Courses at LED and the Mi’gmaq Language Summer Workshop

Mi’gmaq language classes have started this week at the Listuguj Education Directorate. Supposed to be three days a week, students have requested a fourth day in order to improve their language skills. Classes are off to a wonderful start! Wellugutioq ms’t wen!

Listuguj Education Directorate and the McGill Linguistics department will host a Mi’gmaq Language Summer workshop. See the new Mi’gmaq Language Summer Workshop page for more information.

Mi’gmaq summer courses commence!

Hello all!

Today was the first day of classes (however there was some confusion and turnout wasn’t optimal, but we will recruit more tonight!).

The first lesson starts out by the students learning how to introduce themselves and talk a bit about their families and where they come from. By learning all this, at the same time students are learning many grammatical elements without all the dreaded tables and parsing!! This is the beauty of this teaching method: the situational phrases also convey key grammatical elements (this is the grammar-phobe friendly method ;) ). For example at the beginning of the class the students learn how to say where they live (e.g. Wigi Muliang ‘I live in Montreal’). The -g ending denotes location. Later on in the lesson this comes in handy when the students learn places and various nouns like jinm ‘man’, gisisgwisgw ‘elderly woman’, and patawti ‘table’, awti ‘road’ etc. Then the students can make sentences like jinm gaqamit patawtigtug ‘the man is standing by the table’. The locative ending surfaces again with patawti ‘table’ (although in a different form, but the introduction of the locative ending at the beginning of the lesson makes this concept easier to grasp once learning how to construct longer phrases). And thus the lessons go!

One of the goals for this summer is to document the curriculum for the Mi’gmaq lessons. By the end of the summer we will have generated a kind of curriculum from the lessons to act as a guide for future instructors of Mi’gmaq. Lessons will be divided up by content, so for example one class which meets for 1.5 hours could contain more than one lesson. For example today there were two lessons (Lesson 1: teluisi…’My name is…’ and Lesson 2: jinm gaqamit… ‘The man is standing…’). Lesson 1 comprises of introductions of oneself whereas Lesson 2 comprises of creating basic sentences (as exemplified above). An example of a lesson and a lesson template for this methodology will be posted soon!

All in all, so far so good! We are all looking forward to some spectacular classes and learning more and more Mi’gmaq! :)

CAN8 Lesson Plans

This week, the CAN8 team has – at long last – put down some concrete ideas for lesson plan layouts in the CAN8 program. Each lesson would take about a week to complete, and would have the following three types of exercises:

Dialogues (two exercises per lesson):

  • First, the learner listens to the dialogue without text and answers some simple, multiple-choice comprehension questions about it.
  • Then, the learner listens to the dialogue again with text and answers some more in-depth questions.
  • One of the dialogue partners will always be someone in the role of the language learner – that way, learners using the program will be able to identify with the speakers and hopefully understand that it isn’t the end of the world if they aren’t perfect speakers just yet.

Vocabulary (two exercises per lesson):

  • These exercises will go over some vocabulary mentioned in the previous dialogue using pictures.
  • The pictures will be in a “repeat after me” format, so learners can get some practice with pronunciation.
  • At the end there will be a short vocabulary quiz, where a word is played back and the learner has to match a picture to the spoken word.

Grammar (two exercises per lesson):

  • The focus here will be on pointing out patterns to the learners and having learners make up their own rules for these patterns, not on teaching rules.
  • The exercise will end with a “dialogue” that the learner will participate in. The dialogue will be with a recording of another person, playing the part of another language learner, who will ask for feedback about some of their sentences. For example, the other learner could end a sentence with something along the lines of: “That didn’t sound quite right. What would you say instead?” The learner would then have an opportunity to either say “No, that sounded alright!” or “Yes, that did sound funny. I would say…”

Our current goal is to have a proto-lesson up and running by the time we visit Listuguj later this month. The proto-lesson would be a sort of proposed first lesson. So far, topics include:

  • One dialogue between a learner and their grandparent, discussing what they did that day/what their plans are for the day
  • One classroom-type dialogue between a teacher and a few learners, teaching basic learning vocabulary (phrases like, “Could you please repeat that?” or “How do you say…?”) and how to introduce yourself
  • A grammar section on word (or just verb) structure: what is an initial? What is a medial? What is a final? We may not use this exact vocabulary, but the differences would be pointed out
  • A grammar section on first and second person verb endings

These are our ideas so far. Let us know what you think! Should we add anything else? Does anything need improving? We’d love your input.

– Erin, Elise, & Jacob (Team CAN8)

CAN8 Coordination Meeting

Hi guys! CAN-8 Team here, checking in to talk about our meeting with Conor Quinn, and Mary Ann Metallic and Janice Vicaire, as well as set up some plans for the coming weeks.

We talked about a lot of things at this meeting! Some of it was very broad, sweeping things–the linguistics consultants (Mr. Quinn especially!) were focusing on how to construct lessons such that learners become speakers fast. These were a few points we discussed, and we’d love to hear your thoughts on them too:

  • material (vocabulary and structures) should be local and relevant to daily life
  • material should also be memorable in its content–more funny = more better! It’s easier to draw on something that you laughed at while learning.
  • focus on learning strategies to keep learners learning outside the classroom. Learning how to talk to speakers in their families, bring their knowledge of Mi’gmaq home with them.
  • how to not be embarrassed about getting things wrong from time to time–we all do it!
  • start with basic interactions (“you and me” discussions) so that they can use as much Mi’gmaq as possible, as soon as possible.
  • avoid grammatical jargon and complicated terms. They often aren’t helpful, are sometimes wrong, and don’t help speakers as much as familiar/relatable terminology will (plus, it’s less metalinguistic terminology to remember).
  • avoid long lists to be memorized–knowing every colour is cool, but not necessarily linguistically helpful.
  • when learning new vocabulary, try to avoid “translation” approaches from English -> Mi’gmaq, but rather go from picture/concept (discussed in Mi’gmaq if possible) to the Mi’gmaq word.

We also discussed the role of writing in Mi’gmaq teaching/learning/usage. We want to include elders who shouldn’t be forced to learn a writing system they don’t currently use, but we also want to integrate online material–it is just plain easier to interact over the Internet with access to typing. What are your thoughts on the role of writing? How much should we recommend teaching it specifically? Is it better to let learners develop their own systems as they go, or start off with one from the get-go? Comments are open!

Our big goal for the coming month is to get a CAN8 skeleton up and ready to fill in with actual material. We still haven’t learned the language ourselves (yet!) so this will involve a whole lot of back-and-forth between experienced teachers/speakers and us consultants.

Exciting times indeed! If I can figure out the picture-inserting tool, there should be a picture under this post. Cross your fingers for us!

March 23 meeting at McGill

March 23 meeting at McGill. From left-to-right, reporting for duty! Conor Quinn, Gretchen McCulloch, Mary Ann Metallic, Janice Metallic, Erin Olson, Jacob Leon, Elise McClay, Jessica Coon