As part of a new social media campaign to celebrate linguistic diversity online throughout Asia, every week a different language activist and advocate will be taking turns managing the @AsiaLangsOnline Twitter account to share their experiences with the revitalization and promotion of their native languages. This campaign is a collaboration between Rising Voices, the Digital Empowerment Foundation, and the O Foundation.
Each week, the upcoming host will answer several questions about their background and will give a brief overview of their language. This Q&A is with Mingma Phuti Sherpa and Pasang Yangjee Sherpa who provide a sneak preview of what they will be discussing during their week as hosts.
Rising Voices: Please tell us about yourself.
We will host @AsiaLangsOnline as a team to highlight collaborative community efforts in preserving our native Sherpa language. Mingma Phuti Sherpa is a family nurse practitioner, United States Army veteran, and a mother of two. Pasang Yangjee Sherpa is a visiting assistant professor of anthropology at Pacific Lutheran University. We are from the villages of Khumjung and Monzo in the popularly known Mount Everest region of Nepal. We are currently based in the Pacific Northwest, U.S.A.
RV: What is the current status of your language on the internet and offline?
The Sherpa language is currently spoken in more than 15 countries. The size of Sherpa speakers in these countries ranges from a few to thousands. The three largest concentration of Sherpa speakers can be found in Nepal in Kathmandu, in India in Darjeeling, and in the United States in New York. This may suggest that the current status of the Sherpa language is good. But, communities in these places have been noticing significant decrease in the number of younger Sherpa speakers, and a considerable loss of cultural and linguistic knowledge across generations. These observations motivate the Sherpas, wherever they may be living, to work towards preserving their language in the form of documenting Sherpa words using various media or organizing classes to learn the language. At homes, elders expose the children, who are growing up outside their Himalayan villages of origin, to the language as much as they can.
RV: On what topics do you plan to focus during the week that you’ll manage the @AsiaLangsOnline Twitter account?
During the week we will manage the @AsiaLangsOnline Twitter account, we will focus on sharing how the community has adopted diverse ways to keep the language alive. We will begin by sharing some facts and figures that shed light on the current status of the language. We will then share stories of what motivates each of us to preserve and promote the language. The highlight of our week will be the Sherpa songs—traditional and experimental—which embody experiences and emotions attached to our ways of being and ways of knowing, not possible in mediums such as the dictionary. We end our week with reflections of our activism and possible futures of our language.
RV: What are the main motivations for your digital activism for your language? What are your hopes and dreams for your language?
Our main motivations for digital activism for our language are twofold: firstly, to connect with Sherpas living around the world who are in their own ways preserving the language; and secondly, to connect with other language activists with a shared sense of community. Through the use of digital media, we hope to share experiences of our analog lives and build solidarities that transcend our geographic locations. Our hopes and dreams are that during the time of our grandchildren, our language would not only be a living language with some speakers but a strong, invigorated language that continues to actively grow.