Finals week was not just a time for wrapping up classes for Keli Yerian (LTS Director) and Judith Fernandes (curriculum developer at the Northwest Indian Language Institute, or NILI). It was also a unique chance to spend seven days strengthening ties and developing common projects with colleagues in Lyon, France.
The Université de Lyon 2 and the University of Oregon in fact have a long history through Dr. Colette Grinevald, who was a pivotal figure in the founding of the UO’s Department of Linguistics in the 1970s and is now emeritus professor at Lyon 2. Colette’s groundbreaking work on the endangered language Rama in Nicaragua has had natural ties with NILI’s efforts to support documentation and revitalization over the past 20+ years. In recent years, faculty from both sides of the Atlantic have met up at conferences or at UO or Lyon 2 to discuss and better understand various dynamics across endangered language contexts. Dr. Michel Bert from the Université de Lyon 2 and Dr. Bénédicte Pivot from the Université de Montpellier visited the UO and participated in NILI events in 2017 and 2019 to learn about endangered language contexts in North America. Likewise NILI Director Dr. Janne Underinner and Associate Director Robert Elliott visited France in 2018 to learn more about the case of the endangered language Franco-Provençal.
This December, the focus turned primarily to questions of how “third parties” such as institutional programs or their resources may be best used for the needs of revitalization, with Keli Yerian and Judith Fernandes representing efforts by LTS and NILI to address these needs. Events in the trip included public presentations about NILI and LTS at the Dynamic du Language (DDL) lab, work group meetings, meetings with faculty from the ICAR lab (Interactions, Corpus, Apprentissage, Représentations) who are also working on plurilingual language learning contexts that involve minoritized and majoritized languages, the signing of a memorandum of understanding (MOU) between Lyon 2 and UO by Dr. James Walker, Vice-President of Lyon 2, and even a trip to a nearby village where a community play was performed that included both Franco-Provençal and French.
One example topic of discussion was to what degree popular approaches to second language learning, such as immersion or the use of proficiency-based benchmarks, are appropriate or useful for revitalization contexts, where goals regarding “proficiency” and “communicative competence” might be very specific and context-dependent. What different models might better capture the varied practices and achievements of revitalization efforts, and how can programs and institutes like LTS and NILI help facilitate efforts to develop these models? These are questions that LTS and doctoral students of endangered languages have been tackling with ever-increasing momentum at UO, and we look forward to seeing how these efforts play out in the coming years. We’ll keep you posted!
p.s. To provide additional excitement to the trip, we were witness to the historic strikes happening in France now over retirement and benefits. Here is a scene from a day trip to Aix en Provence.