Back from extinction

Published: Sunday 15 November 2009

Yek shiajfikan, reads a sign above the gate of the Doctor Mario Calvo Marroqun elementary school in the Salvadoran town of Izalco. Barely 200 people understand the meaning of the sign. The 50 children of the school are amongst them. The sign is in Nawat, the language spoken by the Nahua-Pipil communities in El Savador when the Spanish colonialists arrived in the 16th centurya language on the brink of extinction. unesco classifies Nawat as critically endangered.

In 2002, some teachers of the school who knew the language decided to teach it to their students. Their initiative has received little official support, though in September some children from the school were invited to sing the anthem in Nawat at a ceremony commemorating El Salvadors 188 years of independence from Spain, in 1821.

Most people used to see Nawat as kind of embarrassing, because they saw it as an old peoples thing; but now people are beginning to accept it, Carlos Cortez, one of the teachers told the news agency IPS.

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