Isn't it depressing that a young Patagonian woman was denied entry to the UK because immigration officers didn't believe that she was going to Wales to learn Welsh. How joyless, unimaginative and ill-informed those immigration officers must be.
The whole reason Welsh people emigrated to Patagonia in the 1860s was to preserve their language. The story of the eventual Welsh revival is a bright moment in Mark Abley's elegy for the languages we are losing (one every fortnight) in Spoken Here. He tells the story of a parrot who speaks a language that has died out among humans and that its keepers cannot understand, of a brother and sister who are the last surviving speakers of an Aboriginal language but cannot speak it to each other because tribal taboos forbid them to communicate after puberty. Living languages charts the initiatives to save endangered languages—and the extinctions. When Alaskan Chief Marie Smith Jones died in January, her language, Eyak, was lost. As the last native speaker, she would not have been called for years by her real, Eyak, name, Udachkuqax*a'a'ch, which means "a sound that calls people from afar".
I'm glad that academics and campaigners are more inclusive of language, glad we say biocultural diversity now, not just biodiversity. But when I told a friend I hoped to write a play about my own endangered language, Judeo-Arabic, he just asked, "what about the mangrove swamps?"
I've written about reintroducing wolves and saving trees from chainsaws, but I've also written about trying to save the Kurdish languages, and I hope to write about my own. It's part of the battle to stop everything becoming flat and boring and the same. It's about preserving difference and curiosity—which is why it's so shocking that a woman came all the way from Patagonia and faced such pinched, job's-worth indifference to the romance of her quest to learn Welsh.