Alutiiq Language Revitalization Efforts Stepped Up

With only 50 remaining fluent speakers of the Alutiiq language, most of whom are elderly, concern that the language could be lost forever has lit a fire under community members. Last year, in response to student demand, Kodiak High School, in Kodiak Alaska, implemented a brand new Alutiiq language class. The class marks the first ever formal Alutiiq language revival program by the public school system, and the eleven students enrolled in the class are reportedly extremely enthusiastic.

A second recent boon to the language is the launching of a new Alutiiq language web site by the Native Village of Afongnak. The site has earned praise for its user friendliness as well as the overall quality of its appearance and content. The site includes a searchable dictionary, audio recordings of spoken words and songs, lessons and curriculum, and a smart phone application that can be used on iPods or iPads in addition to Blackberries and iPhones.

As a number of other Alaska Native and American Indian communities are facing language loss, more and more are turning to similar strategies to connect youth to their ancestral languages. Language classes for school-aged children, including immersion programs, are gaining support in many tribal communities. And in an age where many youngsters are captivated by digital devices, language activists have argued that the best way to engage youth in language-learning may be through technological tools. Tribal communities that have not yet implemented such programs and tools are keeping a close eye on those that have to see if they prove effective.

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