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Vocapedia > USA > Race relations > Native Americans / American Indians


Native / Indian languages






Who Speaks Wukchumni?        Video        Op-Docs | The New York Times        20 August 2014


















native languages



































Native American language > Cherokee language










Native American language > Crow language




















Native American language > Salish










Native American language > Central California > Yokuts tribe > Wukchumni


watch?v=uZEXipL6naY - NYT - 20 August 2014










Native American languages > Yurok


a Native American language

that nearly became extinct a few years ago









Native American languages >  Klallam language


Klallam American Indian tribes

of the Pacific Northwest




























USA > Ojibwe language        UK


























Passamaquoddy tribe        USA

















endangered language














Tribe Revives Language

on Verge of Extinction


August 3, 2012
The New York Times


SILETZ, Ore. — Local native languages teeter on the brink of oblivion all over the world as the big linguistic sweepstakes winners like English, Spanish or Mandarin ride a surging wave of global communications.

But the forces that are helping to flatten the landscape are also creating new ways to save its hidden, cloistered corners, as in the unlikely survival of Siletz Dee-ni. An American Indian language with only about five speakers left — once dominant in this part of the West, then relegated to near extinction — has, since earlier this year, been shouting back to the world: Hey, we’re talking. (In Siletz that would be naa-ch’aa-ghit-’a.)

“We don’t know where it’s going to go,” said Bud Lane, a tribe member who has been working on the online Siletz Dee-ni Talking Dictionary for nearly seven years, and recorded almost all of its 10,000-odd audio entries himself. In its first years the dictionary was password protected, intended for tribe members.

Since February, however, when organizers began to publicize its existence, Web hits have spiked from places where languages related to Siletz are spoken, a broad area of the West on through Canada and into Alaska. That is the heartland of the Athabascan family of languages, which also includes Navajo. And there has been a flurry of interest from Web users in Italy, Switzerland and Poland, where the dark, rainy woods of the Pacific Northwest, at least in terms of language connections, might as well be the moon.

“They told us our language was moribund and heading off a cliff,” said Mr. Lane, 54, sitting in a storage room full of tribal basketry and other artifacts here on the reservation, about three hours southwest of Portland, Ore. He said he has no fantasies that Siletz will conquer the world, or even the tribe. Stabilization for now is the goal, he said, “creating a pool of speakers large enough that it won’t go away.”

But in the hurly-burly of modern communications, keeping a language alive goes far beyond a simple count of how many people can conjugate its verbs. Think Jen Johnson’s keypad thumbs. A graduate student in linguistics at Georgetown University, Ms. Johnson, 21, stumbled onto Siletz while studying linguistics at Swarthmore College, which has helped the tribe build its dictionary. She fell in love with its cadences, and now texts in Siletz, her fourth language of study, with a tribe member in Oregon.

Language experts who helped create the dictionary say the distinctiveness of Siletz Dee-ni (pronounced SiLETZ day-KNEE), or Coastal Athabascan as it is also called, comes in part from the unique way the language managed to survive.

Most other language preservation projects have a base, however small, of people who speak the language. The Ojibwe People’s Dictionary, for example, which went online this year, focuses on one of the most widely spoken native languages in Canada and the Upper Midwest.

The 12 other dictionaries financed in recent years by the Living Tongues Institute, a nonprofit group, in partnership with the National Geographic Society — which helped start the Siletz dictionary project in 2005 and now uses it as a blueprint — are all centered on languages still in use, however small or threatened their populations of speakers may be. Matukar Panau, for instance, an Oceanic language of Papua New Guinea, has about 600 speakers remaining, in two small villages.

Siletz, by contrast, had become, by the time of the dictionary, almost an artifact — preserved in song for certain native dances, but without a single person living who had grown up with it as a first language.

There were people who had listened to the elders, like Mr. Lane, and there were old recordings, made by anthropologists who came through the West in the 1930s and 1960s, but not much else. Mr. Lane wants to incorporate some of those scratchy recordings into future versions of the dictionary.

What can also bridge an ancient language’s roots to younger tribe members, some new Siletz learners said, is that it can sound pretty cool.

“There are a couple of sounds that are nowhere in the English language, like you’re going to spit, almost — kids seem much more open to that,” said Sonya Moody-Jurado, who grew up hearing a few words from her mother — like nose (mish), and dog (lin-ch’e’) — and has been attending with a grandson Siletz classes taught by Mr. Lane.

“They’re trailblazers, showing the way for small languages to cross the digital divide,” said K. David Harrison, an associate professor of linguistics at Swarthmore who worked with the Siletz tribe and the other partners to build the dictionary. Professor Harrison said he went to Colombia recently, talking to indigenous tribes about preserving their languages, but when the laptops opened up, the Siletz dictionary, with its impressive size and search capabilities, was the focus. “It’s become a model of how you do it,” he said.

When settlers were streaming west in the 1850s on the Oregon Trail and displacing American Indians from desirable farmland, government Indian policy created artificial conglomerates of tribes, jamming them into one place even though the groups spoke different languages and in many instances had little in common.

The Siletz people were among the largest bands that ended up here on this spit of land jutting into the Pacific Ocean. By dint of their numbers, their language prevailed over other tribes, and their dances, sung in Siletz, became adopted by other tribes as their cultures faded.

“We’re the last standing,” Mr. Lane said.

But the threat of oblivion was constant. In the 1950s, the tiny tribe was declared dead by the United States — a “termination” from the rolls, in the jargon of the time. The Siletz clawed back — clinging to former reservation lands and cultural anchors in songs and dances — and two decades later, in the mid-1970s, became only the second tribe in the nation to go from nonexistence to federally recognized status. The Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians now have about 4,900 enrolled members and a profitable casino in the nearby resort town of Lincoln City.

School was also once the enemy of tribal languages. Government boarding schools, where generations of Indian children were sent, aimed to stamp out native ways and tongues. Now, the language is taught through the sixth grade at the public charter school in Siletz, and the tribe aims to have a teaching program in place in the next few years to meet Oregon’s high school language requirements, allowing Siletz, in a place it originated, to be taught as a foreign language.

Tribe Revives Language on Verge of Extinction, NYT, 3.8.2012,






Its Native Tongue Facing Extinction,

Arapaho Tribe Teaches the Young


October 17, 2008
The New York Times


RIVERTON, Wyo. — At 69, her eyes soft and creased with age, Alvena Oldman remembers how the teachers at St. Stephens boarding school on the Wind River Reservation would strike students with rulers if they dared to talk in their native Arapaho language.

“We were afraid to speak it,” she said. “We knew we would be punished.”

More than a half-century later, only about 200 Arapaho speakers are still alive, and tribal leaders at Wind River, Wyoming’s only Indian reservation, fear their language will not survive. As part of an intensifying effort to save that language, this tribe of 8,791, known as the Northern Arapaho, recently opened a new school where students will be taught in Arapaho. Elders and educators say they hope it will create a new generation of native speakers.

“This is a race against the clock, and we’re in the 59th minute of the last hour,” said a National Indian Education Association board member, Ryan Wilson, whom the tribe hired as a consultant to help get the school off the ground. Like other tribes, the Northern Arapaho have suffered from the legacy of Indian boarding institutions, established by the federal government in the late 1800s to “Americanize” Native American children. It was at such schools that teachers instilled the “kill the Indian, save the man” philosophy, young boys had their traditional braids shorn, and students were forbidden to speak tribal languages.

The discipline of those days was drummed into an entire generation of Northern Arapaho, and most tribal members never passed down the language. Of all the remaining fluent speakers, none are younger than 55.

That is what tribal leaders hope to change. About 22 children from pre-kindergarten through first grade started classes at the school — a rectangular one-story structure with a fresh coat of white paint and the words Hinono’ Eitiino’ Oowu’ (translation: Arapaho Language Lodge) written across its siding.

Here, set against an endless stretch of windswept plains and tufts of cottonwoods, instructors are using a curriculum based on one used at the Wyoming Indian Elementary School to teach students exclusively in Arapaho. All costs related to the school, which has an operating budget of $340,000 a year, are paid for by the tribe and private donors. Administrators plan to add a grade each year until it comprises pre-kindergarten through 12th-grade classes.

“This environment is a complete reversal of what occurs too often in schools, where a child is ridiculed or reprimanded for speaking one’s heritage language,” said Inée Y. Slaughter, executive director of the Indigenous Language Institute, a group in Santa Fe, N.M., that works with tribes on native languages.

“I want my son to talk nothing but Arapaho to me and my grandparents,” said Kayla Howling Buffalo, who enrolled her 4-year-old son, RyLee, in the school.

Ms. Howling Buffalo, 25, said she, too, had been inspired to take Arapaho classes because her grandmother no longer has anyone to speak with and fears she is losing her first language.

Such sentiments are not uncommon on the reservation and have become more pronounced in the five years since Helen Cedar Tree, at 96 the oldest living Northern Arapaho, made an impassioned plea to the tribe’s council of elders.

“She said: ‘Look at all of you guys talking English, and you know your own language. It’s like the white man has conquered us,’ ” said Gerald Redman Sr., the chairman of the council of elders. “It was a wake-up call.”

A group of Arapaho families had sent their children to a pre-kindergarten language program for years, but it was not enough. Heeding Ms. Cedar Tree’s words, the tribe began using Arapaho dictionaries, night classes, CDs made by the tribe, and anything they could find to help resuscitate the language. In the end, “we knew in our hearts that immersion was the only way we were going to turn this around,” said Mr. Wilson, a member of the Oglala Lakota tribe.

He was referring not just to the potential for the Arapaho language’s extinction but to a host of other problems that have long plagued the vast reservation, which the tribe shares with the Eastern Shoshone.

“Language-immersion schools offer an environment that goes beyond teaching the language,” Ms. Slaughter said. “It provides a safe place where a child’s roots are nurtured, its culture honored, and its being valued.”

According to tribal statistics and the United States Attorney’s Office in Wyoming, 78 percent of household heads on the reservation are unemployed, the student dropout rate is 52 percent and crime has been rising.

Most recently, in June, three teenage girls were found dead in a low-income housing complex. The F.B.I. has not yet released autopsy results, but many tribal members think drugs or alcohol were involved. The deaths left the reservation reeling. Officials here hope that the school will herald a positive change, just as programs elsewhere have helped native youth become conversational in their tribal languages, enhancing cultural pride and participation in the process. A groundswell of language revitalization efforts has led to successful Indian immersion schools in Montana and New York.

Studies show that language fluency among young Indians is tied to overall academic achievement, and experts say such learning can have other positive effects.

“Language seems to be a healing force for Native American communities,” said Ellen Lutz, executive director of Cultural Survival, a group based in Cambridge, Mass., that is working with the Northern Arapaho. At a recent ceremony to celebrate the school’s opening, held in an old tribal meeting hall, three young girls sang shyly in Arapaho. Behind them, a row of elders sat quietly, their faces wizened and stoic, legs shuffling rhythmically as familiar words carried through the building.

“They are the ones who whispered it on the playground when nobody was looking,” Mr. Wilson said, referring to the elders. “If we lose that language, we lose who we are.”




This article has been revised

to reflect the following correction:

Correction: October 20, 2008
Because of an editing error, an article on Friday about a new school in Wyoming that will teach students in Arapaho in hope of preserving the language described similar schools in Hawaii incorrectly. They are native Hawaiian language schools; they are not Indian immersion schools like ones in Wyoming, Montana and New York.



This article has been revised

to reflect the following correction:

Correction: October 23, 2008

An article on Friday about a new school in Wyoming that will teach students in Arapaho in hopes of preserving the language referred incorrectly to the school’s curriculum. The curriculum, which will be taught in the Arapaho language, is based on a curriculum used at the Wyoming Indian Elementary School, a public school that teaches its students in English and adheres to Wyoming state education standards. The state did not specifically approve an Arapaho curriculum for the new school.

    Its Native Tongue Facing Extinction, Arapaho Tribe Teaches the Young,
    NYT, 17.10.2008,






Regions of Dying Languages Named


September 18, 2007
Filed at 2:44 p.m. ET
The New York Times


WASHINGTON (AP) -- When every known speaker of the language Amurdag gets together, there's still no one to talk to.

Native Australian Charlie Mangulda is the only person alive known to speak that language, one of thousands around the world on the brink of extinction.

From rural Australia to Siberia to Oklahoma, languages that embody the history and traditions of people are dying, researchers said Tuesday.

While there are an estimated 7,000 languages spoken around the world today, one of them dies out about every two weeks, according to linguistic experts struggling to save at least some of them.

Five hotspots where languages are most endangered were listed Tuesday in a briefing by the Living Tongues Institute for Endangered Languages and the National Geographic Society.

In addition to northern Australia, eastern Siberia and Oklahoma and the U.S. Southwest, many native languages are endangered in South America -- Ecuador, Colombia, Peru, Brazil and Bolivia -- as well as the area including British Columbia, and the states of Washington and Oregon.

Losing languages means losing knowledge, says K. David Harrison, an assistant professor of linguistics at Swarthmore College.

''When we lose a language, we lose centuries of human thinking about time, seasons, sea creatures, reindeer, edible flowers, mathematics, landscapes, myths, music, the unknown and the everyday.''

As many as half of the current languages have never been written down, he estimated.

That means, if the last speaker of many of these vanished tomorrow, the language would be lost because there is no dictionary, no literature, no text of any kind, he said.

Harrison is associate director of the Living Tongues Institute based in Salem, Ore. He and institute director Gregory D.S. Anderson analyzed the top regions for disappearing languages.

Anderson said languages become endangered when a community decides that its language is an impediment. The children may be first to do this, he explained, realizing that other more widely spoken languages are more useful.

The key to getting a language revitalized, he said, is getting a new generation of speakers. He said the institute worked with local communities and tries to help by developing teaching materials and by recording the endangered language.

Harrison said that the 83 most widely spoken languages account for about 80 percent of the world's population while the 3,500 smallest languages account for just 0.2 percent of the world's people. Languages are more endangered than plant and animal species, he said.

The hot spots listed at Tuesday's briefing:

-- Northern Australia, 153 languages. The researchers said aboriginal Australia holds some of the world's most endangered languages, in part because aboriginal groups splintered during conflicts with white settlers. Researchers have documented such small language communities as the three known speakers of Magati Ke, the three Yawuru speakers and the lone speaker of Amurdag.

-- Central South America including Ecuador, Colombia, Peru, Brazil and Bolivia -- 113 languages. The area has extremely high diversity, very little documentation and several immediate threats. Small and socially less-valued indigenous languages are being knocked out by Spanish or more dominant indigenous languages in most of the region, and by Portuguese in Brazil.

-- Northwest Pacific Plateau, including British Columbia in Canada and the states of Washington and Oregon in the U.S., 54 languages. Every language in the American part of this hotspot is endangered or moribund, meaning the youngest speaker is over age 60. An extremely endangered language, with just one speaker, is Siletz Dee-ni, the last of 27 languages once spoken on the Siletz reservation in Oregon.

-- Eastern Siberian Russia, China, Japan -- 23 languages. Government policies in the region have forced speakers of minority languages to use the national and regional languages and, as a result, some have only a few elderly speakers.

-- Oklahoma, Texas and New Mexico -- 40 languages. Oklahoma has one of the highest densities of indigenous languages in the United States. A moribund language of the area is Yuchi, which may be unrelated to any other language in the world. As of 2005, only five elderly members of the Yuchi tribe were fluent.

The research is funded by the Australian government, U.S. National Science Foundation, National Geographic Society and grants from foundations.


On the Net:




    Regions of Dying Languages Named, NYT, 18.9.2007,






A Language to Air News of America

to the World


July 31, 2006
The New York Times


WASHINGTON, July 29 — Voice of America, the government-sponsored news organization that has been on the air since 1942, broadcasts in 44 different languages — 45 if you count Special English.

Special English was developed nearly 50 years ago as a radio experiment to spread American news and cultural information to people outside the United States who have no knowledge of English or whose knowledge is limited.

Using a 1,500-word vocabulary and short, simple phrases without the idioms and clichés of colloquial English, broadcasters speak at about two-thirds the speed of conversational English. But far from sounding like a record played at the wrong speed, Special English is a complicated skill that takes months of training with a professional voice coach who teaches how to breathe properly and enunciate clearly.

Mario Ritter, a Special English writer and producer, arrived at Voice of America five years ago with many years of experience. Mr. Ritter has been training for six months to be a Special English broadcaster. In August, he said, he will be ready to go on the air live.

“It’s kind of ironic that I normally speak slowly, but it doesn’t give me a leg up in being a Special English broadcaster,” Mr. Ritter said.

Shelley Gollust is chief of Special English at Voice of America. “People in this country have likely never heard of Special English,” Ms. Gollust said, “and, if they have, they often don’t understand the significance of it to people in other countries. They hear it and make fun of how slow it is.”

A 1948 law prohibits Voice of America from broadcasting in the United States, but audio and text files of Special English are on the Voice of America Web site, www.voanews.com/specialenglish.

Students and teachers in other countries say Special English is a good learning tool. “I like that the program is based on 1,500 words,” Sarah Paulsworth said in an e-mail message from Azerbaijan, where she works as a journalist and a volunteer English teacher. “It is a very tangible goal for students. I can literally see some of my students counting the words they know.”

A vocabulary of 1,500 words is adequate for news reporting, but for features and biographies, more words are allowed if they are explained in the context of the sentence.

Words can be added or dropped from the vocabulary. “Sabotage,” a word used often in the World War II era, may be dropped because it is rarely used in news stories today.

Jim Huang Jiwen, a 69-year-old mechanical engineer from Hangzhou, China, said he had listened to Special English on the radio for more than 20 years and, more recently, on the Internet. He said it had helped him improve his ability to write and understand English.

“The pronunciation is beautiful, the sentence is sweet and short, and the content is interesting and friendly to our daily life,” he said in an e-mail message, adding that he particularly liked technical programs.

François Rennaud, 56, a teacher at a vocational school in Paris, has found Special English useful in his business and economics classes. “It closes the gap between textbook English and traditional broadcasts such as BBC or CNN, which are too difficult for the average student,” Mr. Rennaud said.

A Special English editor at Voice of America, Avi Arditti, said: “There is a fine line between simplifying and simplification. It’s not so much simplifying, but clarification. Simplifying can seem somewhat demeaning. You’re not dumbing it down, but you’re making it understandable to your audience whether they have Ph.D.’s or are in middle school.”

But some listeners, like Ali Asqar Khandan, 36, an assistant professor from Tehran, said Special English seemed like “a special program for advertising American life and culture, not a simple radio station for broadcasting news or teaching English.”

“We hear this message everywhere: not even in education reports and culture reports, but in science reports and agriculture reports,” Mr. Khandan wrote in an e-mail message.

The link between learning English and learning about America has been a constant thread in the debate in Congress this year about revising immigration policy.

But at home, the Special English branch at Voice of America would support the use of its programming for recent immigrants in a bilingual model if the law did not prohibit it.

“If new immigrants could turn on their radios at 8 o’clock and listen to a half-hour of Special English to listen to the news, it would be very beneficial,” Ms. Gollust said.

Mr. Ritter added, “That would be a great use of a resource that already exists.”

A Language to Air News of America to the World, NYT, 31.7.2006,






Soldiers’ Words

May Test PBS Language Rules


July 22, 2006
The New York Times


The PBS documentarian Ken Burns has been working for six years on “The War,” a soldier’s-eye view of World War II, and those who have seen parts of the 14-plus hours say they are replete with salty language appropriate to discussions of the horrors of war.

What viewers will see and hear when the series is broadcast in September 2007 is an open question.

A new Public Broadcasting Service policy that went into effect immediately when it was issued on May 31 requires producers whose shows are broadcast before 10 p.m. to adhere to tough editing requirements when it comes to coarse language, to comply with tightened rulings on broadcast indecency by the Federal Communications Commission.

Most notably, PBS’s deputy counsel, Paul Greco, wrote in a memo to stations, it is no longer enough simply to bleep out offensive words audibly when the camera shows a full view of the speaker’s mouth. From now on, the on-camera speaker’s mouth must also be obscured by a digital masking process, a solution that PBS producers have called cartoonish and clumsy.

In addition, profanities expressed in compound words must be audibly bleeped in their entirety so that viewers cannot decipher the words. In the past, PBS required producers to bleep only the offensive part of the compound word.

Since May 31, bits of dialogue have been digitally obscured about 100 times in four PBS programs, most often in two episodes of the music documentary “The Blues.”

Mr. Burns, in an interview, said he was not worried that his work, which he called a “very experiential take on the Second World War,” would be affected by the policy, noting that while the series includes some “very graphic violence,” there are just two profanities, read off camera.

But several other senior public broadcasting executives said “The War” was likely to become a test case for PBS and the F.C.C.

The series includes language for which the F.C.C. has previously issued fines, said a PBS spokeswoman, Lea Sloan. “At this point, the only thing we can do, and fit the guidelines as they are laid out, is to make sure the series airs after 10 p.m,” outside the F.C.C.’s “safe harbor” zone of 6 a.m. to 10 p.m., when children are most likely to be watching, Ms. Sloan said.

Mr. Burns, perhaps best known for his prize-winning series “The Civil War,” insisted that “The War” would be shown in the preferred time slot of 8 p.m. He said he was “flabbergasted” that F.C.C. policy was being applied to documentaries, particularly when President Bush himself was inadvertently heard using vulgar language, broadcast on some cable newscasts, at the recent Group of Eight summit meeting in St. Petersburg, Russia.

He added that he hoped PBS and public television stations could unite and “stand our ground” in opposing the self-censorship sought by F.C.C. policy, but he noted that “we’ve also experienced as a family the devastating consequences, and it is not something that any station or any executive wants to see repeated.”

In March, the PBS station KCSM in San Mateo, Calif., was fined $15,000 over profanities in “The Blues.” That fine is being appealed.

Ms. Sloan said PBS had to institute the policy after successive F.C.C. rulings steadily narrowed what is permissible. Moreover, legislation signed into law last month by President Bush increased by a factor of 10 the fines for broadcast indecency, to $325,000 a station for each instance.

That was “a real deal breaker,” Ms. Sloan said. “For many of our stations, a single fine of that magnitude would put them into bankruptcy.”

PBS plans to ask the F.C.C. to re-examine its policies regarding documentary programming. “We believe that there is a place for documentary filmmaking that uses language in context,” Ms. Sloan said.

The F.C.C. declined to comment. An F.C.C. official, who did not want to be named because the issue is the subject of litigation, noted that “there aren’t any cases where the commission has fined a broadcaster when an obscenity has been inaudible” but not digitally obscured, adding that “the commission’s analysis always takes context into account.”

Margaret Drain, the vice president for national programs at WGBH in Boston, said her station was already examining how it would probably have to edit references to sexual activities in a coming “Masterpiece Theater” production, “Casanova.”

She said that while she understands how PBS arrived at its policy for documentaries, the station might not adhere to it for series like “Frontline” and “The American Experience,” particularly when tackling war topics where strong language reflects reality.

“The decisions we make in the future, to pixelate or not, may put us in the position of negotiating with or telling PBS about our position,” she said.

Ms. Sloan of PBS said, “This is an unhappy situation for all of us and we’re very concerned about the situation,” but added that producers are required to submit F.C.C.-compliant material.

In mid-June, shortly after the PBS edict, “Frontline” scheduled a last-minute rebroadcast of an episode on the Iraqi insurgency and digitally obscured the mouth of a soldier. Ms. Drain said that the same decision might not be made today, “now that we’ve had time to absorb everything.”

Producers are in a difficult position, she said. “What we’re trying to do is do our work and bring the same kind of high-quality broadcast programs to the public. We don’t want to overreact, and we don’t want to self-censor.”

As for “The War,” Ms. Drain called it “the perfect test case for the F.C.C., because who’s going to take on veterans of this country who put their lives at risk for an honest, just cause?”

“It’s not pornographic; it’s not scatological,” she said. “It’s an emotional expression of a reality they experienced, and it’s part of the historical record.”

    Soldiers’ Words May Test PBS Language Rules, NYT, 22.7.2006,






Long-Scorned in Maine,

French Has Renaissance


June 4, 2006
The New York Times


SOUTH FREEPORT, Me. — Frederick Levesque was just a child in Old Town, Me., when teachers told him to become Fred Bishop, changing his name to its English translation to conceal that he was French-American.

Cleo Ouellette's school in Frenchville made her write "I will not speak French" over and over if she uttered so much as a "oui" or "non" — and rewarded students with extra recess if they ratted out French-speaking classmates.

And Howard Paradis, a teacher in Madawaska forced to reprimand French-speaking students, made the painful decision not to teach French to his own children. "I wasn't going to put my kids through that," Mr. Paradis said. "If you wanted to get ahead you had to speak English."

That was Maine in the 1950's and 1960's, and the stigma of being French-American reverberated for decades afterward. But now, le Français fait une rentrée — French is making a comeback.

The State Legislature began holding an annual French-American Day four years ago, with legislative business and the Pledge of Allegiance done in French and "The Star-Spangled Banner" sung with French and English verses.

Maine elected its first openly French-American congressman, Michael H. Michaud, in 2002. And Gov. John E. Baldacci has steadily increased commerce with French-speaking countries and led a trade delegation to France last fall, one of the first since tension with France began after the Sept. 11 attacks. In an interview, the governor, who is of Lebanese-Italian descent and studied Russian in high school, added, "I've been working on my French."

The Franco-American Heritage Center, opened in Lewiston a few years ago, fines guests at its luncheons up to a dollar if they lapse into English — jovial retaliation for the schools that once gave students movie tickets or no homework if they squealed on French speakers.

"Reacquisition classes" and conversation groups have sprung up at places like the South Portland Public Library, giving people a chance to relearn their mothballed French. Census figures show Maine has a greater proportion of people speaking French at home than any other state — about 5.3 percent.

And in South Freeport, there is L'École Française du Maine, a French-immersion program that began as a preschool in 2001 and proved so popular it has added a grade each year. Many students have French-American parents who were estranged from the language, and some commute long distances to the school.

"My dad grew up speaking only French and went to school and got teased by other kids, and he wanted to spare his kids that experience, so both my wife and I are kind of a generation that got skipped," said Bob Michaud, whose son, Alexandre, attends second grade at L'École Française, 45 minutes from home. "I'm doing it because I want Alex to learn more about our heritage and background."

The school has made Anna Bilodeau, 8, and her brother Markus, 7, so fluent that they routinely speak French with their grandmother Arlene Bilodeau, 68, who regrets that she did not ensure her own children were well versed in French.

"It made me feel sad — this was our language," Ms. Bilodeau said. "When I hear Anna and Markus speaking, I just admire what they're doing."

People of French descent poured into Maine and other New England states from Canada beginning in the 1870's and became the backbone of textile mills and shoe factories. But resistance developed, and people began stereotyping the newcomers as rednecks, dolts or inadequate patriots. In 1919, Maine passed a law requiring schools to teach in English.

French-Americans had a saying: "Qui perd sa langue, perd sa foi" ("Who loses his language, loses his faith"). But many assimilated or limited their children's exposure to French to avoid discrimination or because of a now-outmoded belief that erasing French would make learning English easier.

"There was just a stigma that maybe you weren't as bright as anybody else, that you didn't speak English as well," said Linda Wagner, 53, of Lewiston, who takes classes to reclaim language lost as a child.

Suzanne Bourassa Woodward, 46, of South Portland, who recently joined a conversation group and enrolled her 10-year-old daughter in French classes, said "my French went underground" in fourth grade because "I was ridiculed, the dumb Frenchman jokes came out."

"After that," she said, "my parents would always speak to me in French, but I always responded in English."

As recently as the early 1990's, a character named Frenchie, who caricatured French-Americans, was a fixture on a Maine radio show until protests drove him off the air.

The stigma was compounded by the French-American dialect, which can differ from French spoken in France in idiom, pronunciation, vocabulary — like British and American English.

French-American French, derived from people who left France for Canada centuries ago, resembles the French of Louis XIV more than the modern Parisian variety, said Yvon Labbé, director of the French-American Center at the University of Southern Maine.

French-Americans may say "chassis" instead of "fenêtre" for window, "char" instead of "voiture" for car. Mr. Labbé said many French-Americans pronounced "moi" as Molière did: "moé." A saying illustrated French-Americans' inferiority complex about their language: "On est né pour être petit pain; on ne peut pas s'attendre à la boulangerie" ("We are born to be little breads; we cannot expect the bakery").

"We were always told that we spoke bad French, that we were worthless as people because we spoke neither French nor English," said Ms. Ouelette, 69.

Indeed, when Jim Bishop, son of Fred Bishop (né Frederick Levesque), took high school and college classes to recapture French "it was just a nightmare," he said. "At times I would say words and they would turn out not to be real words."

Maine's French renaissance is partly due to the collapse of the mills and factories, which put French-Americans into the mainstream. It was aided by a group of legislators who in 2002 began holding weekly meetings in French.

The revival includes both French-American patois and culture, celebrated at places like the Lewiston center, and Parisian language and curriculum, taught at L'École Française. The government of France is also involved, seeing "very big potential" to "develop trade relations, tourism," said Alexis Berthier, a spokesman for the French consulate in Boston, which is promoting programs and events in Maine and working to establish sister cities.

Most Maine schools, like those elsewhere, teach considerably more Spanish than French. But for those like Norman Marquis of Old Orchard Beach, who takes reacquisition classes, the resurgence of his lost language is profound.

"It's almost like I found religion," said Mr. Marquis, 68, suddenly choking with emotion. "My religion, No. 1, was French. I have a personal movement in my heart for it."


Ariel Sabar contributed reporting from Augusta, Me.,

for this article.

    Long-Scorned in Maine, French Has Renaissance, NYT, 4.6.2006,






White House Memo

With a Few Humble Words,

Bush Silences His Texas Swagger


May 27, 2006

The New York Times



WASHINGTON, May 26 — What happened to the Texas swagger?

Maybe it went the way of his poll numbers. Maybe this is a newly reflective President Bush. Or maybe the first lady had her say.

Whatever the case, when Mr. Bush said at a news conference on Thursday night that he regretted some personal mistakes, like declaring "bring 'em on" in 2003, he seemed a little like the chastened husband who finally admitted he had done something wrong. Whether it worked or not depends on whom you ask.

"Sad day in Crawford, they're hanging their heads," said William J. Bennett, the former education secretary and conservative radio talk show host. Mr. Bennett said many of his listeners expressed dismay at what they considered Mr. Bush's groveling.

"One of the attractive things about the president is that he talks Texas," Mr. Bennett continued. "But what broke my heart is when he said, 'I need to be more sophisticated.' What is this, Kerry talk? Is he going to use 'elan' the next time he speaks?"

Hold on a minute, said Kenneth M. Duberstein, President Ronald Reagan's last chief of staff. "The country loves mea culpas from the president," Mr. Duberstein said. "It makes them human. This is part and parcel of the influence of Josh — making sure you don't go out there and thumb your nose at the entire world."

"Josh" is Joshua B. Bolten, the new White House chief of staff, who was reared inside the Beltway, educated at Princeton and has never uttered a Texas colloquialism that anyone has heard.

Mr. Bush's Texas twang intensifies and recedes depending on the setting. But he has always prided himself on being plain spoken. When it comes to military and national security, he made the heaviest use of Texas talk in the first term, initially after the Sept. 11 attacks and then after the Iraq invasion.

On Sept. 15, 2001, Mr. Bush declared that he would go after the perpetrators of the World Trade Center attack and "smoke them out of their holes." On Sept. 17, 2001, Mr. Bush declared that he wanted Osama bin Laden "dead or alive." On July 2, 2003, Mr. Bush taunted militants attacking American forces in Iraq with "bring 'em on."

White House officials have defended his Texas talk as the kind of plain-spoken language Americans like to hear, but Laura Bush has at times tried to rein him in. In a widely reported comment at the time, Mrs. Bush sidled up to her husband after he said he wanted Mr. bin Laden "dead or alive" and asked, "Bushie, are you gonna git 'im?"

On Thursday, in response to a question about what he thought was his biggest mistake, Mr. Bush termed his words "kind of tough talk, you know, that sent the wrong signal to people." He added that "I learned some lessons about expressing myself maybe in a little more sophisticated manner" and that "in certain parts of the world it was misinterpreted."

White House officials would not say Thursday whether Mr. Bush's response had been planned, but they did say they had prepared for the question. In fact, they have prepared for the question ever since John Dickerson, then of Time magazine, asked Mr. Bush at a news conference in April 2004 if he could name the biggest mistake he had made, and Mr. Bush, struggling, said nothing popped into his head.

But Mr. Bush's comments were his most personal so far about mistakes he has made, and they mirrored, friends said, his private conversations.

"What he did last night, which was obviously thought out, was the most complete public expression of what's happened," said Tom Rath, a New Hampshire Republican with ties to the White House. "Anybody who has seen him talk about it privately has seen that he's been consumed with this for three years."

Others were less impressed and said Mr. Bush had made far worse mistakes. "If there were decisive mistakes, these were not them," said Paul Burka, senior executive editor of Texas Monthly, who closely followed Mr. Bush when he was Texas governor. "It's easy to say that he was popping off. But then you get to issues like should the Iraqi army have been disbanded, did Bremer know what he was doing?"

But Mr. Burka, who was referring to L. Paul Bremer III, the former top American civilian administrator in Iraq, said Mr. Bush's Texas talk was popular in the state.

"I don't think he ever had a self-reflective moment in Texas," Mr. Burka said. "And let me tell you, even worse, we liked it that way."

With a Few Humble Words, Bush Silences His Texas Swagger,










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