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From theory to praxis: Lessons learned from the elaboration of Baure teaching materials

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Title:From theory to praxis: Lessons learned from the elaboration of Baure teaching materials
Authors:Admiraal, Femmy
Contributors:Admiraal, Femmy (speaker)
Date Issued:02 Mar 2013
Description:This paper addresses the question how theoretical linguists working on the documentation of endangered languages can contribute to the preservation of those languages and the development of materials that help preserve and revitalize them. Are field linguists with no background in educational sciences adequately trained for developing teaching materials? Do the data from a documentation project serve as a good base for materials that support language preservation? Which pitfalls can be easily avoided, and how can you ensure that the materials are valuable for the community and actually serve their needs?

The paper is based on the lessons learned from the elaboration of Baure teaching materials. Baure is an Arawak language of the southern branch (Aikhenvald 1999: 65-71, Danielsen forthcoming), spoken in the Bolivian lowlands. With only approximately 20 native speakers left, it is considered a critically endangered language and since the speakers are all elderly, the language may get extinct within the next few decades. Several initiatives have been taken to revitalize the Baure language, by the local schools and the Baure indigenous movement, as well as by field linguists studying the language. Alongside a documentation project, we have produced several materials for the community, among which a digital vocabulary trainer, a memory game, and a bilingual story book. On request of the local school board to provide more materials in the language, a Baure course book was published in 2012. It was taken into account that none of the teachers is actually a native Baure speaker and the course book was specifically designed for second language learning. Teacher training is known to be an essential part of teaching endangered languages and inadequate teacher training may cause the failure of teaching programs (Hinton 2001: 349). However, this is particularly challenging when the teachers do not speak the language. In order to present the course book, give a basic introduction on the Baure grammar, and assist the teachers in implementing the materials, workshops were organized for 80 local teachers.

This paper critically reflects on teaching materials produced by field linguists not specialized in educational sciences, which are based on data collected in documentation projects. It highlights both the successes and shortcomings of the elaboration of the Baure course book, and discusses how the materials were received by the community and integrated in the school curriculum. Based on this experience, recommendations are given to field linguists seeking to produce similar materials.
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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