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There’s a death row for languages,
and it has three thousand prisoners.
In the United States,
we've lost 55 languages since 1997.
And we have another 170 languages at risk of extinction.
Worldwide, we lose one language every two weeks.
When we lose these languages,
we lose centuries worth of art,
music , history, culture and science.
When pharmaceutical companies
have to go into places like the Amazon,
they have to be able to communicate
in the indigenous languages
of the native people who are using, who have been using
these medicinal plants for centuries.
Many of these plants have no names
in major world languages like English.
If we let these three thousand languages go extinct,
we’re endangering our own lives,
because speaking a language can save your life.
I’m co-producing a documentary called "Saved by Language"
about a Sephardic Bosnian boy
who saved his life in the Holocaust,
because he could speak the language of Ladino or Judeo-Spanish.
One of the ways Ladino is being kept alive
is through music.
We all know what it feels like to hear songs from our childhood
and we remember exactly where we were,
and how we felt when we first heard it.
But we might not remember
what was on your shopping list yesterday.
That’s because music affects us emotionally,
but it also activates more parts of our brain than language does.
So if you hear something to attune,
you're gonna remember those lyrics better
than if you just read the lyrics in a book.
My first language was Russian,
and I learned how to read and write
in Russian before English.
But I have to tell you something that’s a little embarrassing,
I have trouble alphabetizing in Russian. Why?
I never learned an alphabet song in Russian. (Laughter ) Yes.
And I bet some of you...
but I'm not gonna ask you to raise your hands,
because it might be a little embarrassing.
You sometimes have to sing,
♫ ABCDEFG ♫ (Laughter) yeah,
to be able to alphabetize.
I've got some people raising their hands.
I speak eight languages.
And I didn’t learn those languages
just by reading a grammar book,
because grammar books make me fall asleep.
I use music.
And now I’m using songs to help me learn Ladino.
(Singing in Ladino)
"Go look for another love. *** on another door.
Hope for another passion.
Because, for me, you're dead. (Laughter)
Goodbye my beloved. (Laughter)
When I learned that verse,
I learned the word, (Ladino),
which, in Ladino, means to "***,"
if I had read it in the book,
I probably wouldn't remember it.
Companies like Sesame street and School House Rock,
have successfully put educational contents to songs.
Because they know that’s gonna stick in our heads,
so we can start to keep
these endangered languages alive
by learning these songs in these other languages.
And we can record people who speak these languages.
We can record them singing and speaking in those languages,
and finding somebody who was bilingual to transcribe and translate.
But we’re not gonna stop there.
We have to learn modern languages as well.
When you speak another language,
you are making your brain work in a different way.
You have to think in a different way.
And because of that,
you could possibly prevent the early onset of dementia.
That's important, right?
And you can also improve
your quick decision making abilities.
Companies in the United States pay extra
for bilingual people who can cater
to the twenty percent of American households
to speak another language besides English at home.
The British economy loses 11 to 26 billion dollars a year,
because they don’t have enough foreign language speakers
to help British companies export.
We have bilingual immersion schools
all over the United States now.
Many more Americans are listening
to music in both English and Spanish,
because we have singers like
Mark Anthony, Shakira singing in both languages.
And probably all of you have heard
that Korean song Gangnam Style? (Laughter)
Yeah! And that song is actually inspiring people
to learn Korean.
Do you want to release three thousand prisoners
from the language death row?
Do you wanna improve your brain health and