The Berenstain Bears Now Speak an Endangered Language

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If anyone can save a dying language, it’s Mama Bear, simply because we’re pretty sure she can do anything. 

The Associated Press reports that public television in North Dakota and South Dakota will soon be airing the animated series “Matho Waunsila Thiwahe” — that’s Lakota for “Compassionate Bear Family” — which is a dubbed version of the beloved series The Berenstain Bears. Instead of English, the children’s cartoon characters Mama and Papa Bear, along with Brother and Sister Bear, will be speaking in the little-known American Indian dialect, which the AP reports fewer than 6,000 people still speak.

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The project was started as an effort to help preserve the Lakota dialect, which is an ancient language of the Sioux, and apparently only spoken fluently by elderly people. By having the children’s cartoon characters speak in their ancestral language, Lakota-champions are hoping that a new generation will adopt it.

The Berenstain Bears made their first appearance in 1962, when Jan Berenstain first created the children’s book series with her since-deceased husband Stan. At 88, she still writes books for the series and the stories have been translated into more than 20 languages around the world.  Jan, along with everyone else in Berenstain gang, is completely behind the Lakota-dubbing. Jan has called the project “terrific” and Berenstain Enterprises Inc. has waived the usual licensing fees.

Above is a clip of the cartoon, in English, just for nostalgia purposes.

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