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A Mohawk Community and Rosetta Stone Have Developed First-Ever Mohawk Immersion Software Through Rosetta Stone's Endangered Language Program
HARRISONBURG, Va. – Rosetta Stone® has just released language-learning software for the Mohawk (Kanien’keha) language. Development of the software was sponsored by Kanien’kehaka Onkwawén:na Raotitiohkwa (the recognized Mohawk language and cultural center of Kahnawake) as part of a wider initiative to recover Kanien’keha fluency in the Mohawk community located near Montréal, Québec. This is the first endangered language software to be developed through Rosetta Stone, which currently teaches 30 other languages to people in over 150 countries. Kanien’keha is the language spoken by the Kanien’kehaka (People of the Flint) nation. It is one of many Indigenous languages throughout the world that are in danger of becoming extinct. Five hundred years ago, an estimated 300 languages were spoken across North America. Today, however, only about 25 are now spoken by children, an indication that 150 languages are poised to disappear with their generation of speakers.
"We believe the best way to preserve a language is through teaching and learning, keeping it a living language in the hands of the people to whom it belongs," says Ilse Ackerman, manager of the Endangered Language Program at Rosetta Stone. "Technology can help with this task. Interactive language software is a great resource to support community language initiatives. It provides learners unlimited exposure to fluent speech, patient and tireless feedback, and an individually tailored learning pace."
A Language Nearly Lost
Between 1892 and 1969, thousands of Aboriginal children in Canada, including many Kanien’kehaka children, were not allowed to speak their native language. As part of Canada's government policies, Aboriginal children were forced to attend residential schools where only English was allowed. The schools ranged from small day schools on and off reservations, to larger industrial and boarding schools in distant towns and cities. Many children attended the schools for a short time, while others were enrolled for their entire schooling, according to the Aboriginal Healing Foundation.
The residential schooling program had an adverse impact on the Indigenous peoples who wished to retain their native language and culture, according to Dr. Kaherakwas Donna Goodleaf, executive director of Kanien’kehaka Onkwawén:na Raotitiohkwa. "Language is in our DNA. It is who we are. As a way to revitalize the Kanien’keha language, immersion schools were established in our community in the 1970s to help our children learn their language," says Goodleaf. "Presently, these children have grown up and are young parents themselves, and are eager to learn their language so that they may pass it on to their children as well. In response to the needs and demands of the community, Kanien’kehaka Onkwawén:na Raotitiohkwa offers various Kanien’keha language courses and produces two television shows that are aired in the Kanien’keha language on Kahnawake's local cable television network. As well, the cultural center offers a nine-month intensive adult Kanien’keha language immersion program called the Kanien’keha Ratiwennahní:rats Adult Immersion Program. This program has successfully graduated over 50 students since 2004." Kanien’kehaka Onkwawén:na Raotitiohkwa has recently created a computer lab facility to host the Rosetta Stone language-learning software program for the community.
Currently about 10 percent of the 8,000 residents in the community of Kahnawake are fluent in the Mohawk language. Kanien’kehaka Onkwawén:na Raotitiohkwa is working to expand this number through its comprehensive community-wide language-learning initiative. As part of the initiative, Rosetta Stone software will be made available in computer labs, homes and workplaces to supplement a variety of other elements that are already in place including adult language enrichment classes, language immersion "nests" for preschool-age children and a cable access program for family members of all ages. The Mohawk language program will also be available for purchase through Kanien’kehaka Onkwawén:na Raotitiohkwa. For more information, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call (450) 638-0880.
Rosetta Stone: A Natural Choice
Rosetta Stone is a natural choice for many language revitalization programs because it helps users develop everyday proficiency naturally, the same way people learn their first language—by associating new words with real-life meaning. Rosetta Stone's Dynamic Immersion™ method uses thousands of real-life color images to convey the meaning of the spoken and written phrases in the program. Its carefully sequenced structure, use of native speakers and ability to provide instantaneous feedback teaches new language without memorization, translation or grammar drills. In the program, Kanien’keha words are never equated to English words, ensuring that words don't lose the many aspects of their meaning in the teaching process.
To create the Kanien’keha software, a team of Rosetta Stone language software experts worked with Kahnawake community leaders and language experts. The local experts provided linguistic expertise and Rosetta Stone software developers provided technical expertise. Recording and photography were done in cooperation with Kanien’kehaka Onkwawén:na Raotitiohkwa. Community members provided the voices in the software, enabling language learners to hear the sounds of their language spoken by people they know. Photographs of familiar places and faces from the Kahnawake Mohawk community were incorporated into the language lessons to make the content as culturally relevant as possible to daily life.
The Kanien’keha language software was produced through Rosetta Stone's Endangered Language Program, which was created to undertake a limited number of language revitalization projects at the request of sponsoring groups such as First Nations, corporations or schools. The software, produced by Rosetta Stone, is distributed exclusively by the sponsoring group; in this case, the Kahnawake Mohawk community near Montreal.
"We're thrilled to be releasing the first software of the Endangered Language Program. It has been a privilege to work with Kahnawake, a community known for both its strong cultural identity and its forward thinking," says Ackerman. "We're now excited about seeing the software put to use in the community's education initiatives."
About Rosetta Stone
Rosetta Stone is a revolutionary CD-ROM and online language-learning program acclaimed for the speed, power and effectiveness of its Dynamic Immersion™ method. Teaching more than 30 languages to millions of people in over 150 countries throughout the world, Rosetta Stone is the key to language-learning success. The company was founded in 1992 on two core beliefs: that the natural way people learn languages as children remains the most successful method for learning new languages; and that interactive technology can replicate and activate that immersion method powerfully for learners of any age. The company is based in Harrisonburg, Va. For more information, visit www.RosettaStone.com.
Rosetta Stone and Dynamic Immersion are trademarks of Rosetta Stone.