WHAT WE DO
The work of Speaking Place begins with an invitation by a community to explore how we might work together. We use video and other survey methods to propose initial strategies. Our media-based and interdisciplinary approach lets all possible participants find voice and have input while integrating expert advice and the best evidence-based practices. This leads to high levels of community participation, contextualized and trustworthy data for research, and bold initiatives that can reach objectives.
Language Revival, or Reclamation, is a new field emerging from the integration of linguistics, language education, and community advocacy. Based on our direct experience and research, language reclamation follows naturally from endangered language documentation. In particular, recording culturally contextualized natural group conversation often leads to formal or informal cultural education and language learning.
The Documentary Film
Our documentaries are known for their ability to engage viewers, raise and expand awareness about the subject, and stimulate change. These feature-length and shorter pieces achieve their effect through a filmmaking approach that is based on intensive research, a high degree of community participation, and the adaptation and elaboration of proven cinéma vérité techniques. One such technique is our unique video feedback process first developed in therapeutic settings.
When there are challenging issues in the community that require a new approach to reach critical audiences and motivate change, community groups or individuals often invite Speaking Place to design and produce a media strategy and the products to realize it. Thus community education flows from the community to our team, and then back again to and within the community, using the techniques described in THE DOCUMENTARY FILM section. Flexibility and innovation are essential.
Documenting Endangered Languages
Speaking Place works with communities seeking an intervention with documentation that can forestall and reverse the language shift process that is threatening the continued existence of their language.
Our approach to documenting endangered language represents a major methodological departure at a time when communities were seldom benefiting from the documentation of their languages.
The Speaking Place team has been at the forefront of adapting video and digital technology to education, research, and the needs of communities since the early 1970s. We are currently developing third and fourth generation versions of the Endangered Language Portal.
Seeing the need: Sending linguists and filmmakers to remote locations to document languages has two major drawbacks that seriously limit the opportunity for and the value of the work: 1. Even informed and trained outsiders inevitably determine the character of the work often missing what is of most value both to research and the community. 2. It is very expensive thus limiting the number of communities and the amount of documentation that can be done, which in turn reduces opportunities for language reclamation in places where it is most needed.
Speaking Place trains community participants and professionals in our documentation and documentary techniques in a variety of venues.
Our interdisciplinary teams include educators committed to integrating best practices from the field with the resources of documentation and natural group conversation with an emphasis on culturally contextualized, participatory learning strategies and materials all developed in collaboration with project partners.