October 23, 2007

Convention news in Alaskan languages

Recaps of Native convention to be broadcast in indigenous languagesThe Anchorage-based radio station KNBA is planning to give recaps of the Alaska Federation of Natives convention in 3 of Alaska's indigenous languages.

The five-minute segments will be given in Inupiaq, Yupik and Koyukon Athabascan by longtime speakers of the language.

October 21, 2007

Documentary on The Linguists

Garrison filmmakers focus on dying languagesThree young filmmakers, including one from Cold Spring and another from Yorktown, have just completed a documentary on the world's "dying" languages. Nearly 3,500 of the world's 7,000 spoken tongues are rapidly disappearing.

Intrigued by learning that some world languages are threatened with never being heard again, the three accompanied two academic linguists around the world as they investigated languages on the verge of extinction.

They traveled to rugged terrain in Siberia, India and Bolivia to find answers and consider what forces--racism, local violence, economic upheaval--were root causes. They also went to the Southwestern United States, where at least 200 languages spoken by American Indians living on reservations are endangered.

"We really felt like the Indiana Joneses of linguistic study and moviemaking combined," said Jeremy Newberger, 33, of Yorktown, Ironbound Films' chief executive officer.

October 20, 2007

New Testament in Naskapi

Preston couple translates Bible for Canadian Indian tribeFor the next 15 years, the Jancewiczs and their children, which expanded to three, lived and worked with the tribe. They had come to translate the New Testament of the Bible into the tribe’s native Naskapi, a language in the Algonquin family, but also worked on translation dictionaries as well as school curriculum.

The New Testament was published this fall and every household on the reservation—about 300—has a copy. Although the family now lives in Preston, they traveled back for the unveiling and Bill said it was an almost indescribable feeling to hold the work in his hands.

“That’s a very awesome thing. You can’t describe it. It brings tears to your eyes,” he said. “It’s like holding a new baby.”

October 19, 2007

Siva the Serrano savior

He's a keeper of the Serrano language"It would be a shame for it to get lost and I think that's why the other communities are trying to do the same thing," said Siva, founder of the Dorothy Ramon Learning Center.

The nonprofit organization was established four years ago and in June Siva acquired a building for it in downtown Banning. The building will help Siva further his cause and bring Southern California's American Indian history and culture to life.

The learning center's mission is "to save and share the culture and history of American Indians in Southern California," he said.

Siva offers Serrano language and music lessons. The language is called Marringa, from which the name Morongo comes, he said.

October 17, 2007

Phonetics chart and language lessons

New system helps students learn the Lakota languageEarl Bullhead, a Lakota educator on the Lower Brule Reservation in South Dakota, has developed a phonetics chart that is easy to follow and offers proper pronunciation. He also has a step-by-step approach that offers students a chance to learn not just a core word, but when other letters or words are added to make it plural or gender-qualified, or when it takes on a slightly different meaning.

Bullhead has developed a system that includes 10 lessons that show the use of conjugations so that the student will be able to visualize the word. The system includes special modifiers that change the meaning of the word from, for example, first person to second or third person.

He sets up the courses in 15-week increments of 10 lessons each. He has also, with help from technical experts, developed a computer program that allows students to overlay diacritical markings onto letters to change the sound of the letter. The student can also add words and letters to other words to change person, tense or gender.

Lakota stories, songs on CD

Stories and songs in the original Lakota language donated to OLCA dedicated Lakota man, Jim Emery, was concerned about losing the old stories, songs and language to a more modern version. He set out to record as many of the stories and songs as possible.

His family, members of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, transferred his original recordings to compact discs and donated the collection to Oglala Lakota College on the Pine Ridge Reservation for preservation and research.

The CDs contain stories and conversations with such notables as Black Elk, Dewey Beard, Paul Apple, Ellis Chips, Charlie Red Cloud, Jessie and Wallace Little Finger and Frank Fools Crow, according to a release.

Edmo stumps for Shoshone

Poet works to preserve native tongueAs part of American Indian Heritage month, Ronald Snake Edmo, a linguistic anthropologist who is a member of the Shoshone-Bannock tribe, will speak about his poetry and the importance of language to a culture’s life.

The Shoshone language runs the risk of being lost as increasingly fewer members of succeeding generations learn to speak it. Edmo, who grew up in a time when children were beaten for speaking Shoshone in school, writes poetry in Shoshone and English.

October 16, 2007

Trying to save Mono

Learning an almost lost language

The few Mono Indians remaining who speak their tongue are passing it down to children to preserve culture.The North Fork Rancheria Tribal Council does not have the funds for a formal program to preserve the Mono language, said council Chairwoman Jacquie Davis-Van Huss. The 1,652-member tribe relies on volunteers like Burrough and the support of educators who incorporate Mono lessons into programs in public schools.

Burrough teaches children as part of its Indian Education Program in North Fork Elementary School. Such programs also provide for classroom tutoring in subjects other than language and culture for Native American kids, Principal Stuart Pincus said.

October 13, 2007

Sitimaxa edition of software

Chitimacha Tribe to Develop Rosetta Stone SoftwareRosetta Stone Inc., creator of the world's No. 1 language-learning program, has formed a partnership with the Chitimacha Tribe of Louisiana to develop a unique edition of the award-winning software in the tribe's language, Sitimaxa.

The tribe will own distribution and sales rights to the tribal language version created through the Rosetta Stone Endangered Language Program, which has developed culturally-relevant language-learning software with the Mohawk of Kahnawake, NANA Regional Corporation of Alaska, and other indigenous communities.

October 09, 2007

70 tribes use Phraselator

The Phraselator II

How a high-tech military device is helping to preserve the tribal languages of American Indians.Throughout Indian Country, hundreds of younger tribal citizens like Brockie are diligently working with their elders to preserve and teach the unique and complex linguistic traditions of their tribes. There are currently more than 70 tribes using the Phraselator as a language preservation tool.

Indian linguists say the gadget has gained popularity at a critical time, since most tribes have very few living members who know their native tongue. It is increasingly rare to find young Indians who communicate with their elders in the tribal language.
Why tribes like it:The Phraselator itself looks like a cross between a BlackBerry and a walkie-talkie. It can record and translate both audio and video files, and it stores language via a flash memory card. A one-gigabyte card will hold up to 85,000 phrases or words, which can then be transferred to other computers.

“There’s a huge trend in Indian Country to revive the languages,” Thornton says. “I think the feature of the Phraselator that really attracts tribes is that they can do it all themselves—and they retain all copyright of their materials. They don’t have to depend on outsiders.”

October 02, 2007

Saving O'odham with multimedia

Tech linguists work to save languageNathan Jahnke, a graduate linguistics student from Houston who is participating in the language-revitalization project, said the group is working on digitizing the largest Tohono O'odham dictionary.

"Obviously, if you want to learn a language, you'll need to look up words in the dictionary," he said, "and right now the best one isn't digital and is out of print, so that puts a serious limit on how easily people can learn the language."

Along with the digitizing the dictionary, Jahnke said the group also is creating multimedia teaching materials, including PowerPoint presentations.

"We tried to imagine what kind of materials kids today would get into," he said, "and we decided that multimedia stuff is crucial, and there is virtually none of that in O'odham right now."

Fitzgerald said ensuring the translation of the language into other texts is important, but creating audio recordings of O'odham speakers also is an objective of language revitalization.

"If you have something written down on a page, you can't hear intonations, which changes a sentence from a statement versus a question," she said. "Trying to capture the details of that kind of pitch and intonation, that's very expressive and meaningful, you can't do that without audio."

October 01, 2007

Last Elem Pomo speaker

Only living Elem Pomo speaker teaches so she won't be the lastKelsey, 59, is the last person on Earth who is fluent in Elem Pomo, an 8,000-year-old dialect spoken by a people who once flourished along the shores of Clear Lake (Lake County). Handed down orally and never written, the language has nearly vanished--and Kelsey, a quiet, almost demure woman with steely gaze, is doing everything she can to make sure the ancient words do not die with her.

Every time an Elem Pomo phrase passes her lips and someone else hears it, she says, she is helping keep it alive. It's even better if one of the young people in her tribe speaks that phrase back to her--and over the past three years, she has been holding workshops to make sure they are able to do that.