April 22, 2010

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April 12, 2010

8th annual Oklahoma language fair

Eisenhower Elementary School’s studies help preserve American Indian languages

Children study to preserve American Indian languages

By James S. Tyree
Niigan Sunray, a third-grader at Eisenhower Elementary School, said she practiced 10 months to tell the story of "Tobi Ofi,” or white dog, in the dialect called Alabama Six-towns Choctaw.

If practice didn’t make perfect, it was close enough, as she won the individual spoken language contest Monday during the eighth annual Oklahoma Native American Youth Language Fair.

"It’s our migration story, from the west to the east,” Sunray said of a Choctaw band that moved back to the southeastern United States. "It was fun for me.”

Niigan is one of 636 children of all ages registered for the two-day language fair at the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History. Candessa Tehee Morgan, the event’s coordinator, said 25 American Indian languages will be spoken in 370 presentations.

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April 03, 2010

Customer service in Cree, Inuktitut

RBC becomes first Canadian bank to offer indigenous languages telephone serviceRBC today announced the introduction of Cree and Inuktitut, two of the most commonly-spoken indigenous languages in Canada, to its multi-language telephone banking service. RBC is the first Canadian financial institution to offer telephone services in these languages.

Launched in 2008, RBC's multi-language telephone service has more than 2,600 specialized interpreters who help with day-to-day basic business and personal banking inquiries such as opening an account, paying bills or requesting foreign exchange information at no cost to the client. Interpreters are available to help translate 180 different languages.

"Canada is home to a variety of languages that many organizations do not recognize, or have the capacity to service through translation," explained Dale Sturges, national director, Aboriginal Banking, RBC. "We are pleased to be able to continue reaching out to an underserved market by incorporating Cree and Inuktitut into our customer service capabilities. RBC has a long history of building relationships with the Aboriginal community and we remain committed to finding innovative ways to partner with our clients to meet their financial needs."

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March 21, 2010

Cherokee claymation language films

Videographer:  A portrait of Nathan Young IV

By Honey Dawn Karima PettigrewWhile emphasizing cultural studies and bilingual education in Native American languages, Young encountered Joe Erb, who taught him the techniques needed to create stop motion claymation movies. “I had the opportunity to work on ‘The Messenger’ to learn animation and I was lucky that Fort Gibson was so supportive in giving me the resources and freedom to learn,” he said.

Young, whose passion for Native American languages led him to pursue the study of Creek, Cherokee and Choctaw at the University of Oklahoma, viewed claymation films as an opportunity to educate and inspire. As part of the bilingual education program at Fort Gibson, Young’s students created short films, using the stop motion technique. These films shared traditional Cherokee stories, were performed in Cherokee (with English subtitles) by the students, who ranged in age from middle to high school level.
And:“I’m also working on a Pawnee language animation. I’m Pawnee/Kiowa/Delaware, and my Pawnee project is part one of a HAKO series that is called ‘Kits-pa-rux-ti: The Wonderful River.’” Young is eagerly anticipating the development of this series as a celebration of Pawnee culture.

“It’s the story of the origin of the Pawnee Medicine Societies. It’s not going to be a claymation, more like cell animation, actually drawn by frame. I’m just getting the language together now so that I can start animating.”

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March 18, 2010

Ojibwe language learning software

Multi media company releases language learning software

By Kevin RoachGrassroots Indigenous Multimedia announces the launch of their new Ojibwe language learning software, Ojibwemodaa. The software application uses video conversations and engaging games to immerse the user in the Ojibwe language.

Mary Hermes, University of Minnesota professor with years of experience in education, and her husband Kevin Roach, an Ojibwe artist with expertise itribal art and computer graphics, founded the nonprofit organization Grassroots Indigenous Multimedia (GIM) with the mission of developing materials designed to teach Ojibwe and other Native American languages.

GIM began recording videos of conversations between elders at language camps and other venues. For Ojibwe and many other indigenous languages, it is the everyday, conversational language that is least documented but most useful words and phrases for beginning learners. It was their original intention to simply publish the translated and transcribed videos on a website or youtube.

But in the process of applying for grants to support GIM’s work, Mary heard about Transparent Language from Ed McDermott at the U.S. Department of Education. He told them that Transparent had unique language tools and might be willing to let them use these tools to develop Ojibwe materials. Mary quickly contacted Michael Quinlan, CEO of Transparent Language, who offered his enthusiastic support, and a simple idea started growing into something big.

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March 03, 2010

E-mailing with Cherokee keyboard

Letter perfect

Keyboard overlays help teach students the Cherokee language.

By Clifton Adcock
The e-mail was composed entirely in Cherokee syllabary.

Rachel and others at the Cherokee Nation Immersion School are the new keepers of their culture's fire, carrying into the information age the Cherokee language and its syllabary, created by Sequoyah nearly two centuries ago.

Although the font was created through an agreement between the tribe and Apple Inc. a few years ago, the students have a new tool to help type the language: a keyboard overlay that replaces the letters of the English alphabet with those of the 85-character syllabary.

Students had been using a variety of keystrokes on a standard keyboard to type in Cherokee, but now they can lay a thin black silicone pad over the standard keyboard to find the corresponding characters.
Below:  "Cherokee Nation Immersion School student Cambria Byrd chats with friends in the Cherokee language on her laptop Thursday. The school now has keyboard overlays to help students type using the Cherokee syllabary." (Adam Wisneski/Tulsa World)

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February 21, 2010

Olympics broadcast in Native languages

Native voices bring Olympics home

Play-by-play commentary in aboriginal languages a labour of love, creativity

By Paul Watson
There is no word for seconds in the Mohawk language, which makes it especially difficult to call the action in an Olympic ski race live for television.

Tiorahkwathe Gilbert was the first among his people to broadcast Olympic men's super-G in his native language Friday afternoon.

A rookie to sports commentary, he has spent months training for the landmark moment. He's had long discussions with elders in coffee shops and at kitchen tables to agree on the best way to express things the Mohawk haven't had much cause to say before.
And:For the first time in Canadian history, the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network is providing play-by-play commentary of live sports in Cree, Mohawk, Ojibway, Dene, Inuktitut, Michif and Oji-Cree.

Most of the First Nations, Métis and Inuit broadcasters calling the Winter Olympics action for APTN are rookies recruited from communities across the country and trained by veteran sportscaster Jim Van Horne.

Van Horne's dulcet voice is familiar to fans of hockey on TSN. He has also broadcast from the Calgary, Sydney and Beijing Olympics. During the Vancouver Games, he's working from APTN's Winnipeg studios, mentoring the aboriginal broadcasters he coached.
Comment:  As with singing pop songs in Inuktitut, this may be the best way to preserve Native languages. Namely, by using them in everyday life. By employing them in the popular culture. By linking them to fun, engaging subjects such as music and the Olympics.

Below:  "Tiorahkwathe Gilbert, a commentator with Aboriginal Peoples Television Network, broadcast the Olympic men's super-G event in Mohawk." (John Woods/The Canadian Press)