Zapotec Language Revitalization: What can be accomplished with a two-week Summer School

Humanity is facing a language endangerment crisis on a global level, as indigenous languages are increasingly being replaced by widely spoken languages like English and Spanish. In response, communities around the world have initiated efforts to encourage the use of endangered languages. However, little empirical research on what makes these language revitalization efforts most successful has been conducted. In this paper, I examine a two-week language revitalization camp for children ages 5-12 in Teotitlán del Valle, Mexico, where a variety of the indigenous language Zapotec (TdVZ) is spoken. The camp seeks to address negative language attitudes and promote natural, intergenerational language transmission through the use of communication-based instruction, the inclusion of culturally relevant topics, a mixed-levels approach, and the inclusion of adult native speakers in the course. In this paper, I argue that the intensive language camp format can be effective in promoting intergenerational language use in a situation where adult native speakers are still present in the community. Through classroom instruction, students build their confidence in speaking the language, which they then apply through interactions with native speakers. By learning how to initiate conversations in Zapotec with native speakers, students are provided with a way to continue learning the language outside the classroom. The results of the course are analyzed through interviews and focus groups, which suggest that students’ abilities to learn independently have increased through participation in the language camp.

The full paper of this presentation has been submitted to a journal and a link will be added if it is published.