Conference focuses on preserving Chile’s native languages

The two-day event will bring together linguistic experts and indigenous representatives from all over the country.

“Mari mari kom pu che.”

This general greeting in Mapudungun – the native language of Chile’s largest indigenous group, the Mapuche – will ring out from the stage of the Universidad de Santiago de Chile’s Victor Jara Arts Hall on Friday, November 18.

The reason? Linguists and representatives of indigenous groups from all over the country are coming together for the Second Congress on the Indigenous Languages of Chile.

First held last year, the two-day annual event is coordinated by the Network for Promoting the Educational and Linguistic Rights of Chile’s Indigenous Peoples.

Part of a broader initiative to foster the use of native tongues, the network aims to preserve the ancient languages by promoting dialogue among the various aboriginal groups, the government and public institutions.

Delegates at the 2010 event agreed on an agenda for protecting the linguistic rights and the development of Chile’s native languages, which they highlighted as a key instrument for acknowledging and respecting the country’s indigenous peoples.

The theme for the 2011 event is ‘Háblame en lengua indígena porque yo también soy indígena’, or  ‘Speak to me in an indigenous language because I too am indigenous’.

It will have a special focus on aboriginal elders in urban communities who, in many cases, have never learned their mother tongue.

The congress will kick off with a series of greetings from indigenous leaders representing the Aymara, Quechua, Mapuche, Yaghan, Selknam, Kawesqar and Rapa Nui (Easter Island) groups.

Highlights from Friday’s program

– ‘What have we done to preserve our language?’ by María Virginia Haoa Cardinali from the Rapa Nui Language Academy.
– Artistic performance from the Rapa Nui Manu Piri Dance Group.
– Panel discussion on indigenous people and culture in the mass media.

Highlights from Saturday’s program

– Round table discussion on intellectual property and traditional knowledge.
– Round table discussion on teaching indigenous languages to children and adults.

Click here to read This is Chile’s introduction to some common traditional sayings in Mapudungun.