For this reason, relatively little is known about this small group of people, that today lives mainly in Hokkaido. Indeed, the Japanese themselves are vague when discussing the Ainu people and their culture, which stems also from the marginalisation by the Japanese government. Their access to Ainu culture is very limited and often reduced to general or superficial information, that has more the aim of being merely amusing or bizarre rather than being actually educational.
In 2008 the Ainu won partial recognition of their unique language and culture in Japan. This has coincided with a slightly increased profile for the Ainu and, among some, expressions of pride in the culture. But unlike native American tribes in the United States, they do not own land as a people, or have national status.
The language of Ainu is the only non-Japonic language spoken in Japan and UNESCO estimates that there are only 15 speakers left however, the actual number is very likely to be lower. This makes the language critically endangered and in need of saving now.
There are three distinct varieties: Hokkaido, Sakhalin, and Kuril. In this ten week course, you will be learning how to speak the Hokkaido variety, which is the most widely known. At the same time, you will also gain knowledge about the Sakhalin variety.
✔ Introduce yourself, greet others and ask questions
✔ Talk about your family and friends and understand the family structures of the community of speakers
✔ Describe objects, people, and situations accurately
✔ Buy (and even bargain over!) typical products, clothing, and food at the local market
✔ Ask for directions to go to the most relevant spots
✔ Learn how to get around the town or village
✔ Maintain reasonably simple conversations with native speakers
✔ Learn the unique history of the community
✔ Learn about the local’s worldviews and beliefs
✔ Learn to appreciate local poetry and songs
✔ Learn the rich history behind traditional garments
✔ Learn how cultural heritage is expressed through arts and crafts
✔ Learn how to cook local dishes by reading recipes in the target language