May 23, 2008

Scrambling to save tongues

Tribes strive to save native tongues

In the Pacific Northwest, some 40 indigenous languages are at risk of disappearing within a decade.Grass-roots efforts to preserve and teach youngsters native languages are intensifying around the Pacific Northwest and British Columbia as about 40 indigenous tongues are in danger of disappearing within the next decade.

Native leaders are compiling dictionaries, drafting lesson plans, and scrambling to save what scraps of language they can before the last of the fluent elders dies. In the case of Kiksht, a language spoken for centuries along Oregon's Columbia River, there are two remaining speakers and neither can remember the words for "yawn" or "brown."

May 21, 2008

Video game employs languages

Thornton Media in Banning hopes to keep Native American languages aliveWhat's new: Thornton Media in Banning has developed a video game featuring Native American languages.

Thornton's newest release, "Rez World," is a 3-D video game featuring a virtual Native American reservation where the user interacts with other virtual humans who speak only their native language. It is a proven technology and has been shown to be an effective tool in third-party testing with more than 20,000 students, Thornton said.

May 18, 2008

Salish Language Revitalization Institute

Speaking SalishIn a language immersion school, every object has a label to remind students how to describe the world around them.

So in a sense, the expansion project going on at Nkwusm Salish Language Revitalization Institute here is adding to its dictionary. From a single classroom and hallway kitchen six years ago, Nkwusm now is filling a former bowling alley with white boards, desks, student art and recording equipment.

From that time just six years ago when only a couple children showed up for class, Nkwusm now has 39 regular students in preschool through high school grades. It's divided into three multi-age classes, each with a certified teacher, a fluent Salish speaker and a teacher's aide.
And:[T]he Salish language is everywhere, from the gathering songs the children sing in the morning to the labels on every counter, fixture and picture in the building. When Salish elders and language specialists Pat Pierre and Stephen Small Salmon lead a call-and-response exercise, the children yell with gusto.

May 08, 2008

6th annual Oklahoma language fair

Maintaining identity

Youth fair shows validity of Native language in OklahomaRare are the opportunities to hear young Native people speak and sing in their traditional languages in Oklahoma. But when these Native students in grades pre-K through 12 can come under one roof, speaking and singing in languages as diverse as Creek, Choctaw, Kiowa, Cherokee, Comanche, Otoe or Apache, it is a wonderful experience for all involved.

Beginning in 2002, with the Indigenous Language Institute of Santa Fe, N.M., serving as a model, the University of Oklahoma Native American Youth Language Fair expected only 80 participants in individual and group speech and song categories. Instead, more than 200 participated in the inaugural event. This year on March 31 and April 1, the seventh annual event grew to include 1,055 pre-registered students and teachers.
Cherokee Nation immersion students excel at language fairCherokee Nation language immersion students recently participated in the sixth annual Oklahoma Native American Youth Language Fair at the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History in Norman.

"Through our language immersion program, we are working diligently to teach future generations our native tongue," said Chad Smith, principal chief of the Cherokee Nation. "The Cherokee language enhances the quality of life of our people and preserves the culture and traditions of our past. The Cherokee Nation is very proud of these young Cherokees and their accomplishments at the language fair."

May 02, 2008

The importance of documenting languages

Tongue ties:  a language bridge across the Bering Strait

A Western Washington University professor has compared native languages in North America to those in Asia and found ties that suggest they come from the same ancestors.Vajda, a professor at Western Washington University in Bellingham, recently demonstrated a convincing kinship between a Siberian language family called Yeniseic and a Native American family called Na-Dene, which includes languages spoken in the Pacific Northwest and the Southwest.

The work also underscores the importance of documenting obscure languages before they die out. Vajda closed his symposium paper with this thought: "Who could have guessed that the ancient words Native American and Native Siberian boarding-school children were punished for speaking aloud just a few short decades ago would prove to wield a power vast enough to reunite entire continents?"