In the previous article, we discussed companies and organizations that have worked with tribes to develop language-learning materials. These efforts should be commended, but it can be difficult for smaller tribes to gain the support necessary to create polished language learning products. In this article, we will talk about some of the websites already available for preservationists and students to utilize in order to learn and maintain their native languages.
Freelang.net is a free online dictionary updated by volunteers similar to the likes of Wikipedia. A quick glance of the languages offered on their website shows there are already dictionaries created for Blackfoot, Cherokee, Cheyenne, Choctaw, Gwich’in, Mohawk, Mohegan, Ojibwe, and Tanacross. Anyone can create a dictionary using this website, and they can be accessed online or through a program for the Windows operating system. There are tools in place to address dialect differences, and some of the dictionaries are fairly comprehensive as they are compiled from a variety of resources.
Cree Online Dictionary
The Cree Online Dictionary is one of the best examples of a dictionary for a specific language. The interface is clean and easy to use, and there is an app available for mobile devices. Like Freelang.net, this dictionary pulls from a few different printed dictionaries and also includes syllabic translations for most words. Collaborations like this give hope for the preservation of Native American languages, and hopefully we will see more efforts like this in the future.
This website allows any user to upload words and spoken translations for them. Unfortunately, this resource has not been used extensively by tribes and only a handful of audio clips exist for Aleut, Cherokee, Cree, Creek, Inuktitut, Inupiaq, Micmac, Mohawk, Navajo, Ojibwe, Shoshoni, and Tlingit. One of the beautiful things about it is that independent websites like the Cree Online Dictionary can integrate with them and incorporate audio clips provided by users with their own translations, creating a truly valuable resource for language students. Hopefully mentioning this site will help to bring attention to this free resource, and motivate more users to provide spoken translations to be used by all.
Online Radio Stations/Podcasts
For those who are not familiar with them, podcasts are short audio recordings ranging from a few minutes to a couple of hours discussing a specific topic. They are especially useful for language learning, and can be specific lessons on vocabulary and grammar or conversations between native speakers on various topics. Many podcasts are free, like the Lac du Flambeau Language Podcast mentioned in part 1. Podcasts are easy to create and share through multiple services like iTunes and PodOmatic. The beauty of podcasts is they can be consumed while working or traveling, providing listeners with a mobile immersion and learning experience tailored to their needs.
Online radio stations can be found for some native languages, usually mirroring the content found on the public local radio stations that they are derived from. MBC Radio based out of Saskatchewan broadcasts their Achimowin Cree program from 1 to 3 p.m. CST on weekdays, and users can listen to the station via their website. The same is true of NCI FM, based out of Manitoba, which broadcasts “Voices of the North” from 7 to 8 p.m. CST with DJ Lorraine George, a fluent Cree speaker. While some native language stations can only be found locally, many stations are realizing the importance of offering their content to a broader audience and mirror their content online.
While not specifically a language learning website or program, Anki is the most powerful flash card program available and it deserves a special mention. Extremely powerful but somewhat complex to learn, this program should be at the forefront of any language learner’s arsenal. Many tutorials and guides exist explaining how to use this program and the book Fluent Forever by Gabriel Wyner is one of the best books to accompany this software. Anki is available for Windows, OSX, Linux, Android, iOS, and as a website when using a public device. The software is free except for the iOS version, and flashcards can be synced between all of these devices at no cost.
Many websites and programs are available that can be utilized for learning Native American languages. Most of the resources are free, and the ones that are paid are usually worth the money. Crowd-sourced websites like Forvo and Freelang offer communities a way to document and preserve their languages, while flash card programs like Anki and language-specific apps mentioned in the previous article offer students a way to expose themselves to the language on a daily basis. In the final article we will discuss some of the more social avenues for learning and practicing these languages, along with additional resources students can use to acquire their target language.
Trey Saddler is an enrolled member of the Chippewa Cree Tribe of Montana. He is currently attending Salish Kootenai College in Montana and is expected to finish his Bachelor of Science in Life Science with a focus in Environmental Health in June. He is an EPA Greater Research Opportunities (GRO) Fellow, and has interned with the EPA, NIEHS, and at the SKC Environmental Chemistry Laboratory. He studies Native American languages in his free time.