Review: The Last Speakers: The Quest to Save the World’s Most Endangered Languages

The Last Speakers: The Quest to Save the World's Most Endangered Languages
The Last Speakers: The Quest to Save the World’s Most Endangered Languages by K. David Harrison
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I found this an absolutely fascinating, inspiring tale that truly opened my eyes to one of the planet’s scariest phenomena… We hear of endangered wildlife and how our modern industrial society is harming the environment. We hear of other worrying global issues. But, often neglected and hardly publicised, is the very real situation of the reduction in global language diversity. (Minor) languages, often spoken by marginalised tribespeople in remote areas of the Earth, are disappearing into the annals of history (or remaining unrecorded) as they fade into extinction. We are losing human knowledge at a great rate. This knowledge has accumulated over a great period of time and has characteristics which simply cannot be translated or encoded into larger, more powerful global languages. We think that in our modern world, we have an abundance of knowledge and have improved communication. The invention of the internet and spread of the English language as the dominant lingua franca for global business gives us a false sense of arrogance and superiority. The erosion of ancient knowledge makes us poorer as a global human society, however… Harrison elegantly argues the case for the desperate need to preserve and revitalise these strange tongues ion far-flung places. I think that one of his most valid points in the argument for preservation of language diversity, is that these languages contain critical knowledge of local environments, usually in places which are at most risk of tipping the scale in the imbalance of climate change and environmental degradation which has been demonstrated to affect us all, wherever we may live, and whatever our chosen first language might be. The book is intellectual, but accessible. It provokes serious thinking and demonstrates the careful study and hard graft put in by researchers and indeed last speakers of the most critically endangered tongues. I have close links to Wales and New Zealand which are both leading the way in the mass revitalisation of endangered languages, ie. Maori and Welsh… The mass education program in schools in both of these countries clearly demonstrates the cultural value inherent in revitalisation efforts and serves as a model to other language hotspots where the loss of culture, knowledge and language is at its most perilous. As a student of language, who aims to continue his own understanding of linguistic communication on our planet, I would highly recommend this book which I have given a maximum five star-rating.

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Review: The Real McCaw: The Autobiography Of Richie McCaw

The Real McCaw: The Autobiography Of Richie McCaw
The Real McCaw: The Autobiography Of Richie McCaw by Richie McCaw
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Richie McCaw is the best rugby player of all-time. He is the most capped All-Black, and has had such an influence on the game of rugby during his playing career that this claim contains much truth. This autobiography surprised me when it peered out of the shelf at a Welsh bookstore in Abergavenny as part of the closing down sale. As a New Zealand citizen, All Black supporter and former wing forward, it was essential reading for me. I think that autobiographies of any top sportsmen are worth reading and Richie McCaw’s story is similar to other sporting greats in how he has dedicated himself to his passion. He seems such a well-balanced individual, a good all-rounder, with a nice temperament and a very rooted, down-to-earth personality. I loved the way that the rugby stories of such high achievement are interspersed with the glider tales. From tours he immediately hits the Southern Alps to relax in his glider. It just sums up how a man at the top of his game is driven. To see the sport of rugby from Richie’s eyes is a great honour and from his youth days to his super 12 club days to the test matches for the All Blacks, culminating in the winning RWC final in 2011, the description of the matches are truly intriguing. Everything is broken down to basics, beginning in preparation. His view on the game seems so simple yet at the same time is so rich in detail and complexity. I found this book truly exhilarating and it was a real page-turner. My only disappointment is that it could have been a lot longer and more detailed. I am also a bit sad that I cannot keep reading as I’m sure the next four years in the build up to World Cup 2015 will be a true journey also and where Richie should gain his second captain’s Cup Winning medal. I class this book alongside the autobiographies of other sporting heroes of mine such as Steven Gerrard, Ian Rush, Jonathan Davies and Joe Calzaghe. It is truly inspirational and any rugby aficionado will enjoy turning the pages in it as fast as I did!

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Review: When China Rules the World: The End of the Western World and the Birth of a New Global Order

When China Rules the World: The End of the Western World and the Birth of a New Global Order
When China Rules the World: The End of the Western World and the Birth of a New Global Order by Martin Jacques
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is an excellent study of China and its position in the modern world. The author explores the rise of China’s power, through history and into the future. China will be the biggest power in the global economy and this book projects how the new world will look. It examines Chinese attitudes to the world, the rate of development in China, and how China will treat the rest of the world as it assumes its position in the number 1 spot, currently held by the USA. A key factor which the author constantly identifies, in how China differs from previous world powers, is that China is not just a nation-state in the Westphalian sense, but a ‘civilisation-state’. It is continental in terms of its landmass and holds 20% of the world’s population. It has a rich 5000 year old history and is much less imperialistic in its attitude to foreign countries as the great powers which have preceded it. There are vast differences in how a world with China at its head will appear. The Western illusion will be shattered and countries will become ever more dependent upon a developed China. The study contains many fascinating statistics which prove the author’s thoughts and ideas. It introduces many topics which I had previously not really appreciated, such as the Chinese racial views on the world and also the dependency of Western Oceania countries such as Australia and New Zealand on the Chinese economy. As a sinophile, myself, I found the book thoroughly intriguing. It is unlike any other study I have read to date on China and offers a good glimpse into the future of the mother country. It is a question of when and not if, China becomes the biggest and most powerful nation on earth. It is scary to us in the West, what this may entail, but equally it is important that we ready ourselves for a new world order. This book provides ample preparation for anyone interested in what the growth of China means to them and how the world will change.

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