KODIAK - On a yearly basis, Alutiiq language learners set up a challenge for themselves, as an opportunity to create a space where only Alutiiq will be spoken for two whole days. In doing this, we create an environment where we get to flex our linguistic Alutiiq muscles, stretching our limits, as we find answers and work-arounds for the holes in our ability to communicate completely in our language.

This year we are excited to be in the Alutiit’stun Niuwawik! The name literally means “place for speaking Alutiiq.” This is a place where we teach a preschool program, all in the Alutiiq language, during the school year.

During the summer, the teachers work on curriculum and fluency development. This year we are also doing some reorganization while we train our newest Alutiiq language teacher, Jacob Cawley. Jacob joins the preschool after completing Alutiiq I and II through the Kodiak High School.

Providing our Alutiiq language teachers with immersion speaking opportunities for them to build their fluency is an important part of professional development.

We usually host an Alutiiq language immersion campout at a remote location. Recent sites have included the old Ski Chalet, and Holiday Beach. These locations have minimal infrastructure, but they also are secluded, so that the immersion experience is easier to maintain. However, this year we decided that since we have an office and classroom space in town that is dedicated to the Alutiiq Language, we ought to fill that space with speakers and fun activities for the two days.

We welcome all community members to join in the two-day immersion day camp, regardless of speaking ability. Depending on experience, participants can engage as listeners in planned activities, or try out their Alutiiq speaking skills as they feel comfortable. The day camp is appropriate for 6th grade and higher. All ages are welcome, with participatory chaperons for children under 6th grade.

In the morning on July 5th, we will begin with a welcoming and give some helpful pointers in English, repeated on both days, as well as a debrief in English at the end of each day. Aside from our introduction and debrief, we will conduct all activities in Alutiiq, stepping out to the hall if we need to speak English for any reason.

We plan to run circle time in the mornings, just like we do with the kids at the Nest, then practice reading wordless books in the language, taking turns adding detail about the story. We will play Alutiiq games and contemporary board games that have been translated into Alutiiq and played in the high school class, or for family use. Many of our fluent Elders love to play cards, so we have learned the language around games such as TuRaq, which is a card game with a Russian name. It is a blast to play. We also have a deck of cards that we use for Go Fish - Iqallugsurten, which is friendly for beginners. With close access to Sargent Park we plan to facilitate some activities outside as weather allows.

We will make sure to allow time for our Elders to sit and talk to one another in the language. This is a deeply needed practice in our community. Our Elders often don’t get enough time to speak to one another, which leads to language loss.

Immersion is a great way to find what topics, or tenses are lacking in vocabulary or grammar structure. This is an opportunity to hear Alutiiq spoken for hours on end, from a multi-generational group of speakers and learners. Immersion can be intimidating for semi-fluent learners or beginners. There is a lot of risk in attending a function where you do not understand the language all around you, and it gets more uncomfortable when you struggle to get your point across without using the strong linguistic skills you have in English. We hope to be able to provide enough non-verbal cues to semi-fluent speakers to understand the schedule and expectations for the day, as well as enough breaks to allow our brains to relax periodically. Learning a language is a lot of mental work.

Our goals is to fill the space with the sounds of Alutiiq, as learners get the time to practice, and Elders take time to remember and share with us. We hope to develop stronger relationships and strong fluency as an Alutiiq language speaking community.

Usually when we make the Alutiit’stun Niuwawik an immersion environment, it is all about the children, their schedule, the language they are developing, and the activities that they would enjoy. This next week, we will make it an immersive experience for adults who want to learn and practice Alutiiq.

To participate in the Alutiiq Immersion Day Camp, please join us July 5-6, 2018, 9:00 am-5:00 pm at the Alutiiq Center, 215 Mission Road, 2nd floor.

There is no charge for community participation. Registration and release forms can be completed at the start of the event.

We do ask that participants commit to only speak Alutiiq. To pre-register or ask questions, please contact Candace Branson at the Alutiit’stun Niuwawik at 907-512-5995. Or you can register online at http://sunaq.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/2018-Immersion-Campout-Registration.pdf

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