Understanding Māori language learners

Before COVID-19, my colleagues Dr. Maureen Muller and Tai Ahu and I conducted research for Te Mātāwai focusing on factors that enable and inhibit Māori from learning and using te reo Māori.

More than 1000 participants responded to our survey, and 57 Māori were interviewed across Aotearoa. From those who had not yet begun learning through to those with conversational proficiency, the main barriers were consistent: feeling whakamā about their language use, not having enough people to speak with, and having limited time and resources.

One of the things ancestral language learners (those with whakapapa Māori learning te reo) commonly express is that, through the process of engaging in te reo Māori, a high level of emotional vulnerability is experienced.

Māori language engagement tends to re-open discussions around why a learner might be in a position where they are needing to formally engage in ancestral language learning, as opposed to learning through intergenerational transmission. Within this process of enquiry, we start to reflect on our own whānau histories of language loss, which are inextricably intertwined with the violent dispossession from our iwi lands, resources, and cultural identities.

Language dispossession directed at Māori was an intentional process of colonization. State-sanctioned child abuse in schools imposed upon Māori children for speaking our language, even when they knew no other, aided the speed of dispossession (see Waitangi Tribunal reports, WAI 11, WAI 262).

Why is it important for us to know about the impacts of colonization on te reo Māori? Partly, because it impacts on indigenous lives.

Read more: Phys.org

Fort Smith youth create new board game to preserve Cree language and culture

A new N.W.T board game is bringing Cree language and culture to northern communities. 

Ryan Schaefer and Eyzaah Bouza, both 20 years old from Fort Smith, created the game to be like Snakes and Ladders, with a traditional twist. 

Named Trails and Overflow, the game takes players through a South Slave trap line where their knowledge of Cree animal names and numbers are tested in a race to the finish line. 

Schaefer and Bouza developed the game at a 2018 workshop joining language revitalization with game development. Schaefer said he never expected the product to come to fruition.

When he heard the concept that he and Bouza created would be brought to life, Schaefer was thrilled. 

He hasn’t yet seen the prototype in person, but said the art and game pieces “look amazing,” noting Yellowknife artist Cody Fennell’s design. 

“It’s pretty cool, something that me and my buddy made a few years ago, joking around, actually turning into something big,” he said. 

Read more: CBC/Radio-Canada

Broadcasts in a Native Language, Speaking to Every Corner of Peru

The language of soccer games is ripe with phrases, metaphors and clichés that reflect modern life: a coach who parks the bus, a midfielder who shoots rockets, a striker who scores with a bicycle kick. But at 11,000 feet in the Peruvian Andes, the vocabulary changes. That is where Luis Soto, who hosts a daily sports program on Radio Inti Raymi, is narrating Peru’s first appearance at the World Cup since 1982 in his native language, Quechua.

Soto captures the action on the field with references closer to his home in Cusco, Peru. When a midfielder controls the ball and neutralizes attacks, he is hoeing the land. When a player kicks the ball with power, he has eaten a lot of quinoa. And when Edison Flores, one of Peru’s stars, scored an important goal against Ecuador to help the team qualify for the World Cup in Russia, he built roads where there were only narrow walking paths.

Before that, Soto had to clear a basic hurdle: finding a term for “soccer ball.” Quechua was developed by the ancient Incas, and the only word for ball that he knew was used in Cusco referred to a sphere made from pieces of llama neck leather and used in religious ceremonies.

“The term didn’t exist,” he said, “so we had to adapt.”

After canvassing local players, Soto settled on “qara q’ompo,” which means leather ball, or sphere. It is one of about 500 terms and phrases he has compiled over the last decade into what is probably the world’s only Quechua soccer dictionary. He shares it freely with anyone who is interested.

Quechua is an oral tradition that is written in Spanish transliteration and varies in different parts of the country and the continent. Soto, like most Quechua speakers, learned the language at home, not in a formal school setting. His soccer dictionary reflects only his experience and regional interpretation. Language experts from other parts of Peru, for example, say the words “ruyruku” and “haytana” have also been used to refer to a soccer ball.

To prepare for the World Cup, Soto, 44, spent months practicing with videos of games to hone his speed and tone, knowing that his listeners — hundreds of thousands of them — would be experiencing an important moment for Peru on the world stage in their native language for the first time.

Read more: The NY Times