Language Learning Through Storytelling


Brianna Gibbs/KMXT

It’s no question that Alutiiq language learning has grown in recent years, but tonight folks will have an opportunity to hear more about that process and what techniques are being used to revitalize it. As part of the Alutiiq Museum’s fall lecture series, local resident Candace Branson will present her master’s project through the University of Alaska Fairbanks. Branson is the education coordinator at Sun’aq and Alutiiq Language educator. She has been working with UAF’s Alaska Native Education Computer Assisted Language Learning grant to study different ways languages like Alutiiq can be taught.
“And my project will be to create a unit to teach Alutiiq language through storytelling. So we’re using a model that has been used in other communities and with other languages like Spanish and French and pulling a traditional Alutiiq story and translating it into Alutiiq – because many of them were documented very early on in the 1800 and 1900s in English by explorers and teachers and people who came to Kodiak out of that interest, but ended up collecting stories.”

Branson said her job is to translate those stories and then create language learning lessons around them, and then have students create their own stories at the end of the unit.
Tonight’s lecture will discuss this process and some of the stories.
Branson began learning Alutiiq from elders and other community members in 2010 and currently teaches classes on it at the high school. She said this new way of teaching that her master’s work has focused on is exciting, because it deals both with language and culture.
“We’re looking at the traditional stories and what they offer in terms of their values and the cultural components and the traditions and beliefs of the Alutiiq people and also integrating that with the language teaching itself.”
Branson said they are always seeking new learners and future teachers of the language. She said there are locally taught college courses and community language nights at the museum each Tuesday from 6:30 until 8 p.m. She said there is also a lunch time language club hosted at Sun’aq Tribe on Wednesdays from noon until 1 p.m.
Tonight’s lecture will begin at 7 p.m. at the Alutiiq Museum and is sponsored by the Kodiak Island Borough School District. The lecture is part of a 10-week program featuring presentations on art, history and life-sciences related to Alutiiq culture.

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