Tag Archives: language preservation

Using Technology to Preserve Native American Languages

http://www.research.vt.edu/resmag/sc98/lockee.html

This article discusses the ideas of Barbara Lockee of Virgina Tech. Lockee did her doctoral dissertation on using hypermedia to perpetuate Native American languages. Although a small percentage of Native American people are fluent in a native language, Lockee suggests that there is hope because many elders believe that maintenance of tribal cultures is dependent on young people’s learning to read, write, and speak their native languages. As part of her dissertation work, Lockee is developing a program to help teach Native Americans their original languages.

Lockee mentions the reasons for why Native Americans lost their languages. Influences such as residential school and moving to reservations heavily affected preservation of native languages. With the lack of ability to communicate to elders, native peoples have a hard time learning about the their culture and heritage.

Lockee discusses how non-urban Native Americans have different learning styles that they have acquired at home. This is something important to consider when implementing language programs with Native students. These progams also need to be relevent and involve the context of actual situations.

The progam that Lockee is creating provides an opportunity for the students to translate and even write their own stories at their own pace. It also promotes critical thinking skills instead of memorization of content. The students would also be allowed to work in pairs to encourage cooperative, inter-related type learning that suits their cultural styles. Although her program is created for the Cherokee language, different tribes can adapt the program by inserting their own legends and languages into the template.

I find this document to be very encouraging as I understand that many Aboriginal peoples in Canada are also concerned with the loss of their language and heritage. Because there are so many different tribes and languages involved, it would be challenging to find or create a program similar to that of Lockee’s to possibly accommodate native language revival in Canada. With the available technology today, it seems quite possible. However, there is a time limit as elders only get older and will no longer be available to aid in the language revival process.

NorthWest Indian News – Language Technologies

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gajx9FlGZAs

This video discusses the “silent” crisis of language loss that is being experienced in Aboriginal communities. This crisis is labelled as “silent” because it cannot be heard nor is it a tangible problem that we can see. The video talks about the importance of language preservation in Aboriginal communities and what actions can be done to save Aboriginal languages. Technology is a tool that can aid in the preservation of Aboriginal languages. Also, public awareness is important in helping the revitalization of these languages. The internet is a tool that really help in teaching endangered languages to people, especially children and youth. An interviewee suggests that “language is important to preserve because without language, the culture is just a shell; without language, the culture is just a surface without something inside”. This video is very inspiring as it shows clips of children of Aboriginal children using flashcards and the computer to learn language. It also shows some elderly individuals learning how to use technology so they can help in the revitalization of Aboriginal languages.

Module 1: Miromaa

Miromaa: Aboriginal Language and Technology Center

http://www.miromaa.com.au/

Every two weeks, an aboriginal language is lost somewhere in the world (Miromaa, 2011, May 22, 2011).  With this startling statistic, The Miromaa Aboriginal Language and Technology Center hopes to “reclaim, preserve, and maintain our traditional languages” through the use of software groups to record aboriginal languages in their oral and written form in one area.  It also provides information about training opportunities for users of the software.  People interested in this software would be language specialists of a given language (fluent speakers), language centers and academic linguists and researchers.

Claiming to be “modern technology for ancient times”, Miromaa may be an over exaggeration of the importance of this type of software in the quest to maintain aboriginal culture.  According to Howe (2000), “tribalism must be practiced.  It must be lived and experienced” (24).  Used to revitalize a language, and as a resource for speakers wishing to brush up or look things up, it is a necessary tool in today’s shrinking world, however, the language must still be used to stay alive.  It needs to be on street signs, spoken in homes, used in meetings and at ceremonies.  A website as an archive will do only that—archive the language so it isn’t completely erased from cultural memory.