Sealaska releases new language tools

Interactive Web program helps teach Tlingit skills

Posted: Thursday, November 22, 2007

Seventy-year-old Tlingit teacher Ruth Demmert has seen firsthand how the Internet and computer technology can inspire the younger generation of Alaska Natives to embrace its culture.

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"I believe it sparks the interest of the younger people, and I know there's a lot more younger people out there showing pride in the language," she said.

Sealaska Heritage Institute has posted two new interactive language tools on its Web site this week in its continued effort to teach the Tlingit language.

Demmert, a culture and language teacher for the Kake City School District, wrote and voiced the interactive language tool "Bear Barometer." The flash movie teaches Tlingit phrases for weather in scenes depicting a bear and a boy in different types of weather.

Demmert said she uses the interactive tools created by the institute with her students, who range in age from preschool to high school. She said she has seen many of the young students begin to have more pride in the language.

"It's very, very important to me because language has to be combined with the culture," Demmert said.

John Marks voices "Numbers," an interactive program that teaches the Tlingit words for the numbers one through 200.

Web links

To view the language tools, visit www.sealaskaheritage.org/programs/language_resources.htm.

The institute believes in science and technology as a way to help pass on the Tlingit language and engage the youth, institute President Rosita Worl said.

"We know our students are drawn to computer technology," she said. "They use it, they like it, so we're trying to provide it."

"Really what our goals are here is to create these tools that relate to everyday life," she said.

The continued support of Tlingit language learning programs is helping create a better self-identity of being Native, Worl said.

It is also paying off in the classroom, she said.

"Our students who are learning language and learning our culture are doing better academically then other Native students who aren't," Worl said. "When you feel better about yourself, you do better academically."

Worl said she has heard from Tlingit language teachers around the region that the Internet language tools are productive in the classroom.

"We know that we're on the right track when teachers are telling us it has direct applicability," she said.

Sealaska Heritage Institute is a cultural and educational nonprofit branch of Sealaska Corp., Southeast Alaska's regional Native corporation. The institute has a mission to perpetuate and enhance the Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian cultures of Southeast.

• Contact Eric Morrison at 523-2269 or eric.morrison@juneauempire.com.



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