May 11, 2023
TORONTO – May 11, 2023 –
With funding from Canada’s Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC), Baycrest, the Kingston Indigenous Language Nest (KILN) and the University of Toronto have released a free online language course
to learn the Indigenous language Ojibwe, also known as Anishinaabemowin.
The Ojibwe language is spoken in Indigenous communities around the Great Lakes in Canada and the US, but serious efforts are needed to ensure the long-term survival of the language.
“Due to the aging of people who speak Ojibwe as a first language, as well as the interruption of transmission of the language from generation to generation due to colonization and the residential school system, language revitalization efforts are highly time sensitive,” says Constance Carriere-Prill, Executive Director of KILN. “This language course will help address some of these challenges in a low-barrier, accessible format.”
The course may be used for self-study by those learning entirely on their own or as a supplement to classroom exercises. It includes audio dialogs, example sentences and extensive notes on vocabulary and grammar, as well as digital flashcards, which learners can use to drill vocabulary and grammar on a daily basis with a smart phone, tablet or computer.
The course creators recommend using the course materials with spaced repetition software (SRS), which is a highly effective way to study and memorize large amounts of vocabulary and grammar in a foreign language. Because SRS is adaptive, if a user keeps getting a word right, they won’t see it very much. In contrast, they’ll spend more time on words that give them trouble.
“This project arose from our belief that acquiring a strong base of vocabulary is the most important element of learning a new language. It may not be sufficient without other kinds of learning, but it is necessary, and no language learner can proceed to high levels of proficiency without spending many hours memorizing vocabulary,” says course developer Dr. Jed Meltzer, Baycrest’s Canada Research Chair in Interventional Cognitive Neuroscience and Senior Scientist at Baycrest’s Rotman Research Institute. “It’s therefore all the more important to memorize in the most efficient way possible, and we believe that SRS is an ideal way to do that.”
The course provides digital flashcards already set up for use with the popular open-source SRS program Anki. The same materials are also provided in a neutral format (spreadsheets, plain text and audio files) which can be easily imported into any other SRS program that the learner wishes to use. The course developers recommend spending 90% of one’s study time using SRS, and the remainder engaging with the written material.
While the course has been designed largely with individual learners in mind, it can also be used in classes and community groups like KILN. At the University of Toronto, plans are underway to expand course offerings for Indigenous languages, allowing them to fulfill language requirements for students. The research team hopes that other language educators will find useful ideas from this demonstration course when teaching from their own curricula, both for Ojibwe/Anishinaabemowin and for other Indigenous languages with adult learner communities.
The course can be accessed for free by clicking here
Baycrest is a global leader in aging and brain health with a vision of a world where, with your help, we can all Fear No AgeTM
. Baycrest provides everyone the tools they need to make their later years the best years of their lives. Through our work in research, innovation, care and education, we are working to defeat dementia and create a world where every older adult enjoys a life of purpose, inspiration and fulfilment. For more information about Baycrest, visit baycrest.org or visit Baycrest.org.
About Baycrest’s Rotman Research Institute
The Rotman Research Institute at Baycrest is a preeminent international centre for the study of aging and human brain function. Through generous support from private donors and funding agencies, the RRI advances our understanding of human brain structure and function in critical areas of clinical, cognitive, and computational neuroscience, including perception, memory, language, attention and decision making. With a primary focus on aging and brain health, including Alzheimer’s and related dementias, research at the RRI and across the Baycrest campus promotes effective care and improved quality of life for older adults through research into age- and disease-related behavioural and neural changes.
For over eight years KILN has championed urban Indigenous language revitalization in the Kingston area. Started in the grassroots around a kitchen table, local Indigenous language learners were determined to continue building community and capacity to keep Indigenous languages alive. Our vision is to champion the urban resurgence of Indigenous languages through following the Kanyen’kehá:ka Kayanerenkó:wa (Great Law of Peace) and the Anishinaabe Seven Grandfather Teachings. We aim to lift each other up through peace, strength and a collective mind, continue to support other Indigenous-led community initiatives and create a space of openness and acceptance for all who wish to learn.
Meeting the needs of the urban Indigenous community is unique in that we do not have a land-base. Additionally, most of the speaking community, including teachers, are second-language learners, representing many different First Nations of many cultures and languages. Through the years, KILN members have built strong relationships with community partners and the peoples of the area to provide culturally relevant, responsive and safe language programming for Indigenous people of all ages.