Eat, drink and speak Cherokee during happy hour

(Tahlequah, Okla.)--Many who speak second languages will say the best way to learn French is to spend time in France, or in Germany to learn German. But what is the best way to learn an indigenous American language?

Instructors in the Cherokee Language Program at Northeastern State University say the same principle applies. Their students will participate in the Cherokee Language Happy Hour from 2-5 p.m. on Jan. 28 in the Boom-A-Rang Diner at 116 S. Muskogee Ave. in Tahlequah.

The Cherokee Language Happy Hour is an outreach project sponsored by the NSU Cherokee Language Program. Its purpose is to place students in immersive language situations.

"We have been looking for a practical real-world setting where our students can speak with people for whom Cherokee is a first language," said Dr. Les Hannah, coordinator of the Cherokee Language Program. "Classroom instruction and guest speakers are essential, but they are also artificial because most of the communication goes one direction."

Hannah said true fluency can only be attained through frequent conversation with other fluent speakers. The Cherokee Language Happy Hour will include speakers of varying fluency – NSU students, first-language Cherokee speakers and children from Cherokee immersion schools.

"While learning Cherokee poses the same challenges of learning any language, it is also very much a community language," Hannah said. "It is less rigid than many languages and those fluent in Cherokee will notice many dialectical distinctions in different places."

When considering immersive activities for students, Hannah said ideas "kept coming back to food."

"Cherokees talk over meals like every other culture," he said. "We figured everyone will be eating anyway, so why not get together while eating to speak Cherokee."

Program students also created dedicated menus printed in the Cherokee syllabary for use during the meal. The wait staff will also receive "cheat sheets" to assist in taking food orders.

Another language happy hour is scheduled Feb. 18 at Katfish Kitchen, 1095 E. 4th St. in Tahlequah. Hannah wants the gatherings to become regular.

"These events will allow our students to practice their craft," he said. "They give them opportunities to interact with the community and spread the word about the Cherokee Language Program at NSU."

For more information call Hannah at (918) 444-3605. Business establishments interested in hosting a Cherokee Language Happy Hour can also contact Hannah. 

Published: 1/27/2012 8:01:28 AM

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