March 26, 2011

Google searchable in Cherokee

Google adds Cherokee syllabaryGoogle has added the Cherokee syllabary to its repertoire of searchable languages. Just like the many other languages Google supports, anyone who can read and write Cherokee can look up virtually anything in the World Wide Web.

Cherokee Nation translators worked side by side with Google employees to work through all the challenges of adding a new and very different language to their services. The 85-character syllabary, created by Sequoyah in the early 1800s, quickly made the majority of Cherokees literate and was adapted into the first Native American newspaper, the Cherokee Phoenix.

March 24, 2011

Luiseño cartridges for Nintendo games

Video games to help teach native language

By Deborah Sullivan BrennanHand-held video games may help Luiseno tribal members restore their traditional language, as tribal members and local professors devise a novel approach to teach the ancient language on Nintendo devices.

The Pauma Band of Luiseno Indians has provided a $50,000 grant to Cal State San Marcos' California Indian Culture and Sovereignty Center, and Palomar College's American Indian Studies Department, to create Luiseno language cartridges for the video games.

The cartridges will be distributed to members of the tribe's seven bands in Riverside and San Diego counties.

"What we're hoping to do is preserve the voices of current speakers for future generations, and to make learning the language fun, easy and accessible for all Luiseno people," said Joely Proudfit, a Cal State professor and director of the center.

We Still Live Here Âs Nutayuneân

Language Preservation Vision Shared for all Tribes

By Donna Laurent Caruso“If the Wampanoag could bring back their language without a single Native speaker, then anything is possible,” Anne Makepeace, the creator of a documentary about the revitalization of the Wôpanâak language said. “I think this film can serve as a cautionary tale for Native people whose languages are endangered and a model of inspiration for those working to preserve and revitalize their languages.”And:Makepeace’s film shows some of the original documents written in Wampanoag that Baird used to create her dictionary, grammar, and school lessons: deeds, letters, petitions, even notes in the margins of family bibles. Baird’s dedication is captured in the documentary; you may find yourself whispering your own first new phrases. The documentary shows how Baird learns new words using vowel and pronunciation charts, and dictionaries from one of the 40 Algonquian languages that are still spoken, such as Passamaquoddy. It also shows students in the classroom, and sometimes, learning “Wamp” does not look easy.

March 11, 2011

Bilingualism good for the brain

Bilingualism good for the brain, researchers say

The skill helps improve multitasking and prioritizing, and helps ward off early symptoms of Alzheimer's disease, experts say.

By Amina Khan
[N]euroscience researchers are increasingly coming to a consensus that bilingualism has many positive consequences for the brain. Several such researchers traveled to this month's annual meeting of the American Assn. for the Advancement of Science in Washington, D.C., to present their findings. Among them:

• Bilingual children are more effective at multi-tasking.

• Adults who speak more than one language do a better job prioritizing information in potentially confusing situations.

• Being bilingual helps ward off early symptoms of Alzheimer's disease in the elderly.

These benefits come from having a brain that's constantly juggling two—or even more—languages, said Ellen Bialystok, a psychology professor at York University in Toronto, who spoke at the AAAS annual meeting. For instance, a person who speaks both Hindi and Tamil can't turn Tamil off even if he's speaking to only Hindi users, because the brain is constantly deciding which language is most appropriate for a given situation.

This constant back-and-forth between two linguistic systems means frequent exercise for the brain's so-called executive control functions, located mainly in the prefrontal cortex. This is the part of the brain tasked with focusing one's attention, ignoring distractions, holding multiple pieces of information in mind when trying to solve a problem, and then flipping back and forth between them.