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Start the Conversation in Potawatomi

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We’re excited to release the first chapter of lessons for a brand new Indigenous language course, developed in partnership with the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi. Get ready to start the conversation in Potawatomi.

About the Potawatomi language

Potawatomi is an Indigenous language. As discussed in our previous blog post, Indigenous languages are not only infinitely valuable to the cultural heritage of the people who speak them, they also provide linguists more insight into how language works in the brain.

As a polysynthetic language, Potawatomi features long words with many parts. Linguists refer to these parts as morphemes. What requires several words to convey in English can be conveyed in Potawatomi with one long word using many morphemes. For example, to write “I don't know him/her” in Potawatomi, you would write ttho ngëkénmasi.

Potawatomi sentence with morphemes indicated

UNESCO classifies Potawatomi as critically endangered, meaning it is mostly spoken amongst the grandparent generation. Based on their 13-degree scale of endangerment, Ethnologue classifies the language as “8b (Nearly Extinct),” with fewer than one dozen speakers remaining. Although the Potawatomi language is facing extinction, many are working hard to revitalize the language and encourage its use in everyday conversation. Potawatomi is also the official language of several registered tribes, many of which offer opportunities to learn Potawatomi through tribal Head Start or K-12 school programs, as well as adult language programs.

The Pokagon Band of Potawatomi, located in southwestern Michigan and northeastern Indiana, is a federally-recognized tribe that offers several opportunities to learn Potawatomi. To extend the reach of their language learning programs beyond their current 10-county service area, the Pokagon Band teamed up with Mango to create the newest course available on the digital platform: Potawatomi.

A new way to learn Potawatomi

The course instructs learners on the language’s unique grammatical structures, vocabulary, and cultural traditions, all with fluent speaker audio and voice comparison for the most accurate pronunciation. The course also includes the new Listening & Reading Activities, launched earlier this year for our most popular courses.

The goal of this course is to teach the everyday, practical use of the Potawatomi language. One of the very first things that learners experience in the course is understanding how to introduce yourself and where you come from — an integral piece of Potawatomi identity, and the foundation for valuable connections in the Potawatomi culture. Language teachers, linguists, and language specialists from the Pokagon Band designed this lesson to be one of the first so that citizens can introduce their English name, spirit name, and clan — all in their own language.

Rhonda Purcell, Language Program Manager with the Pokagon Band, hopes to “plant the seed,” with this first lesson. For Potawatomi citizens, Purcell emphasizes that “this is your language, this is your sound.” Purcell especially encourages younger citizens to “introduce themselves in their own language, [and] identify with each other in their own language.”

The Mango platform will increase access to learning the Potawatomi language using the same standards and proven language acquisition methodologies found in our 70+ language courses. Not only that, the Mango platform also provides a tool that the Pokagon Band can use in the classroom to plan lessons and track student progress. (See Mango for Educators.)

This initial release is the first chapter of nine, which will be released periodically in the next several months. Be sure to follow Mango (on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter) and the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi (on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter) to keep up with all our announcements, and stay tuned for the release of the next chapters.

Why Preserve Endangered and Indigenous Languages?
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Explore the Potawatomi language for free.

As a sign of our commitment to promoting the preservation of endangered and Indigenous languages, these courses are always offered free of charge to our users.

Start the Conversation
Lauren Utykanski

Our Social Media Intern, Lauren, is happiest when she’s exploring the world through the lens of her camera. She also loves reading, writing, and listening to Italian indie bands.

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