At the Language Conservancy, we are determined that no Native American language will ever fall off of anyone’s radar. On January 8-11, in Portland, OR, TLC set up shop at the Linguistic Society of America’s annual meeting. Our booth was a buzz-magnet as we showcased the NLD-Pro, the interactive desktop version of the New Lakota Dictionary. Visitors tried out the functions and admired the audio integration letting users hear the language spoken by fluent elders.
The NLD-Pro showed how a well-designed digital dictionary not only archives a language in a popular, accessible form, but also engages users in active learning, as it exercises the four basic actions of language study: writing, reading, listening and speaking.
This kind of accessibility opens up amazing options for endangered languages, and it has excited a new generation of linguists: TLC and other attendees that weekend saw that young linguists are intensely interested in endangered languages. They want to know how to get involved.
After being one of the busiest booths at the meeting, TLC is now seen as an effective leadership organization working to preserve and revitalize endangered Native American languages.
There was some fun, too! TLC teamed up with the Linguist List to host a laid-back reception in a beautiful downtown restaurant. The space opened onto a rooftop deck and for one night the notoriously wet Portland weather held back … but we were all grateful for the heat lamps.
TLC also had the great good fortune to meet filmmakers Neal Hutcherson and Danica Cullinan, producers of the new documentary film First Language – The Race to Save Cherokee. It was heartening to learn that a program of Western Carolina State University, the Language and Life Project, is turning out films of such quality. First Language premiered at the North Carolina History Museum in November 2014, and has played in several Native American film festivals. It was awarded the “Best Public Service” prize at the American Indian Film Festival in San Francisco on November 9.