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Dajua’an ndoo Tnu’un Davi: Challenges and opportunities of learning Mixtec in an urban context

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Title: Dajua’an ndoo Tnu’un Davi: Challenges and opportunities of learning Mixtec in an urban context
Authors: Schwedhelm, Maria Cecilia
Issue Date: 03 Mar 2017
Description: This autoethnographic study reports on the author’s experiences learning Huitepec Mixtec, or Tnu’un Davi, an Indigenous language from the state of Oaxaca, Mexico. The author engaged in a six-week intensive language study. Then, she continued learning independently and engaged in bi-weekly oral interactive pairwork with a fellow learner. Data from notes taken during class, a journal, recorded oral tasks and self-created materials is combined to reflect on the language learning experiences from a learner’s point of view. Furthermore, this data is analyzed from the perspective of a second language acquisition researcher. Diary studies reporting learner experiences learning a language are not new (see Bailey, 1991), however little has been published on learner’s experiences learning minority languages or endangered languages. As an avid language learner, language teacher and researcher, and a non-native and non-heritage language learner, my experience cannot and should not be generalized, yet it provides light into language learning phenomena and other variables at play especially for learners of Indigenous languages living in urban contexts or far away from a speech community. Some of the challenges the author faced were: a) limited access to speakers and few opportunities to communicate or practice conversation and pronunciation; b) learning an oral language primarily through text; c) the existence of multiple mutually unintelligible variants; d) an ongoing process of orthographic standardization; e) no standardized measures to assess proficiency; f) few existing learning resources, and finally; g) learning the language in a very different cultural context and in an urban environment, making it difficult to find practical uses for traditional domains and expand vocabulary to new domains. These challenges, in turn, point to opportunities for language learners and language revitalization movements. These include a) using technology to connect and seek out opportunities for oral interaction, expanding learning strategies to include oral practice; b) prioritizing self-assessment of language learning, emphasizing individual goals and needs; c) making, developing and sharing new resources; d) viewing learning and language as a process, adopting a descriptive, sociolinguistic perspective on language variation and change, and finally; e) exploring and learning about the cosmology embedded in the language, reflecting about ways to transfer and adapt traditional knowledges and apply them in an urban context, while also exploring and negotiating ways to expand the language into new domains. The presentation will describe how the author identified and approached these opportunities through narratives, digital multimedia, language learning materials and video recordings. References Bailey, K. M. (1991). Diary Studies of Classroom Language Learning: The Doubting Game and the Believing Game. In Sadtono, Eugenius, Ed. Language Acquisition and the Second/Foreign Language Classroom. Anthology Series 28.
Appears in Collections:5th International Conference on Language Documentation and Conservation (ICLDC)

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