Social Media Promotes Literacy Within Threatened Languages
Elders. There is still a people within our American 'civilized' way of life who refer in this fashion, to those invested with abundant wisdom for a native tongue, with the respect it takes to recognize the need for this philosophy.
Elders, if not themselves, may at least have a greater awareness of those who are or have been natural inhabitants of communities threatened with comprehensive alteration of their lives and livelihoods, such that it becomes unrecognizable and lost. These native tongues, which are the first sign of extinction once threatened, may now have a lifeline for survival.
One such culture has its foundation in native languages spoken in and near the Great Lakes. Anishinaabemowin is one of 27 Algonquian languages spoken by the Ojibwe people.
Two University of Michigan teachers now seek to bring focus to the history and culture of the people indigenous to this land. Howard Kimewon teaches in the Ojibwe Language program for University of Michigan's College of Literature, Science and the Arts Program in American Culture. He, and Margaret Noori, director of the U-M Comprehensive Studies Program and a lecturer in the Ojibwe language and literature, both speak and teach the language, and now propose to entice interest for such threatened cultures through social media.
"I want to use every available platform to its utmost," elaborates Ms. Noori, bringing the expertise of marketing with a knack for social media and facility for technology.
"We started our website — http://www.ojibwe.net — in 2006," she says, with the goal to encourage proficiency in future generations, and to archive contributions from fluent elders. She expounds, "We save all the posts of fluent elders, and archive them at the Bentley, adding to the storehouse of information about this endangered language."
Their website posts audio files, songs, stories, spoken lessons and examples of the language. The social media sites are all accessible from the website in efforts to encourage the conversation. More than 9,000 people visited the site in 2011, and according to Ms. Noori, about 400 people in Michigan are now using the language.
Cultural survival brings opulence to a social network.