Ojibwe course now available on Rosetta Stone

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At Lowell Elementary School, students are able to opt-in to learning Ojibwe through the school’s Misaabekong Ojibwe Immersion Program.

“We’ve had this Ojibwe immersion program for eight years, so we’re still pretty new,” said Coordinator Edye Washington (Binesiikwe). “The purpose is language revitalization, as well as getting our students back to understanding who they are as Ojibwe people and a sense of self. I believe that will really help not only create speakers within our community, but also have a sense of being in an education system that was not created for us or our language.”

“As a speaker, when I see these young people learning the Ojibwe language and hearing and speak it, it makes me proud of them, and it makes me feel the language,” said teacher Doreen Atatise (Aakweyaazhiik).

The importance of teaching the language goes beyond spoken word.

“I think that with all of our cultural practices, everything behind it, there’s legends that go with it, and that those are our legends that are told within our language,” explained teacher Nashay Howes (Waabigwanikwe). “And so when we have these children, they can go out and they can tap trees, but that’s just an activity but with it comes a language piece of it that they learn. That’s an ancient, ancient legend passed down from the beginning of our creation. they’re learning generations and generations of knowledge that’s been passed down that unfortunately, over time, a lot of that was taken away from us.”

While this Ojibwe learning program is within one school and its community, people worldwide are now able to learn the language on Rosetta Stone.

“I think that it’s going to allow a lot more individuals to learn our language,” said Waabigwanikwe. “I think it’s going to help a lot of our families further their language development. Kids who have already exited Misaabekong now will have a place to continue their language and reignite it.”

The Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe partnered with Rosetta Stone to create a platform to learn the language online.

“You have to move from hundreds of miles in order to find a teacher who can teach you the language,” recalled Waabigwanikwe. “Rosetta Stone is going to be able to be right in your home, right in your back pocket. In your phone now, and so these my family members don’t have to travel that far just to learn something that was once part of them.”

While this will enable more people to learn the language, some details may be lost in translation.

“I think the only thing that’s going to be a little challenging is there’s a lot of dialects out there, and some may say things differently,” Aakweyaazhiik.

“The variances are quite different, even just from Minnesota, Wisconsin, or just from Minnesota to Canada,” said teacher Winonah Ojanen (Gaagige Aanakwadikwe). “Representing those takes a deep understanding of the language as well.”

Despite the concern with dialect variance, the teachers look forward to more people having the opportunity to learn the endangered language.

“I think one of the hardest things about our language was that it’s always been an oral language,” explained Waabigwanikwe. “Rosetta Stone is the first of its kind where they’re going to start writing everything down, and so then we’ll have another way to save it.”

The Rosetta Stone course is free for Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe members and their descendents, as well as band schools.

Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe members, descendants, and band schools can access the program for free, with other bands and tribal schools eligible for a discount.

Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe employees, Mille Lacs Corporate Ventures employees, other federally recognized tribes and their members, and tribal schools can access the course for $25.

The cost is $100 per level for everyone else.