Ever wonder if Barney the Dinosaur’s “I love you, you love me” song is annoying even when sung in Paiute? Native American parents may soon find out, thanks to the Paiute Preschool Language Immersion Program in Utah, where Paiute toddlers are taking part in a program aimed at saving the dying language. Of the 744 Paiute Indians living in Utah, only 40 speak the tribal tongue fluently.
Language preservation experts estimate that fewer than 20 of the 185 American Indian languages that are still viable today will be around 50 years from now. Washoe and Blackfoot tots are learning nursery rhymes in their ancestral tongues in similar programs designed to save those languages. The Paiute teachers hope to teach Paiute to pregnant women and mothers of infants so they can start the language training even younger.