Documentary Preserves a Dead Language

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A while back, we wrote about the last two speakers of Mexico’s Ayapaneco language. Although the two elderly gentlemen, Manuel Segovia and Isidro Velazquez, share a native language, they haven’t spoken in decades.

Now, a new documentary, Lengua Muerta, will preserve the sounds of the language indefinitely.

Director Denisse Quintero told Fox News that at the moment, Ayapaneco, also called Ayapa Zoque, is the world’s most endangered language:

“We’re beginning to investigate and we’re discovering that it is the language that is vanishing most rapidly in Mexico and worldwide. It’s the one with the fewest speakers, just two, and they’re elderly. When they die, it will practically cease to exist.”

Producer Laura Berron admitted that saving the language is impossible at this point, but told Fox that she thought it was important to preserve a record of it anyway:

“It’s not a rescue, but rather it consists of creating an audiovisual registry, a memory, so that other generations can have access to it, given that it’s very difficult to rescue the language.”

The only tiny glimmer of hope for the language is Manuel Segovia’s 30-year-old son. Named after his father, he is also trying to carry on with the Ayapaneco language. However, he didn’t learn it as a child so it’s difficult now.

Social stigma was the main thing that drove Ayapaneco to its grave, Segovia’s son told the Latin American Herald Tribune:

“When this language is spoken many people make fun of it or give it nicknames, or they even tell you that only Indians speak that language, and here the word Indian for some people is an insult, a symbol of humiliation.”

The producers hope that Lengua Muerta can be shown as a sort of cautionary tale to indigenous communities facing similar challenges, to inspire them to value their own culture more highly before it becomes too late.