With the first endangered language of the year done, it’s time to move onto the second: Ainu. This language is definitely going to be an interesting challenge, mostly due to its severe lack of (English-based) resources—so I’m interested to see how far I’ll get!
What is Ainu?
So, a while ago I wrote a longer post on Ainu here, but I’ll give you all a short summary now. Basically, Ainu is a language isolate (or language family, there seem to be some varieties) spoken by the Ainu people of Northern Japan. Currently, it is only spoken on Hokkaido and this Hokkaido Ainu, as the only surviving variety, is listed as critically endangered.
Why did I choose Ainu?
It was one of the endangered languages I’ve looked into before, so I was already interested in it—language isolates are always fascinating cases, as they’re unrelated to the languages around them. Last year, I also noticed that Drops added Ainu to their app, so I want to find out more about any revitalisation efforts that might be taking place.
What can I expect to achieve in 18 days?
Honestly, I have a better idea of this after my try with Scottish Gaelic and having had a look over the materials I have at hand. Much like with Gàidhlig, I’d hope to be able to have a basic conversation about myself by the 5th February, but would look at having 300-500 words at hand, considering the fact that I’ve already found a Memrise course that will complement the Unilang course I want to work through.
I’m also not going to be super disappointed if the conversation part turns out to be a little more difficult than I first thought; the Unilang/Sapporo course seems very grammar heavy, so I might end up taking a different path there.
What resources am I using?
These are the ones I have right now:
- Unilang: Ainu for Beginners, the content of which is taken from the Sapporo Radio broadcasts from 2006 (which I’m using as an audio supplement).
- Memrise – Complete Beginner’s Ainu; all the vocab in this covers what’s in the Ainu for Beginners Course.
- Drops (iOS/Android app) – I do not pay for this, so I get five minutes’ worth of vocabulary every ten hours.
If anyone has any more resources, let me know, and I’ll be back on the 24th with my first Ainu update!
I know absolutely nothing about Ainu so I’m really looking forward to seeing how you get on! I might have a look at the Drops course myself. 🤔
It’s already interesting haha, especially since I’m using the Sapporo radio audio for the course, so I can really hear the difference between Ainu and Japanese (as limited as the Ainu is rn). I do enjoy Drops but am so not willing to pay for it; I’ve only used it for Mandarin so far so idk how it’s going to work for a language I’m starting from scratch. Let me know if you try it too! 😃