Teaching Indigenous Languages Books is a webpage that features many articles on Indigenous language instruction. There are some great articles featured here that tie into my research quite nicely. Specifically, I like the articles on The Pedagogical Potential of Multimedia Dictionaries and Indigenous Language Revitalization and Technology. There are many more great articles on this site and this is definitely a good starting point for anyone wanting to learn more about Indigenous language revitalization.
First Voices Kids is a website that lets children play games featuring their Indigenous language. There are 50 Indigenous languages featured on this website! Many of the activities are focused around learning basic vocabulary (e.g.: learning vocabulary while colouring pictures). While it is admirable that this site features 50 languages, it is still at the beginning stages of what can be accomplished with technology. The connection to my research is that I wish to show how technology can be used to support language learning beyond the basics featured here.
The First Peoples’ Cultural Council website is an amazing resource for information on Indigenous languages and language revitalization. There is a ton of information and resources available here. Whether you plan to teach an indigenous language or just incorporate some First Nations culture into the classroom, this website is a great place to start. You can also read a status report on First Nations’ languages in B.C.
You will also find information on a number of language programs run by the First Peoples’ Cultural Council. They run language & culture camps as well as offer a mentorship program where an Indigenous person can apprentice to a fluent speaker for a year and complete 300 hours of language immersion. There are many great resources on successful language learning on this website, including:
- B.C.’s Master-Apprentice Language Program Handbook
- Culture Camps Immersion Handbook
- Language and Culture Immersion Programs Handbook
What drew me to this site (and its connection to my research) is the Language Toolkit. Here I found a lot of information on Indigenous language revitalization. I think any technological solution applied to saving Indigenous languages should start here. Language revitalization is about more than just dictionary apps.
With Indigenous orthographies, you need special fonts. Many Indigenous fonts can be found on the LanguageGeek website. Once you’ve installed these fonts, any webpage that is written in that Indigenous language will be correctly displayed using that language’s orthography. These fonts are a necessity for developing Indigenous language resources online. It is important to note that these are Unicode fonts. While all modern browsers will support these fonts, not every text editor will. Fortunately, Microsoft Word does support Unicode. That means that you can use Word to write in an Indigenous language once you’ve installed these fonts. Here’s a support page on using Unicode fonts.
I’ve been thinking about my research topic and I think I’m far more intrigued by First Nations language revitalization. I think this is a natural outgrowth of my previous research interest in Indigenous ways of knowing. I’m interested in how technology is being used to revitalize First Nations languages. Language and culture are intertwined and the way that we come to know the world is through language. Therefore language plays a big role in the development of a culture’s epistemology. Language helps define a culture’s way of knowing.
To that end, I’ve discovered some fascinating iOS apps to support First Nations language revitalization. Most of the apps take the form of dictionaries with words and phrases from an Indigenous language accompanied by audio recordings, images and sometimes video. Most of the apps use the English alphabet instead of that language’s orthography. Here are links to many of the apps I discovered:
A Cree dictionary that features the ability to translate between the English alphabet and the Cree syllabary.
Another dictionary app that features audio recordings and images.
FirstVoices Chat app
I thought this app was awesome. It features keyboards for over 100 Indigenous languages! It is a texting app designed to make it easier for Indigenous peoples to use custom keyboards for their language on Facebook and Google chats. You don’t need to login or create an account to use this app. You can skip past the login screen and play with all the various keyboards.
I found many of these apps a little confusing. There was little to no introduction with these apps. I would have liked a pronunciation guide and a little guidance in speaking the language. For example, in the Nisga’a app, there are three words for ‘uncle’ with two of them being identical. It would have been nice to understand the difference between them.
While these apps are all very well done for a first attempt, I fear that many of them are no longer in development as many were released in 2012 and no updates have come out since. Many were programmed by the same developer and a list of 13 First Nations language apps can be found here.
Handbook for Recording Aboriginal Languages Volume 1 is a fascinating resource that looks at largely the technical side of recording Indigenous languages. I was struck by one of the quotes on the first page that talks about how young people love technology and by recording Indigenous speakers, the resulting audio can be used to create many multimedia presentations for learning.
There is also a workbook that goes along with the handbook called The Aboriginal Language Program Planning Workbook. It’s a better read and focuses on how First Nations communities can go about engaging its members in participating in a language program. There’s even a section that discusses why Aboriginal languages are worth saving. It’s a fascinating read and even looks into the stages of revitalizing a nearly lost language. I was glad to see that it even talks about intergenerational transmission of language. The Handbook had me thinking that the focus was only on using technology to save Indigenous languages, but the Workbook shows that technology is only a tool in a much broader strategy.
The latter resource offers some excellent insight into Indigenous education, and since language and ways of knowing are bound together, it can possibly tie into my research on epistemology.
The Moral Epistemology of First Nations Stories is an article by Jim Cheney from the University of Wisconsin. Cheney takes a look at how Indigenous ways of knowing inform First Nations stories and storytelling. There is an ethical framework inherent in First Nations stories and therefore, argues Cheney, it is a part of their epistemology as well. Cheney explores this idea and comments on the lack of attention given by Western philosophers to the ethical dimensions in epistemology whereas First Nations people paid close attention. The implication of this is that Westerners come to know the world first and then decide on their ethical responsibilities to it, while First Nations people discover the world with an ethical framework already in place.
It’s a fascinating article that has helped me to understand why moral frameworks like the Seven Teachings and the Circle of Courage are quite prominent in First Nations education. This article has got me thinking about whether or not technology is morally-neutral and how technology fits within an ethical way of knowing.
Integrating Aboriginal Teaching and Values into the Classroom is a research monograph published by Ontario Education. It discusses the Seven Good Life Teachings of the Ojibwe and their implications for education. This is a short introduction to the Seven Teachings for schools with little practical value to teachers. However, it is a good starting point for my research into Indigenous ways of knowing and references other articles that may be of interest.
Indigenous Ways of Knowing is a short video in which Bruce Martin discusses the connection between language and culture and the different ways of knowing. Martin discusses how the English language is, at its roots, comprised of words taken from many other languages and therefore no longer has a connection to place. He also comments on how English is a language of nouns whereas Ojibwe is a language of verbs that describes their worldview. In Ojibwa culture, the world is alive and everyday things and objects that Europeans would consider inanimate are considered by the Ojibwa to possess spirit and are in fact animate. The relationship that the Ojibwa have with the world around them is juxtaposed by the lack of relationship that Westerners have with their environment.
This video is a nice introduction to considering the differences between Indigenous and Western ways of knowing. I particularly like that Martin discusses the connection between language and culture. For Indigenous peoples, the loss of their language also means the loss of their culture. I would imagine that English is an inadequate language replacement for Indigenous peoples in maintaining a connection with the land and their culture. This video has given me some things to think about as I delve into my research on Indigenous ways of knowing.
This is a great website that I came across that explains First Nations Pedagogy in practical terms for educators. Topics such as culture, storytelling, literacy, Elders, holistic balance and best practices in pedagogy are explained along with links to videos. I quite like that each topic links to academic articles for further reading and study. I particularly enjoyed the section on talking circles. Not only does this website define and describe the process of using talking circles, but it also gives examples of how to facilitate talking circles online. This is a great starting point to begin learning about First Nations pedagogy. This site is a welcome and practical addition to the many scholarly articles I’ve come across in connection with my research into First Nations epistemology and technology.