Although at the present moment we have no Authority on the Taino language, let’s pretend we do. Imagine we have a group of people who are recognized as the Authority on the Taino language by a great majority of the Taino people and organizations. And that this Authority has created the ultimate Taino Dictionary…
We know that a list of words is not a language and dictionaries are not teachers of language. I can study a Chinese dictionary for a year and my communication skills in that language would be rudimentary at best! The revival of the Taino language will not happen with dictionaries and definitions, it will only happen if the language is used.
So far, there is a Taino language class offered in NY and I know of a language immersion program that has been put into effect in Yabucoa, Boriken (Puerto Rico). This school boasts 508 students who are learning the Taino language on Fridays. Personally, I think this is fantastic! These folks are on the right track encouraging and teaching the children.
Considering for a moment the topic of indigneous world views, the children are our future and traditional views support the the concept of thinking seven generations down the line.
Teaching the children, encouraging pride in our heritage and stressing the importance of culture; making it fun and attractive for young and old alike- these are the attitudes and actions that will revive our language. The re-birth of our language will only happen if our people are supported in their first tentative attempts in using the language in every day life. These kids will bring it home and their adults will try some words on…and our Nation can follow suit.
But what of the rest of us? Most of us are beyond our school years. It’s not that we can’t learn, however, we have families and responsibilities outside the home. Some of us have to work two jobs just to make ends meet and have no strength nor desire at the end of the day to dedicate to study and focus on a new and different language, especially one in which we will be “taken to task” for not speaking correctly. And above all (here is the kicker)- we are not all in NY nor Boriken! Access to any program is near impossible.
Keeping in mind the importance of words, let us not forget that the Taino is scattered; this is the definition of the word “diaspora”. We are all over the world! As far as I am aware, there are no “Rosetta Stone” nor “Follow Me” training programs available for the Taino language. There is no Taino Audio book to pop into the CD player to learn the language as we putter along to and from work or for those of us living overseas. With all the technical advances we have today, there is no “learn Taino on line” as the Maori people have. There are no local centers teaching the language in most large cities in the US, let alone globally. This means that a great number of us- most of us- don’t have the opportunity to learn what there is out there other than what we pick up superficially. If the only classes are taught in PR and NY, where does that leave the rest of us? No longer daca Taino?
This diaspora will also affect the evolution of the language. Considering that those who can claim Taino heritage are not limited to the Caribbean islands, one needs to allow for the growth and development of the language according to environment and need. Just like Spanish changed and evolved throughout the countries Spain conquered, so too, the Taino will expand and evolve according to it’s place and value system. The Taino in Boriken may never need more than one or two words for “snow” whereas the NY Taino may develop several and the Taino in Alaska may develop hundreds! Evolution of a language will not be limited to one place, it will expand according to the places it is used in. The histories of English, Spanish, Arabic and the Chinese languages are perfect examples of this.
With all this considered, it is my opinion that if we are to ask people to learn the language as per “The Voice of Authority” and become fluent in it before being able to use it and participate in it’s evolution, you will find less and less people interested in putting in the energy to learn a dead language. You will create yet another reason for splintering between the “haves” and “have nots”; where those who speak the language consider themselves to be “more” Taino than those who never had the opportunity to learn.
As I have mentioned previously, if we are reclaiming our inheritance as “Taino”, we need to recognize not only the responsibilities that this label entails, but also the empowerment that comes along with this identity restoration. If I am Taino, anything that I create, be that by vision or invention, is as authentically Taino as I am; the denial of one as authentic is a denial of the other, too.
Traditions are a continuing pattern of thinking and behavior and once we are aware of this, we have a choice. Maybe, instead of hard and fast rules, our inheritance from the conquerors, we should have a set of guidelines and be more allowing; not only in language, but in all aspects of life.
As is traditional.
(c) A. Nanu Pagan, June 2009