Setting the Stage
Introduce the film by telling students that they will be watching a film about a Native American woman who is the last fluent speaker of Wukchumni and that she is creating a dictionary of the Wukchumni language. Wukchumni is one of 7,000 languages spoken today in the world. Ask students to think about the most commonly spoken languages in the world by answering the following questions:
- What is the most commonly spoken language in the world?
Answer: Mandarin Chinese with 874 million speakers
- What is the second most commonly spoken language in the world? Answer: Spanish with 414 million speakers
- What is the third most commonly spoken language in the world? Answer: English with 341 million speakers*
Ask students if they are surprised to see Mandarin, Spanish, and English as the top three languages spoken in the world. These world languages are used beyond their places of origin. They are also spoken by children worldwide, a factor which ensures the vitality of a language. Endangered languages, like Wukchumni, will need future speakers to stay alive and active. Indigenous languages around the world are vanishing at a rapid rate.
Ask students what relationship they have to their native language. Do they speak the first language of their parents or grandparents? How does language reveal characteristics of their culture? How does language provide a sense of identity? What if English disappeared? Would it be better if everyone spoke English? Why or why not?