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Collaborative development of materials for indigenous language and literacy Instruction in Paraguay

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Title: Collaborative development of materials for indigenous language and literacy Instruction in Paraguay
Authors: Gynan, Shaw
Issue Date: 01 Mar 2013
Description: Yamada (2007) observes that "the needs and desires of the speech community are often subordinated in favor of those of the academic linguist" and supports the empowerment model of fieldwork (Cameron, et al. 1992), whereby the needs of the indigenous community are primary. The language lessons produced by applied linguists and indigenous teachers can complement efforts by linguists who document endangered languages.

In the Nivaklé, Ayoreo, Aché, Enxet, Koasvok, Qom and Ishir communities of Paraguay, the educational model has been Spanish literacy instruction, with little attention to the traditional language. Invitations have been extended to the author from 2000 until 2012 and beyond to instruct indigenous teachers in techniques of first and second language and literacy instruction. The collaborations exemplify the sharing of worlds of knowledge, since the author is a student of the language and offers a direct method of teaching it. The materials reflect a community-based approach, featuring indigenous artwork, narrative and language documented in written, oral, and visual media.

This report details work with indigenous educators at an elementary school of 30 children in Karcha Bahlut, a remote village of 50 Ɨshɨr families in Upper Paraguay. Ɨshɨr Awoso, one of three languages in the Zamuco family, is spoken only by 1,348 of 1,468 people of Ɨshɨr ethnicity, yielding a language loyalty of 91.8%. Bilingualism is widespread, with 78.1% speaking Spanish and 47.2% speaking Paraguayan Guaraní (Paraguay 2003).

Given the demographic situation of Ɨshɨr Awoso, it is unsurprising that at initial meetings the director and the other teacher established as the primary objective for the two week-long workshops the recuperation of Ɨshɨr Awoso. During the 40-hour workshop in August of 2009, models were developed for teaching verbs and adverbs through actions, and nouns and adjectives with objects and pictures. The second 40- hour workshop, conducted in August of 2012, used the materials from 2009 as a point of departure. In attendance were the indigenous educators and a dozen children, whose participation revealed the joy of learning of their own language along with Spanish, Guaraní and English.

Karcha Bahlut's educators wish to develop their own documentation of Ɨshɨr Awoso, as well as to train other teachers who speak Ɨshɨr Awoso to educate their students in the mother tongue. Collaboration between applied linguists and indigenous educators promises to empower indigenous educators to take the lead in their communities to save their language for future generations.
Rights: Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported
Appears in Collections:3rd International Conference on Language Documentation and Conservation (ICLDC)

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