Archive for the ‘online learning’ Category

Review of “Telling Stories In the Face of Danger” and Kumeyaay

21 May 2012

In “BOOKS: Can language preservation battle be won?,” Richard L. Carrico reviews “Telling Stories in the Face of Danger: Language Renewal in Native American Communities,” published earlier this year by the University of Oklahoma Press.

Edited by Paul V. Kroskrity, professor at UCLA, the paperback is a compilation of stories, commentary on the stories and academic discourse.

The offerings include a piece by Margaret Field, a professor at San Diego State University working to revitalize Kumiai. Listed as Kumeyaay (dih) on Wikipedia, this language is listed by the Ethnologue as having 330 speakers. Although controversial, many break Kumeyaay into three languages: Ipai (dih-ipa), Kumeyaay proper and Tiipai (dih-tiidih-tip), with the number of speakers ranging from 25 to 200 for each. Eight Kumeyaay lessons by Field and others are available on the website of San Diego State University’s Language Acquisition Resource Center.

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Pāli Revival?

10 September 2011

The Tipiṭaka (“three baskets”) or Pāli Canon is the oldest complete Buddhist canon. Written down just over two thousand years ago in Pāli (pli), the Tipiṭaka is the standard scriptures for Theravada Buddhism.

Although Pāli is primarily used for access to religious texts, revitalization movements have been around since the nineteenth century.

According to “When a dead language came alive after almost a century,” those movements continue on and Pāli was used for the first three sessions of the International Pali Conference 2011, hosted on September 1 by the University of Sri Jayewardenepura.

The “Pali Text Society’s Pali-English Dictionary” can be searched at Digital Dictionaries of South Asia. Lessons in Pāli with a dictionary are available at On-Line Pali Course.

Assyrian Dictionary Complete

14 June 2011

After nine decades of work, scholars have completed the 21-volume “Assyrian Dictionary of the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago.” Although the set can be purchased for USD 1995, it is also available free of charge to download (with restrictions on use).

A language whose literature includes the “Epic of Gilgamesh,” Old Akkadian (akk) was spoken between 4500 and 4000 years ago, after which scholars consider the language to have broken into two dialects: Old Babylonian and Old Assyrian. These continued to develop, disappearing about two thousand years ago. The dictionary project covers all known stages of the 2600 years of the language.

Running about 9700 pages in length (not including the front matter), the dictionary includes 28,000 words, a number perhaps comparable to the number of unique words Shakespeare used.*

As with the Oxford English Dictionary, the plan for the Chicago Assyrian Dictionary Project was ambitiously wide in scope and the expected time to compile grossly underestimated. The database used to compile is nearly two million file cards, and the dictionary will surely be recorded as one of the greatest accomplishments of scholarship.

Will Assyrian/Akkadian be brought back to life as we see with Latin, Old English, Sanskrit and other ancient languages?

The article “Dictionary of dead language complete after 90 years,” one of the sources for this blog post, includes a short audio clip of Irving Finkel speaking Akkadian. The Department of the Languages and Cultures of the Near and Middle East at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, has a series of recordings, including many of the “Epic of Gilgamesh.”

John Heise maintains a site on Akkadian, including grammar lessons, where he suggests tuppi bitim “home clay tablet” as the word for “home page.” The 1961 edition of the text Old Akkadian Writing and Grammar by I.J. Gelb can be downloaded as a PDF. The 1881 “A Sumero-Akkadian grammar” by George Bertin is also available for download.

Also, YouTube videos can assist in learning to write the language, such as “You Can Write in Akkadian, Lesson One” by GiskAkina:


Because no people today claims descent from the ancient Akkadians and no language exists that descends from Akkadian, it seems unlikely Akkadian will become the target of revitalization. The literature, however, will continue on and the “Assyrian Dictionary” will be a valuable resource for understanding this ancient culture.

* For the number of unique words Shakespeare used, see:

  1. The Man Who Shakespeare Was Not (and Who He Was)” by Charlton Ogburn
  2.  “Shakespeare’s Vocabulary Considered Unexceptional” by zwischenzugs
  3. Shakespeare’s Vocabulary: Myth and Reality” by Hugh Craig (I do not have access to this and have not confirmed the contents)

First Nations Language Speaking Circle in Saskatchewan

5 June 2011

Dene speaker Allan Adam and Woodlands Cree Cathy Wheaton started the First Nations Language Speaking Circle in April 2009 and continue coordinating it to this day.

The group meets Tuesday nights from 7 to 8:30 at the Albert Branch of the Regina library system in Saskatchewan.

According to the First Nation Language Speaking Project page on Facebook, lessons are provided free of charge in the following languages:

Among the spectacular features of this group is the lessons that Adam has stockpiled on his website. They include video and audio learning, glossaries, links and more. In addition to the languages mentioned above, the page lists Michif (crg), with the hope of adding lessons at some point.

Another great product of this group is the flash cards provided by Cathy Wheaton on the Quizlet website. She has created 82 sets of cards with up to 35 cards in a set. Like Adam’s lessons, the flash cards are offered free on the Internet.

The contact person for the group is Natalie Owl and the lessons are on a drop-in basis. Refreshments are also provided. See the Regina Library calendar for more details.

Where Are Your Keys?

4 June 2011

Where Are Your Keys or WAYK is a language learning technique focused on enjoying the flow and engaging the brain. Incorporating Total Physical Response elements with the idea that learners learn better with physical energy, WAYK is an immersion learning technique (that is, not using English, for example, to help teach) that has been used since 1992. In WAYK games, learners learn by copying the movements and speech of the person leading.

The technique gets its name because you can judge the language fluency of another person based on the response to everyday questions such as Where are your keys?

Developed originally by Evan Gardner and co-developed by Willem Larsen, WAYK is also an organization that provides workshops and support to help people spread language learning with WAYK.

To facilitate the learning process, ASL or American Sign Language is used during the sessions. Because of their visual nature, sign languages can provide important clues that aid the learner.

In the below video, David Edwards is showing Chris how to “play” WAYK, using Mandarin. This is the first time for Chris to play.

 

By the end of the video, Chris has developed a keen sense of how to use the language he has been practicing in the game.

One of the goals of WAYK is to assist communities in revitalizing their languages. While WAYK works best in a live situation such as above, they are also developing a video library for situations where live communication is not possible. Here is a video with a first lesson in Chinuk Wawa or Chinook Jargon (chn).

Chinuk Wawa 1: “ikta ukuk” from Willem Larsen on Vimeo.

It is clear that the person-to-person environment is an advantage to this method. Skype, a free videoconferencing program, is also used with WAYK.

As people gain proficiency in WAYK and can learn languages more quickly, they are referred to as “language hunters.”

WAYK has two upcoming workshops on the Warm Springs Indian Reservation in Oregon, US, from July 18 to 22 and from July 25 to 29. The program will help speakers of Numu or Northern Paiute (pao) revitalize their language.

WAYK has built a community in a variety of media. See their About Us page for Facebook, Twitter, Google Groups and other resources.

Last speaker of Nuchatlaht in news

30 April 2011

Nuu-chah-nulth (noo) is an endangered language spoken on Vancouver Island, off the western shore of mainland Canada. According to Wikipedia, Nuu-chah-nulth has 12 dialects, though there is a huge gray area in determining whether two ways of speakinh are different languages, dialects or just variation.

Estimates on the number of speakers vary from 115 to 500, with the lower number probably closer to the actual number. Nuu-chah-nulth has 35 consonants, seven more than English, and has interesting linguistic properties.

According to “Lapsing languages offer different view of world” on the Times Colonist site, the last speaker of Nuchatlaht is Alban Michael (84 years old) and he rarely gets to use his language any more. It is only when he sees a friend who speaks the Mowachaht dialect, which is somewhat close to Nuchatlaht, that Michael uses his language.

You can find Michael’s voice on the Ehattesaht Nuchatlaht Community Portal of the FirstVoices website. Words he has recorded include kʷapiqiły̓aq (coffee pot), kałniiłiq (ceiling light) and  ʔusit (body).

Bodéwadmi, Keepers of the Fire

9 April 2011

Potawatomi (pot) is a language spoken in the Great Lakes region and Kansas in North America. It is spoken by the Potawatomi, who call themselves the Bodéwadmi, which means “Keepers of the Fire.”

According to the Ethnologue, there are 1250 speakers in Canada and 50 in the US. The APWAD blog says there are less than 20 in the US.

Along with the Algonquin, Nipissing, Oji-Cree and Odawa, the Potawatomi are an Ojibwe people, and one of the interesting aspects of Ojibwe culture is the use of birch bark scrolls, known as wiigwaasabak and mide-wiigwaas. These scrolls have complex glyphs (writing symbols), though according to Wikipedia, not much is known about them due to their secret nature.

Many resources are available for learning Potawatomi.

This post was inspired by “Endangered Language: Potawatomi” on the (sometimes outrageously funny) Languages Hell Yeah blog, and the many links in “Potawatomi language” on the Pokagon blog.

FPHLCC & First Voices!

28 March 2011

The First Peoples’ Heritage, Language and Culture Council administers the First Voices program, a wonderful array of learning tools for Canadian languages (in English and French). Their glossary pages include:

Each First Nations people has a welcome page, a portal and links to a glossary, art, and much more information. With more than 60 communities documenting their languages, 35 are currently available online. The pages even include matching games and quizzes to assist in the learning process.

For kids, check out First Voices Kids, for a more graphic-oriented approach.

The FPHLCC site itself has great resources, too. Check out their news releases page, for example. In December, free iPod, iPad and iPhone apps were announced for Saanich (str), or SENĆOŦEN, and Halkomelem (hur), or Halq’eméylem. Another excellent page is their revitalization page, a place to begin if interested in developing a language revitalization program.

Halq’eméylem class offering

23 March 2011

According to “New language course available to all ages” on the Agassiz Observer site today, Halq’eméylem (as Halkomelem (hur) is known in the Upriver dialect) classes will be offered to people of all ages after spring break, which ends next week. The classes will be offered at the Agassiz Centre for Education (ACE) in Agassiz, British Columbia, Canada.

As of 2000, there were a little more than 200 speakers according to the Ethnologue report. “Cowichan elder keeping the language alive” on the Cowichan News Leader site cites 278 speakers, though interviewee Luschiim says that number is too high.

Also, according to Luschiim, true knowledge requires knowing not only your own family but the family and kinship of others, a demonstration of how language and culture are closely intertwined, and an example of how it is important to maintain language to ensure culture can continue.

To learn Halkomelem, try Tatul’ut tthu Hul’q’umi’num’, a nine-course series including pictures and audio. To type in Halkomelem, see the Language GeekDictionary of Upriver Halkomelem is available from University of California Press for USD 90/GBP 62, and the e-book version is available for USD 72.

Worldlangs

15 March 2011

According to Wikipedia, a worldlang is “a type of international auxiliary language (or auxlang) that derives its roots, phonology, and possibly grammar from different language families in order to avoid perceived European bias.”

Endangered languages face many threats, though it is not clear if worldlangs will gain enough speakers to cause a language to become silenced. The Ardano site claims that Ardano is a positive influence on endangered languages.

See the language course page for lessons in Ardano. See Neo Patwa for many resources for the language Neo Patwa including dictionaries. Also, see Pandunia for resources on that language including a glossary.