Traditions under the Oaks
San Jose de Tecate: Oct. 25, 2003
By Roy Cook
Auka, with the warmth
of the sun in our faces, Roy Robinson, Kumeyaay and me travel south on
State highway 94 toward Tecate. We are on a well-traveled route. So many
of our major byways are determined from the traditional experiences of
Tribal Americans. Just across the international border are many Tribal
Americans living under a different political system. We are all Native
Americans. It matters little, except to those who are small-minded, if
Tribal Americans are from the north and Canada or the south, Mexico or
Latin America. Again we are to meet our Nyemii, Wildcat songs teacher
Jon Meza Cuero, Tipai. After walking across the border he will transport
us to the San Jose de Tecate community. We understand there will be instruction
in language and Nyemii, Wildcat singing today. We are there to support
the commitment of our teacher and assist as an ad hoc Tipai Border Task
Force for the survival of the Tipai language and culture. Roy and I know
we haven’t a lot to offer but we recognize the extensive knowledge carried
by Jon Cuero. Sometimes a little support can encourage confidence and
great things might happen.
We are among the
first to arrive and we are greeted by the organizer, Laura Cota Lopez
director of Proyecto Paz y Dignidad, A.C.. There are a couple of young
men unloading a pick up truck of tables and plastic chairs for the gathering.
We give them a hand to make ourselves useful. This is continuing to be
a glorious day: bright, warm, totally refreshing, under a spreading oak
tree with a steady easterly breeze. The kind of day your thoughts can
quickly turn to hammocks and naps. No time for naps but on the subject
of hammocks, Cuaxtli, Aztec from the state of Gererro related that in
his village the children are taught to assist in the weaving of hammocks.
In the conversation it kept occurring to me how closely the degree of
separation is in the Tribal world. Especially among travelers on the Red
Road of Spirituality. Remarkably, even though we had never met before,
we mutually knew dozens of tribal people and had experienced mutual activities.
Cuaxtli is a native speaker of Naugua. Jon continued to participate in
the conversation and we were all pleased Cuaxtli elected to join with
us in singing Nyemii, Wildcat songs. There is a lot of movement going
on, cars pulling in and out, people going here and there to pick up other
interested participants. Around noon there is a sizeable group of community
folks assembled, maybe twenty or more. We need to realize this is all
a self-reliant movement, no grants, no public funding, no supporting institution
underwriting the efforts. This is just a sincere commitment to do what
can be done from a grassroots level to organize and educate.
It is very refreshing
to see a recent teaching concept in action. The Tipai community’s Native
speaker instructor, Thelma Thing , is applying Total Physical Response,
TPR. She had us stand, walk, turn, hop, touch the dirt, touch the oak.
Then Jon Cuero sang songs that used the very same words that had been
taught immediately before, very exciting. Jon applied a traditional journey
from San Jose de Tecate to the USA and the other Tipai villages along
the route we had driven earlier that morning. Language instruction and
song continued into the afternoon and further Tipai culture instruction
is scheduled for the early evening.
This brief overview
of the TPR methods in use are from: Chapter 5 of Revitalizing Indigenous
Languages, edited by Jon Reyhner, Gina Cantoni, Robert N. St. Clair,
and Evangeline Parsons Yazzie (pp. 53-58). Flagstaff, AZ: Northern Arizona
in the 1960s and 70s by James Asher (1977), TPR represented a revolutionary
departure from the audio lingual practice of having students repeat the
teacher's utterances from the very beginning of their first lesson and
whenever new material was introduced later on. Asher recommended that
beginners be allowed a silent period in which they learn to recognize
a large number of words without being expected to say them. The vocabulary
presented at this level usually consists of action verbs and phrases such
as "walk," "run," "touch," "point to," "give me," "go back," and the names
of concrete items such as "floor," "window," "door," "mouth," "desk,"
"teddy bear," and "banana." About 150 words are presented in the first
five or six weeks, and at least three new terms per lesson can be expected
to become part of a learner's active vocabulary during any lesson, even
though they may not say them until later.
The teacher begins
by uttering a simple command such as "walk to the window," demonstrating
or having a helper act out the expected action, and inviting the class
to join in. Commands are usually addressed first to the entire class,
then to small groups, and finally to individuals. When a few basic verbs
and nouns have become familiar, variety is obtained by adding qualifiers
such as "fast," "slowly," "big," "little," "red," "white," "my," and "your."
Since the students are not required to speak, they are spared the stress
of trying to produce unfamiliar sounds and the consequent fear of making
mistakes. Stephen Krashen (1981) considers lowering the "affective filter"
an important factor in the language acquisition process. Although the
teacher is continuously assessing individual progress in order to control
the pace of introducing new material, this assessment is unobtrusive and
no threatening. A learner who does not understand a particular command
can look at others for clues and will be ready to respond appropriately
the next time or the one after.
strategies of TPR-S utilize the vocabulary taught in the earlier stage
by incorporating it into stories that the learners hear, watch, act out,
retell, revise, read, write, and rewrite. Subsequent stories introduce
additional vocabulary in meaningful contexts. The children are already
familiar with stories from other school and preschool experiences, and
now they are exposed to this familiar genre as the teacher presents it
in a new language with an abundance of gestures, pictures, and other props
to facilitate comprehension. After hearing a story, various students act
it out together or assume different roles while their peers watch. The
teacher may retell the story with slight variations, replacing one character
with another, and engaging different students in the acting. Another technique
introduces some conversational skills, as the teacher asks short-answer
and open-ended questions such as "Is the cat hungry?" "Is the dog
big or little?", and "Where does the girl live?" (Marsh, 1996).
Students are not
required to memorize the stories; on the contrary, they are encouraged
to construct their own variations as they retell them to a partner, a
small group, or the entire class, using props such as illustrations, toys,
and labels. The ultimate goal is to have students develop original stories
and share them with others. A whole range of activities may be included,
such as videotaping, drama, creating booklets for children in the lower
grades, designing bulletin boards, and so forth. At this point TPR-S has
much in common with other effective approaches to reading and writing
Both TPR and TPR-S
are examples of language teaching as an interactive learner-centered process
that guides students in understanding and applying information and in
conveying messages to others. TPR as well as TPR-S apply Cummins' (1989)
interactive pedagogy principle. At first the children interact silently
with the teacher and indicate comprehension by executing commands and
then by acting out stories. They are active participants long before they
are able to verbally communicate with the teacher and with each other.
TPR as well as TPR-S
also apply some of Krashen's (1985) most valuable pedagogical principles.
The learners' affective filter is kept at a low level by a relaxed classroom
atmosphere, where the stress of performing and being judged is kept to
a minimum. At the beginning of the storytelling stage, the students' initial
response is not oral, but kinesthetic: When they begin to speak, the teacher
responds to the content of their messages rather than to their grammatical
accuracy. In TPR as well as in TPR-S the teacher provides comprehensible
input without using L1; she relies on the learners' preexisting knowledge
of the world and uses gestures, actions, pictures, and objects to demonstrate
how one can talk about it in another language.
TPR and TPR-S also
make abundant use of the pedagogical strategy of scaffolding (Vygotsky,
1986). The teacher or a peer assists the learner during tasks that could
not yet be performed without help. The scaffold is removed as soon as
it becomes unnecessary; new support is then made available for the next
challenge. Cooperative learning can be seen as a particular kind of scaffolding
provided within a group where students help each other (Steward, 1995;
Tharp & Gallimore, 1988).
TPR is a continuous
application of the "scaffolding" strategy (Vygotsky, 1986) with the teacher,
and then the class, supporting the learning of a new word by demonstrating
its meaning and then withdrawing assistance when it is no longer needed.
For example, to teach the word "gato" for "cat" the Spanish teacher may
use a toy or a picture; later, the word "gato" becomes part of the scaffolding
for teaching modifiers such as "big," "little," "black," or "white."
Many Native children
can understand their tribal language because they hear it spoken at home.
These children can be very useful during TPR lessons, acting as assistants,
demonstrators, and group leaders. There is reason to rejoice over the
fact that they can understand their elders and appreciate their teachings
and stories, but what will happen a few years from now when the old people
are gone and these children are grown up and should carry on the task
of culture transmission? If they can understand but not speak the tribal
language, how are they going to teach it to the next generation?
This situation is
especially serious in the case of languages such as Tipai, Pai, Killiwa,
Hopi or Zuni that are spoken only in a particular community, whose members
cannot import speakers from other parts of the world, a choice that is
available to Hispanics, Chinese, and other groups. It is essential that
Native children learn to use their tribal language instead of just understanding
it. In some cases, their reluctance to speak may owe not only to the pressures
of European-speaking society but also to unreasonable expectations of
correctness and accuracy. Children who have suffered ridicule or embarrassment
because they mispronounced or misused a word are likely to avoid the risk
of further unpleasantness and take refuge in silence. This problem was
brought up repeatedly during the First and Second Symposia on Stabilizing
Indigenous Languages ( Cantoni,
1996 ), and it was recommended that all attempts to use the home language
be encouraged and rewarded but never criticized.
The increasing scarcity
of Native-language speakers has assigned the responsibility of Native
language instruction to the school, instead of the home or community.
When the Native language teacher is almost the only source of Native language
input, and the instruction time allocated to Native language teaching
is limited, the learners are not to blame for their limited progress in
fluency and accuracy.
In addition, Native
children face a more severe challenge than English-speaking children who
are learning French or Spanish. Research indicates that the extent to
which comprehensible input results in grammatical accuracy depends not
only on the quantity, quality, and frequency of available input, but on
the "linguistic distance" between the learners' L1 and the target L2 (Ringbom,
1987). There is evidence that students learning Spanish through TPR-S
made high scores on national grammar tests, but Spanish is an Indo-European
language, just like English, whereas Native American languages have grammatical
systems unrelated to those of English."
We continue to be
encouraged to participate and contribute what we can as an ad-hoc Tipai
Border Task Force. We further appreciate the warmth and sincerity of the
participants. Thank you, Mehan.
Roy Cook: writer, public relations, speaker
WebMaster: Ben Nance
debajo de los Robles
Jose de Tecate: Octubre 25, 2003
Por Roy Cook
Auka, con el calor
del sol en nuestras caras, Roy Robinson, Kumeyaay y mí recorrido
del sur en la carretera 94 del estado hacia Tecate. Estamos en una ruta
bien-viajada. Tan muchos de nuestros desvíos importantes se determinan
de las experiencias tradicionales de americanos tribales. Apenas a través
de la frontera internacional están muchos americanos tribales que
viven bajo diverso sistema político. Somos todos americanos nativos.
Importa poco, excepto a los pequeño-se importen que, si los americanos
tribales son del norte y el Canadá o el sur, el México o
la América latina. Debemos otra vez resolver nuestro Nyemii, profesor
salvaje Jon Meza Cuero, Tipai de las canciones. Después de caminar
a través de la frontera él nos transportará a la
comunidad de San Jose de Tecate. Entendemos que habrá instrucción
en lengua y Nyemii, gato montés que canta hoy. Estamos allí
apoyar la comisión de nuestro profesor y asistir como destacamento
de fuerzas de la frontera hoc de Tipai del anuncio para la supervivencia
de la lengua y de la cultura de Tipai. Roy y yo sabemos que tenemos mucho
no ofrecer pero reconocemos el conocimiento extenso llevados por Jon Cuero.
Un poco ayuda puede animar a veces confianza y las grandes cosas pudieron
suceder. Estamos entre el primer a llegar y el organizador, director nos
saludamos de Laura Cota Lopez de Proyecto Paz y Dignidad, A.C.. Hay pares
de los hombres jóvenes que descargan una selección encima
del carro de tablas y de sillas del plástico para la reunión.
Les damos una mano para hacernos útiles. Éste está
continuando siendo un día glorioso: brillante, caliente, totalmente
restaurando, debajo de un árbol del roble que se separa con una
brisa easterly constante. La clase de día que sus pensamientos
pueden dar vuelta rápidamente a las hamacas y a las siestas. Ninguna
hora para las siestas pero a propósito de las hamacas, Cuaxtli,
aztec del estado de Gererro relacionado que a su aldea enseñan
los niños a asistir a tejer de hamacas. En la sconversación
guardó el ocurrir a mí cómo el grado de la eparación
está de cerca en el mundo tribal. Especialmente entre viajeros
en el camino rojo de la espiritualidad. Notable, aunque nunca habíamos
satisfecho antes, conocíamos mutuamente a docenas de gente tribal
y habíamos experimentado actividades mutuas. Cuaxtli es un nativo
de Naugua. Jon continuó participando en la conversación
y éramos todos Cuaxtli satisfecho elegidos para ensamblar con nosotros
en cantar Nyemii, canciones salvajes. Hay muchos de movimiento que se
encienden, de coches que sacan adentro y, de gente que va aquí
y allí tomar a otros participantes interesados. Alrededor del mediodía
hay un grupo importante de gente de la comunidad montada, quizá
veinte o más. Necesitamos realizar que éste sea todo el
un movimiento independiente, ningunas concesiones, ningún financiamiento
público, ninguna institución de soporte que subscribe los
esfuerzos. Esto es justo una comisión sincera para hacer qué
se puede hacer de los pueblos llano a organizar y a educar. Muy está
restaurando para ver un concepto de enseñanza reciente en la acción.
La instructora nativo
de la comunidad de Tipai, Thelma Thing , está aplicando la respuesta
física total, TPR. Ella hizo que estuviéramos parados, caminar,
dar vuelta, saltar, toca la suciedad, toca el roble. Entonces Jon Cuero
cantó las canciones que utilizaron muy las mismas palabras inmediatamente
antes de las cuales había sido enseñado, muy emocionantes.
Jon aplicó un viaje tradicional de San Jose de Tecate a los E.E.U.U.
y a las otras aldeas de Tipai a lo largo de la ruta que habíamos
conducido anterior esa mañana. La instrucción y la canción
de la lengua continuadas en la tarde y la instrucción posterior
de la cultura de Tipai programa para la tarde temprana.
Continuamos ser alentado
a participar y contribuir lo que podemos como un anuncio éste Tipai
la Fuerza Contigua de la Tarea. Apreciamos aún más el calor
y la sinceridad de los participantes. Gracias, Mehan.
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