Schoolchildren in the Three Affiliated Tribes of Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara (MHA Nation) up in Fort Berthold, ND will start this school year with new language textbooks in their respective tribal languages.
Knowing their languages faced extinction, the Tribes’ leaders determined what obstacles prevented them from sustaining their three distinct languages:
- Fluent speakers are 65 and older on average, and their numbers steadily vanish
- Learning materials and teaching methods differ widely between schools
- There are too few language teachers to fill schools’ needs
- Teachers need more professional training to be effective
- Advanced students’ needs are not being met.
In January 2014, the MHA Nation embarked on the MHA Nation Language Preservation Initiative, a systematic revitalization initiative to address these problems and establish a long-term program to create new fluent speakers in each language. The Language Conservancy is proud to be a partner with the Three Affiliated Tribes in this initiative, assisting with creation and distribution of effective materials.
The Initiative’s primary goals are:
- Coordinated classroom study using new language-learning materials,
- Coordinated teacher training in the best language education methods in the field.
The secondary goals are:
- Train, certify and employ more language teachers in MHA Nation schools
- Encourage public familiarity with written and spoken Mandan, Hidtasa and Arikara in MHA communities.
The textbooks are paired with Audio CDs, which provide clear spoken versions of the textbooks’ lessons.
Other materials landing in the MHA Nation schools this year are flashcards, alphabet strips and posters.
Language teachers in MHA schools have already been trained in the Total Physical Response methods for each unit of these Level 1 textbooks. The newly-inaugurated MHA Summer Institute will give teachers an annual “boot camp” for their language proficiency and in-class skills. The Initiative also establishes an assessment testing system to track students’ learning progress, and possible observe connections between language learning and other academic achievement.
Congratulations to our friends in the MHA Nation!