Learning an Indigenous language as a second language affects individuals physically, emotionally, spiritually and intellectually. These aspects of language learning should be balanced and approached in ways that engage children deeply in their learning.
Dictionaries and other reference resources appropriate for elementary second language classrooms can be useful teaching tools because teaching children how to access and utilize them prepares them for lifelong personal learning. It also leads children to become more aware of the language being used in the community (metalinguistic awareness) and builds relationships as they discover the many different ways an idea can be expressed. Everyone wins because the children learn more about language use, relations are strengthened, language practice moves beyond the school walls, and linguistic pride grows.
Teachers can extend this approach by encouraging children to create a class or their own personal talking pictionaries in hard copy or in a digital format.
Make my photo talk is an iOS or Google Play app that allows children to take pictures, or select pictures from their iPhones or iPads, add audio or their words in Indigenous languages and email them to the teacher or post them on a social media site hosted by the teacher.
An app available for both iOS and Android devices has 29 theme categories complete with audio, images, quizzes, games and songs intended to facilitate the learning of Sikskika.
Lean Blackfoot on your Android device
Learn Blackfoot on your iOS device
The Online Cree Dictionary available in the App Store for iOS devices and accessible as a website offers 29 theme categories complete with audio, images, quizzes, games, and songs intended to facilitate the learning of Maskwacis Cree.
First Voices’ website has a resource giving access to almost 1000 words and phrases, a song, and six oral stories in the Dene Suline or Dene Yatie dialect spoken in Alberta & Saskatchewan.
The Ojibwe People’s Dictionary is a searchable, talking Ojibwe-English dictionary that features the voices of Ojibwe speakers. It is also a gateway into the Ojibwe collections at the Minnesota Historical Society. Along with detailed Ojibwe language entries and voices, you will find beautiful cultural items, photographs, and excerpts from relevant historical documents. Wherever possible, they provide examples of documents in the Ojibwe language.
Anishinaabemowin is an extensive, searchable iOS app available for purchase based on the language spoken on the Wikewemekong First Nation in Ontario.
A web resource providing access to thousands of Stoney Nakoda words arranged thematically. The language is presented orally and in writing in the dialect present in the Rocky Mountain area of Alberta.
The Tsuut’ina Gunaha Institute has an app available for iOS devices with Tsuut’ina language lessons. Everyday language is presented in 18 categories, 500 audio recordings by community members, and 3 levels of games or quizzes.
This online dictionary by the Gabriel Dumont Institute features over 11,500 translations and audio pronunciations by Michif-language expert Norman Fleury. A search tool allows users to look up the English word to find the Michif translations.
Teachers can extend the use of dictionaries or language resources by challenging entire schools to learn one Indigenous language word every school day. This moves the Indigenous language beyond the isolation of just one classroom into a larger arena, where children can practise with adults and different age peers. Using the word in conversation also provides opportunities to see how the word changes, depending upon context, ie plural, tenses etc.
#CreeSimonSays is an example of Cree Word of the Day. Check the YouTube Channel and the Facebook group.
You may be aware of many more language dictionaries and references materials, however, those selected here were provided because they include both visual and audio clips. As you know, appropriate selection depends upon access, availability, dialect, and the ability of students to navigate the resource independently.
Indigenous Language Curriculum Guides are another resource teachers might consult for ideas to help make language learning personal and holistic. The Alberta Education Website has Programming resources for Blackfoot and Cree.
Blackfoot language and culture
Yeoman, E. (2000). Aboriginal Language learning in cyberspace: A typology of language related websites and their potential uses. Canadian Journal of Native Education, 24 (2), 120-133.
This website was developed by the Canadian Association of Second Language Teachers (CASLT) with funding from the Government of Alberta. It provides practical resources for teachers of Indigenous languages as well as links to teacher training programs and contemporary research on Indigenous language teaching and acquisition.
CASLT National Office
101-2197 Riverside Drive
Ottawa, Ontario, K1H 7X3