Thousands of indigenous languages are in danger of disappearing before the end of the century, including most of those spoken in North America, according to a report from UNESCO. This is part one of a two-part series of discussions with Native American language preservationists and their efforts to revive their ancestral tongues.When Richard Grounds began the Euchee/Yuchi Language Project (ELP) in 1996, it was no light undertaking. Grounds wanted nothing less than to prevent his tribe’s cultural extinction, and he knew he must start with its words.“We are an original people,” he said. “Our elders tell us our language is a gift from the Creator, and it is our special responsibility to care for that gift and pass it on to our children.”The Yuchi people, also known as the Coyaha, traditionally inhabited eastern Tennessee, though their origins remain a mystery and their language is a linguistic isolate that does not resemble any other Native American tongue. During the 17th century the Yuchi moved south, and in the 1800s they were forcibly relocated to Oklahoma, currently one of the worst regions for language loss. A concerted assimilation effort after World War II saw thousands of Native American children enrolled in boarding schools where they were only allowed to speak English, and could be punished for using their native languages. Like many indigenous peoples, the Yuchi came close to losing their language in a single generation.Grounds, who delivered the 2015 Greeley Lecture at Harvard Divinity School and returned this year to participate in the School’s Native American Speaker Series, does not believe this was unintentional. For centuries, the U.S. government, academics, and settlers told Native American tribes that their culture was on the brink of extinction, and treated them accordingly. Yet it only became a reality when they were prevented from learning their languages.Grounds at the Yuchi Knowledge Bowl, featuring “Yuchi Einstein” who spreads the message to the community that they are as smart as he is if they can speak their language. Courtesy of the Euchee/Yuchi Language ProjectBefore the first Europeans came to the Americas, thousands of native languages were spoken across the continent. Today only about 150 remain, and three out of four are spoken exclusively by people born before World War II. When Grounds began his program there were fewer than two dozen fluent, first-language speakers of Yuchi, and all of them were grandparents of non-speakers. Only three remain, each over 90 years old.Today’s parents grew up hearing their grandparents speak Yuchi, said Grounds, but did not learn or pass it on to their children. “What we’re fighting against is a sort of internalized colonialism. People have been anaesthetized to the value of their language.”Growing up, Grounds remembers his grandmother speaking Yuchi to him and his siblings, but as children of non-speakers, they never picked it up. “We had a feel for the language, maybe a few words and phrases, but we were never fluent,” he said. Grounds went on to learn several languages, passing graduate proficiency exams in French, German, Greek, and Hebrew, “But there was no funding to learn the language of my grandmother. It wasn’t important on the scale of European intellectual history.”Grounds sought out elders and learned Yuchi from them, but he knew that few of his tribespeople would have the privilege, time, and energy to do the same. With the help of the elders and concerned Yuchis, Grounds founded the ELP as a nonprofit to pay for student transportation and class materials. But because the Yuchi are not a federally recognized tribe, there is little reliable funding available to the program. It relies heavily on grants and donations.Centered around the Yuchi House — “more or less a hothouse for growing and teaching the language,” Grounds said — the ELP provides immersion classes for Yuchi children of all grades, free of charge. Community classes for curious adults are also offered.“Maybe they spoke as kids and they want to pick it back up now that they’re adults, but they’re not ideal candidates,” Grounds said of the adult students. “The ideal situation is to get to them before they learn English.”The sense of hope in the Yuchi community is matched only by the sense of urgency. Not only have nearly all their native-speaking elders died, but none of those who remain live particularly close to each other. Simply getting them to and from classes can take more time than the classes themselves, Grounds said.Elder Maxine Wildcat Barnett teaches the children a story about shat’anA (fox) during an immersion class. Courtesy of the Euchee/Yuchi Language ProjectThe program has been able to make a few adults fluent enough to teach the roughly 60 enrolled children, but the gap between the last generation of first-language speakers and the next is so large that the program will be dependent on second-language speakers for many years to come.To make matters worse, Yuchi is a notoriously difficult language to learn. It has no known relative to compare with; it is agglutinative, so an entire sentence can be contained in one verb; glottal stops are integral, drastically changing the meaning of words that sound homonymic to an untrained ear; it is not only gendered but has different registers for men and women, and different pronouns for tribespeople and non-Yuchis.Like many Native American languages, Yuchi originally had no orthography, or standard written language. Linguists in the 20th century attempted to decode the language, but were unsuccessful until a phonetic transliteration was created in the 1970s. Grounds designed the orthography specifically as a teaching aid — the native-speaking elders do not use it outside of the classroom — knowing that there was little room for phonetic ambiguity.“The underlying concept of the writing system was to use something that would require minimum stretch for kids who were just learning to read. We had a linguist come in and pretty heavy-handedly insist on a direct IPA [International Phonetic Alphabet] system,” he said. But it would have meant that the kids would be learning that the letter E sounds like “eel��� at public school but “hey” at Yuchi House. “For the sake of young learners, we needed to minimize the shift from their already nascent expectations, [so] we went with one symbol/one sound.”He also wanted it to be easily typed, which is how the (@) symbol found its way into the Yuchi alphabet. Written Yuchi uses capital and lowercase letters to differentiate between long and short vowels, respectively, but there was still an odd sound out. In IPA, the A sound in words like “bat” or “cap” is represented by a grapheme called “ash” (æ). Æ is an official letter in a few North Germanic languages, and was used in most English-speaking countries until the 19th century, but fell out of favor when it was omitted from the first typewriter keyboards for space.Students read a prayer in Yuchi. Courtesy of the Euchee/Yuchi Language ProjectNeeding a symbol to represent the æ sound, Grounds looked at his keyboard and realized the answer was literally under his nose. It even kept with his desire to keep the letters intuitive. What better letter to signify the A sound in “at” than the symbol that means “at”?“It turned out to be very functional,” said Grounds. “Now kids are texting each other in the language.”The result of these efforts may seem modest, Grounds concedes, with the number of fluent Yuchi speakers up to just 16, but the real successes are less quantitative. In addition to daily after-school classes for children in grammar school, the ELP has started working with toddlers to create a new generation that speaks Yuchi before learning English. Grounds’ own grandson is the first child raised speaking only Yuchi in nearly 70 years.“The cultural health of our community is measured by the status of our language. It really matters in terms of our young people growing up as confident, healthy, self-fulfilled people who are able to succeed in life. It matters that they be grounded in their culture and their traditions, and nothing does that like knowing the language and being able to speak to the elders,” Grounds said.“We literally think of it as keeping the world spinning.”
Recently, a colleague shared with me a TED Talk by Bill Gross, Founder, Chairman and CEO of Idealab, a business incubator in California that has started over 100 companies, including Citysearch, NetZero, PETsMart and Tickets.com. In his talk, Gross shares the results of his research regarding what factors matter most for a company’s success. Specifically, he explores the product/service ideas, team, business model, funding and timing of both Idealab companies and high profile non-Idealab companies that have succeeded and faltered.Spoiler alert: If you would like to hear the results from Mr. Gross before I reveal them here, you can easily find the video through an online search. Otherwise, let’s move on…The number one factor in success for the companies studied was timing, followed by the team and execution around the idea. The idea itself ranked as the 3rd most important factor. This means that business model and funding were the bottom 2 factors.What?! The business model is 4th? I know, right?!Funding, I understand. But as leaders we spend a significant amount of time thinking about our business model, crafting strategy, designing 90- and 180-day project plans, forecasting and analyzing data.And, of course, there’s the team. You have to have a good team and with that, I’d say an equally positive culture. But even the idea is 3rd! That’s another big thing we spend time on… thinking of, vetting and promoting our ideas.Perhaps time for a deep breath?Maybe it’s not so shocking, as many business books discuss timing as important, at least in some degree, to the success of most enterprises. That’s where terms like bleeding edge, leading edge and fast follower come into play. Depending on the product, service, and other specifics relative to the business, any or all of those approaches may come into play through an organization’s lifespan.I also think this breaks down further to leadership success. Two of the books I’ve read somewhat recently come to mind when thinking of the importance of timing in leadership.In The First 90 Days, by Michael Watkins, which was recommended by a friend and sent to me by another shortly after my arrival at the New Jersey Credit Union League, there is indeed a focus on having a plan. In this case, not a business plan per se, but a personal plan of action in transitional periods. There are windows, of course, where one may aspire for x, y, and/or z by day 30, 60, etc. However, there is a constant undertone that deals with timing.Through learning, negotiation, team building, and more, a leader looks to move people towards the vision he or she has for the organization. The book also notes the importance of matching strategy to situation, which is also strongly relevant in this sense. While there may be a 90-day plan, as the book title suggests, making sure the team and operational environment is prepared for the steps that need to be taken to move towards the vision is essential. At times this will mean slowing down and veering from your plan to assess and advocate for your idea. In other instances, it may simply be time to move forward so that an opportunity is not missed. In either case there is importance on timing, and as the leader, it is of the utmost importance to be aware of this.Another friend from “credit union land” sent me the book It’s Your Ship, by Captain D. Michael Abrashoff, a retired Navy Captain. As a Naval Commander, Captain Abrashoff speaks to the necessity of accountability in his role and that of his team. There are deadlines to be met and long-held expectations and processes associated with military command and execution. At certain times he challenged the status quo in areas ranging from hierarchical expectations to onboarding procedures and even missile training activities. Most importantly, he says, he listened to his team to best understand the areas where his ship could improve.Throughout, Abrashoff references timing, both in the opportunities presented to him in his professional career and as it relates to the transformation of the ship under his command, the USS Benfold, from the bottom of the fleet to the Navy’s top performer. There were instances where he had thoughts on what may inspire his team or improve operations, yet he did not act until the appropriate opportunity arose to provide the highest likelihood of success. The Captain had an action plan which, in the traditional structure of the armed forces, was certainly significant. However, as a leader, he used timing and team, the same 2 elements found at the top of Bill Gross’s list, to drive success.The takeaway, I believe, is that you must have resources, ideas and, most certainly, sound planning to succeed in business. But to move an organization to a point of distinction, a strong team and culture blended with an astute sense of timing, is essential. 30SHARESShareShareSharePrintMailGooglePinterestDiggRedditStumbleuponDeliciousBufferTumblr,Greg Michlig Greg Michlig joined the New Jersey Credit Union League as President/CEO in May of 2013. He has a strong background in the credit union, association and related financial services … Web: www.njcul.org Details
MLB has scaled back its partnership with Facebook Live in 2019, as first reported by Morning Consult, and confirmed by Sporting News. After broadcasting 25 games exclusively on the social media service last year (and 26 overall), it will show six non-exclusive games on Facebook Live this campaign.The moves comes as MLB has expanded its multimedia production elsewhere, partnering with Twitter for hitter-specific live streams, teaming up with Sporting News’ parent company DAZN for a nightly live look-in show called “ChangeUp” and adding MLB.TV to Amazon Prime video. It also brokered a streaming deal with Sling TV. An MLB official did tell Sporting News on Friday that the style of the 2019 broadcasts on Facebook, while not exclusive, will still be social-focused, meaning out-of-market viewers will have the opportunity to interact with announcers and relay questions they want posed to players and managers.There will also still be game recaps produced by MLB, as well as weekly recaps for all 30 teams.Facebook said it’s still “early in the days of having live sports,” meaning year-to-year changes are expected as it tests out what works with its audience. MLB declined to announce which six games will be broadcast on Facebook but said there will be one every month of the regular season.“Collaborating with Facebook will again drive the creation of new ways for us to deliver content to baseball fans that engage on the platform daily,” an MLB spokesman wrote in a statement. “Facebook provides a community-focused environment that will allow for fans to connect with their favorite teams via custom on-demand content and live game action driven by an original MLB Network social-first broadcast production.”MORE: Watch ‘ChangeUp,’ a new MLB live whip-around show on DAZNSporting News reported last fall that MLB perceived its 2018 partnership with Facebook as a successful experiment, and an official expressed optimism that exclusive Facebook Live broadcasts would continue in the same vein.