Day by Day cartoon

Friday, March 23, 2007

Phrasalator? C'mon!

Once again, National Public Radio does a story that makes me scratch my head. Today This week, it was a story about the Phrasalator and its use by Native American tribes to keep their native languages alive. To get the full irony of this story, you really have to listen to the audio which you can find over on the right of the page. This Phrasalator is a hand-held device, designed for language translation and its apparently in use by our service members in Iraq. According to the story, the manufacturer had to get State Department permission to sell these devices to civilian markets.

At one point in the article, it mentions a tribe in Southern California that has used its income from the casinos on their reservation to purchase nearly one Phrasalator for every member of their tribe. And they want the adults that don't speak the native language to speak to their kids using the device so the kids here the language and try to guess what Mom or Dad is telling them. The example in the article is about Mom directing the kid while using the Phrasalator to answer the telephone...
From another portion of the article-
Wells wants kids to take these devices home. The hope is that a parent, who doesn't speak Dakota, could have family dinner with the Phraselator at his side. He could ask, "Please pass the rice," in the language. If a child doesn't know the response, she also could use Phraselator to figure it out.
Am I the only one that finds this methodology and thought process completely dumbass?

Let's look at this whole concept-
1. They are spending thousands of dollars to promote a language that only a few tribal leaders want and only a fewer still speak and imposing it upon their youngsters, who, if they ever hope to do more than service work at the casino, need to get off the reservation with a firm grasp of a language that (most of) the rest of the civilized world understands. That's not the language they are being force fed through a Phrasalator.

2. I'm not saying that their native language isn't important and shouldn't be taught and used. I am saying that if the adults want to impose it on the younger generation, the adults better learn the language either before or concurrently with the kids.

3. If verbal repetition was the method of the elders that used the native language to train their youngsters, and the voices of the elders comes out with each breath as one of the individuals states in the article, maybe the modern adults should be using the same methodology with their kids. Let the kids learn from the voices of the elders, not from some electronic box the elders couldn't even conceive of, let alone build.

I'm sorry, I'm out of time to work on this post and my thought process has derailed some as well on this subject. I'm going to post this up for now and maybe I'll refine it later. Needless to say, I'm not a fan of the hopelessly stuck, current mindset of many of our Native American neighbors.

No comments:

Post a Comment

This is your opportunity to speak up...