December 05, 2012

Language Nest in Yukon First Nations

Yukon First Nations learn new language teaching approach

Language Nest program touts early immersion for preschoolersAboriginal language teachers in the Yukon will soon have a new tool to teach kids First Nation languages.

The Council of Yukon First Nations held workshops in Whitehorse this week, explaining the Language Nest program. The program has been successful in reviving languages in places like New Zealand and Australia, along with other parts of Canada.

In the program, fluent speakers become involved in early childhood education, creating immersion-style learning for children ages one to four.

Sean Smith of the Yukon First Nations Self-Government Secretariat said they hope to identify master speakers and potential apprentices who will eventually work with children from preschool and through their school years.
Below:  "Bessie Cooley, a Tlingit language instructor in Teslin, plans on retiring in a few years. The number of fluent speakers of Yukon's First Nations languages is dwindling, but some hope an early childhood immersion program may change that." (Leonard Linklater/CBC)

December 03, 2012

New Klallam dictionary

Klallam people celebrate new dictionary

By Scott WalkerThe hefty, 983-page book is important for the current generation, Laura Price told the crowd gathered Wednesday in the Port Gamble S’Klallam longhouse.

“It’s important for the ones who have passed on, and it’s important for the ones who are not here yet.”

Indeed, the new Klallam Dictionary—celebrated at the gathering of Klallam people from Elwha, Jamestown and Port Gamble—holds the future of the language. And it holds a lot of history.

Elders, educators and Tribal Council members from Becher Bay, Elwha, Jamestown and Port Gamble worked with University of North Texas professor Timothy Montler for a quarter of a century on this dictionary, which has more than 9,000 entries, a grammatical sketch, numerous indexes, and a wealth of cultural information. The dictionary is among the largest books published by the University of Washington Press.
Klallam dictionary opens window into tribal heritage

A three-decade effort to preserve a native language has resulted in the first-ever dictionary of the language, which previously was only spoken.

By Lynda V. Mapes
It weighs in at nearly six pounds, fills more than 1,000 pages, and represents the work of many hands and hearts.

The Klallam people’s first dictionary for what was always an unwritten language was built syllable-by-syllable, from tapes and spoken words transcribed into a phonetic alphabet.

The work was a race against time: About 100 people spoke Klallam as their first language when he first began learning Klallam in 1978, said Timothy Montler, a University of North Texas linguistics professor, and author of the dictionary. By the time the dictionary was published by the University of Washington Press last September, only two were left.

One of them, Lower Elwha Klallam elder Adeline Smith, 94, was recently working with Montler during one of his twice-a-year visits to the tribe’s reservation, helping to transcribe Klallam stories into written words. Over many years she contributed 12,000 words to the dictionary, by Montler’s count. Some 38 elders in all helped him compile the entries.

November 30, 2012

Navajo Keyboard app

Navajo Keyboard App Now Available for Apple iPhone and iPad

By Levi RickertThanks to the groundbreaking efforts of Native Innovation, Inc., an American Indian owned and veteran small business from Arizona, Apple users can now download the Navajo Keyboard app for their iPhones and iPads through iTunes.

The application became available earlier this month and is free.

The Navajo Keyboard makes it possible for users to type in and removes many of the frustrations that users have with typing the Navajo language using the default iPhone and iPad keyboard.

This application places an extra row of keys on its keyboard, allowing you access to specific Navajo characters without depressing the letter. A slide bar is included that you can turn on and off to transition between your Navajo keyboard and the default iPhone and iPad keyboard.

November 22, 2012

Lakota Language Revitalization Initiative

Native Sun News: New Oglala leader announces language plan

By Brandon EcoffeyThe newly elected Oglala Sioux tribal president is calling his new policy the “Presidential Lakota Language Revitalization Initiative.”

In a statement released just prior to the formal Nov. 15 address, Brewer said: “I believe that the continued survival of the Lakota people—spiritually, culturally and politically is contingent on the survival of our language. As the incoming President of the Oglala Sioux Tribe I will not waste time debating the need. We will move with purpose and conviction and all of our resources to address this challenge.”

The initiative identified by Brewer will focus on four elements that his administration has identified as necessary for success if the initiative is going to be sustainable. The first being involvement by the tribe in the mobilization and coordination of existing resources, leading to the development of new resources to help revitalize the language.

Secondly, the initiative calls for the identification of fluent Lakota language speakers. Brewer hopes to involve them in the process of language revitalization as well as provide compensation for their efforts.

Thirdly, that the Oglala Sioux Tribe advocate at the federal, state and executive—meaning the White House—levels on behalf of Lakota language.

The final element of Brewer’s plan is the involvement of educational institutions across the reservation in the process. The extremely progressive plan by Brewer is the first of its kind in the region.
Below:  "The Oglala Sioux Tribe’s president-elect, first-time politician Bryan Brewer, speaks Nov. 15 during the opening of the fifth annual Lakota, Dakota, Nakota Language Summit in Rapid City. Brewer unveiled a monumental—and unprecedented—policy that seeks to address renewal of the Lakota language on the Pine Ridge Reservation." (Ardis McRae)

November 16, 2012

5th annual Lakota Language Summit

Fight to save tribal languages topic of summitCarlow and his group’s annual Lakota, Dakota, Nakota Language Summit brings together hundreds of tribal members and tribal educators from all over the U.S. to share best practices and techniques for improving language fluency. The summit is expected to draw as many as 800 people this year.

This is the fifth year for the event. Participants include Sioux tribes from North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, Nebraska, Montana and Canada, as well as tribes from other parts of the country.

The effort expands beyond the Oglala Sioux. More than 20 tribes are represented, including the Standing Rock Sioux, the Winnebago, the Cree and the Dine Nation.

“It’s not to push one way or one method or one orthography or one curriculum. (It’s) to bring everyone together to share so that we can all be exposed to what’s out there—what strategies, what methods, what resources, technologies are out there,” Carlow said.

Tribal members can take the different approaches back home and add to what they are already doing successfully, he added.
Brewer pledges to preserve Lakota language

By Andrea J. CookA retired educator, Brewer, 65, addressed the fifth annual Lakota Language Summit, being held in Rapid City at Best Western Ramkota Hotel. Representatives of 23 Lakota-, Dakota- and Nakota-speaking tribes from 11 states and three Canadian provinces are at the summit.

This is a turning point in history for the Seven Council Fires, Brewer said, referring to the seven major divisions of the Sioux Nation.

One year ago, the state and national alliances to save Native languages declared the Lakota language in a state of emergency. An action plan was suggested to the Oglala Sioux Tribe, Brewer said.

“The OST tribal council executive committee did absolutely nothing to address this growing emergency. They wasted an entire year,” Brewer said.

The tribe has pushed off the urgency to preserve the language for a long time, Brewer said. It has been talked about and then ignored, he said.

As tribal president, Brewer intends to lead a Lakota Language Revitalization Initiative that will focus on the creation and operation of Lakota language immersion schools and identifying all fluent Lakota speakers.
Below:  "Fred Stands, left, talks with Bryan Brewer, president-elect of the Oglala Sioux Tribe, on Thursday before the Lakota Language Summit at the Ramkota Best Western Hotel. Stands and Brewer lived in a dormitory together at Holy Rosary Mission on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation." (Benjamin Brayfield/Rapid City Journal)

October 26, 2012

Lakota immersion daycare

Lakota speakers looking to start immersion daycareTama I’atala doesn’t want his children to feel as disconnected from their Lakota heritage as he does from his Samoan culture.

I’atala, who is part Lakota and lives on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, has a solution: Have his children, including his 17-month-old son, learn the language.

“I don’t want my kids to grow up without that sense of pride of who they are,” said I’atala, 36.

I’atala is part of a small group of people on the reservation trying to start a Lakota language-immersion daycare for infants in hopes of increasing the number of people fluent in the language and, ultimately, strengthening the Lakota culture.
Projects Teaching Children to Speak Lakota Younger

By Kristi EatonWhen Peter Hill's daughter was born two years ago, he made a conscious decision to only speak Lakota to her.

Hill, who is fluent in Lakota after learning it as a second language, said he wanted Charlotte to learn the American Indian language from the start.

"By virtue of that ... in terms of understanding, (she is) completely and equally fluent in both English and Lakota," the proud father and Lakota instructor said.

Now the Pine Ridge S.D., man plans to start an immersion day care to get other infants speaking fluent Lakota early. His is part of a wave of projects targeting younger children in an effort to revitalize the language of Lakota, which is spoken primarily by Sioux Native Americans in North and South Dakota.

September 15, 2012

Tiga Talk! teaches Cree

Children’s Show Soars Over the Language Barrier

By Sam LaskarisExperts often caution against exposing children to too much television. But they could be forgiven for making an exception in one case.

Tiga Talk!, the only preschool television series in Canada focused on aboriginal-language, is coming to town. For those who are too young to go to school yet, a popular educational series with an aboriginal focus is returning for another season. The fourth season of the series, which includes 11 half-hour episodes, will be shown nationally on the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network (APTN).

A version with Cree subtitles, to be shown on Friday mornings, began on September 7. And the English version, airing on Saturday mornings, first broadcast on September 8. The series targets children aged 3–5.

The show is about a stuffed toy, Tiga, a wolf cub. Tiga lives with two young children, Jason and Jodie, as well as their father and Kokum (grandmother).

When the adults leave the room, Tiga comes to life as a talking puppet. Tiga’s friends, Gertie the Gopher and Gavin the Goose, also join the conversations. Besides talking puppets, each episode features some music and the opportunity to learn some new aboriginal words.

September 01, 2012

Otoe-Missouria company hosts language day

American Web Loan to Host Otoe-Missouria Language and Culture Day Annual Employee EventAmerican Web Loan, a leading nationally-respected online tribal financial services company wholly owned by the Otoe-Missouria Tribe of Indians and its members, will host its third annual Otoe-Missouria Language and Culture Day on Friday September 28.

Inaugurated in 2010 with the founding of the company, the annual event is designed to share the language and culture of the Otoe-Missouria Tribe to American Web Loan's more than 100 non-Native American employees based in the company's headquarters located near Oklahoma City. A linguist specializing in the Otoe dialect and tribal officials lead the event, which introduces the employee attendees to the Otoe language and rich heritage.

In addition to providing the day-long series of seminars to its management and staff, the annual Otoe-Missouria Language and Culture Day event is also open to the community.

"We look forward to our third annual Otoe-Missouria Language and Culture Day, an event that helps to further unite our tribal and non-Native American management and staff as well as members of the community who join with us for what has become a day of celebration and friendship," said Jamie Schumann, General Manager of American Web Loan.

August 31, 2012

Arizona to certify Native language teachers

Arizona Adopts Native American Language Teacher Certification PolicyA new policy will enable certified Native language speakers to teach their Native languages in Arizona classrooms.

“These Native American languages are in danger of becoming extinct. It is imperative that we work to support Native American communities in their efforts to preserve their languages through the generations,” said Superintendent of Public Instruction John Huppenthal in a press release.

Of the 22 tribal governments in the state, the Navajo Nation is already participating, and others are drafting proficiency assessments to take part.

The Native American Language Certification Policy was developed by the Arizona Department of Education and Native American tribes and was unanimously adopted by the State Board of Education.

August 15, 2012

Reinvigorating language through radio

Radio Free Cherokee: Endangered Languages Take to the Airwaves

How indigenous tongues facing extinction are finding new life on community radio stationsLoris Taylor, the CEO and president of Native Public Media, still has the scars on her hands from when she was caught speaking Hopi in school and got the sharp end of the ruler as a result. "They hit so hard, the flesh was taken off," she remembers. "Deep down inside, it builds some resistance in you."

Now, she's at the forefront of a movement to revive dead and dying languages using an old medium: radio. As CEO and president of Native Public Media, she's lobbied the FCC and overseen projects to get increasingly rare tongues like Hopi onto airwaves so that Native Americans can keep their ancestors' ways of speaking alive—and pass those ways of speaking to new generations.

"At a certain time, people thought 'We live in a white man's world and have to change our language to make it.' But now we see how wrong that was." Similar efforts are taking place worldwide. In Ireland, Dublin's youthful Top-40 Raidio Ri-Ra and Belfast's eclectic indie Raidio Failte have been broadcasting entirely in Irish for several years. In Washington, D.C. earlier this month, indigenous radio producers from Peru, Mexico, Canada, El Salvador, and a handful of other countries gathered for the "Our Voices on the Air" conference, organized by the 40-year-old nonprofit Cultural Survival and the Smithsonian's Recovering Voices program.

Following centuries of oppression that have marginalized minority languages, radio represents a modest but surprisingly promising way to reinvigorate the traditions keeping those languages alive. In the Maori community of New Zealand, for example, the combination of 21 radio stations and rigorous early childhood immersion programs have brought Maori-languages speakers from an all-time low of 24,000 in the 1980s to 131,000 in 2006, according to Mark Camp, deputy executive director at Cultural Survival.

"It's not a silver bullet, but it's an important piece," Camp says of radio. "If you don't have some sort of media—and radio is the best in our opinion—to counterbalance the predominant commercial media that is all in Spanish or in English, it makes language less of a modern, living thing. It becomes something that you might do with your grandparents."
Below:  "Arizona's KUYI 88.1 broadcasts in Hopi to approximately 9,000 people." (KUYI)

August 14, 2012

Documentary about Tewa language

Documentary Follows Native Students Learning and Preserving Tewa Language

By Vincent SchillingIn November 2009, Santa Fe Preparatory School in Santa Fe, New Mexico sent out a newsletter announcing a self-study curriculum in which Native teenagers would study the Tewa language with the help of a mentor. When producer/director Aimée Broustra heard about it she decided to make a documentary.

“I knew this would be a story of inspiration and hope and it was a story that needed to be told,” Broustra said during a radio interview on Talk 1260 KTRC.

“The teenagers in The Young Ancestors are motivated and enthusiastic about learning because they understand the symbiotic relationship between language and culture; that one cannot survive for too long without the other,” Broustra says on the documentary’s website, “In a broader context the documentary explores the burgeoning movement by Native Americans to revitalize their native languages in tribes throughout America.”
And:In the film, the Native youth, who are all Tewa, spend hours learning the Tewa language with mentor Laura Kaye Eagles, a seventh grade literature teacher at Santa Fe Prep. The pilot program is administered with the Indigenous Language Institute to help revitalize Native languages. The students get language credit for studying Tewa, as opposed to studying French or Spanish.

“We’re Native American, that’s who we are and we’re proud of it. We have that tradition backing us up,” Jordan Naranjo says in the film.

“I could hear my ancestors before but now that I am learning the language, I feel connected with my ancestors in everything I do,” Jeremy Montoya says.
Below:  "Native students study Tewa with mentor Laura Kaye Eagles, a seventh grade literature teacher at Santa Fe Preparatory School in Santa Fe, New Mexico."

August 03, 2012

Siletz Dee-ni Talking Dictionary

Tribe Revives Language on Verge of Extinction

By Kirk JohnsonLocal native languages teeter on the brink of oblivion all over the world as the big linguistic sweepstakes winners like English, Spanish or Mandarin ride a surging wave of global communications.

But the forces that are helping to flatten the landscape are also creating new ways to save its hidden, cloistered corners, as in the unlikely survival of Siletz Dee-ni. An American Indian language with only about five speakers left—once dominant in this part of the West, then relegated to near extinction—has, since earlier this year, been shouting back to the world: Hey, we’re talking. (In Siletz that would be naa-ch’aa-ghit-’a.)

“We don’t know where it’s going to go,” said Bud Lane, a tribe member who has been working on the online Siletz Dee-ni Talking Dictionary for nearly seven years, and recorded almost all of its 10,000-odd audio entries himself. In its first years the dictionary was password protected, intended for tribe members.

Since February, however, when organizers began to publicize its existence, Web hits have spiked from places where languages related to Siletz are spoken, a broad area of the West on through Canada and into Alaska. That is the heartland of the Athabascan family of languages, which also includes Navajo. And there has been a flurry of interest from Web users in Italy, Switzerland and Poland, where the dark, rainy woods of the Pacific Northwest, at least in terms of language connections, might as well be the moon.
Below:  "Bud Lane, a tribe member, has worked on the online Siletz Dee-ni Talking Dictionary for nearly seven years. Stabilization of the language is the goal now, but he hopes to create a pool of speakers so it will not go away." (Thomas Patterson for The New York Times)

July 30, 2012

Lakota Song and Dance Project

Revitalizing the Lakota language through danceWith the Lakota-speaking population rapidly aging and decreasing, the Rosebud Sioux Tribe in South Dakota is trying to encourage young children to take an interest in a language that is, in many ways, secondary to English.

The tribe's Child Care Service's Song and Dance Project aims to teach families how to make colorful, detailed dancing regalia and teaches the intricate dances to the children so they can perform in the annual wacipi, or powwow.

The hope is that the song and dance will help re-energize both parents' and children's excitement about their culture. It also encourages parents to take an active role in their kids' lives.

"It's putting identity and pride back into the people," said Gale Spotted Tail, director of the Child Care Services.

Dakota One phone app

New app for equipment teaches kids Dakota languageThe Marty Indian School on the Yankton Indian Reservation in South Dakota has released a new language app designed to teach children the Dakota language.

The app is called Dakota One. It includes more than 700 sound files and images in 25 categories including animals, numbers and clothing.

A news release from the school says the app is available to download for the iPad, iPod Touch and iPhone for $9.99 from the iTunes store.

The Dakota language is spoken by the Dakota people of the Sioux tribes. It is closely related to the Lakota language.

April 04, 2012

10th annual Oklahoma language fair

American Indian students perform during Oklahoma Native American Youth Language Fair

About 600 students representing more than 20 tribes shared their language and creative arts skills during the Oklahoma Native American Youth Language Fair in Norman.

By Ashley West
Young American Indians representing more than 20 tribes gathered at the Sam Noble Museum of Natural History this week for the 10th annual Oklahoma Native American Youth Language Fair.

American Indian communities place a high value on culture, oratory skills and creativity through expression, and the fair provides a venue for young people to share the knowledge of their ancestors and speak their native languages publicly.

During the fair Monday and Tuesday, participants submitted their works and displayed their talents before a panel of judges. About 600 performers came this year.

The fair also provides students with peer support and new ideas for language learning, organizers said.

March 21, 2012

Digitizing Alutiiq

Program seeks to recover Afognak's lost Alutiiq words

Kodiak village is starting to digitize video and audio recordings of elders.

By James Brooks
The Native village of Afognak is beginning a long-term project to digitize hundreds of hours of video and audio conversations with Alutiiq elders, converting them into a format accessible to modern researchers. Locked within the recordings may be Alutiiq language words lost to current speakers.

"We want to identify those lost words and bring them back," said Melissa Borton, tribal administrator of the village.

In 2003, a survey found only 45 fluent or semi-fluent Alutiiq speakers on the island. Intensive efforts to revive the language of Kodiak's Native inhabitants have taken place since, but it's not simply a matter of maintenance.

In 2007, April Counceller started the Kodiak Alutiiq New Words Council. Each month, Counceller and a group of elders meet to discuss ideas for Alutiiq words to translate modern items or concepts. In 2010, for example, the group translated "hovercraft" as tengauruasqaq, literally "kind of flier."

March 19, 2012

Cherokee pen pals

Immersion students share with pen pals in CherokeeThe Cherokee Nation recently started a new pen pal program with the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians in North Carolina to encourage and promote stronger cultural interactions in the Cherokee language.

Immersion students in kindergarten, first grade and second grade from both tribes have been exchanging activities, cards and cultural items, all written in Cherokee. Recently, Cherokee Nation’s second-grade immersion students received a package from their pen pals containing materials they collected in the forest. Each student bagged up items including sticks, moss, lichens and rocks and labeled the bags with their Cherokee name.

“The kids are excited and they feel like they’re getting to know the other kids a little bit,” said Denise Chaudoin, Cherokee Nation Immersion School second-grade teacher. “It’s a really good program for the kids in both areas to get to know each other and realize we’re all Cherokees, whether we’re from the east or west.”

The Cherokee Nation Immersion School, Tsalagi Tsunadeloquasdi, began in 2001 as a language preservation program, which aims to educate children in a cultural environment while revitalizing and promoting the use of the Cherokee language. Students in preschool through sixth grade are immersed into an environment where Cherokee is the only language spoken.

Navajo language blog

Navajo Now: Learning and Perpetuating the Navajo Language

March 18, 2012

Pauma language preservation project

Language preservation helps American Indian students stick with college

By Marisa AghaEducators say that confronting cultural differences is one of the challenges facing American Indian students in higher education. CSU San Marcos, which counts about 40 tribes in its service area, has launched a new California Indian Culture and Sovereignty Center aimed at strengthening relationships between the tribes and the campus. The center's ultimate goal is to boost the retention and graduation rates of American Indian students statewide.

Among the center's first efforts is a language preservation project with the Pauma Band of Luiseño Indians in northern San Diego County, made possible by a $40,000 gift from the tribe. Through the project, staff members and students like Murphy have gone to the Pauma reservation to collect photographs and record the native language once predominantly spoken by tribal members.

Then they uploaded the photos and recordings onto cartridges as songs, images, prayers, quizzes and stories, and distributed the cartridges to families on the reservation for use on a Nintendo DSi. A picture of a big brown bear, for instance, appears with the Luiseño word for bear, "hunwut."

The project helps reinforce students' ties to their tribe and ignites academic and technological curiosity, said Joely Proudfit, the center's director and an associate professor at the university.
Below:  "Joely Proudfit, right, who teaches at CSU San Marcos, shows Cheryl Zohm, left, and Cathy Deveers how to use a language program on a Nintendo device during a Luiseño Language Preservation Project workshop at the tribal hall on the Pauma Indian Reservation in the Pauma Valley near Fallbrook." (Sandy Huffaker/Special to The Bee)

The benefits of bilingualism

Why Bilinguals Are Smarter

By Yudhijit BhattacharjeeSPEAKING two languages rather than just one has obvious practical benefits in an increasingly globalized world. But in recent years, scientists have begun to show that the advantages of bilingualism are even more fundamental than being able to converse with a wider range of people. Being bilingual, it turns out, makes you smarter. It can have a profound effect on your brain, improving cognitive skills not related to language and even shielding against dementia in old age.

This view of bilingualism is remarkably different from the understanding of bilingualism through much of the 20th century. Researchers, educators and policy makers long considered a second language to be an interference, cognitively speaking, that hindered a child’s academic and intellectual development.

They were not wrong about the interference: there is ample evidence that in a bilingual’s brain both language systems are active even when he is using only one language, thus creating situations in which one system obstructs the other. But this interference, researchers are finding out, isn’t so much a handicap as a blessing in disguise. It forces the brain to resolve internal conflict, giving the mind a workout that strengthens its cognitive muscles.

Bilinguals, for instance, seem to be more adept than monolinguals at solving certain kinds of mental puzzles. In a 2004 study by the psychologists Ellen Bialystok and Michelle Martin-Rhee, bilingual and monolingual preschoolers were asked to sort blue circles and red squares presented on a computer screen into two digital bins—one marked with a blue square and the other marked with a red circle.

March 12, 2012

Ojibwe People's Dictionary

Homeroom: University of Minnesota helps create online Ojibwe People's Dictionary

By Mila KoumpilovaGerri Howard was loath to let a digital recorder capture her voice for a new kind of dictionary.

A fluent speaker of Ojibwe on Minnesota's Leech Lake Reservation, she didn't like how she sounded on playback. But the sense of urgency she and other Ojibwe speakers share about their endangered tongue prevailed.

With help from elders such as Howard, a University of Minnesota professor and students have created the first online talking dictionary of Ojibwe. The effort involved crisscrossing Minnesota and Wisconsin to record the voices of the dictionary and brainstorm entries for new-fangled concepts such as "Internet" and "school dance."
And:In tandem with the Minnesota Historical Society, the university lined up a roughly $375,000 Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment grant for the project.

Going digital opened up many possibilities: Users can search definitions using both Ojibwe and English. The authors were eventually able to include 30,000 entries, compared to 7,000 in Nichols' "A Concise Dictionary of Minnesota Ojibwe." Most importantly, Childs said, "You click on a word, and you hear Ojibwe people actually speaking the language."

The dictionary also is a virtual museum of sorts, with photos, drawings and texts from the Historical Society collection complementing the entries. But the new format was also an adjustment.

March 09, 2012

Lakota Toddler app

Toddlers Can Learn Lakota With New AppLakota Toddler, a new free app available in the iTunes store, is an easy to use, fun way for toddlers to learn Lakota words.

The app has two options on the menu screen —learn and play. The learn option gives users a colorful flashcard with a picture of an object or number, the Lakota word and the English translation. When the screen is tapped, the word is spoken by Dollie Red Elk, reported the Rapid City Journal.

Currently the app has three categories—numbers, food and body—and it says new lessons are coming soon. App creators Isreal Shortman, Navajo, and Rusty Calder, owners of tinkR’ labs, are excited about expanding their latest app and creating new ones.

Their first app, Navajo Toddler, came out last year and started with the same three categories. It now includes animals, colors and phrases.

February 28, 2012

Shoshone databases, iPads, and software

As elders pass, Wind River Indian Reservation teachers turn to technology to preserve Shoshone language

By Tetona DunlapWhen Teran started the phonetic and audio dictionary project 10 years ago, she said she felt a sense of urgency because there were only a few Shoshone elders who were fluent speakers. Today, Teran estimates that number is even smaller as elders pass away. And for her, that sense of urgency has amplified.

“We’re real poor on elders but our language is really rich and beautiful,” Teran shared. “Time is of the essence.”

In January 2012, Guina passed away, decreasing the number of fluent speakers even more.

“When Manfred passed away my heart just went down,” Teran said. “I thought ‘Geez, that’s one less person.”

In the meantime, she is working to revitalize the language through books rather than audio recordings.

In Oct. 2011, Teran received a grant from the Wyoming Historical Society to write a children’s book called “Elka,” which is a family story about a baby elk Teran’s brothers caught and raised. The book will contain Shoshone words that are translated into English and listed in a glossary. She also received a donation from a family foundation in California of $400 to buy software that will allow her to create a font for the Shoshone language since writing words phonetically can be very long.

And though it may seem that Teran’s idea of capturing the language digitally has stopped for now; the conversation started by Teran and others is being picked up once again — this time with the use of technology such as iPads and computer software.

“The whole idea of using technology is to incorporate language and culture. It’s a very effective tool for me because of student engagement,” said middle and high school Shoshone language teacher Lynette St. Clair. She often has her students utilize laptops and programs like PowerPoint to aid students in speaking Shoshone.
Below:  "Lynette St. Clair watches her students Selena Jarvis, D'Etta Durgin, and Sierra Ferris, left to right, using the Shoshone language iPad application she developed." (Brad Christensen/WyoFile)

February 22, 2012

Animal app is criticized

Native Language App Gets Cool ReceptionA new American Indian language app hit the iTunes store January 20. The app features translations of animals from English to four languages—Diné (Navajo), Lakota (Sioux), Mvskoke (Muscogee Creek) and Ponca.

Each language features a variety of animal translations, which users can click on to hear the word pronounced in their preferred language.

But some users have responded negatively to the effort, one said “14 animals and that’s your app? Come on, do these languages some justice.”

Native American Public Telecommunications (NAPT) created the app and the group’s executive director, Shirley K. Sneve, Sicangu Lakota, responded to the negative comments saying the app is “a simple start.”

February 15, 2012

Tribal elders to teach languages?

Students could soon learn Indian languages

Bill aims to make it easier to teach them

By Joe Hanel
Indian tribal elders would be able to work in public schools as teachers of their native languages, under a bill that advanced Wednesday at the state Capitol.

Senate Bill 57 authorizes schools to hire people fluent in native languages, even though they might not have a teaching license.

“The tribes have such a great opportunity to get the tribal elders involved in the program,” said Ernest House Jr., secretary of the Colorado Commission of Indian Affairs and a member of the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe.

Although Southwest Colorado has the state’s only two Indian reservations, the bill is modeled on a program in Denver Public Schools. Denver has the state’s highest Indian population, including an especially large group of Lakota people.

February 14, 2012

Cherokee language happy hour

NSU students create Cherokee Language Happy Hour

By Tesina JacksonStriving to learn outside of the classroom, Northeastern State University Cherokee language students created a Cherokee Language Happy Hour on Jan. 28 by translating Boomerang Café’s menu from English to Cherokee and interacting with the public.

“From our perspective at the university, especially my students in the programs that we run at Northeastern, they practice Cherokee all day long in classrooms. They practice Cherokee in the hallways there, but they really don’t bring it outside into the community where they can mix with the fluent speakers, where they can mix with the people that use it everyday out on the streets of Tahlequah, out in the roads of the communities,” said Dr. Leslie Hannah, NSU Cherokee programs director. “They’ve got classroom Cherokee, so this is our effort to bring that Cherokee out of the classroom into the community and let them get some community Cherokee because it is a community language.”

At the Boomerang Café, NSU students changed the menus from English to Cherokee so waitresses and customers spoke Cherokee when dealing with food orders.

“Right now we’re really trying to create venues for the language use. So today was a great step in order to get a lot of the parents from the immersion school, as well as children and students from the university to use the language they’ve been learning,” NSU student Hayley Miller said.
Below:  Karen and Bruce Gaddis, left, use Cherokee and English menus at the Boomerang Café in Tahlequah, Okla., to order food. On Jan. 28, Northeastern State University students created a Cherokee Language Happy Hour at the café by translating the English menu to Cherokee." (Tesina Jackson/Cherokee Phoenix)

February 09, 2012

Audio books in Cherokee

CNF to create Cherokee–language focused reading center

By Tesina JacksonThrough a partnership with Cherokee Media Ltd., the Cherokee Nation Foundation plans to create a reading center featuring audio books in the Cherokee language.

“The reading center is a portable resource used in a classroom setting,” said CNF Executive Director Kimberlie Gilliland. “It is incorporated into daily lesson plans to help with literacy and Cherokee language fluency. The reading center is currently being used in the Cherokee Nation Language Immersion School in a first grade classroom.”

The books were written by Ray D. Ketter and Wynema Smith and illustrated by America Meredith. Cherokee sisters America and Samonia Meredith of Noksi Press donated the first audio books. Audio recordings were produced by Andrew Sikora, director at Cherokee Media and feature the voice of Wynema Smith. The book titles are “The Three Bears,” “The Little Red Hen” and “Origins of Oak Leafs.”
Below:  "Cherokee elder Wynema Smith reads to students at the Cherokee Language Immersion School in Tahlequah, Okla."

February 06, 2012

Inuit develop names for STDs

Group to develop Inuktitut health terms

One of the challenges lies in number of dialectsInuit women are meeting in Happy Valley-Goose Bay, N.L., this week to develop Inuktitut words for sexual health.

Right now, there are no standard Inuktitut words for diseases such as HIV-Aids, or for infections such as Chlamydia and gonorrhea.

Health care workers have to describe the infections, and the descriptions can differ between Inuktitut dialects.
Below:  "A stop sign in Iqaluit shows both English and Inuktitut. A group of Inuit women are trying to develop Inuktitut words for sexual health issues." (The Canadian Press)

January 31, 2012

Cherokee Nation's translation department

Cherokee Translators: Translation specialist set on preserving Cherokee language

By Will ChavezCherokee speaker and translator John Ross is focused and determined to do his part in preserving the Cherokee language.

Ross, 56, originally of the Greasy Community in Adair County, is one of six translation specialists in the Cherokee Nation’s translation department where documents, signs, books and other printed items are translated from English into Cherokee.

Ross said his main task is translating three books a month for Cherokee Immersion School students. “That’s our priority. Then we work with all the departments in the Cherokee Nation. We translate words and phrases, and we do about 30 translations a month.”

The department also translates three to four articles from English into Cherokee for the Cherokee Phoenix each month, and coordinates the Cherokee language proficiency test for employees wanting to be recognized for their language knowledge. He said about 100 employees have taken the proficiency test.
Below:  Translation specialist John Ross translates a document from English to Cherokee. Ross and five other translation specialists translate documents and create materials for the tribe’s immersion school." (Will Chavez/Cherokee Phoenix)

January 19, 2012

Native languages for class credit

Native American Languages Could Count For Class Credit

By Carol BerryGoodbye, French and German. Hello, Dine, Lakota and other Native American languages—with some qualifications.

Under a proposed new program in Colorado, European and Asian tongues would remain options for foreign language credit in high school, but Native languages from federally recognized tribes could also be offered for that purpose.

The plan is described in a bill filed January 13 for submission to the Colorado General Assembly by Sen. Suzanne Williams (D-Aurora), a member of the Comanche Nation, and co-sponsor Rep. J. Paul Brown (R-Ignacio).

Space is carved out in the proposal for teachers to obtain authorization for Native American language teaching without being required to complete a teacher preparation program or to have a baccalaureate degree, Williams said. The Colorado Board of Education would establish criteria for the authorization.

January 13, 2012

Ojibwe documentary wins Emmy

Native Language Documentary Emmy Tours Participating SchoolsLast September, First Speakers: Restoring the Ojibwe Language, a documentary funded through Minnesota’s Legacy Amendment, was awarded a MidWest Regional Emmy for Artistic Excellence in the Documentary-Cultural category.

The golden statuette recently visited one of the many organizations featured in the one-hour film, the Niigaane Ojibwemowin Immersion School on the Leech Lake Reservation near Bena, Minnesota.

“Niigaane kindergarten through sixth grade classrooms participated in the film during late spring of 2010,” said Leslie Harper, the school’s director. “At Niigaane, all academic and social content is taught through the medium of Ojibwe language. In this way, the Leech Lake communities hope to reclaim the Ojibwe language as a vital, necessary language for the coming generations. In order to revitalize and maintain a language, it must be spoken and used by all generations in a community.”

The Emmy is currently on a “Miigwech Tour” to all of the sites that participated in the film. First stop was the Niigaane school, where Harper said the Niigaane students took care of the award and “talked about the importance of our language in today’s world.” The award was at Niigaane until January 6.
Below:  "Niigaane Ojibwemowin Immersion School is located on the Leech Lake Reservation near Bena, Minnesota."

January 10, 2012

Learning languages by Web translation

One Man Aims to Translate the Web Into Every Major LanguageHow is one man going to get 100 million people to translate the web into every major language for free? According to his January 8 post on he is giving them something in return.

Luis von Ahn, the founder and former CEO of ReCAPTCHA, Inc., and an associate professor of computer science at Carnegie Mellon University, recently introduced the world to his newest project—Duolingo, where web users can “learn a language for free, and simultaneously translate the Web.”
And:Von Ahn took this another step when he asked one of his graduate students how he could get 100 million people translating the web for free. Because more than five million of us have spent more than $500 for language learning software, we want to learn.

This is where Duolingo comes in. Users are “learning by doing,” von Ahn says in the video. The site gives beginners simple sentences in whatever language they want to learn, and as the user translates them they learn what the words mean and are subsequently given more advanced phrases to translate.

“The crazy thing about this method is it actually, really works,” he says. “People really can learn a language with it and they learn it about as well as the leading language software.”

January 09, 2012

Inuktitut iPad app

New Inuit language app makes learning fun for little ones

Educational tool available in Inuktitut, Inuinnaqtun and English.

By Sarah Rogers
Young Inuit children are growing up with fast-evolving technology, but some parents fear their traditional language skills just can’t keep up.

That’s what inspired one Iqaluit father to create an educational online game and application software for children in the Inuit language.
And:The Inuit-language page presents a list of syllabics alongside Arctic animals. When the user clicks or touches the fish image, they’ll hear the word iqaluk, and then must spell it out using the listed syllabics.

Successful spellers then move onto a page where they can colour in the image they’ve spelled.
Below:  "Iqaluit filmmaker Qajaaq Ellsworth’s new app and educational game, Iliarnnarnaqsivuq, or Time for School, is designed to encourage learning among Inuit youngsters. Users choose an avatar, like the ones pictured here, to walk through a day at school, starting from dressing in warm Arctic gear, eating a nutritious breakfast and choosing a safe route to get to school."