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Toddlers, babies to learn Creek with pilot language program

BRIGHTON — A Creek language immersion program for children 4 months to 3 years old will begin Aug. 17 at the former Boys & Girls Club at Pemayetv Emahakv Charter School in Brighton.

The pilot program aims to teach children Creek in a homey environment. Culture language instructors Alice Sweat and Jenny Shore will run the program and will only speak Creek to children so they will learn the language naturally.

“We are trying to revitalize our language,” said Sweat, director of traditional language and history. “We are targeting them because they haven’t had any language yet. We will speak nothing but our language in the room and hopefully they will converse back to us.”

Sweat said Chairman James E. Billie hatched the idea of the immersion program. Sweat then visited the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Nation in North Carolina to glean ideas from their well-established immersion program, which has 75 participants from 7 months to 7 years old.

Sweat said the program in Brighton will be modeled after the Cherokee’s but with modifications to accommodate the Seminole Tribe’s needs.

According to the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages, young children have a natural curiosity about learning. Beginning foreign language instruction early sets the stage for students to develop advanced levels of proficiencies in one or more languages. In addition, younger learners possess the capacity to develop near native-like pronunciation and intonation in a new language.

“Studies have shown repeatedly that foreign language learning increases critical thinking skills, creativity and flexibility of mind in young children,” wrote Therese Sullivan Caccavale, president of the National Network for Early Language Learning, in the Duke University Talent Identification Program online newsletter.

The Creek immersion program will follow the school schedule and begin at 7:30 a.m. Parents who work may pick up their children at 5:15 p.m.; regular dismissal will be 3 p.m. In addition to Sweat and Shore, Charter School culture teachers Jade Osceola, Jimi Lu Huff and Myra Gopher will also participate in the program.

Sweat encourages all parents to have their children involved.

“Once the children are 3 years old, they can go to preschool,” Sweat said. “We want parents to get involved and learn the language, too.”

For more information or to register for the Creek language immersion program, contact Pemayetv Emahakv Charter School at 863-467-2501.

 

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Beverly Bidney
Beverly Bidney has been a reporter and photographer for The Seminole Tribune since 2012. During her career, she has worked at various newspapers around the country including the Muskogee Phoenix in Oklahoma, Miami Herald, Associated Press, USA Today and other publications nationwide. A NAJA award winning journalist, she has covered just about everything over the years and is an advocate for a strong press. Contact her at beverlybidney@semtribe.com.
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