Reclaiming, Revitalizing and Decolonizing Minority Languages

This month we published Rejecting the Marginalized Status of Minority Languages edited by Ari Sherris and Susan D. Penfield. In this post the editors discuss the themes covered in the book.

Our co-edited volume, Rejecting the Marginalized Status of Minority Languages, develops two themes, among others, within the overall context of language revitalization: human rights and decolonization. As such, it would be fair to place this book in a framework which is gaining attention: language reclamation. Where language revitalization focuses squarely on linguistic achievements, such as developing fluency, language reclamation factors in the community history and dynamics that have contributed to language shift. Wes Leonard (2019) describes it as a blend of language revitalization and decolonization. This makes a larger claim and increases the scope of language work for communities which struggle to balance educational efforts focused on their marginalized, often severely endangered, languages against the hegemonic forces still bent on colonization or political control and dominance.

These social forces exist in all parts of the world and, while community responses vary depending on their unique geopolitical settings, some common concerns emerge. Communities must decide how to strategically reclaim their language and consider all that this effort will entail. Among the issues to be considered are

1. How to secure a place for the language within the educational, social and political fabric of the community?

2. Who should teach the language – how, when and where?

3. Will local resources be developed, such as a community-based archive/library?

4. What technology comes into play, if at all, and for what specific purposes?

5. Is literacy a goal and, if so, how will that be achieved and valued?

6. Who assumes the authority for all of these efforts? Often one or two people emerge who spearhead the reclamation movement; some communities form committees or a group to place in charge.

7. How will language change be addressed?

8. Is language and cultural revitalization seen as an integrated activity?

9. Is there a place/need for ‘language activism’ – outreach through publicity locally, regionally, federally? And, can activism contribute in a concrete way to the creation of language policy?

10. Are there outside entities with which to form useful collaborations (this might be other communities, academic institutions, non-profit organizations).

Each chapter presents scenarios of language situations where steadfast educators, language practitioners and language activists are marching into the winds of more powerful and dominant languacultures (Agar, 1995; 2006). The book brings examples from a wide array of Indigenous languacultures, each situated in its own unique set of parameters to deal with the challenges. Included are case studies from teaching Kamsá in Colombia, Saami in Finland and Manx on the Isle of Man, to the challenges of the language regeneration among the Māori in New Zealand and the digital revolution in Indigenous language education of Taiwan. Cultural and language acquisition among the Wichi of Argentina is described, as is the challenge of literacy in the Safaliba language in Ghana, and the development of place-based language education in Hawaii.

Susan Penfield and Ari Sherris

References

Agar, M. (1995). Language Shock. NY: William Morrow.

Agar, M. (2006). Culture: Can you take it anywhere? International Journal of Qualitative Methods, 5(2), 1-12.

Leonard, W. Y. (2019). Indigenous languages through a reclamation lense. Anthropology News website, September 19, 2019. https://www.anthropology-news.org/index.php/2019/09/19/indigenous-languages-through-a-reclamation-lens/

 

For more information about this book please see our website.

If you found this interesting, you might also like A World of Indigenous Languages edited by Teresa L. McCarty, Sheilah E. Nicholas and Gillian Wigglesworth.

“What Happened to My Language?” Working to Reclaim Indigenous Languages

Earlier this year we published A World of Indigenous Languages edited by Teresa L. McCarty, Sheilah E. Nicholas and Gillian Wigglesworth. In this post Teresa and Sheilah discuss how they came to participate in the global movement for Indigenous language reclamation.

Sheilah Nicholas remembers the rude awakening when, as an adult, her mother said to her, “When you were a child, you were fully Hopi,” referring to the fact that she was a first-language speaker of Hopi as a child. Teresa McCarty, a White scholar-educator, remembers a parallel moment when a Diné (Navajo) elder, referring to the legacy of colonial schooling, said to her, “If a child learns only English, you have lost your child.” Reflecting on this, Sheila and Teresa identify the point when their life trajectories came together and they became participants in a nascent global movement for Indigenous language reclamation.

Sheilah: The very first time I thought about language issues was in a pilot study I conducted for your class at the University of Arizona. I wanted to understand how a K-8 community school on the Hopi reservation was implementing their Hopi language program. At the time my focus was on Hopi language and literacy and the role of Hopi education practitioners as literacy specialists.

Teresa: That would be about the mid-1990s. At that time I was working with Diné teachers at a community school within the Navajo Nation. The teachers were Indigenizing their literacy curriculum. I had been working with this community for many years and we were starting to see a noticeable shift from Navajo to English among the children entering kindergarten.

Sheilah: In 1995, while there were still a large number of Hopi speakers across the reservation, in this particular community school the Hopi education practitioners were also observing a visible shift to English among their students.

These experiences inform our work together and individually in the field of Indigenous language revitalization and reclamation. For both of us, an important site of this work was the American Indian Language Development Institute (AILDI) at the University of Arizona, an international program to train educators and language practitioners in strategies to revitalize and promote the use of Indigenous languages across generations.

Sheilah: I was a graduate student at AILDI and found myself unable to integrate Hopi into my assignment. I asked my instructor, Akira Yamamoto, “What happened to my language?” He said, “It didn’t go anywhere. It’s deep inside you—you just need to pull it up.”

Teresa: Akira Yamamoto, Lucille Watahomigie (Hualapai) and Leanne Hinton cofounded AILDI in 1978, with long-time AILDI director Ofelia Zepeda (Tohono O’odham) joining shortly after. I had been working with them for several years. Each summer the Institute brings together Indigenous community members and educators, and non-Indigenous allies, in collaborative partnerships around language revitalization, documentation, and outreach.

Sheilah: AILDI became the catalyst for my current work.

Our stories are part of a larger story told in the pages of our edited volume with Gillian Wigglesworth of the University of Melbourne, A World of Indigenous Languages. Gillian has worked for many years with Australian Aboriginal communities on the languages Aboriginal children in remote communities learn, the complexity of their language ecologies, and how these interact with English once children enter the formal school system.

Our book exemplifies a movement we characterize with the “4 Rs”: resurgence, reclamation, revitalization, and resilience. From Aotearoa/New Zealand, to South Africa, the Yukon Territory, Western Australia, Latin America, Ojibwe and Hopi in the USA, Aanaar Saami in Finland, Limbu in Nepal, Nahuatl in Mexico, and the “world of Indigenous languages” in cyberspace, every chapter – authored or coauthored by an Indigenous scholar-activist – illuminates the vitalities of this movement.

In gathering these accounts, we are honored to present the diversity of pedagogical innovations and the persistence of this movement. These are not accounts about languages as abstract entities to be “preserved,” but rather a dynamic display of Indigenous voices being heard.

For more information about this book please see our website.

 

Tommi and Laura’s visit to UCLA and stand at TESOL

Either side of the AAAL conference (which you can read about in Kim’s post here), Tommi and I managed to squeeze in a trip to Los Angeles to visit colleagues and students at UCLA and from Loyola Marymount University, and of course exhibit at the annual TESOL conference as usual.

UCLA Campus
UCLA Campus

On arrival in LA we met with Patricia C. Gándara, co-editor of our forthcoming book on the economic advantages of bilingualism, who kindly gave us a tour of the beautiful UCLA campus.  The campus has been the shooting location for many films so it was fun to spot buildings which we recognised while Patricia explained what they are actually used for.

After lunch we gave a presentation to students and staff on academic publishing.  We were pleased that the audience came armed with questions and were happy to explain some of the mysteries of book publication to them.  We also met with Teresa L. McCarty, author of our book Language Planning and Policy in Native America, who has recently moved to UCLA from Arizona State University.

Tommi and Laura training for the Bristol 10k
Tommi and Laura training for the Bristol 10k

Tommi and I spent the rest of our time in California meeting with Magaly Lavadenz and Elvira Armas from CABE who took us to dinner in the beautiful Marina del Rey area of LA and training for the Bristol 10k, which we are running together with our colleague Sarah in May to raise funds for St Peter’s Hospice.  You can read about our challenge here.

TESOL Conference 2014
TESOL Conference 2014

Then it was onwards to Portland for AAAL and TESOL. After the successes of AAAL we recharged our batteries ready for TESOL which this year had the theme “ELT for the Next Generation: Explore, Sustain, Review”. As usual we enjoyed catching up with familiar faces and meeting new delegates.

TESOL delegate with Johnnie Johnson Hafernik, co-author of the book
TESOL delegate with Johnnie Johnson Hafernik, co-author of the book

We had a busy conference with Bonny Norton’s 2nd Edition of her classic text Identity and Language Learning being the runaway best-seller.  Other popular new titles were Desiring TESOL and International Education by Raqib Chowdhury and Phan Le Ha and Julia Menard-Warwick’s new book English Language Teachers on the Discursive Faultlines.  We also had a conference highlight when a customer bought a copy of Integrating Multilingual Students into College Classrooms just as one of the authors, Johnnie Johnson Hafernik, visited our stand and was able to sign the book. Definitely one of my top moments of the trip!

Next year AAAL and TESOL are in Toronto and we are already looking forward to the conferences!

Laura

Our latest books on Indigenous Education

The Education of Indigenous Citizens in Latin AmericaLast month we published The Education of Indigenous Citizens in Latin America edited by Regina Cortina. This book examines the development of intercultural bilingual education throughout Latin America. It assesses the challenges of implementing this educational practice in places where Indigenous peoples have struggled to preserve their cultural practices in the face of colonialism and forced assimilation.

Judy Kalman from Centro de Investigación y Estudios Avanzados del IPN in Mexico City calls the book “A must-read for scholars, students, and others interested in issues of social justice.” The book features the voices of practitioners from the region, including Indigenous scholars, policy makers and educators.

A year ago we published Teresa L. McCarty’s book Language Planning and Policy in Native America which explored language education for the Indigenous people of Native America. The book examines similar themes to that of Cortina’s in that it looks at the imposition of colonial language policies which challenge community-driven efforts to revitalize threatened mother tongues.

Tiffany S. Lee from the University of New Mexico calls McCarty’s work “an insightful, thoroughly investigated, and critical examination of the complexities of Native American language rights and change.”

Youth Culture, Language Endangerment and Linguistic SurvivanceRevitalising Indigenous LanguagesIf you are interested in these topics you might also like some of our other titles such as Youth Culture, Language Endangerment and Linguistic Survivance by Leisy Thornton Wyman and Revitalising Indigenous Languages by Marja-Liisa Olthuis, Suvi Kivelä and Tove Skutnabb-Kangas.

Language Planning and Policy in Native America

Language Planning and Policy in Native AmericaWith her book Language Planning and Policy in Native America published this week, Teresa L. McCarty tells us a little about how the book came about.

The first thing I should say about this book is … it’s been a long time coming! In a way, I have been writing this book since I first set foot in the small Navajo community of Rough Rock, Arizona in the early 1980s to take a job as a curriculum writer. Although we didn’t call it this at the time, my Navajo colleagues and I were doing grass roots language planning and policymaking (LPP). By the time I proposed this book to Multilingual Matters in 2000, I had worked with many Native American communities on similar grass roots language planning efforts. It took another decade-plus for the book to come to fruition (thank you Tommi Grover, Nancy Hornberger, and Colin Baker for sticking with it all these years!), but hopefully the maturity has added substance, scope, and the collected wisdom of more Indigenous-language planners.

Kauanoe Kamanā teaching Nāwahī kindergartners the Hawaiian syllabary (photograph courtesy of Nāwahī Laboratory School)

This second thing readers should know is that this is a peopled account. Here, readers will meet Daryl Baldwin and his colleagues in the Myaamia (Miami) Language Project, and Jessie Little Doe Baird and her colleagues in the Wôpanâak (Wampanoag) Language Reclamation Project, who are reviving languages which, until they began their inspirational work in the 1990s, had not had a native speaker for decades (in the case of Wôpanâak, more than 150 years). From the accounts of these formerly ‘sleeping’ languages, to the Hawaiian-language ‘renaissance’, to the family-based California master-apprentice program, to the Mohawk Freedom and Survival Schools, to Navajo-medium schooling in the southwestern US, the book explores both the challenges and the victories of Indigenous community-driven LPP. Achieving linguistic and educational sovereignty is a big piece of the story, as is a theory of ‘safe’ versus ‘dangerous’ linguistic diversity. I also highlight the perspectives and experiences of an often invisibilized group of stakeholders: Indigenous youth. I am honored and excited to bring these stories forward.

Learning in Nāwahī’s garden (photograph courtesy of Nāwahī LaboratorySchool)
Learning in Nāwahī’s garden (photograph courtesy of Nāwahī Laboratory School)

The cover image may state the book’s message more powerfully than any words, as 84-year-old Hubert McCord – one of a handful of Mojave speakers – leans toward 13-year-old Winona Castillo in a gesture of affection, pride, and optimism for the next generation of language learners. Above all, I hope the book will speak to all who strive for linguistic and social justice, inspiring us to, in the words of Acoma poet Simon Ortiz, ‘fight back’ and ‘fight on’.