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Building communicative competence and motivation among diverse learners of Zapotec in Teotitlan del Valle

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Title: Building communicative competence and motivation among diverse learners of Zapotec in Teotitlan del Valle
Issue Date: 12 Mar 2015
Description: The Indigenous language of Teotitlan del Valle, Oaxaca, Mexico, is widely spoken by adult community members, but children are no longer learning Valley Zapotec / Dixza, resulting in a state of increasing endangerment. Due to social discrimination, many parents speak to their children only in Spanish, and youth are drawn towards Spanish-dominant culture. This paper presents my experience as a speaker of Dixza with training in language pedagogy, in the development and implementation of a Dixza as a second language program. I will discuss the curriculum and methods I have developed, the positive dynamics I have observed between learners from outside and inside the community, and future goals.

The Te ganiun dixza xte Xigie program has been run since 2012 within the Research Library Juan de Cordova in the city of Oaxaca, 45 minutes from the community of Teotitlan. With the goal for all interested students to learn, value and enjoy Zapotec language and culture, I have developed a 3 semester curriculum based on functional and practical topics that allow students to maintain a conversation in a real environment, including daily life, festivities, the market, or a visit with family and friends. To meet these communication goals I have drawn on a variety of language teaching methods, including the Communicative Approach (e.g. Richards & Rodgers, 2001) and Total Physical Response (Asher, 1969). From the very first session, students find themselves producing meaningful phrases that they can apply in real contexts. I continually seek ways to motivate them, increase their participation, and help them to feel relaxed when producing the language.

As part of the goal of increasing student's appreciation of Zapotec culture, the program includes visits to Teotitlan where students share experiences of the language and culture with native speakers. This activity not only has enforced the knowledge of the students, but also has motivated some parents and children from the village to revalue and use Dixza. Seeing and listening to people who are not from the village holding a conversation in Dixza has also increased the interest of the youth to speak the language. In a social context that continues to devalue Indigenous languages, this program has increased appreciation among students from outside the community, as well as among community insiders. A future goal is adapting the course to be taught to learners in the village context. The presentation will be given in English and Dixza.


Asher, J. J. (1969), The Total Physical Response Approach to Second Language Learning. The Modern Language Journal, 53: 3–17.

Richards, J. C., & Rodgers, T. S. (2001), Approaches and Methods in Language Teaching. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Rights: Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported
Appears in Collections:4th International Conference on Language Documentation and Conservation (ICLDC)

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