Chitimacha Tribe to Develop Rosetta Stone Software
Chitimacha Tribe to Develop Rosetta Stone Software
Rosetta Stone Inc., creator of the world's No. 1 language-learning program,
has formed a partnership with the Chitimacha Tribe of Louisiana to develop
a unique edition of the award-winning software in the tribe's language,
The tribe will own distribution and sales rights to the tribal language
version created through the Rosetta Stone Endangered Language Program,
which has developed culturally-relevant language-learning software with the
Mohawk of Kahnawake, NANA Regional Corporation of Alaska, and other
Through its new corporate grant program, the global language-learning
software company will underwrite a substantial portion of development costs
for the Sitimaxa software. Rosetta Stone has pledged to underwrite at least
one project per year with endangered language speaking communities
interested in developing editions of the cutting-edge immersion learning
"Our hope is that Sitimaxa Rosetta Stone(r) software will be a tool that
will make a difference in the vitality of the language of the Chitimacha
Tribe," said Marion Bittinger, manager of the Endangered Language Program.
"We look forward to working with the tribe to help realize their vision for
a living and growing language."
On Louisiana's coast, the Chitimacha tribe endured for century after
century ? surviving war, settlement, assimilation. This same determination
to survive has allowed the Chitimacha to revitalize their language, which
they almost lost.
"Language is really the heart of who you are. It's not just about learning
the words; it's about learning your past. It's that connection," said
Kimberly S. Walden, M.Ed., cultural director of the 1,000 member tribe.
The native tongue of the Chitimacha people almost disappeared when its last
fluent speaker died in 1934 and its last semi-fluent speaker died in 1940.
One generation, then another, grew up knowing no more than a few words of
the rich language of their ancestors.
Then in 1986, the Library of Congress mailed the tribe copies of wax
cylinder recordings made in the 1930s by Swedish linguist Morris Swadesh.
Tribal members listened to over 200 hours of their language ? sounds no one
had heard in decades, a cultural treasure buried in archives for half a
lifetime. The Chitimacha began rebuilding these fragments back into a
fluently spoken language. They recovered field notes made by Swadesh and
his wife to help decode what was recorded.
"The recordings were very hard to understand, especially if you'd never
heard the language spoken before," Walden said. "You have to realize that,
as long as I was growing up, all we had in Sitimaxa was a few words on a
museum brochure that no one could pronounce."
In 1995, the Chitimacha tribe established a cultural department. Employees
asked archeological contractors in Louisiana if they knew of anyone
familiar with the Chitimacha's language ? a long-shot request that,
improbably, paid off. Contractors suggested the tribe contact Dr. Julian
Granberry, a linguist and anthropologist living in Florida who had worked
with Swadesh as a high school sophomore.
Granberry, now 80, had studied their language for decades, but had never
visited the reservation. The tribe invited Granberry to share his findings.
"When Dr. Granberry spoke Sitimaxa to a group of Chitimacha elders
assembled at a meeting, some of the elders began to cry," said Walden.
"Words started coming back. They remembered."
With Granberry's help, the Chitimacha tackled the Sitimaxa challenge, using
the returned resources to develop dictionaries, curriculum, primers and
recordings. The tribe now offers Sitimaxa classes for students as young as
six weeks old at its child development center. Students in kindergarten
through the eighth grade learn the language at the Chitimacha Tribal
School, and adults in night classes.
Rachel Vilcan was one of the first students in the adult class. Now she's
an aide in the K-8 Sitimaxa program. "The language sounds natural; it
sounds like it fits me, like it fits the area," Vilcan said. "It was scary,
at first, to be learning it as an adult, but the desire to learn was
stronger. It's our identity."
Like other tribes working to bring tribal language back into daily use, the
Chitimacha's goal is to develop conversational fluency. "We want to bring
the language back to the point where we can use it conversationally when we
gather as a tribe," said Walden.
Through its immersion-based software that can be customized to reflect
unique linguistic and cultural features, Rosetta Stone will help the tribe
solve this problem. The tribe will work with Rosetta Stone to translate and
record lessons in Sitimaxa. The paired audio recordings of tribal speakers
and images from the community will teach this endangered language in
culturally relevant context using the company's award-winning Dynamic
"I think the chances are very great that they will succeed," Granberry
said. "There has been for the last decade a strong interest on the part of
a large number of the tribal members."
Ilse Ackerman, editor-in-chief at Rosetta Stone, said this language
teaching tool multiplies existing efforts. "If you have a small number of
fluent speakers, student time with these teachers is valuable and limited.
The software can give students access to their teaching around the clock,
allowing communities to save valuable face-to-face instruction time for
conversational practice," said Ackerman.
The Chitimacha Tribe will use the immersion-based software to enhance
ongoing education programs for children and adults. Tribal members as far
away as Guam and Germany will be able to learn Sitimaxa using CDs or
through online access when the project finishes.
Communities interested in learning more about the Rosetta Stone Endangered
Language Program should visit the program's Web site, at:
http://www.RosettaStone.com/global/endangered, or call 1-800-788-0822, ext.
About the Rosetta Stone Endangered Language Program
The Rosetta Stone Endangered Language Program works with communities to
develop unique immersion-learning software. The Endangered Language Program
worked with the Kanien'kehaka Onkwawén:na Raotitiohkwa to develop Mohawk
software for the community of Kahnawake in 2006, and the NANA Corporation
of Alaska to develop Iñupiaq language learning software in 2007. The
program and the Torngasok Cultural Centre in Labrador will produce a
version in Inuttitut.
About Rosetta Stone Inc.
Rosetta Stone Inc. is a leading provider of language-learning software.
Acclaimed for the speed, power and effectiveness of its Dynamic ImmersionTM
method, Rosetta Stone is a revolutionary language-learning software
program. While teaching 30 languages to millions of people in more than 150
countries throughout the world, Rosetta Stone software is the key to
Language Learning Success(tm). Inc. Magazine has named Rosetta Stone Inc.
one of the 500 fastest-growing companies in the United States, and for the
fourth consecutive year Deloitte has named the company one of the
fastest-growing technology companies in Virginia. Rosetta Stone was founded
in 1992 on two core beliefs: that the natural way people learn languages as
children remains the most successful method for learning new languages; and
that interactive CD-ROM and online technology can recreate the immersion
method powerfully for learners of any age. The company is based in
Arlington, Va. For more information, visit www.RosettaStone.com.