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JUNEAU (AP) — A group of Alaska natives and residents have been gathering to learn about the Tlingit language, which only about 100 people can currently speak fluently.
The non-structured workshop studies the complicated sounds and structure of the Tlingit language, KTOO.org reported.
The group is gathering on Mondays at the Juneau Public Library to learn different greetings and responses. They study with a book that the Sealaska Heritage Institute recently published, called the “Beginning Tlingit Workbook.” The book was created as part of an ongoing effort to revitalize the language.
Fluent Tlingit speaker X_’unei Lance Twitchell hopes the number of people who can speak the language increases to 5,000 within the next 30 years. Tlingit was nearly destroyed through colonialist efforts that forbid native children from speaking their language, Twitchell said.
“If Tlingit is gone and nobody is teaching it, you have a total assimilation and a total linguistic and cultural genocide,” Twitchell said. “People attacked this language and really tried to remove it.”
Daniel Hernandez is a resident who has made the Monday night workshops part of his regular routine.
“The information I got briefed on just really started to fascinate me, and I wanted to learn more and more,” Hernandez said. “So far, it’s amazing. I really love the class, I’m really learning a lot.”