New children’s book teaches the basics of Gwich’in

Drin gwichìl'ee gòo' àii, or It's a Beautiful Day, is the first of a line of books planned to help families keep their language alive

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The cover of a new children’s book that teaches basic verb tense in Gwich’in. It’s available for free at the Gwich’in Tribal Council’s office and soon will be online at https://www.gwichinlanguage.ca/

Vành gòonlìh.

Drin gwichìl’ee gòo’àii. Sriinii’àii.

Drin gwiheezàa gòonlìh.

Translating to “It’s morning. It’s a beautiful day. The sun is shining. It’s going to be a good day,” the opening lines of the new children’s book Drin gwichìl’ee gòo’ àii or It’s a Beautiful Day sets the stage for a fun way help families teach their language to their children.

Hot off the presses just in time for the New Year, the book is free from the Gwich’in Tribal Council and includes a CD recording of the story in Gwich’in.

“It’s a story for getting ready for the day, which is something everybody does,” said language revitalization specialist Andrew Cienski, who wrote the story and translated it into Gwich’in with the help of Mabel English and William Firth. “Ultimately we would really like to help families have language in the home. These books will help for the families of students of Gwich’in to do that.”

A cross section of the book shows how the Gwich’in phrases translate into English depending on the verb usage.

Illustrated by Myles Debastien, the book depicts a normal morning in a household and uses strong repetition to help teach sentence and word structure. In Gwich’in, verb tense changes depending on the context, including how many people are involved.

Intended to be both part of East Three Elementary school’s Gwich’in Language program and as a tool at home to help families connect, Cienski said it was the first of a line of books that are in the works.

“There’s some nice old books that were developed by the Gwich’in language centre in the 1990s, so we’re updating those,” he said. “There’s the traditional flood story, there’s Goldilocks and the Three Bears, those are in the final stages.

“There’s another book like Drin gwichìl’ee gòo’ àii about a boy trying to deal with a wasp and the misadventures that stem from that that we just finished the illustrations on. So there’s a few books in various stages of development.”

Also now available is an online dictionary for the mobile app “Anki-app” — flash cards that show sentences and verbs and gives their proper pronunciation and usage. However, the dictionary is not yet listed, so Cienski said anyone who wanted access to it should contact him at andrew.cienski@gwichintribal.ca.

“It’s a nice little app, it doesn’t require data. You download the deck and you can use it,” he said. “People can practice all of the sentences in the book, listen to it and read it. It gives them an opportunity to learn.

“If there are people in the community who would like to contribute to our work, either by helping with writing or spell checking, translating, illustrating, making recordings, dropping in to the language nest for a visit to share the language, or help with teaching a community class, we would love to have their participation.”

Anyone who wants a copy of the book and audio can pick one up for free at the Gwich’in Tribal Council office in Inuvik. It will also be available for download at https://www.gwichinlanguage.ca/.

 

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