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December 13, 2013

Indigenous Language and Twitter

December 13, 2013 | By | No Comments

As and older student I remember being an undergraduate during a time when email was new and rarely used on campus. Most of my communication with my professors was in person or sometimes by telephone; the kind that were attached to walls! Grades were posted outside of their doors next to your social security numbers to protect your identity. Also my university mailed grades home so If you performed like me as an undergrad then opening your grades after the semesters ended was meet with half dread and half hope. I greatly appreciate the advances that have taken place sense those days and I am happy to report that I am a much better student. However while I have had a Facebook account for some time I have not delved into other things like Instagram and Twitter.  So after a few failed attempts at using twitter I finally forced myself to get an account. I am particularly interested in how Native languages are used and presented in social media.

For the most part English dominates these spaces which is not surprising. There are several twitter accounts that promote Native languages by sending out different words and there translations for  followers to practice and learn. It has also become a place for language learners to ask questions about words and the language from the larger Ojibwe community and those engaged in learning the language. Another role that twitter also seems to be playing in Native communities is the passing along of information on important issues like Language revitalization, and news affecting Indian country and as a space for realizing the solidarity of Native peoples. The twitter sphere has expanded the range in which Native voices can be heard, and not unlike other places in the world, is being used to fight against larger global interests that would silence indigenous voices and sovereignty. One of my favorites comes out of the MSU Indigenous Law and Policy Center, turtletalk@ILPCTurtletalk, which focuses on Native legal issues.

I have been trying to see how I can use Twitter in my own research on Language revitalization. One of the issues that complicates language revitalization efforts is reaching people. While twitter is not a platform that can be used for complex language learning I think it is important to use the languages in these spaces. For a long time Native languages have been marginalized and placed outside the domains of Technology to the point that many view them as incompatible. Because languages like Ojibwe are morphologically complex a lot can be said in 140 characters. It would be interesting if language use in these areas became a focal point for language revitalization efforts particularly with Native youth. The most important aspect of learning a language is not just learning it but having the opportunities and spaces to use them. I’ve been thinking about working with a few fluent speakers to develop a list of words and phrases you could use on twitter that could be sent out to users as a way to inject Ojibwe into these spaces.

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