Among the 6,000 or so languages in the world, an average of 2 languages disappear each month. Because linguicide is generally a slow death, and sometimes not apparent until the last speaker is remaining, the dialogue and actions around language endangerment must be ongoing.

ROOT TONGUE engages audiences motivated by the stories and issues raised in the film TONGUES OF HEAVEN, co-directed by Anita Chang, An-Chi Chen, Kainoa Kaupu, Hau`oli Waiau and Shin-Lan Yu. In the documentary, four young indigenous women from Taiwan and Hawai`i use video cameras to share their challenges in learning the languages of their forebears before they go extinct. They ask themselves and their community: What do you lose when you lose your native language?

In this ROOT TONGUE app, clips from the documentary and companion questions allow you to explore the challenges of language endangerment and preservation by sharing your own perspective through dialogue and creative uploads of your videos, images, audio and writings. You can also access educational and community resources pertaining to language preservation. We welcome your suggestions for language preservation and learning resources.

We hope you will join us in sharing your challenges, promises and successes, and that you will find meaningful connections here.

Who We Are

Interactive Producer Michella Rivera-Gravage is dedicated to working with compelling and evocative stories to move and change people around a variety of social issues. Over the past 10 years, she has produced innovative moving images, new media and participatory projects within the Public Media sector, specializing in social and interactive media. Michella is currently designing and producing interactive media, developing social media strategies. She earned an MFA in Digital Art & New Media from UC Santa Cruz. michellaforever.com

Project Director Anita Chang is an independent filmmaker, educator and writer. The issue of a language not being passed down to the next generation has always been a part of her life. Her first language was Taiwanese or Minnanese, but she gradually lost her ability to speak it when she started learning English in the U.S., a common phenomenon for second-generation children of immigrants to the U.S. Anita’s award-winning works have screened and broadcast internationally, and been presented at the Whitney Museum of American Art, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, Walker Arts Center, Museum of Fine Arts Houston, and National Museum of Women. Her documentaries are distributed by Women Make Movies, Third World Newsreel, the Center for Asian American Media, Kanopy Streaming, and Taiwan Public Television. anitachangworks.com

Our dedicated team in Taiwan consists of linguistics consultants Amy P. Lee and Apay Yang, and Social Media consultant Yu-Chao Huang from National Dong Hwa University.

Our magical design studio is Otherwise Co. and our development team is the ever-brilliant Biagio Azzarelli, Wali Hassan Jafferi, Marisa Wilson and Jessica Yazbek.

Project Director Statement by Anita Chang

It wasn’t until I started living and working in Taiwan that I learned of the incredible diversity of languages spoken on the island. During the first two years while I was teaching film in the Department of Indigenous Languages and Communications at National Dong Hwa University located in eastern Taiwan, I was made aware of an on-going lament by my students in their limited or lack of ability to speak their mother tongue, their linguistic heritage being from one or more of the 16 distinct indigenous languages, Minnanese and/or Hakka. Keenly aware that they and their peers are not speaking their heritage languages, they foresaw a bleak future for the survival of these languages. This is how the idea of the film came about, and a production method that involved young co-directors to collaboratively tackle this issue of language endangerment arising out of Taiwan’s complex colonial history. The production inevitably evolved a compelling exchange with young indigenous peoples from Hawai`i, known worldwide for its language revitalization efforts.

Root Tongue funders

Big Ideas @ Berkeley
Cal State East Bay Division of Academic Affairs
Creative Capital
Indiegogo Donors
National Dong Hwa University
North American Taiwanese Women’s Association
Porter College Graduate Arts Research
San Francisco Arts Commission
Taiwanese United Fund
University of California Institute for Research in the Arts