His language is dying. This Senegalese singer is fighting to save it with music.

His language is dying. This Senegalese singer is fighting to save it with music.

The punishment for speaking your native language at school was a cow bone tied on a string, worn around your neck all day.

Benoit Fader Keita wore the bone necklace many times. His mother tongue, Menik, is one of Senegal’s 25 recognized native languages but one that had only about 3,000 speakers left at last count.

The punishment was humiliating, Keita said, but that was the point: It was an effective way of ensuring children spoke French, Senegal’s official language, rather than their mother tongues.

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