Participatory Methods for Language Documentation and Conservation: Building Community Awareness and Engagement

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ISSN: 1934-5275

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Truong, Christina Lai, Garcez, Lilian
language documentation, community collaboration, community research, Indonesia
article description
This paper describes three participatory methods to engage communities in research, planning, implementation, and evaluation of language programs for their own benefit. These methods facilitate investigation of sociolinguistic phenomena to inform and spur planning for effective language initiatives. In guided discussion sessions, community members build visual representations of collective knowledge about their language and language practices using text, symbols, and pictures. They are then invited to react to the results and discuss changes they would like to see in their situation. In the first activity, participants build a map of language variation, intelligibility, and language attitudes in their community. In the second activity, patterns of bilingualism among demographic subgroups are diagrammed and analyzed by the community. In the third activity, the community creates a diagram of their language use in various domains. Several pilot tests of the methods were conducted with minority language speakers in Malaysia and Indonesia. Using participatory methods is a valuable process that builds community awareness and engagement with language conservation issues. The process of thinking critically about their own language situation is a step from passivity towards engagement that creates an opportunity for the community to participate in, shape, and own collaborative initiatives for their language

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