May 20, 2011

Children's book in Tlingit

Children's book aims to save dying Alaskan language

Scholar's version of The Town Mouse and the Country Mouse translated into Tlingit with the help of local elders

By Alison Flood
The first ever children's book to be translated into the endangered Alaskan language of Tlingit has just been published, with hopes riding high that it will help keep the dying language alive.

Inspired by the classic story of the town mouse and the country mouse, American book award-winning author and historian of her mother's Tlingit tribe Ernestine Hayes wrote The Story of the Town Bear and the Forest Bear in English. Local publisher Hazy Island Books then worked with Tlingit elders to translate the book into the highly endangered language, spoken today by only around 500 people, releasing Aanka Xóodzi ka Aasgutu Xóodzi Shkalneegi–illustrated by Tlingit woman Wanda Culp–earlier this month.

"As far as we know, this book is the first to be originally written in English and then translated into the Tlingit language," said Hayes, an English professor at the University of Alaska.

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