Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Whistle language Silbo is disappearing because of technology

I watched The Dutch comedian Javier Guzman on a lazy evening during the x-mas holidays, his shows is called Por Dios. In this show there is a story about the influence of technology I would like to share because it is really telling a story.

Javier explains that the shepherd on the isle of La Gomera have a  whistle language called Silbo. Through whistling the shepherds communicate with each other to upto 4 kilometers apart. It is actually a whistled sort of Spanish. It reminded me of the farmers in the Simien Mountains in Ethiopia who were also communicating from mountaintop to mountaintop by ordinary language. Anyway, Javier talks to the patron of this language and hears that with the advent of the telephone that language is dying. The moral of this story is that technology changes culture. (video in Dutch).


I have witnessed a similar phenomenon in Diré in Mali, with the advent of television. The Malians in Dire could always spend hours chatting. They would sit on the ground or on small stools, next to a tea pot. Tea would always come in three rounds, with increasingly strong tea. So you could easily spend 1.5 hours drinking tea together. About a month after we moved to Diré, the TV was introduced. The next time that we went to visit my Malian colleague we were not chatting, but watching television together. Here the same motto applies: culture changes through technology. It is not all bad, of course, because through the same television I can watch Javier Guzman ... Nevertheless, the change may be unstoppable, but something will be lost along the way. Two medals of the same coin?