Speakers to present at Cherokee Language Revitalization Symposium

Visitors from native language immersion schools as far away as Hawaii will make presentations at the second annual Cherokee Language Revitalization Symposium, a two-day event coordinated by the Tsalagi Aniwoni Committee and co-sponsored by Western Carolina University.

The symposium, to be held Thursday, Aug. 10, and Friday, Aug. 11, in meeting rooms at Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Hotel, was organized to help educate the community about activities to revitalize the Cherokee language, including the development of a Cherokee language immersion school.

“We could have a complete language death if we do not continue efforts such as immersion programs to increase the number of Cherokee speakers,” said Renissa Walker, a committee leader and manager of the Kituwah Preservation and Education Program.

The first day of the symposium will include updates about fluent Cherokee speakers’ gatherings, language camps for children, a language immersion room for very young children and community classes. Attendees will hear about Western’s development of a four-year language degree program; WCU’s recent hiring of a Cherokee language coordinator and a Cherokee language program director; a master-apprentice Cherokee language course; and the university’s efforts to find fluent speakers who can train to be certified teachers at the future immersion school.

The second day will feature presentations by teachers and parents of children who studied at language immersion programs in other communities. They will address concerns such as how difficult the transition to an English-speaking school is for a student in a language immersion school. Afternoon presentations center on how technology such as online broadcasts and Web pages can aid language learning.

“The symposium aims to build confidence in the Cherokee community that learning the language is a good thing,” said Jane Eastman, director of Cherokee Studies at Western. “There’s a fear among some people that if they learn to speak Cherokee that their English will suffer. That’s just not the case in other native communities that have immersion schools. We are trying to learn from native communities who have created immersion schools successfully so that we don’t make mistakes and so that we learn the most effective ways to teach the language.”

For more information, contact Jane Eastman at (828) 227-3841, the Kituwah Preservation and Education Program at (828) 497-1594 or WCU’s Cherokee Center at (828) 497-7920.