November 25, 2008

The thinking behind RezWorld

Native company launches video game to teach endangered languages, culturesLike in other interactive games such as Grand Theft Auto and The Sims, the player controls the main character in the game.

“Imagine a world inhabited by intelligent virtual humans that speak only your Indigenous language,” said Don Thornton, TMI’s Chief Executive Officer. To reach the game’s goals you must communicate with other characters that recognize not only your language but also your gestures and behavior. The game teaches languages in context and also cultural protocols based on character behaviors.

Thornton Media, Inc., the creative minds behind the RezWorld™ 3-D video game was the first company to offer customized hi-tech tools to revitalize Native languages. Since its launch in 1995, it has become the recognized leader in the industry. TMI, a Native-owned company with more than 100 tribal clients in the United States and Canada, has invested over six-figures into the game.

“The reason I am so aggressive about saving indigenous languages is because I am a Cherokee Nation citizen and the Cherokee language is in worse shape than ever,” Thornton said. About five years ago, there were 15,000 speakers, now there are only about 6,000. A Cherokee language department staff member recently remarked, “Some weeks we lose 100 speakers. Think about the language situation in 10 years.”
Comment:  For more on the subject, see Video Game Teaches Languages and More on RezWorld.

November 21, 2008

Menominee talking circles

Menominee language finds new life in schools

Tribe committed to preserving conversational skillsEveryone must participate in Margaret Snow's "talking circle" when the fifth-graders introduce themselves using the Menominee language—that's a rule.

Some students easily pronounce the words, repeating their name, clan and hometown as quickly as they can recall it. But it's more of a challenge to others who may not have been as exposed to the native language.

"I just want them to try," said Snow, one of two language teachers at Keshena Primary School. "With these words they can communicate with each other, so it's important they have a chance to show they can remember their introductions."

Snow's third-grade students learn to talk about the weather in the Menominee language, and then recite a traditional prayer. Her fifth-graders focus on their conversational skills.

November 16, 2008

Cherokee documentary on PBS

PBS to do documentary on Cherokee language programA program that teaches the Cherokee language to Cherokee children will be featured in a PBS documentary.

A film crew and producer for "We Shall Remain" were in Tahlequah Thursday to visit the Cherokee Language Immersion School and interview Principal Chief Chad Smith and others.

November 13, 2008

Lakota language summit

Fluent Lakota speakers running out of time

Symposium searches for ways to preserve Native languages.At Tuesday's opening of a three-day summit about revitalizing their languages, the Native American speakers needed English at some point to communicate.

"We're really in a race against time," said Ryan Wilson of the National Alliance to Save Native Languages.

The Lakota, Dakota, Nakota Language Summit: Uniting the Seven Council Fire to Save the Language has brought together a mix of 400 Native American educators, language experts and traditional fluent speakers. They are here to determine how to keep their languages from disappearing.
And:On Wyoming's Wind River Reservation, people in the Arapaho Tribe counted on teaching the language in school, similar to how math and other classes are taught in a system approved by federal and state regulators.

"After 35 years of teaching at Wind River, not one student is a fluent speaker. These methods, ... they're not working," Wilson said.

Wilson said his stepfather saw the answer to capturing fluency by teaching children in a language-immersion school. With Wilson's help, an immersion school was funded, built and opened in 12 months. But it wasn't easy.

November 11, 2008

When It's Gone It's Gone

A documentary filmed and produced by the Norman High School Native American Club. It examines the dying languages of Native Americans through the eyes of our Elders.Comment:  This video is long (17 minutes) but watchable. Considering it was put together by high-schoolers, it's pretty polished. I'm not sure you'll learn anything new about language preservation, but it's interesting to see people and places that usually aren't featured in Native films.