Eli Laban

At Klein College, more and more students are creating professional-level work. Media Studies and Production alumnus Eli Laban won a National College Emmy for his video series "Learn to Count in an Endangered Language."  He made the videos while studying abroad on the Caribbean Coast of Nicaragua.

"I wanted to go somewhere that I didn't know anything about and people around here didn't know anything about," Laban said. "So I had the potential chance to do something that would be very significant."

The Television Academy Foundation received nearly 1,000 entries from schools across the country. Laban submitted his videos through the Academy's website, but didn't expect to win.

"I entered my project thinking it was a longshot at best, because of the volume and quality of submissions they get every year," Laban said in an email.

Interviews with natives of the Caribbean Coast are at the heart of Laban's short, social media-style videos. Two of them focus on counting lessons in Garifuna and Rama and one features a lesson on how to speak Miskito. 

"After learning more about [the Caribbean Coast] and talking to people, I learned that a lot of the things that made me so excited about that area are all disappearing," Laban said, including its languages, traditions and cultures.

Few people outside of the Caribbean Coast of Nicaragua are aware that these languages are dying, which is one of the reasons why Laban decided to make this video series. Originally, he was going to make a documentary, but decided that short videos would be more appropriate.

"I kind of arrived at a series of really short videos, first of all because the different ethnic groups over there are so fragmented and each one has its own little story," Laban said. "And it just made sense to do it in a short, shareable Facebook video format because that's what people are watching now."

One of the aspects of Laban's experience in Nicaragua that he found most interesting was his exploration of a disappearing form of Creole music called Maypole. Maypole is essentially a combination of Hot Jazz, Jamaican Mento music and the traditional music of Bluefields, Nicaragua, according to Laban's research. He and a friend organized a cookout to reunite local Maypole musicians and filmed them playing together for the first time in decades.   

"There's a bunch of musicians who in the city used to be legendary but now they're kind of forgotten about because no one listens to [that music] anymore," Laban said.

Laban presented his language videos at Temple Undergraduate Research Forum and Creative Works Symposium, the Greater Philadelphia Latin American Studies Consortium at the University of Pennsylvania and the International Association for Media and Communication Research in Colombia. He also received a fellowship grant that will allow him to return to Nicaragua to continue to create awareness of the disappearing languages of the Caribbean Coast.