Language learning can be difficult – from classes that only meet a couple times a week to boring software that collects dust, it is hard to find the motivation to continue the process. Thorton Media, Inc. is working to change that by combining language learning with something everyone loves – video games.
Since 1995, Thorton Media has been working to help save endangered languages by using new technologies, such as smartphone apps for writing, speaking, and reading different Native languages. Now, they have created the first level of a Cherokee language video game that is so fun, players forget that they are learning. They are hoping to expand to 8 levels and eventually offer it in many different languages, from Mandarin to Navajo. The game will be complete with action packed tasks, including fighting zombies and Big Foot, and the only way to pass is to speak the language correctly. They promise it will be engaging and worth-while, citing a study that found that people learn languages faster and retain the knowledge longer after using a video game for learning.
But they need YOUR help to keep the project going. There is a Kickstarter campaign set up for donations and with each donation, you receive a fun gift. For example, pledging $10 gives you a download of one of Thorton Media’s language learning apps and $50 gives you the first four levels of the language video game.
You can find out more information on their Kickstarter page. The campaign ends April 13th, so hurry and help out this awesome project looking to change the way languages are taught!
Here’s another great company helping to revitalize endangered languages. Wiiigwaas Press offers mono- and bi-lingual books and teaching materials in indigenous languages, specializing in Ojibwe. In order to help foster awareness and to promote Native American language centered-writing, they also host events and workshops for the Great Lakes-Great Plains region of the US.
You can purchase their books at:
And also check out more information and for new books and workshops on their Facebook page:
A new website is bringing together speakers of different endangered indigenous languages. Wiki for Indigenous Languages (WIL) is looking to become a new resource for teaching, documenting, and revitalizing endangered languages. The WIL only has one language available at the moment, Yaqui, but has place holders for seven other languages that are being developed soon.
It was started by a professor of world arts and cultures and advocate for endangered languages, David Delgado Shorter. The idea behind the website is to create a space for speakers of a language to be able to edit and add information about their language. For learners or others curious about the languages, it will provide a resource for the language as it lives today. The site is complete with games, dictionaries, pronunciation guides, grammar basics, and workbooks, among other great resources for learning a language.
Youtube is a great resource for recording and teaching different languages, and is another way that social media is helping endangered or at-risk languages.
One of our favorite Native language youtubers at Spoken First is “Daybreakwarrior.” He posts tons of awesome Navajo language and culture videos. He likes to make the videos fun by showing how to speak Navajo in daily life and for different activities, posts songs with English and Navajo subtitles, and also posts tongue twisters and other fun language games. He hopes to show the versatility of the Navajo language. Here are some of our favorites:
This video shows how to build a snowman with instructions in Navajo:
This next video is a song about weight loss in Navajo, complete with both Navajo and English subtitles:
This video is Daybreakwarrior’s grandmother telling a joke in Navajo, again with Navajo and English subtitles:
And finally, a fun tongue twister in Navajo:
Be sure to subscribe to Daybreakwarrior’s channel and check out his other videos, and be on the look-out for new ones!
Today is a day for promotion of multilingualism, cultural and linguistic diversity, and protection of all languages. International Mother Language Day began on February 21, 1999, and commemorates the day in 1952 when students in Dhaka, Pakistan (now the capital of Bangladesh) were shot and killed by police while demonstrating for recognition of their language, Bengali, as one of the national languages.
UNESCO’s theme of this year’s International Mother Language Day is “mother tongue instruction and inclusive education”, with a focus on books for mother tongue education. Celebrate the day by thanking language teachers and instructors, advocates for endangered languages, as well as elders and fluent speakers who are essential to helping spread and keep their language alive.
Have you ever taken an online course? If you’ve wanted to try it but haven’t had the chance, this may be the perfect opportunity: educational technology company Coursera has teamed up with the University of Toronto to offer a free online course called “Aboriginal Worldviews and Education.” The class focuses on “Indigenous ways of knowing and how they can inform and benefit all students.” Topics to be covered will range from using language to connect to history; historical, social, and political issues in Aboriginal education; cultural, spiritual, and philosophical themes; and how Aboriginal worldviews can inform professional programs and practices, among others. There are no prerequisites for the course, except for an interest in learning about Aboriginal history and worldviews.
The next session begins February 25th, 2013, and runs for 4 weeks. Upon completion of the course, successful students will receive a certificate signed by the instructor. To find out more information and to sign up for the course, visit the website for the course at:
It has long been understood that babies recognize and react to their mother’s voice from birth, but recent research is delving in further to understand when language learning begins. A new study conducted by researchers in Tacoma, Washington and Stockholm, Sweden has uncovered that during the last 10 weeks pregnancy, babies are already learning language from their mothers.
For the study, researchers worked with 80 American and Swedish babies, evenly mixed between boys and girls. Thirty hours after they were born, they equipped them with headphones and a pacifier. The headphones played vowel sounds from their native tongue and a foreign language. The pacifier measured their reactions to the sounds by measuring the rate at which the baby sucked. The quicker the baby sucked on the pacifier, the more interest they found in that particular sound.
Researchers found that the newborns sucked for longer with the foreign vowel sounds, and sucked at a much quicker rate for the familiar sounds from their mother’s native language. This suggests that the babies have a familiarity with the particular language at birth, and also language differentiation begins before birth.
This study builds on what was concluded in a 2009 study done with German and French newborns. Researchers found that the cries of newborns with a mother that spoke either language nate had different melodies to their crying, showing that the nuances of language are learned in utero.
Although research suggests that language learning begins while babies are still in the womb, doctor’s stress it is not necessary to have any special equipment to enhance your baby’s language learning while pregnant. Language learning in the womb occurs naturally, it is only necessary to use your voice.
Diné speakers on the Navajo reservation across New Mexico, Arizona, and Utah can tune into KNDN AM Radio to listen to the radio in their native language. George Werito, called the Navajo Jay Leno by many of his listeners, is one of the radio personalities of the station. On the station, listeners can call in and inform others about road conditions, meetings, and other news and Werito will report it, often times throwing in games and trivia to make it fun.
KNDN AM Radio became a full time Navajo language station in 1978 and is one great example of how different forms of media are being used to help revive and save endangered languages. There are several other radio stations broadcasting in native languages including KYUK, in Alaska, and KTDB, in New Mexico.
Other forms of media that have been used to help keep up the use of native languages are through the internet. Different social media platforms, such as YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook, have helped connect native speakers, who may be spread far geographically, in unprecedented ways. These uses of media help continue the use of native languages, especially in the younger generations.