Growing up, I had educational limitations on a couple of important fronts.
Yes, we had to take French. For the most part, it was the analytical reading and writing of the language. The teachers weren’t necessarily bilingual but did their best. My wife fondly tells me story of a student who did, in fact, grow up in Quebec, was perfectly bilingual and made one particular teacher a target. Kids! As teaching a second language has matured, we realize that there’s so much more. Conversing fluently and understanding culture is so important.
The second front dealt with First Nations. We were not close to a First Nations’ community and so our studies involved more of the romantic notion rather than the reality. Moving to Southwestern Ontario and, in particular to a place where the War of 1812 is so important, has been an eyeopener. Canada’s reconciliation is so often in the news as are plans for rebuilding nations. In our area, you’ll find First Nations names on streets and Chatham-Kent has even named a stretch of highway the Tecumseh Parkway. In the Leamington area, you’ll notice signs denoting the location of a permanent Caldwell Nation.
An interesting combination of these two thoughts can be found in Swarthmore’s Talking Dictionaries. Unfortunately not on the launch page, there is a talking dictionary for Moose Cree. This group was new to me but they have a community in Ontario and an internet presence.
Like a traditional dictionary, it’s easily searchable. I searched for “town”.
The results come in terms of spelling in the language, a definition, and a button to hear the audio.
Once you start to explore the dictionary, you do get a sense for the culture and the language. It’s important to note that a word in English doesn’t necessarily translate 1:1 to the second language.
As with any second language experience, it’s not the same as listening and talking with someone who is completely fluent in the language. However, for many, this may be the closest thing to it and a good learning experience for students.