FirstVoices Language Tutor Provides First Nations Language Teaching Tool
FirstVoices.com, an online First Nations language archiving tool administered by the First Peoples’ Cultural Council, has developed a new language learning system that First Nations communities can use to teach their languages.
The FirstVoices Language Tutor allows communities to build intuitive language lessons that mimic the way a child learns a language. Users are able to listen to a word or phrase, record themselves speaking and then compare the result with a recording of a fluent speaker. They can also match images, video and audio clips from the FirstVoices library with words and phrases. The online program includes a student tracking system so parents and teachers can monitor student progress through the lessons.
Currently 28 communities have developed lessons using the FirstVoices Language Tutor. The First Peoples’ Cultural Foundation will continue to fundraise and access grants in order to provide more access to resources needed in the community to develop additional lessons and templates.
The First Peoples’ Cultural Council (First Peoples’) has received the 2012 Award of Excellence – Cultural Heritage and Diversity category – from the Representative for Children and Youth. Recognized for “supporting and building a unique sense of place, culture, language and community while preparing a better path for children,” First Peoples’ has assisted First Nations communities in B.C. in efforts to revitalize their arts, languages and cultures for more than two decades.
“Language Nests are an important first step in getting our young people involved and interested in their heritage,” says Robert Matthew, Principal of Chief Atahm School. “We are so grateful to First Peoples’ for making this early work possible. In addition to preparing them for language learning in later years, we find children who go through the nests to be more confident and better prepared socially when they start school.”
First Peoples’ has developed a number of innovative tools and resources for all ages, often combining new media and technologies with in-person learning and more traditional methods. Just a few programs and resources targeted directly to children and youth are:
- Language nests: nurturing immersion programs for children aged 0-5 and their parents;
- Language and culture camps: multi-generational camps that facilitate the transmission of traditional knowledge and values while also nurturing the connection with the land, and
- FirstVoices and FirstVoices Kids: a multi-faceted initiative that allows communities to record and archive their languages using the latest technology and apps. Games and activities for children can then be created from the archive.
While expecting her son, Carrielynn Victor of the Cheam First Nation, near Chilliwack, BC, had the opportunity to study her traditional language. When he was born, she felt strongly that he should have the opportunity to be raised with Halq’eméylem around him—something she had missed out on. So she decided to write a lullabye. It was easiest for her to express her ideas in English and work with her grandmother who translated the song into Halq’eméylem. Carrielyn notes that there are too many differences between the two languages that direct translation is impossible, however the expression has been captured by her grandmothers’ words.
Kukwstsétsemc to the Estate Planning Council of Victoria for choosing the First Peoples’ Cultural Foundation as their featured charity at the December 2012 luncheon. First Peoples’ Cultural Foundation Chair, STOLȻEȽ, John Elliott was on hand to make a presentation to the membership on the work of the FPCF. He shared stories of how the Foundation, and the First Peoples’ Cultural Council assisted his community to increase the number of language speakers and teachers in the W̱JOȽEȽP (Tsartlip) community. It was a great opportunity to introduce a new audience to the Foundation and share local First Nations’ culture with the Estate Planning Council membership. John Elliott, who is a W̱SANEĆ (Saanich) elder, gave thanks to the attendees with two traditional SENĆOŦEN songs.
The Estate Planning Council of Victoria raised $1,210 for the FPCF by raffling off an art print provided by the Foundation. The winner of the “Red Road” print, by Coast Salish artist, Charles Elliott, is Daniel Blanchard, Private Trust Manager at TD Bank Group.
The “Giving Back the Name with Respect” Legacy Project will document the historic significance of the return of the name Queen Charlotte Islands back to the Crown, and reclamation of the name Haida Gwaii, which took place on June 17th , 2010 as part of an historic reconciliation agreement between the Haida Nation and the Province of B.C. The Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) is providing $10,000 in support for the project, with the First Peoples’ Cultural Foundation (FPCF) acting as a ‘host’ for the RBC grant, which will be held in trust for the filmmakers and the project.
“At RBC , we believe that investing in arts programs is essential in building healthy vibrant communities,” said Shelley Eaves, RBC Community Development Manager. “The documentary project that First Peoples’ Cultural Foundation is supporting, is more than just a documentary – it’s about enabling young artists to enhance and fine – tune their skills. It’s about respecting history and promoting diversity and acceptance of other cultures and we’re honoured to be able to play a small role in this.”
The ‘Giving Back the Name with Respect’ project supports the development of three Haida arts professionals through mentorship relationships. Emerging artists Tracey Moore (Director/Editor), Gwaliga Hart (Production Manager), Kiefer Collison (Editor and Camera Operator), and Towustasin Stocker (Editor in Training and Camera Operator in Training) will work with mentors Loretta Todd, Cheyenna Kootenhayoo, Pauline Heaton, and Neil Seale.
In Fort St. James, Sara Sam and her two sisters, Florence and Gloria work together and separately to teach the Nak’azdli Dakelh language to new generations. Their mother was a Carrier language teacher and Florence and Gloria have followed in her footsteps. In addition, Sara both teaches and develops Carrier language curriculum for schools. They frequently work together and enjoy sharing their language with students and with each other. Sara expresses that close family support makes their work possible. The sisters feel that language and culture are integral to how they live and if it’s lost, a people lose respect for one another and for who they are.
When asked by her sister to teach math at the Chief Atahm School, near Chase, BC, she said no at first. Her original worries were that she would be unable to teach in the Secwepemctsin language. Eventually, she decided that it was something that she needed to do, so she learned the language. In her classes, Janice is inspiring her students with her own personal love of math. She has developed engaging exercises which relate symbols math symbols, like division signs, to elements of the natural environment, like two soap berries and a stick, all in Secwepemctsin. As a result, not only do the children learn math, they grow up knowing who they are, that they are a Secwepemc.