By Mila Koumpilova
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."
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.