July 29, 2007

Saving languages in the Mojave

Keeping tribal languages aliveThe Yuman Language Family Summit is an annual gathering that brings representatives together from Colorado River Indian Tribes to discuss ways of preserving their languages. There are discussions on programs that pair Mojave children with tribal teachers and ways to create an environment for language immersion.

“We have to have the language used every day and spoken so people can pick it up,” said Lucille Watahomigie, summit participant and director of education for the Hualapai Tribe. “It doesn't have to be taught. It can be acquired just by being in the environment where the language is used.”

At the University of Arizona, the American Indian Language Development Institute works to train language teachers on how to use immersion and modern technology to encourage younger people to learn their language. This year, the institute hopes to focus on grant-writing for indigenous populations and skills in documenting languages for preservation.

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