Children's Show Soars Over the Language Barrier

Award-winning APTN series with Native-language focus, Tiga Talk!, enters fourth season.

Experts often caution against exposing children to too much television. But they could be forgiven for making an exception in one case.

Tiga Talk!, the only preschool television series in Canada focused on aboriginal-language, is coming to town. For those who are too young to go to school yet, a popular educational series with an aboriginal focus is returning for another season. The fourth season of the series, which includes 11 half-hour episodes, will be shown nationally on the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network (APTN).

A version with Cree subtitles, to be shown on Friday mornings, began on September 7. And the English version, airing on Saturday mornings, first broadcast on September 8. The series targets children aged 3–5.

The show is about a stuffed toy, Tiga, a wolf cub. Tiga lives with two young children, Jason and Jodie, as well as their father and Kokum (grandmother).

When the adults leave the room, Tiga comes to life as a talking puppet. Tiga's friends, Gertie the Gopher and Gavin the Goose, also join the conversations. Besides talking puppets, each episode features some music and the opportunity to learn some new aboriginal words.

"It's a great show," said Irene Green, who besides playing Kokum in the episodes is also a Tiga Talk! producer, writer and series co-creator. "Even the speech and language pathologists who have seen it say it's a great show. That speaks volumes."

Green, who is Cree and a member of the Duncan's First Nation in Alberta, said Tiga Talk! officials have a rather simple goal.

"Our hope is to instill a degree of desire and fun to learn a native language," she said, adding that it’s also good for those looking to rediscover their Native identity, an opportunity the 63-year-old did not have when she was younger.

"As a child I wasn't allowed to learn Cree," she said. "It wasn't okay to be aboriginal. But I think it's important to know where your roots are and where my roots are."

Tiga Talk! doesn't just teach Cree words. Previous episodes have featured words from numerous other aboriginal languages. "I think it's really important for children, and it gives them a certain amount of self-esteem knowing that learning aboriginal [languages] is 100 percent okay," Green said.

All of the episodes in the fourth season were filmed in Victoria. Tiga Talk! has proved to be an award-winning series, winning two major awards thus far. One of the season three episodes, “Keep Smiling,” won a Leo Award, British Columbia’s most prestigious accolade, for best screenwriting. And during its first season the series won a Canadian Aboriginal Music Award in the Best Original Score category.

Tiga Talk! Is about to become even more interactive. Viewers will be able to go online to the show website www.tigatalk.com and vote to name Jason and Jodie's new pet, which will be introduced. A new Tiga Talk! Adventure Story App will also be rolled out. Last year the Tiga Talk! Speech Therapy Games iPhone App was a huge success and won a Best Interactive Signature Award.