December 23, 2006

Hope for Native languages

Language revitalization efforts bloomed in 2006Immersion programs

In central New York, the Oneidas contracted with Berlitz, a well-known education company, to teach the scarce language to adults in their community. Berlitz "took revolutionary steps" to find fluent speakers capable of teaching the language and had to travel to Canada to find them. A small community of Oneidas living on the Thames River was approached and two fluent speakers were flown to central New York to begin the spread of knowledge.

In the Akwesasne community along the northern New York border, an immersion program is teaching children in pre-kindergarten through the fourth grade the traditional Mohawk language by schooling them in a homelike environment. Children of various ages are kept in the same classroom and with several teachers in the room the language flows naturally and children pick it up just like they would at home.


Such cutting-edge technology is currently making its way to assist the Cherokee Indians in North Carolina. The Eastern Band of Cherokee received a federal grant this year (which it plans to match) that will enable it to buy "Phraselators." The handheld computers will be programmed using the voice of a tribal member and will enable students in the community's language immersion program to have English translated into Cherokee (and vice versa) with the touch of a button. Other tribes have also purchased the device, which was invented for military use.

Apple Computer Inc. has also been approached regarding the possibility of putting language learning software on its popular iPod--a handheld device capable of storing documents and audio and video files.

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