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Flexible pedagogical techniques for working with dominant languages, dialect diversity and prejudices in endangered language classrooms

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Title: Flexible pedagogical techniques for working with dominant languages, dialect diversity and prejudices in endangered language classrooms
Issue Date: 12 Mar 2015
Description: Teachers and learners of Indigenous languages in Mexico encounter multiple barriers, including social prejudice, lack of structural support, and lack of didactic resources. Additionally, debates within language communities about dialect diversity and mixing can further discourage people interested in transmitting their linguistic knowledge to learners. The purpose of this presentation is to discuss the pedagogical techniques that I have developed during 1.5 years teaching my native language, Diidxazá (Isthmus Zapotec), through which I confront these challenges. The central themes discussed include 1) the adaptation and re-contextualization of educational dynamics from a multilingual university environment for use in the Zapotec classroom, 2) the influence and negotiation of the dominant language (Spanish) in Zapotec instruction, and 3) working with dialect diversity.

As a student teacher in an English language teaching preparation program, I received structural and pedagogical support from a teacher educator, who created a rare opportunity for Diidxazá to be taught within higher education. In accepting this opportunity I aimed to increase Zapotec knowledge among university students and to debunk prejudices that portray this language and culture as inferior vis-a-vis Spanish and English. Beginning the Diidxazá program without existing guides or materials, the adaptation of techniques used in communicative-focused English and Spanish classrooms proved to be an effective approach. Several examples will be illustrated, and the process of adaption and 'zapotecization' will be discussed. In working with mainly Spanish-speaking students, including some with Indigenous language heritage, a flexible approach to the use of varied linguistic resources and teaching methods has resulted in a participatory learning environment. While prejudices against Indigenous languages, language mixing and non-standardized languages are common in Mexican society, these prejudices have diminished through addressing them in the classroom. Discussion of the influence of Spanish on Zapotec, and of dialect diversity within Zapotec communities, alongside pedagogical reinforcement of this diversity, has led students to have more positive attitudes about the status of the language and its variants. Although debates about dialects continue in community settings, I argue the need to maintain a communication-focused and inclusive classroom environment.

This case study illustrates that countering the barriers faced by Indigenous language teachers and learners does not need to wait for materials, unified standards, or social acceptance to be in place-- all of these challenges can be overcome through adapting the resources at hand, and fostering participatory learning environments with a focus on inclusion and successful communication. (Presentation in English and Diidxazá).
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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