Enets – An endangered Siberian language

A language nest was opened in a kindergarten in Russia, in a local village known as Potapovo. The main objective of the program was to help revive the Enets language, which is an endangered Siberian language as very few people speak it. The program targeted 3-6 year olds whose parents do not speak the language and therefore, cannot pass it down to their children. Language nests have been successfully used in various other places such as Finland, New Zealand and other parts of Russia. In Potapovo, there are 68 ethnic Enets out of which only 15 individuals speak the language, mostly 60 – 70 year olds, who speak it on a regular basis at home. The youngest speakers of the language are in their 30s – 40s. The teachers in the language program use various teaching materials and methods such as costumes, materials, folktales, ethnic games and texts written in Enets.

Enets is a Samoyedic language that is spoken in Siberia, in the Russian republic. The language has two dialects. This includes Forest Enest and Tundra Enest. The two dialects are not mutually intelligible due to the many lexical differences that exists between the dialects. Some individuals also speak Karastin Enets which is a mixture of forest Enets and Tundra Enets. Most Enets are bilingual or multi lingual. Most of them speak Russian as a second language. They also speak the languages of the tribes that neighbor them such as Evenki, Nenets and Nganasan. Enets has many loan words from Nenets, Evenki, Dolgan and Russian. In fact, up to 1979, Enets was not seen as an independent language but as a dialect of Nenets or Nganasans. The Cyrillic alphabet has been in use since the 1980s as a form of writing the language.

Enets have been involved in hunting and fishing for a long time. They were nomadic people, who roamed along the River Yenisei. They also domesticated reindeers. Under Soviet rule, the Enets were forced to live a settled life. This meant that they were no longer allowed to domesticate reindeer and they could no longer access pasture for their animals. A lot of immigrants also settled in the geographical region where they lived.

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