Language workshop provides ways to apply traditional language
Gila River Indian News
The University of Arizona American Indian Language Institute took their classroom on the road for a week-long workshop in the Gila River Indian Community. AILDI provided a workshop for culture teachers from the Community, Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community and Tohono O’odham Nation, at the District 3 Head Start building from July 8-11.
The workshop focused on immersive learning sessions and demonstrations about how to apply traditional language in teaching settings.
“We are not just teaching the language, we are using the language to teach something bigger, that’s the main thing,” said Sheila Nicholas, AILDI Faculty member and member of the Hopi tribe.
She said in Hopi or Hopílavayai (Hopi language), there is a deeper meaning to the language, which is a common theme shared among Native people, like the O’otham. As with any cultural traditions, the purpose of the workshop is to provide context to the language and what the teachers can do to reinforce that same concept.
Nicholas said the idea of reinforcing the language taught at home is one aspect of getting students to speak more in a social setting, like when they are in school.
AILDI provides the on-site workshop where they are invited to present based on the needs of the site location and what the hosts like to receive in terms of educational and professional language development.
Recently, AILDI wrapped-up a month-long summer session, called “Language is Life,” a theme used to describe a person’s ability to speak their language as an essential part of life. The theme equates the importance of language to resources, such as water, air and land, all important to Native people.
At the workshop, Nicholas demonstrated to the cultural teachers how something important as planting corn can be used as an example of incorporating language into a lesson. She connected the words with each action and then had a group of participants reenact the same action.
Another way the teachers were encouraged to engage their students, is through story telling.
“The story is a nice thing to work for, it piques their interest because they go and tell their friends,” said Barbara Parsons Gila Crossing Community School Cultural Teacher.
She said it creates anticipation for what to expect each class, which is good for the students, because they are already thinking in that frame of mind around language.
Nicholas said, although the Hopi language was used during the workshop, the point of the exercise is to demonstrate how language immersion techniques can be applied across all tribal communities. Another immersion activity, included using a traditional Hopi planting song to explain the cultural significance of farming.
After completion of the week-long course, the cultural teachers were awarded a certificate of completion and given information on how to incorporate language in the schools.