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What Can an Ancient Language Teach Us About The Future of Language Learning?

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What Can an Ancient Language Teach Us About The Future of Language Learning?
Circassian – An Ancient Tongue About to Disappear
 
Circassians, an ancient peoples indigenous to the Northwest Caucasus of the Russian Federation, formerly Circassia, generally speak either Adyghe Circassian or Kabardian Circassian, two different tribes of the region.
 
At the end of the Russo-Circassian War (which took place for over 100-years during the 18th and 19th Centuries), most of the native Circassians were ethnically cleansed or exiled from their homeland and fled to other regions, including Turkey, Jordan, Syria, Israel, and the United States. According to some experts, the Circassian expulsion by Russia was the largest genocide of the 19th Century. 
 
As with most refugees, those able to escape were in survival-mode and adopted the languages of their new countries. In the process of adopting the new languages, such as Turkish, Arabic, and English, their native language of Circassia slowly withered.
 
In fact, the Circassian language continues to decline even among the Circassian population that continue to live in the Circassian homeland where only one-half can speak their native language.Consequently, the Circassian language is endangered and may soon go extinct. 
One man is trying tosave this dying language so Circassian heritage may persist for generations to come. 
 
Meet Jonty Yamisha: Understand His Fight to Save a Language
 
Born in the United States on September 2nd, 1977 to parents that fled the Golan Heights of Syria along with countless other ethnic Circassians who lost their homeland following the Russo-Circassian War, Jonty Yamisha was always fascinated by his cultural heritage. He grew up listening to his parents speak their native language Circassian andtook notice with rapt attention to his grandparents’stories about their homeland. However, because he couldn’t communicate in Circassian, much of the stories didn’t quite translate.
 
Born in San Jose California and later relocating with his family to Haledon, New Jersey, Jonty and his family participated in the Circassian Benevolent Association (CBA), a community organization dedicated to preserving Circassian cultural heritage for Circassians living within the United States. Although Jonty was active in the Circassian community growing up and his parents spoke their native vernacular at home, he never learned the Circassian language.
 
That all changed when he turned 30. 
 
After a visit to the former Circassia, Jonty felt an unshakable desire to strengthen his connection to his ethnic homeland. Happily married with kids and enjoyinga fulfilling job, Jonty pivoted his focus from economic success and financial achievement towards learning his ethnic language, Circassian. 
 
But it was far from easy. 
 
Due to a dearth of language resource materials for Circassian, except for the one-off language instruction only in Turkish or Arabic (of which Jonty could not speak), Jonty decided he would teach himself how to learn Circassian. Like most Circassians, Jonty’s parents could not read or write in Circassian, so he could not rely on their English translations or guidance. Besides, the language is far too complicated for a native English speaker to merely listen and learn. 
 
To achieve his goal of learning Circassian, Jonty decided he must understand the process of how to learn a language. In doing so, Jonty embarked on a 10-year journey to learn Circassian, and in the process discovered the best method for learning a language. Jonty terms this process, “Guided Immersion,” a method that focuses on learning high frequency words embedded within a rich, cultural context as spoken by native speakers. 
 
Today, Jonty has adapted his method to a wider variety of languages. Guided Immersion courses are now available for many languages and available on his website, OptiLingo.com.
 
Fortune 500 Executive Turned Language Activist
 
In 2010, Jonty launched the Nassip Foundation, a secular organization focused on the protection, preservation, and promotion of the Circassian language, history, and culture.Through the foundation, Jonty is helping the nearly 5,000 Circassian speakers in the United States connect with one another while strengthening their ethnic language and heritage through partnerships, education, and resources, including the Little Aslan Circassian language learning cartoons to help encourage younger children to learn Circassian. 
 
Jonty’s foundation has also partnered with Endangered Language Alliance (ELA), an organization designed to advocate on behalf of all endangered languages and cultures while promoting linguistic diversity worldwide. Through his work with the ELA, Jonty has combined his practical field experience and passion to help others learn Circassian with the rigors and support of academic grounding. Since then, Jonty has shared his experience and knowledge at countless symposiums on language preservation. 
 
Circassian Looks Forward to the Future
 
For any English speaker who wishes to embark on learning Circassian today, they would find a wealth of English resources available, in large part thanks to Jonty. Through his dedication and passion, Jontyhas developed the largest body of work dedicated to learning the Circassian language. The majority of Jonty’s Circassian language learning materials are freely available, as well, Memrise language learners can find several of Jonty’s Circassian Memrise courses available online.
 
Cultivating a Following Among Language Learners
 
Jonty has no formal linguistic or academic training and considers himself a highly-motivated self-learner who was fueled by a fervor to save his dying language. Today, Jonty aims to help others learn Circassian, as well as any language they choose through the OptiLingo language education products he developed. 
 
Using the Guided Immersion method created and refined over his 10-year study in Circassian, Jonty believes anyone who has the desire to learn a language can succeed, if following the right method. Judging from the positive reviews, Jonty has attracted a following of language enthusiasts who have succeeded in learning a language through the program.
 
 
 
 
 

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