December 30, 2007

Seneca language classes

Cultural pride

Dedicated students study Seneca at Nation’s Language House[W]hat if the word you used to talk to your mother is not the same word she used? Or your grandmother? What kind of disconnect is created when young generations are taught a completely different language than that of their ancestors?

The Seneca Nation Educational Program is trying to bridge this gap by offering open lessons in Seneca every Tuesday and Thursday evening.

“Our doors are open to anyone,” said instructor Marilyn Schindler. “We’re trying to encourage as many Senecas to come down as we can. We try to work around their schedules. Some people have to work all day and can only make it in the evening.”

Along with Schindler, Jessica Huff and others of the Language House teach anywhere from three to eight people each week, free of charge.

December 28, 2007

Aleutian schools may teach Unangam Tunuu

School board faces Native language issueNext year may see the return of instruction in Unangam Tunuu-–the Native language spoken by the indigenous people of the Aleutian Islands–-in the Unalaska City School District.

That's the hope of Katherine McGlashan, an Unangan/Aleut herself, and an active group of Unalaska residents, including educators, former teachers, parents, the Museum of the Aleutians and Ounalashka Corp., the representative Alaska Native corporation.

"We as indigenous people would like the opportunity to be able to pass on traditions, values and the Unangan culture and language," wrote McGlashan in a September letter to Superintendent John Conwell.

December 26, 2007

Comics are powerful tool

Superman Finds New Fans Among Reading InstructorsIn Maryland, the State Education Department is expanding a new comics-based literacy curriculum, after a small pilot program yielded promising results. In New York City, a group of educators applied to open a new small high school that would be based around a comics theme and named after the creators of Superman; their application was rejected but they plan to try again next year. And the Comic Book Project, a program run out of Teachers College at Columbia University that has children create their own comic strips as an “alternative pathway to literacy,” is catching on. Six years after it started in one Queens elementary school, it has expanded to 860 schools across the country.

“It’s very much a teacher-led kind of movement in that teachers are looking for ways to engage their children, and they’re finding some of that in comic books,” said Michael Bitz, who founded the Comic Book Project as a graduate student and is now its director. “For kids who may be struggling and for kids who may be new to the English language, that visual sequence is a very powerful tool.”

The recent interest in comics as a literacy tool comes as graphic novels have cemented their status as sophisticated works of literature, and as teachers nationwide are struggling to boost reading scores. Proponents of comics in the classroom say that they can lure struggling readers who may be intimidated by pages crammed with text. They also say that comics, with their visual cues and panel-by-panel sequencing, are uniquely situated to reinforce key elements of literacy, like story structure and tone.

December 23, 2007

Notes on California languages

Long gone Native languages emerge from the grave

Millions of cryptic notes from linguist John Peabody HarringtonBringing voices from the grave, volunteers at the University of California-Davis are working to decipher nearly a million pages of notes from conversations with long-gone Native Californians, reviving more than 100 languages from the distant past.

Word by word, they type the scribbled and cryptic notes left by John Peabody Harrington, an eccentric and tireless linguist who in the early 1900s traveled throughout California interviewing the last surviving speakers of many native tongues, including the local Muwekma Ohlone tribe.

Their effort to organize a database of Harrington's vast material will build a Rosetta Stone for these languages and their dialects, creating dictionaries of words, phrases and tribal tales and customs that were destined to disappear.

December 21, 2007

Cherokee classes online

Cherokee Nation to offer online language classhe Cherokee Nation will be offering a Cherokee language course online through the tribe’s web site beginning Jan. 7.

The Cherokee Nation began offering language classes online in 2003. Since then, approximately 1,000 students register each session. Students from all over the world, including France, Australia, Spain, Mexico, Germany and Canada have taken part in the courses.

To make the classes more interactive and easier to access, the Cherokee Nation will use updated software, which will allow for more students to participate, easier login capabilities, full-screen options, archiving abilities and a new cross platform interface for PCs, as well as Mac users.

December 20, 2007

Hopi scholar dies

Time catches up with Hopi-language saviorEmory Sekaquaptewa was at once a visionary and a realist—a combination few are blessed with, but a paradoxical trait that produced a lasting legacy.

Not everyone can look back and say they wrote their nation's first dictionary and helped revive a language that faced extinction, but those are just a few of the things he accomplished in his lifetime.
His greatest achievement:One of Sekaquaptewa's largest accomplishments was a 30-year project that resulted in the Hopi language's first dictionary. The underlying drive behind all of his endeavors—his law degree, his 34 years of university teaching—was to preserve the Hopi way of life.

"He was always putting down words on little cards and after a while he decided it would be a good idea to put those together into a dictionary," Krutz said.
His work to continue:Healy is in charge of fundraising for Sekaquaptewa's last project, a children's book that will teach the Hopi language to the next generation.

The Hopi Children Workbook is designed to teach visual word association, much like the popular Richard Scarry books, only with a Hopi twist.
Comment:  If the Hopi are doing a children's book with pictures, why not a comic book?

December 08, 2007

"Teaching Our Way" with pictures

Faint hope for dying languageThe lesson is an attempt to stop the slow but steady demise of Seminole language and culture by "Teaching Our Way."

That's the English translation for Pemayetv Emahakv, the name of the charter school that opened in August on the Brighton Seminole Reservation just northwest of Lake Okeechobee in Glades County.

In its first year, the $10 million, 45,000-square-foot school has become a source of pride among the 600 people living on the reservation. There is a waiting list to enroll, and parents and staff are talking about expanding the school beyond its kindergarten through fifth grades.
How the language program works:The school uses a system for learning native languages called accelerated second language acquisition. University of Montana Professor S. Neyooxet Greymorning, an Arapaho Indian, developed the system.

The method entails pictures instead of written words and learning the language orally before writing it down.

The language classroom at Pemayetv Emahakv, pronounced pee-ma-YEH-da eh-ma-HA-ga, is plastered with photos and cartoons of people sitting, standing, laughing, walking and talking. The images are used for teaching verbs.