It started with three simple words in English.
"I love you."
Those three words were the premise of a video project a University of Montana student group put together. To have people simply say "I love you" in different languages.
But the student group — known as The Sacred Roots Society — had an extra-special focus on languages you also might not have heard before.
(Note: The following words are spelled phonetically.)
They are indigenous languages and The Sacred Roots Society's mission is to preserve them:
"It is the belief of this society that without language, we will lose our culture. This group was formed to bring language awareness to our community, our campus and the nation."
There are more than 300 languages spoken in the U.S. and nearly half are indigenous. However, many of those indigenous languages are going extinct.
This is in large part due to a phenomenon that started in the 1890s, when many Native American children were often forced to study in boarding schools by the federal government. They were given "American education" and punished for speaking their language. Essentially, they were barely able to preserve their cultures.
The history behind the extinction of some of these languages is sad. But the future of these languages doesn't have to be.
What if we gave these near-extinct languages the same type of love, appreciation, and respect that we give languages like French, German, and Spanish? The University of Montana project gave indigenous students a beautiful chance to have their languages treated as worthy as any other language and to show us the beauty of preserving differences.
For more information on how to celebrate these beautiful languages, check out these resources: Enduring Voices Project, the Committee on Endangered Languages and their Preservation, UNESCO Atlas of the World's Languages in Danger, and Cultural Survival.