I Want a Phraselator!
andrekar at NCIDC.ORG
Sun Sep 2 16:46:56 UTC 2007
A few American Indians who still speak the ancient Chukchansi
language are preserving tribal words and songs with state-of-the-art
electronic translators inspired by military technology.
Jane Wyatt, 62, of Coarsegold, and her sister, Holly, 65, were among
six tribal members who gathered on a recent Friday across the street
from the from the Picayune Rancheria’s busy Chukchansi Gold Resort &
Casino in Coarsegold to try out a newly acquired “Phraselator.”
The electronic translator was developed just a few years ago from
technology used for military translators, said Don Thornton of
Thornton Media Inc., based in Banning, Calif. Thornton Media is
working with 70 tribes in the United States and Canada to preserve
native languages, he said.
“What’s my name?” he asked the box in his hand. He pressed another
button and it replied in what Thornton said was Chukchansi.
The Wyatt sisters learned the unwritten Chukchansi language at home
while they were growing up in the Madera County foothills. Chukchansi
is one of many native California dialects considered to be nearly
“We’re recording our language ... to save our language,” Jane Wyatt
said. “I learned because my grandmother raised me. That’s all we spoke.”
Picayune Rancheria tribal administrator Cornel Pewewardy said the
tribe has purchased three Phraselators.
The list price is about $3,000 apiece, he said. The devices will be
kept to begin a language program, supported by tribal funds, to
preserve the language that has no books.
“The culture and language are hand in hand,” Pewewardy said.
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