Haida language learners and teachers gathered at Xaad Kihlga Suu.u on October 29th to learn from a special guest who was visiting from Hydaburg. Alaskan Xaad Kil teacher K’uyáang Benjamin Young brought students together at the learning centre to play a memorization game.
The class began an exercise. At the front of the class were five rows with eight pictures in each row. One by one, K’uyáang taught each student to pronounce the objects in the pictures on the top row. Once students could identify everything in the first two rows correctly their leader began to speak Xaad Kil in full sentences. By listening for the words that the students had already learned they found it surprisingly easy to understand what K’uyáang was talking about, and they could correctly identify the more complex images he was describing.
Students who made it through all the pictures and finished the fifth row returned to the first row. But this time, instead of waiting for him give them the words they needed, K’uyáang challenged them to remember the words for the objects on their own. Given more time, students would soon be constructing their own sentences to describe the more complex images.
“K’uyáang’s presentation was fun and engaging,” language-learner Gatgus Erika Stocker commented. “It works for any level of language learner and speaker. Seeing the progress people can make in 4 minutes using this technique gives me a lot of hope for our language teachers and speakers.”
With help from fluent Xaad Kil speaker HlGawangdlii Skilaa Lawrence Bell and contributions from linguist Gulḵiihlgad Dr Marianne Ignace, everyone involved learned a lot about Haida language grammar and structure. Because of the broad experience the class brought together, all involved got to learn from some of the fascinating subtleties that make Alaskan Xaad Kil, G_aaw Xaad Kil, and HlGaagilda Xaayda Kil unique.
The Haida language class has been meeting at Xaad Kihlga Suu.u on Monday and Thursday evenings since October 15 and the class is open to anyone until December 15. The curriculum is designed for adult beginners, and is an extension of a similar class that Jaskwaan and Sdaahl K‘awaas Lucy Bell co-taught from September to December of 2015.