‘Waking up French’ - documentary film explores emigrationThe Valley Breeze

“It will touch the hearts of today’s French Canadian descendants whose parents and/or grandparents made the difficult decision to leave their beloved homeland in the hopes of a better life for themselves and their children.”
–AFGS publisher Sylvia Bartholomy

September 6, 2017
Article by Sandy Seoane

Burgundy, Champagne, and Paris, France – APRIL 2017

A new offering in culturally contextualized language learning through immersion study is being planned in France by Julia Schulz, who will lead a study group through organic vineyards in two French regions with organic wine importer and expert, Paul Chartrand. The tour adds a third immersion experience for teachers and students to appreciate how language immersion works.

Many teachers have returned to Julia’s popular Le Français au bord de la mer program in September to train in immersion teaching. Julia has used these experiences to help refine immersion curriculum development for the Passamaquoddy Immersion Preschools.

Washington County, Maine – MARCH 2017

The Passamaquoddy-Maliseet Language Portal, an online application developed by the Passamaquoddy Tribe and Speaking Place with support from the National Science Foundation and the Administration for Native Americans, celebrated its 5th birthday with a complete system upgrade.

A more robust video player and more efficient ways of uploading and combining videos and captions will make the Portal more sustainable in the future. Robert Leavitt has been active in refining the Passamaquoddy dictionary side of the Portal as well as guiding its overall development and testing. The Portal has become an important language learning and research resource, both in and away from the community.

Mexico Training and Language Revival Project Expands; Oaxaca, Mexico – MARCH 2017

The community self-documentation project of Totontepec (see below) is aiding other communities and institutions in Oaxaca State to begin language documentation and revival work.

This winter, Robert Leavitt and Ben Levine. in collaboration with Professor Mario López Gopar of the Facultidad de Idiomas, Universidad Autónoma Benito Juárez de Oaxaca, and Saúl Reyes Cortes, Totontepec Language Documentation Coordinator, completed teaching their first semester of a new course in public service media production. Students will then implement projects across the Oaxaca Valley. Sixteen juniors are participating in projects as diverse as documenting a language that only has 10 speakers to doing community advocacy addressing mining and resource extraction. This work is being funded in part by the Speaking Place Annual Appeal.

Warsaw, Poland – MARCH 2017

At the invitation of the Engaged Humanities Conference at the University of Warsaw, Ben delivered a 2-hour presentation via Skype entitled: "A Community Documentation Model for Recognizing and Addressing Historic Community Trauma and its Effects on Language Revitalization and Community Problem Solving."

He was able to show video segments from Passamaquoddy documentation and from his documentary film Réveil-Waking Up French. One participant responded: “This was a wonderful and extremely rich presentation.” For Ben, it was an opportunity to present forceful evidence of community trauma as a factor in language disappearance and also how facilitated documentary video feedback has helped reverse its effects.

Universidad Autónoma Benito Juárez de Oaxaca (UABJO), Oaxaca, Mexico – JANUARY 2017

Robert Leavitt opened our course in community documentation with Professor Mario López Gopar and 16 students (Juniors) with writing assignments designed to help the students clarify their relationship to their community as a step to choosing a project using video.

They are taking this course as a degree requirement for their off- campus community service component. In January, Saúl Reyes Cortes (Totontepec Community Documentation Coordinator) joined Robert in teaching video production. Ben visited in March to help refine the syllabus. (See photo on HOME PAGE)

Leeuwarden, the Netherlands – DECEMBER 2016

The Mercator-SOAS-CIDLeS Conference on Documenting Endangered Languages – Ben Levine delivered a presentation entitled “Documenting Endangered (Minority) Languages in their Cultural Context: Opportunities for Education and Revival.” The conference focused on how documentation can be developed into educational resources for language education and revival.

CoLang 2016, University of Alaska, Fairbanks – JUNE 2016

Ben Levine and Julia Schulz taught community language documentation with video to 16 students from Alaska and such diverse countries as Australia, Slovakia, England, Nigeria, Japan, and the Canadian Northwest.

The course was designed by Dr. Mandana Seyfeddinipur of SOAS, the University of London, who has been actively training groups around the world in visual, multimodal documentation with an emphasis on gesture. Our respective methods are quite compatible and we are looking forward to more opportunities to support her work.


Eleanor Stevens

Passamaquoddy Tribe Looking to Children to Preserve Language – MPBN

Languages across the world are disappearing as fewer people learn to speak, read, and write the words of their ancestors. Research suggests that roughly half of the 7,000 languages currently spoken will be gone by the start of the next century. . .

December 23, 2015
Author: Jennifer Mitchell

New school seeks to keep language alive. – The Quoddy Tides

“Our number one goal is to create new speakers," says Donald Soctomah, the project administrator for a new language immersion school to teach the Passamaquoddy language to children ages 3 to 5. The tribe recently was awarded a three-year $750,000 grant for the program from the U.S. Department of  . . . 

November 13, 2015
Author: Edward French

Donald Soctomah has been involved in efforts to keep the Passamaquoddy language alive.   PHOTO BY JOHANNA S. BILLINGS/BDN

Donald Soctomah has been involved in efforts to keep the Passamaquoddy language alive.

Passamaquoddy Tribe to Launch Language Immersion Program – Bangor Daily News

PLEASANT POINT, Maine — A three-year, $750,000 federal grant from the Administration for Native Americans (ANA) is aimed at helping the Passamaquoddy revive their language.

The tribe will use the money to develop two language immersion programs for preschoolers and a handful of adults — one at each of the reservations in Pleasant Point and Indian Township, said Donald Soctomah, who is serving as administrator as an in-kind contribution required by the grant . . .

October 28, 2015
Author: Johanna S. Billings

Endangered Languages – The New Yorker

The New Yorker magazine published a letter by Ben Levine and Julia Schulz in response to a feature article on endangered languages. 

"We read with interest Judith Thurman’s piece on attempts to save dying languages (“A Loss for Words,” March 30th). There’s a quip among workers in New England nursing homes that goes, “They come in speaking English, and they go out speaking gibberish.” 

May 4, 2015
Authors: Ben Levine & Julia Schulz

George Neptune uses the Portal to learn Passamaquoddy, his heritage language.  PHOTO BY DANIEL QUINTANILLA/SPEAKING PLACE

George Neptune uses the Portal to learn Passamaquoddy, his heritage language.

Passamaquoddy Language Portal Now Offers Access on Mobile Devices – Bangor Daily News

Quietly, the Passamaquoddy-Maliseet-speaking people of Eastern Maine and New Brunswick have been making history, taking their language and lifeways to far-flung community members, linguists, and scholars around the world on line via a groundbreaking web application developed in collaboration with Speaking Place of Rockland and Northeast Historic Film of Bucksport. That application, called an Endangered Language Portal, or, in this case Passamaquoddy-Maliseet Language Portal, links the 19,000-word Passamaquoddy on-line dictionary with over one hundred videos produced by documentarians Ben Levine and Julia Schulz of Speaking Place . . .

January 27, 2014
Author: Julia Schulz

Reviving Passamaquoddy: A Community Finds Healing in Its Own Words – Cultural Survival Quarterly

The first school was built in Motahkomikuk, a Passamaquoddy community in northeastern Maine, in the late 1930s. St. Ann’s Indian Mission School, run by Catholic nuns, enrolled children from Motahkomikuk and nearby Sipayik, the two reservations where most Passamaquoddy live. The children, who spoke Passamaquoddy, came to school only to find that English was required. . . 

December 2012
Author: Meg Holladay