Web-based class to offer Haida instruction

Course aims to help resurrect language

Posted: Monday, January 14, 2008

The area's first Web-based Native language course is scheduled to start later this month. The Sealaska Heritage Institute will offer an elementary Haida class to interested participants solely on the Internet.

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The idea, said Dr. Rosita Worl, president of SHI, is to use the Internet's ease and availability to help resurrect a dying language. She said previous attempts using a traveling teacher or video conferencing had been too cumbersome.

"Web-based instruction can reach anywhere," Worl said.

She added that SHI will offer the classes' software, which includes written lessons, audio files and interactive language games, for free.

Language classes

• When: An elementary Haida course runs from Jan. 14 to May 2.

• Where: All instruction will be on the Internet and the software is free.

• To register: Call 1-877-465-4827, ext. 6163.

• For more information: Visit www.sealaskaheritage.org.

The class will be taught by Dr. Jordan Lachler, a Haida linguist who works for SHI and teaches at the University of Alaska Southeast. The focus of the class will be on basic grammar and vocabulary, and UAS will award college credit for students who complete the course.

Haida is the language of the Haida people, who with Tlingit and Tsimshian peoples make up the three main Native groups in Southeast Alaska. There are four main Haida villages, according to SHI, Masset and Skidegate on Queen Charlotte Island in Canada, and Hydaburg and Kasaan on Prince of Wales Island.

Haidas also live in Ketchikan and Juneau, but Worl said there's been strong interest from as far away as New Hampshire and New Mexico.

There are only a few dozen Haida speakers left, according to SHI, and most of them are older than 70. But Worl said "there's a real keen interest in learning the language" and a sense of urgency to keep the language alive.

"Right now, because of the endangered status of our language, we need to be working at multiple levels," she said.

She said that SHI is planning to offer similar courses in Tlingit and Tsimshian soon.

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