By Margaret Hele
SAULT STE. MARIE – The Ontario Native Women’s Association Anishinaabekwe of the North Shore, was successful in obtaining a grant from the Canadian New Horizons for Senior program. The grant enabled the group to provide lessons in Anishinaabemowin once a week for a full year . Also each month an all-day activity took place which enabled learners to listen to the language from various speakers and experience indigenous culture.
Class instructor Barbara Nolan instructed by having students listen to stories followed by questions. While speaking in Anishinaabemowin, Barbara used animation and drew on the board so that the students understand the jest of the story. The questions were answered in English to confirm the learners’ understanding of the story.
Most of the learners watched movies and sang songs in Anishinaabemowin. While they enjoyed meals together, played board games or gardened, learners had the opportunity to converse with a fluent speaker.
Elder Alice Corbiere said she was impressed at the change in students’ participation in speaking the language.
In May, members of the class attended the Sault Tribes language gathering. Various speakers held activities which encouraged and provided learners a chance to speak in Anishinaabemowin. In June, members of the language class attended the Language Conference in Petoskey which provided another opportunity for learning of the language through listening and participation.
The participants in the class have come a long way – some understand 90% of what a fluent speaker is saying. Others get the jest of the conversation. Several are using words and phrases in their everyday conversations. The joy of learning is contagious.
Instructor Nolan said that she is quite thrilled with the students.
“Hearing the students responding in Anishinaabemowin to questions asked is like watching your child take his first steps,” said Nolan. “You are filled with pride and you rejoice at your child’s accomplishment. During games , students burst out in ‘spontaneous speech’ – this is the first thing that occurs when language acquisition happens. These are magical moments for me – to see that immersion works in producing speakers.”
Classes from 5 to 7 pm are held at Sault College every Monday . Classes started in April and will run until March 2018. Classes are open to all.