Students at the University of Alaska Fairbanks and beyond are learning the Inupiaq language with help from a website created by a fellow student.
Qaġġun Zibell, whose English name is Chelsey, has built a website to help students, both at UAF and around the world, absorb basic Inupiaq. Zibell’s work was completed as part of a summer graduate fellowship through UAF eLearning & Distance Education.
“Students who use this site will be able to absorb the different grammatical aspects of Inupiaq that are so difficult to digest,” said Zibell, a proficient Inupiaq speaker from Noorvik, Alaska. “This will hopefully make the language acquisition process a lot smoother.”
Inupiaq, a language spoken by Alaska Natives in the northern and northwestern regions of the state, is designated as “severely endangered” by The Endangered Languages Project. It is complicated to learn and losing visibility within the culture.
The website is a supplement to the “dense” textbook used in Elementary Inupiaq (INU F111X) and Beginning Inupiaq (INU F193). Zibell has been working closely with instructor Ron Brower to develop this tool for students.
Online and face-to-face students are using the site — which features games, videos and interactive activities — as part of the introductory classes this fall. Zibell expects the resource will ultimately be used outside of Fairbanks and even beyond Alaska.
“The more exposure the better,” she said. “We wanted to create something that is a little more accessible to the everyday language learner who is not looking to become an expert in linguistics.”