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: The Holy Kingdom

The Holy Kingdom
The Holy Kingdom by Adrian G. Gilbert
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

As an inhabitant of South Wales with a fascination of local history, I found this book truly enlightening. I was aware of the links King Arthur had with local places such as Caerleon and I found that this book built well on the histories I had already heard. To learn about the suppression of British history at various times and how our Roman-centric history is currently favoured was truly a shock. It was nice to see how Gilbert linked up with two serious scholars of early British history and the story that was presented is quite believable and realistic, if at times it sometimes could be found guilty of over-reaching conclusions, perhaps being over-dramatic. I’ve read other books by Adrian Gilbert and enjoy his style and he always covers interesting topics. The whole story of Arthur is fascinating and has intrigued me to study the legends more. I think the conclusions were a little weak, and find the Joseph of Arimethea links with Britain a little too speculative. It’s a great book and is one that I will be sharing with other friends interested in Welsh history.

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