project are so important, and so appreciated.

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