A language doesn’t fall over a precipice, it sort of slides into oblivion. A few people know five Baré words here, 20 there. Some become “rememberers”, that is, they can proudly recite poems or stories at length, but have no idea what they mean. At that stage all the concepts, the elegance and the embodied world view have gone. You just have shards. So functionally, yes, Baré is gone.

When I was preparing a bilingual dictionary of Tariana – another Amazonian language – and Portuguese I gave a workshop and about 300 people came. I showed them this very poor, very old Tariana grammar book and explained that I wanted to do a more truthful one – I said, “Your names will be on it because it is a community book”. And they said, “Oh yes, then we can teach our children better. This old book has many mistakes. Our language will be like Portuguese, it’ll be a proper language.”

In that area you are identified with your father’s language, and if you speak a borrowed language like Portuguese instead, you are a lesser person. But with a dictionary they can say, “Now, I am learning my father’s language back” and this gives them some security and confidence. They start to speak it with pride and not apologetically. I find that very rewarding.

More here.