Native Language Literacy

Some of the Literacy Booklets available from YNLC

Literacy Workshops

Every year, the Yukon Native Language Centre offers literacy workshops in the Yukon Native Languages. These workshops are attended by Yukon Native Language teachers and by those who wish to learn how to read and write in their Athapaskan or Tlingit language.

Workshop participants concentrate on developing booklets of teaching materials for use in both school-based and adult programs. One of the tools used in literacy training is the listening exercise. Each exercise focusses on the difference between similar sounds such as between ch and ch'. The native language speaker, often an elder, speaks a phrase and participants need to identify which sound is heard.

Literacy Materials

The Centre produces a range of materials to promote literacy in Yukon Native Languages. As mentioned above, a booklet is developed in every literacy workshop. These typically include things like an alphabet chart, listening exercises (see above), the text for Audio Story Books, place names, and translations. Well over 100 literacy session booklets are available. Please check the current Publications Catalogue for recent titles.

Lorraine Allen teaching the Southern Tutchone alphabet.

Seven titles in the Listening Exercises series are listed in the catalogue for the Gwich'in, Hän, Northern Tutchone, Tanacross and Tlingit languages. Listening exercises are designed to help people distinguish between pairs or groups of similar sounds in a native language. A typical exercise has three parts: a short list of common words which contrast the sounds; a series of sentences containing one or more of the target sounds; and a sheet with pictures for each of the sentences.

Mary Jane Kunnizzi teaching Gwich'in literacy.

For instance, the target sounds may be the Hän consonants which are written [tth] and [tth']. The first is pronounced like English t followed by English th. The second is similar but with an accompanying glottal closure and release. This kind of consonant is called glottalized or ejective. The contrast between [tth] and [tth'] is shown first in simple words like  tthäl  'ground squirrel' vs.  tth'än  'bone' and  wëtthè'  'his/her head' vs.  tth'è  'sinew, thread'. Then sentences are given with one or more of the target sounds and the listener must identify the sound(s) on the picture sheet. For instance, in  Wëtthe' nätëjäk  'His daughter is walking around,' the listener tries to identify the [tth] sound and note it under the picture of a girl.

A wide range of other materials available from YNLC support literacy. Possibly most notable among these are the language lessons on cassette / audio CD or on the internet as the Audio Lessons , and the Audio Story Books.