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Elaine Rene-Tambour, assistant co-ordinator of this week's language workshop on the Hay River Reserve, is shown in 2004 reading her English/South Slavey illustrated book "Alone in the Bush" to children, left to right, Jake Smallgeese, Michaela Fraser and Tamara Graham at the K'atlodeeche First Nation Children's Centre. - NNSL file photo

Language learning at high speed

Paul Bickford
Northern News Services

Hay River Reserve (July 18/05) - An accelerated method of teaching aboriginal languages will be introduced to the NWT at a workshop this week on the Hay River Reserve.

"It's wonderful that it's coming here," says Elaine Rene-Tambour, an assistant co-ordinator of the workshop and co-ordinator of the K'atlodeeche First Nation Children's Centre.

The July 18-22 training workshop will bring together up to 70 people involved in providing aboriginal language programming for children around the NWT.

The workshop, hosted by the Department of Education, Culture and Employment, will be delivered by Dr. Stephen Greymorning and based on the "Accelerated Second Language Acquisition" model.

"Dr. Greymorning is one of the best in the field," Rene-Tambour says.

She saw Greymorning at a short workshop in Winnipeg. "In a couple of hours, he had me following the basics of his language."

Greymorning, whose language is Arapaho, is a professor in anthropology and Native American studies at the University of Montana.

He has conducted research among indigenous peoples in Australia, New Zealand, Timor, the United States and Canada, and works to develop strategies for native language restoration.

Rene-Tambour says Greymorning's method involves using immersion techniques, similar to what is done at the NWT's 18 Language Nests. They are aboriginal language immersion programs for pre-school children and their parents.

She co-ordinates the Language Nest for South Slavey on the Hay River Reserve. The method also concentrates on key words based on how people learn language at infancy.

Rene-Tambour says what would normally take a year to teach could b done in 10 weeks.