We get this question all the time: “So, what is a museum of words and language?” This post is the first of several that will answer that question, offering glimpses of what you will actually do in some of Planet Word’s interactive galleries.
Meet Kainoa. He’s from Hawaii, and he speaks ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi — known on the mainland as Hawaiian. Come and talk to him, and he’ll teach you about his language — its use of vowels; what the name of their state fish, the humuhumunukunukuapua‘a, means; and even the powerful Hawaiian word for “black hole.”
Kainoa is one of thirty-one language ambassadors who will introduce you to The Spoken World. This experience, which will fill Planet Word’s expansive Great Hall, brings together spoken and signed languages from across the globe, including Navajo, Amharic, Zulu, and Iranian Sign Language.
Through tongue twisters, folk songs, sports chants, words of affection, and other fun, culture-specific phrases, ambassadors like Kainoa, Mariko, Sebi, and Cesar will introduce you to their languages — and teach you how to speak or sign a few phrases too.
These language experiences take place at various stations around a 12-foot-tall LED globe — which, for evening events, will retract up to the 22-foot-high ceiling and act as a spectacular chandelier. Natural light will pour in through massive windows overlooking Franklin Park, and the hall will be filled with the sounds of multilingual conversation.
Taking in these sights, sounds, and experiences will impress on you the awe-inspiring diversity of the world’s languages. But it will also make something else clear: that no matter how far apart we may live or how different our languages may seem, we all share the same human desires to connect, to communicate, and to feel like we belong. The Spoken World will make clear our shared humanity — and our responsibility to respect and seek to understand each other.