Drawn by an Echo?

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23 thoughts on “Drawn by an Echo?”

  1. Ben, sometimes ‘I think you’re crazy!’

    I am so glad you have written about this issue of language revitalization, not only because it is tres important and worthy of attention, but also because I am doing a project on Sauk language revitalization and this stuff is great fodder for that. May I quote your writing of it?

  2. Take what you want and use it in the service of others. We all work together. I appreciate your asking and crediting me. That doesn’t always happen, as I have found out and probably will find out again.

    Please share a bit about this project.

    1. It’s a project for a class I have to take. To make a long story short, MN requires a different standard to teach FL in the public schools than does Iowa. Much rigamoral required (including showing competence with k-6!!), and a course in Hispanic Linguistics (because I don’t live in a city with a University that offers the course, I’ve had to enroll in one of the few online classes, out-of-state, and drop $2500!) Sorry, I couldn’t resist the resentful rant about this situation.

      The only good thing about this situation is that I enjoy the course content (though I disagree strongly that it is making me more competent as a FL teacher… actually probably the opposite because it is putting me back in the left hemisphere of my brain).

      The paper/presentation I must do for the course is on Endangered Languages. So I picked Sauk, and I’m glad I did because it is very good for me to learn about this aspect of my sort-of geographical heritage and the important (like Ben said, that word doesn’t quite describe it) work they are doing with the effort to revive the language.

      I’ve gotten so much information for the project just from your site Ben… now I need to learn how to properly cite a blog! Anyone…???

      1. I don’t know how to cite a blog. Especially one that is closed. I am just going to put a bug in your ear about something my Elder said once that is available to view at the Museum of Natural History in Gainesville, Florida. She said approximately that knowing your language is what makes you that tribe/culture. You have to know the language in order to really understand the depth of that particular culture. I sort of ignored that piece until after she had died. Then I got it.

        I could know how to dance, how to cook, how to play games of various sorts, my history but I couldn’t really get the depth of all that until I understood the language. The language was where the nuances hung out. The real knowledge. Like in our language “lanee” means yellow–and green and put ok on the front and it means brown. But, when you look at a hickory tree in the fall you see all those colors at once in English but just plain “lanee” in Mvskoke.

        Our verb eyacetv–to like, need, desire or want. All in a tiny little compact verb. How it is used in the conversation tells you the passion of the speaker and the gist of the word.

        that probably didn’t help you, but there is an example of what we are trying to bring forth. Our thinking is formed by our understanding of language. After age 8 most humans move beyond visual thought images to hearing word thoughts. If we can’t hear our language as a thought–are we hearing our cultural understanding correctly?

        1. This find this kind of discussion about language fascinating. A question that comes up for me is this:

          If someone teaches a language, who does not have high-level “benchmark” oral and cultural fluency in that language, will the students they teach ever really get more than superficial cultural understanding even though they acquire “structure”? or is cultural understanding really an advanced-level acquired thing (sorry for the poor language)?

          As a perceived fluent/bicultural Spanish speaker and teacher, I find that these “subtle” things get mimicked by my students and just become part of them–just as they would for first language. They don’t think about them; they just start to “get it”. I really resist teaching “culture” as “a difference”, a unit, etc. You are making me think.

          1. Well, some cultural understanding is better than no cultural understanding. My current batch of students will probably never visit a traditional Square Grounds, they will have to study Native Americans–but as a hodge-podge not in-depth on one tribe usually. and not with someone usually who has any kind of cultural awareness for the tribe the teacher assigned. And the level of understanding elementary students have versus adults is entirely different too.

            I think it is like the grammer–when they ask take a moment to side step. Otherwise plow ahead with what is on your plate already.

            In a Spanish class, your students have many opportunities to dig into Spanish cultures aside from your room. My students don’t have that. There are no TV shows, music stations, etc. that would give them an opportunity. There are plenty of historical perspectives however that teach a point of view that is clearly biased. So, when I have an opportunity to correct that, I generally do. But it has to be in context.

            Our 5th graders study slavery in reference to the Civil War. Natives kept slaves. Mvskoke people actually captured and sold slaves as well as being held as slaves. The 2nd Seminole War had a huge history of slave issues that kept that war running until the US just finally gave up (after anhilating 80% of the population left in FL). So, there is where we have a little talk about culture and slavery and blood quantuam. High level discussion, but where else will they hear it? Not in their history class. Their teachers don’t know that history.

            I have to accept that Mvskoke will never be a fluency language for these students. They will learn some words, they will have some conversations with me, they will know the geography of the bioregion we enhabit and some of it’s history. THEIR language acquistion receptors will STAY OPEN for receiving a more popular language (Spanish, French, German, etc. at high school and perhaps college). I will have accomplished working on my own aquistion and sharing with them an authentic way to be taught languages (so they can use the method I teach to inform the way they will be taught other languages). that is the best case scenario at this time.

  3. Ben-
    Back in aug. when you wrote this, I was BUSY getting ready for school. Today, I am lying in bed sick from school and cruising through the recent posts. Thanks Jim for going to this one. I wouldn’t have gone here probably, but then synchronicity works like that dontchaknow.

    Maybe we are drawn to the echoes of words–I hear them when you pronounce the name of my nearest city. The language of our peoples are embedded in the names of our land. That is one place where they echo.

    And yes, I want to hear voices speak to me in Mvskoke and I want to be able to understand and respond appropriately. My Elder said you can’t understand the culture without knowing the language. I know you get that from all the work you’ve done in mastering your target languages. some words don’t translate. The concepts are only there in the language.

    I think I really got my mind around that when I visited Hawaii for a conference in Sept. I was surprised how those who had been reared in Hawaii no matter their ethnicity understood and spoke of Hawaiian values using the Hawaiian language. It was too difficult to try and explain it in English. They just used the common language of the land–Hawaiian and everyone that knew that language knew that concept. It was very powerful to witness.

    The Hawaiian’s have fought long and hard to reinstate their language in the public school system. But this insures that their cultural values are also reinstated. I left Hawaii with more questions than answers and a deep sense of respect for the work of so many to hold fast to progress with cultural awareness and respect.

    Sound is the voice of the created. Silence is the voice of Creator. So say our Elders. And they say this so we will get quiet to hear Creator.

    I liked this post Ben. Thanks.

  4. http://www.pbs.org/independentlens/we-still-live-here/our-mother-tongues.html

    Maybe you have already seen this. It aired this week on PBS. I am going to watch it tonight! I remember learning about this woman from one of you this summer at NTPRS…Kate? Jacob? Josh? She is the one who began the revitalization of Wampanoag language here on the east coast, specifically on Martha’s Vineyard in Aquinnah, I think.

    Anyway, you can watch it streaming for the next 6 days in case you can’t get it on your local station.

    Since I have not seen it yet I don’t know how much TCI they are using, but a few of the clips I have seen show people talking about the language as a connection, as a sound that fills them up. So cool. Can’t wait to see it.

  5. “Sound is the voice of the created. Silence is the voice of Creator. So say our Elders. And they say this so we will get quiet to hear Creator.”

    Thank you Kate for this. This is truth.

  6. You know that period of Silence that all us learners have to go through before we can have output? Let’s think of it that way. Creator stepping into our minds and hearts to help us hear truth before we even try to output. cause once we open our mouths it gets all messed up. But Creator always enjoys a good heartfelt laugh.

    Jen–that is the lady who inspired me to hang onto something that sure looks like another losing game in my endless up to bats.

  7. Dear all,

    Funny thing, synchronicity! I’m staying on the Kalispel Reservation north of Spokane just now (10 miles south of Canada, 25 east of Idaho). I’m working with teachers here who want to save their language. They’ve got a huge curriculum set up, and I’m exploring how they can mix in principals of TPRS. (I’m also going to suggest they consider reading this blog.) They have an uphill battle, as few know enough of their language to go confidently into the classroom asking questions.

    The language is like Japanese in some ways. I’d love to have Kate here to tell me whether Mvskoke is similar: verb first, question word at end to show questions, words that gather pieces, and so on. But then there’s an incredibly complicated way of talking depending on the person, as well as the location from which something is being told: the place where it happened, or another. Blows my mind, and it’s hard to coach while being the primary student.

    Think of us. There are 35 speakers of Salish left in the whole country, and most are elderly. It’s tough for the ones working in Montana to get corrections on texts the way I did as I improved my Russian. They have only one elder who understands this process of writing stories (partly because I’ve been here twice and he’s attended the lessons).

    And if you can, please urgently tell me which of the two conferences will welcome Salish language teachers/preservers most warmly this summer. Possibly two will travel. I know Ben would help. Who will be where? I’ll be at both, but I can’t be the entire committee. They need to have other voices.

    Thanks all!

    1. And Michele in 2008 we worked with the Sauk and Chickasaw people. The situation in the Sauk (Sak and Fox) people in Central Oklahoma was that they had 3 full speaking elders in their late 70s and that was back then. But there were also younger ones in their 20’s who had 50% to 80%. They took to stories very fast and would be probably the best place of all to visit for your Salish people. Because the Sauks have disappeared from our conferences. Those in St Louis (2009) know how very lucky we were to have been able to be with them at such a deep level (reverential doesn’t even come close to describe my own feelings about that experience). Their language carried (there is a Hindi word for it but I can’t think of it – not enough reps but having to do with) acknowledgement of suffering combined with hope. When they spoke, it reverberated through me. It took me somewhere. Jim Tripp has addressed this.

      1. I agree that us getting the opportunity to acquire snippets of other languages, especially less commonly taught languages here like Cherokee and Tamil, is a huge bonus of summer conferences. It not only puts us straight into that beginner station, but also gives us the opportunity to bond via that medium which brought us all together in the first place.

        Yes Ben I did a project on the Revitalization of the Sauk Language back in 2011. I actually got a lot of help from this PLC while doing it (see the thread above). If anyone ever wants the PPT the paper (which are about the revitalization effort with some historical, logistical and pedagogical implications, but also a fair mount of linguistics analysis), feel free to contact me.

    2. Michelle, I’m afraid I don’t think I’m making it to either conference this summer. I’m looking forward to attending those in the summer of 2017, though.

      Perhaps we can Skype it. If that’s not too much trouble.

  8. Steven Ordiano

    Very interesting topic (for lack of betterword —- hmm inspiring!) I have pondered helping out the Mixteco people (from the state of Oaxaca) living in my town Madera just north of Fresno. Many parents are bilingual but the children become Spanish speaking and English speaking.

    Many desire to learn the language but the pedagogical influence needs to be there. Maybe, I can begin coordinating with people — the network is big and very family-oriented. Their stories can be heard and understood by their own grand children. Maybe I can learn something. Inspiring indeed.

  9. The reason I posted this again is because yesterday I was rereading Hazrat Inyat Khan on the topics of music, language and education. He talks about how words never disappear, never die out. I’m just getting into it so can’t report too much right now. But if words never disappear, and linger still, then might it be possible that cultures of the distant past, from thousands of years, are still here as well, lingering? And to expand on that, could it be that the societal wheel that Kate describes above is still spinning? And if that is true, could it be that the goodness and hope in that wheel and especially in the languages that formed its hub are still functioning on some deeply invisibles level? Could the good thoughts and words and deeds of a far less sick group of nations be actually healing us still, on some impossible-to-measure level? Could the noble core found in the languages spoken right here in what they now call Colorado and the U.S. still be functioning? Could the lives lived in the past be part of this healing we are experiencing now? Maybe it’s just that some of us, those whose hearts were shredded when Mr. Floyd’s life was so brutally extinguished, hear better. I’ve always known that having big ears is a good thing. What’ that sound? Everybody look what’s going down….

    1. So remember when I told you a few weeks ago about the woman who reclaimed her language through the documents of treaties written with her people. She is the one cited in the video Jen suggested we all watch in the above post.

      How quinky dinky. You’ve had it all along.

  10. I can’t get Jen’s clip to play. But there is an interesting written discussion there. What I notice about all this, all that is going on, all the time, but sometimes – like now – more noticeable than at other times – is about the amount of suffering that results from such systemic oppression in all minorities of every color.

    And so sad that the oppressors are just so grossly unconscious. And now that the oppression is being made more visible for whatever reason (cell phones?), we are being made more aware of the suffering inflicted on the oppressed.

    Just so much suffering. The oppressors don’t know they do it, I don’t think. It can’t be consciously inflicted. I mean, look at Trump. Is any of that conscious? I don’t think so. It’s just that the man and his followers are just ignorant, as dumb as posts.

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