After months of collaboration between our tribe’s Language Program and Mango Languages, a language-training company, the first chapter of our Potawatomi Language Course has launched. This is the first of ten chapters planned for phase one of the course.
The first Bodwéwadmimwen Language App the Language Program launched focuses solely on vocabulary, but this new app course teaches phrases and sentence structure. The Language Program realized that not only as a Band, but as a Potawatomi Nation, there is no set curriculum for teaching Potawatomi to new language learners.
“I knew we needed to head into a direction that was going to utilize technology to help us identify how we structure Potawatomi curriculum that advances learners and asses their progression,” said Rhonda Purcell, language coordinator.
Rhonda tasked citizen Corinne Kasper, a graduate from Dartmouth with a degree in linguistics, with identifying a developer the Language Program could partner with. Rhonda and her team quickly realized that language course app developers did not want to work with a language like Potawatomi that has such a small audience. Duolingo gave no response, but Mango did.
The Language Program entered a contract with Mango Languages after speaking before Tribal Council to request the needed funds. Tribal Council approved their request, and they are now in the final stages of course creation for chapter 1.
The first chapter teaches conversational language that learners can use in real life immediately. Those who complete all ten chapters, Rhonda says, will have a well-rounded grasp of the structure of Potawatomi.
“This is truly something I wish I could’ve had access to when I started learning this language,” Rhonda says about the course.
This first phase of the Potawatomi course will include ten chapters. These chapters will teach “survival language,” as Rhonda puts it, which will include phrases and questions that learners will need for any conversation. The next phases will dive deeper and teach more descriptive language, though Rhonda says learners will not gain fluency through this app.
“Fluency cannot be created through technology,” Rhonda says. “Fluency comes from face to face interactions.”
Emphasis, sounds, tonal fluctuation, and more can only be learned from genuine conversations, Rhonda explained. Otherwise, “you’ll sound exactly like the technology that you’re learning from.”
This course will ensure all citizens, no matter where they live, can learn our Potawatomi language.
“We’re always striving to create meaningful language learning resources that help move us toward our goal as a Potawatomi speaking community and nation,” Rhonda said.
Rhonda says other Potawatomi nations are eager to use the course we’re creating, and she hopes it will inspire other nations to invest in language learning.
“No one Band is going to save this language,” Rhonda says.
The Potawatomi Language course is available for free to everyone. Mango Languages previously partnered with the Cherokee Nation to create a Cherokee language course.
All ten chapters will be published by the end of 2020 on a staggered released. The Language Program plans to continue working with Mango Languages to create many more chapters after the initial ten for our Potawatomi app course.