March 11, 2009
Flashcards, classes, and audiotapes
Menominee tribe makes effort to keep language alive
Using a booklet of flashcards held up by their teacher, the 2-year-olds pointed and repeated the words kuapenakaehsaeh (cup), aemeskwan (spoon) and paeces kahekan (fork). At home they've been known to ask their families for a snack using the Menominee words for crackers and fruit instead of English.And: The average age of the few dozen remaining native speakers is in the mid-70s, and some of the elders who speak the language are in ill health. However, the tribe has 10 trained Menominee language instructors who teach in the schools and College of Menominee Nation. The language is taught in day care and kindergarten through middle school. At the high school, it's a popular elective taken by three-quarters of the students.And: The [language and culture] commission trains substitute language teachers, works on language curriculum and helps with a University of Wisconsin-Madison project compiling a beginner's dictionary of the Menominee language. The tribe has also converted hundreds of hours of audiotapes of elders speaking stories, which were recorded decades ago, into digital versions that can be downloaded on iPods and laptops.