Reviewed by Karl Hele
As a non-speaker of my heritage language, Anishinaabemowin, and currently residing at a great distance from its source, I am in a constant search for books and other language materials in the hopes of learning a few words or phrases. I do not believe that these materials will allow me to become fluent, but something, in my opinion, is better than nothing. During a recent search for materials I came across Ojiberish: An Introduction to Ojibwemowin. This self-published book by Michael Lyons is wonderfully illustrated, hence eye-catching. On closer examination I found that the illustrations, all created by Lyons, follow a general narrative pathway through basic linguistic concepts, vocabulary, and phrases. The vocabularly provided by Lyons makes use of the double vowel system for Anishinaabemowin. The book is divided into sections beginning with an explanation of how vowels and consonants in Ojibwemowin sound based on similar sounds in English. For instance, Lyons notes that the “zh sounds like the ‘zha’ at the end of mirage.” With the basic ‘how do you pronounce’ out of the way, Lyons moves onto “Greetings (and Names)”, “Numbers”, “Seasons”, “Months of the Year”, and “Questions and Statements.” The illustrations match the topic with the Ojibewmowin in word bubbles on the page with the translation in a white bar at the bottom. This white bar is easily covered allowing one to practise without relying on the translation. These basic vocabulary sections are followed by a story, “Little Cutie: A Teddy Bear’s Vision Quest,” largely in English that makes use of the learned vocabulary. Concluding the volume is a colouring section, that provides a few more words.
The book is useful, interesting, and entertaining as I continue my journey to learn some of our language. My child and I are both experiencing the joy of learning a language together. Overall, I think the book is very suitable to adult learners as well as young children. Based on my experience thus far, I recommend that people pick up the volume for personal instruction as well as for use in the classroom setting.
Michael Lyons. Ojiberish: An Introduction to Ojibwemowin. N.P.: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, c.2015. 92 page, with colour illustrations.