Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Language Preservation and Digital Resources

Recently I've been reading and reflecting on numerous facets of Indigenous language preservation and revitalization.  Residential schools, colonialism, and general assimilation practices have all contributed to the loss and endangered states of many Indigenous dialects.  Despite this loss or impending loss there are a number of projects across Canada which are working to record and preserve Indigenous language.
  • The Michif language is the traditional language that was spoken by Métis peoples in Canada.  Like most Indigenous languages there are a variety of regional dialects to Michif, but the most commonly used form of Michif is based on a combination of French and Cree.  It is estimated that there are less than 1000 fluent speakers of Michif alive today.  
    • The Gabriel Dumont Institute has worked to create Michif curriculum for schools and communities.
    • The Dumont Institute has also made a number of audio and video recordings of Michif speakers available online.  A number of these recordings are also accompanied by English transcripts.
    • The Métis Nation of Ontario has also started to gather and promote resources on Michif, including audio and video recordings and a Michif word of the day program. 
  •  The Ojibwe language is the traditional language of over 200,000 people in Canada and the United States, making it one of the more common Indigenous languages in Canada.  Despite this heritage very few youth are taught Ojibwe and the language continues to be endangered.
    • The Ojibwe People's Dictionary was created by the Department of American Indian Studies at the University of Minnesota.  The Dictionary utilizes content from the Minnesota Historical Society to create a virtual space which highlights audio and video recordings of Ojibwe speakers.  The Dictionary is searchable in English and Ojibwe and highlights historical photographs and documents to provide context to the language material.
    • Noongwa e-Anishinaabemjig People Who Speak Anishinaabemowin today.  This resources was created by the University of Michigan and features a number of online lessons, stories, listening exercises, and resources.  The interface is a bit outdated, but is fairly simple to use.
    • There are also immersion programs and formal Ojibwe language instruction programs all across Ojibwe territory.  Locally the College and University where I live offer language instruction, and there are two First Nation run immersion programs.
  • There are also a number of online resources being developed for the preservation of Cree, Oji-Cree, Inuktitut, and other traditional dialects.   
    • The Listening to Our Past website focuses on the preservation of Inuktitut. I wrote about this resource awhile ago on the Active History site. 
    • The Cree Linguistic Atlas combined geography with language learning.  The Atlas includes syllabics, audio recordings, and English translations.

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