First Anniversary of the Lakota Language Forum
One year ago today the Lakota Language Forum opened its doors for the first time. We did not know what response we might have, what interest it would create, how many people would come. But people came, and kept on coming! One year on, 851 members have registered with the Forum. Not everybody stayed, but those who did have made 10135 posts in 1168 topics, and 175 people have passed the entry test and become full members.
To all of our members, we would like to say thank you for your interest, your contributions, and your support. Without you, this Forum would not have grown in the way it has, indeed it might not have survived. We were not certain that it would prove possible to provide on-line learning activities to attract members at all levels of proficiency, or that our strategies would be successful, but the quality of your posts, your own determination, your own advancements in the Lakota language have shown that our approach can and does work. You have all helped to make the Forum a friendly place by helping each other and sharing your knowledge. You are all making a positive contribution to the revitalization of the Lakota language and to reinforcing literacy and consistency in writing, reading and learning Lakota. What we see now is a community of people who want to go beyond learning words, who are genuine about wanting to increase their proficiency and work on improving all four language skills.
We feel that the Lakota Language Forum has brought a breath of fresh air to learning Lakota on the internet. In the past, we have seen discussion groups and mailing lists that discussed only the most rudimentary basics of the language, who got entangled in disputes over orthographies, or were distracted by obstacles raised by those who used the language and culture only as a means of self-promotion. We feel that the Forum is a place where the Lakota language is taught and learned through effective strategies and methods, where learning is reinforced by reading and writing based on a standardized writing system and where discussions about the language use reliable materials built on native speakers’ knowledge. Today we see many members reading and transcribing texts written by native speakers, listening to and transcribing audio recordings made by native speakers, learning vocabulary and grammar through contextual methods, having chats and conversations in Lakota, holding on-line classes and study groups over Skype and last but not least learning from making mistakes – a necessary part of learning a language. All of these things represent a major contribution to Lakota language revitalization and literacy, to increasing the overall awareness of the importance of quality second language education based on standardized and effective materials and methods that are not only linguistically sound but also culturally appropriate and sensitive. Following our guidelines, culture is not discussed in English on the Forum, but it is ever present here because it is deeply embedded in the texts that we read and in the thought processes expressed through idiomatic usages. Thus Lakota culture and thought are present and learned in a much more natural way than if they are discussed in English. By learning the Lakota language, we are learning the culture and thought from the inside, rather than from the outside.
We are also seeing a growing number of native speakers becoming part of the forum, learning the new writing system and sharing their knowledge with us by writing their own texts in Lakota. We hope that we will see more native people taking part in this process in the future.
We can't send everybody a piece of birthday cake, but we are bringing two birthday presents: we hope you will all enjoy the new warm appearance of your Forum and the New Lakota Dictionary Online (NLDO). These new features are announced separately.
A big thank you goes to all of you who have contributed to the forum in one way or another over the past year. Some of you participated in one of the many volunteer projects, others of you helped moderate the reading topics, some contributed to creating the quizzes and most of you have provided the forum’s substance by being good and friendly members and great learners. Many of you have helped each other by quoting references in the dictionary and within the forum discussions to support your comments. That is one of the very effective methods of helping each other.
And so the Forum enters its second year. We hope that the number of Full Members (Ópȟawičhayapi) and Hard Working Members (Škíŋčiyapi) will continue to grow. We intend to add new features and content, and will continue looking for ways to improve the Forum overall. Each and every one of you can contribute to increasing the quality of the Forum and through it to the Lakota language revitalization by good participation in the forum's activities and by being a good learner of the language. The Forum and the language rely on you.
Ho čha blihíč’iya po, oyáte kiŋ épi na Lakȟól’iya Owáakhiye Othí kiŋ lé wačhíŋniyaŋpe ló.