games to help teach native language
California: Hand-held video games may soon help Luiseno tribal members learn their traditional language. The Pauma Band of Luiseno Indians granted $50,000 to Cal State and Palomar College to create Luiseno language cartridges for Nintendo. The cartridges will be distributed to the tribe's seven bands in Riverside and San Diego counties.
"What we're hoping to do is preserve the voices of current speakers for future generations, and to make learning the language fun, easy and accessible for all Luiseno people," said Joely Proudfit, a Cal State professor.
$40,000 of the grant will be spent to develop the game cartridges. The remaining $10,000 will support language workshops at the college. Nintendo products were chosen devices for their popularity and interactivity.
"Almost any home with a child in the family has one laying around," Proudfoot said.
The Nintendo program will include voices of men, women, children and elders to cater to tribal members of all ages. It offers a starting point for young children, and a second chance for adults who were one or two generations too late to learn the language
Thorton media, an American Indian owned company, is creating the Nintendo cartridges which will incorporate images, words, songs, and letters to teach Luiseno.
"You can put stories in there and songs," explained Proudfoot. "You'll hear it and see it, so you are not only learning to speak it, but write it. It's pretty exciting. It makes your jaw hit the floor."
Yolanda Espinoza is a tribal librarian with the Pauma Band. She said tribal members in the language program are practicing with flashcards. The Nintendo project will expand their participation.
"I just think it's going to be exciting, to break loose and get more involved," Espinoza said. "We want them arguing in Luiseno, we want them singing in Luiseno, we want them humming in Luiseno and we want them praying in Luiseno. It should be first nature."
The goal, all agree, is to create true fluency among tribal members. Only about four elders in the 200-member Pauma Band tribe still speak the language.
The Luiseno's Nintendo cartridge should be completed by this fall.
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