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Native Language Cummunity Coordination

“Knowledge of languages is the doorway to wisdom.”
– Roger Bacon

May 2019

We hope you enjoy this update from the NLCC Training and Technical Assistance Center. Please direct any questions or feedback to Cree Whelshula at cree@sisterskyinc.com.

Tidbits

“The advantages of growing up in a bilingual home can start as early as six months of age, according to new research led by York University's Faculty of Health. In the study, infants who are exposed to more than one language show better attentional control than infants who are exposed to only one language. This means that exposure to bilingual environments should be considered a significant factor in the early development of attention in infancy, the researchers say, and could set the stage for lifelong cognitive benefits.”

Resource cited:

Science Daily

What’s New?

Pack your bags for America’s last frontier because Kodiak, Alaska has been confirmed as the ANA NLCC Semiannual meeting location! With the dates of September 10 – 12 as meeting days and September 9 & 13 as travel days. We are determined to have another successful event like the one in Yurok’s homeland last February and are currently working diligently to prepare for our next semi-annual meeting. For more information regarding venue locations please refer to the “Save-the-Date” email sent earlier this week.

Here at Sister Sky we want to hear your suggestions because we value your voice. So, at the upcoming September convening what do you want to do or see within the local Kodiak community?

All ideas and suggestions are highly encouraged and can be delivered to Cree at: Cree@sisterskyinc.com or Kevin at: kevin@sisterskyinc.com.

Upcoming Events

Washington State Tribal Early Learning Language Summit

Topic: Tribal members and educators are invited to learn how to support their tribal languages within their early learning environments.

When: May 30 and 31, 2019

Location: Silver Reef Casino, Ferndale Washington

Cost to register is $25 per individual.

Language Hope

Adult Second Language Learner Sequence

Contribution by Cree Whelshula, NLCC TTA Director

Reading/writing: Conjugation, Subject Verb, Verbs, Nouns, Sounds

Many methods and techniques are available to becoming a second language speaker of an endangered language. The most proven method is language acquisition through immersion. Children are very adept to picking up languages through exposure without need for language lessons. An ideal situation would be to have intergenerational immersion environments where Elders, adults, and children can all interact with one another in the language. Unfortunately, some language situations do not have the capabilities to implement these methods. If you are like many endangered language learners, and have to do a lot of learning on your own or have to learn language through study techniques, here is a sequence that may be helpful.

Starting with sounds may seem trivial or perhaps a waste of time, but there is some science behind this. First, there are 6,000 phonemes that exist across the entire world. One language has around 40, give or take. When a baby is born, they are what Dr. Patricia Kuhl calls “citizens of the world.” This means they can hear all the sounds of all the languages in the world. Around six months of age, the infant brain starts specializing in the language(s) the baby is exposed to in their environment. By the age of 12-18 months, the infant’s brain discards the ability to hear the sounds of other languages they are not exposed to. Evidence shows that the ability to discriminate sounds positively contributes to speech production later on. “Strong relationships were observed between infants’ early speech perception performance and their later language skills at 18 and 24 months” (Kuhl, Patricia K.). If an adult learner has had no previous exposure to the sounds of their language, or has had limited exposure, this is an important place to start.

It is also important to learn the writing system associated with these sounds and how to read the language from the beginning. The reason this is important is it allows you, as a learner, to take the learning into your own hands. Odds are, a lot of written documentation of your language exists and not a whole lot of audio. Learning all the nuances of an orthography or alphabet can take many years to perfect and fully understand.

From there, we learn how to name objects and people in our environment that are important to our everyday living and environment. This can be familial terms, household items, places we go, time of day, etc. All along the language journey we learn how to connect words to one another to make meaningful speech. Connectors for nouns would include: who, where, my, your, our, that, and, etc. You can also add in adjectives that describe nouns: small, plain, fury, color, etc.

Once we have a solid grasp of naming and describing people, places, and things, we can move forward in how those nouns act within our environment. The most basic verbs are command forms such as telling someone to sit, stand, run, etc. You can then build up to adding adjectives to that as well, such as run fast or walk slow. Again, we are still connecting words. For example, walk slow to the door and wait.

From there we begin to discuss who is doing the action: I eat, you ran, Tom waited. You can start learning about tenses at this point such as past, present, future. Some languages also allow for nouns to have tense, such as “my future house.” Here we can also start exploring adverbs such as quietly, below, later, barely, sometimes, etc.

Finally, learning how to conjugate sentences. When we acquire a language naturally, conjugation becomes an unconscious process. We intuitively know that a sentence like “him saw he” is not grammatically correct, and that the correct way to say that would be “He saw him,” even though he and him both refer to third person singular. Another example is “me told they” versus “I told them.” We also know sometimes verbs will change in tense, such as “I drank my water” versus “I drinked my water.” Conjugation involves utilizing the same verb while changing subject pronouns: I, you, he/she/it, we, you all, they; changing object pronouns: me, you, him/her/it, us, you all, them; while also changing tense. Depending on the language, this may be a more or less complicated process.

It is also important to note that utilizing social interaction is very important in any kind of learning. The more you can learn with or from others in an emotionally safe environment, the process of language learning will be quicker and more enjoyable. As mentioned before, immersion and other comprehensible input techniques are ideal for being a speaker of your language, but if you are in a situation where you do not have access to Fluent or Advanced Speakers, or geographic barriers exist, this should be helpful in mapping out a plan for proficiency.

Resources cited:

Kuhl, Patricia K. “Early Language Learning and Literacy: Neuroscience Implications for Education.” Mind, Brain and Education : the Official Journal of the International Mind, Brain, and Education Society, U.S. National Library of Medicine, Sept. 2011, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3164118.

Indigenous Mindfulness on the Brain

Contribution by Cree Whelshula, NLCC TTA Director

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The concept of mindfulness is much older than the word itself. Indigenous peoples have been practicing mindfulness for millennia, and is at the core of cultural practice. Mindfulness is defined as, “a mental state achieved by focusing one's awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one's feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique.” Diving deep into indigenous pedagogy and spirituality, you will find an importance of one’s own emotional and spiritual effect on others. We all hold power can heal or harm. When creating, harvesting, cooking, singing, dancing, preparing for our families, people, loved ones, we are told to have good thoughts, feelings, and put prayer into what we do. If, for example, you are angry when you cook for others, you can make them sick. If you are happy, think about good things for others, and pray then you can nourish others. This practice facilitates the state of mind that modern western culture has termed “mindfulness.” We think about what we are doing, how we are feeling, and work toward creating a positive frame of mind.

Western science has studied the concept of mindfulness using magnetic resonance imaging brain scans. These scans track the neuronal (brain cell) activity as a result of mindfulness practice and they reveal that mindfulness practice results in increased grey matter (neuron density) in the learning, memory, and emotion center of the brain called the hippocampus. In addition, neuron activity that pertains to controlling executive function such as decision making, emotional regulation, and memory improves. “Neuroscientists have also shown that practicing mindfulness affects brain areas related to perception, body awareness, pain tolerance, emotion regulation, introspection, complex thinking, and sense of self” (Congleton, Christina, et al.).

Indigenous language revitalization is a ceremony of healing. In ceremony, we carry ourselves with a positive mind, spirit, and intention. Move forward in this ceremony knowing that cultural practices and values are not only good for the spirit, but for the mind as well. Know that implementing these practices into our children’s education does not take away from their education, but gives strength to it.

Resources cited:

Congleton , Christina, et al. “Mindfulness Can Literally Change Your Brain.” Harvard Business Review, 12 Mar. 2018, hbr.org/2015/01/mindfulness-can-literally-change-your-brain.

Evaluation Proclamations

Community Readiness

Contribution by Cree Whelshula, NLCC TTA Director

Victoria Carlson, Yurok Language Program Coordinator interviews key correspondent Georgiana Gensaw, Council Support Assistant

Imagine all your program funding needs being met and you have the financial capacity to launch a robust state of the art language revitalization program. Your program has been developed based off of evidence-based innovative practices that are sure to be successful in language transmission. You develop an abundance of language resources such as apps, videos, curricula materials, and hold classes that are readily accessible to the community. Then you launch your classes and resources, but no one utilizes those resources and no one is coming to class. There are many questions you would ask yourself in why no one is taking advantage of these opportunities. Does the community know the status of our language endangerment? Are they aware that these resources and opportunities exist? Do they know the benefits of language and culture? Do they even care? These are important questions to find the answers to. Community readiness determines your community’s knowledge of language endangerment, the value they place on language/culture, their knowledge of language revitalization efforts.

Various methods to assess your community’s knowledge about language endangerment and revitalization. You can interview key correspondence using the Community Readiness Assessment Model (originally designed for mental health programs), surveys, focus groups, panel discussions, community forums, etc. The results from these assessments will help determine a community engagement action plan. For example, if your community assessment reveals that community members are unaware that language endangerment is an issue, then you could launch a campaign through various platforms that spread the message.

Community assessments can be tedious and time consuming, but they are valuable tools. The knowledge gained from the data will help to avoid wasting valuable resources such as staff or funding. It can also help allocate funding and resources needing for outreach activities, events, strategic planning.

Newsletter Info:

NLCC newsletter is a collaborative effort among the NLCC TTA Center staff and subcontractors, the NLCC Cohort, and the ANA. For year 3 of the grant, the newsletter is distributed on the 1st Thursday of the Month. Prior to the distribution, we ask the recipieints to provide highlights and to share information regarding their programs as we continue the implementation of this communication and resource tool. To learn more about NLCC and the NLCC TTA Center go to our website: www.ananlcc.org.

If you have any resources, events, or highlights you would like to share, please submit your information to Cree Whelshula at cree@sisterskyinc.com.

Thank you for being part of this networking collaboration!

lemlmtš (Spokane Salish – Thank you)
Qe'ci'yew'yew' (Nimiipuu – Thank you)

Contact Info:

Cree Whelshula
NLCC Training and Technical Assistance Director
NLCC TTA Center
cree@sisterskyinc.com

ANA: Administration for Native Americans






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