Contribution by Cree Whelshula, NLCC TTA Director

Humor is an important part of many indigenous cultures. I remember hearing one of my Elders say many times the importance of “starting your day with humor” as he reminisced about joking in the mornings with his coworkers as a young man.

Not only is humor and fun an important cultural value, “Health care providers and educators may utilize the power of laughter to improve health and enhance teaching and learning” (Savage, Brandon M., et al.). Our brain produces chemicals as it responds to our environment and external stimulus.

Evidence documents that appropriate humor, and humor that relates to course material, attracts and sustains attention and produces a more relaxed and productive learning environment. Humor also reduces anxiety, enhances participation, and increases motivation (Savage, Brandon M., et al.).

Language lessons that utilize humor and fun actually trigger those happy chemicals that reduce stress hormones (which can shrink the brain and actually kill brain cells) and produce a chemical called acetylcholine that increases focused attention.

Knowing that humor has such a powerful effect on learning, you can begin to intentionally implement elements of humor into language learning. A fast way to add humor into online lessons or visual materials is by utilizing some fun Google extensions. You can find Google extensions at this link:

The two that I find fun are “Giphy” and “Bitmoji.” A bitmoji is a character that you create to look like a cartoon version of you. The Extension also lets you generate stickers. You can see my bitmoji character below. If you need instructions on how to get extensions on how to use them, check out this YouTube tutorial from New EdTech Classroom:

While our languages are sacred and we do serious work, don’t be afraid to let loose and just have fun in language learning (Willis). From our historical experiences with boarding school to present-day public school systems, there is an outdated idea that if you are having fun, then you are not learning or working. Our languages were taken away in violence and shame; let us reclaim our languages in a positive and fun way.

Resource cited:

Savage, Brandon M., et al. “Humor, Laughter, Learning, and Health! A Brief Review.” Advances in Physiology Education, 5 July 2017,

Willis, Judy. “The Neuroscience of Joyful Education.” Engaging the Whole Child, 2007,

Hours to Proficiency & Self-Study

Contribution by Cree Whelshula, NLCC TTA Director

It takes approximately 2,000 hours of structured sequential language learning activities for an adult learner to become conversationally (intermediate) proficient. Conversationally proficient is about the equivalent of a 3-4-year-old child in their first language. Realistically, this would need to be spread out across 2-3 years if you are starting from square one. Teachers would need at least a middle- to high-intermediate speaking proficiency prior to entering an immersion school as an instructor. Once they reach this level and enter a classroom, they will still need to continuously invest in their own language learning, as the students can only speak as much as their teachers will know.

Many programs do not have the human resources to spend the level of time with teacher candidates/apprentices. Language workers often wear multiple hats and have to divide their time and attention to multiple areas. One solution to keeping adult language learners on track with their language learning on their own is developing a self-study system.

A self-study system was developed by a polyglot, Lydia Machova ( I have modified her format to suit my own layout preferences and have included it as part of this article. I have also removed the domain of writing. You can add that back in if it is important to your program. The methods in the table that follows are examples of utilizing resources of my own language, Okanagan Salish. It would be good to add a resource list for your learners so they know all the various language materials they can work with.

Methods (menu of options, please feel free to add your own methods)

  • Listen to audio recording of speakers
  • Watch YouTube videos of language songs, stories, etc.
  • Read and listen to audio on eBooks
  • Reviewing flashcards
  • Developing language learning materials
  • Speak with a peer
  • Speak with a family member
  • Self-talk
  • Gold List Method (writing down a list then rewriting that list every two weeks)
  • Grammar exercises
  • Free Volunteer Reading (FVR): Reading a short book or blurb via video.

Language Self-Study System


Listen to the audio recording of speakers: Pete Seymour “Racing Horses”
X3 hr
Listen to the audio recording of speakers: Pronunciation guide website. Repeated after audio.
XXX1 hr
Read and listen to audio on eBooks: Alphabet book. Read along with the audio. Repeated after audio.
XXX30 min.
Review Flashcards: Family Terms Deck. Read the text that went with audio. Repeated after audio.
XXX1 hr
Free Volunteer Reading (FVR): Bird book from eBooks, Read along with audio on eBook, Recorded myself reading the book and posted to the Facebook group.
Total5 hrs. 30 min.

Survey Analysis & Reporting Activity Summary

Contribution by the NLCC TTA Center & Cohort Participants

The Native Language Community Coordination Center (NLCC) just wrapped up a virtual Semi-annual Meeting (SAM). One of the agenda topics was around survey analysis and reporting. This activity took a total of three hours spread across two days. A copy of the original survey from the Okanagan Salish workshop can be found here:

In the first session, the participants were split up into small groups in Zoom breakout rooms. Each group looked at 29 surveys from a real-life grammar workshop for the Okanagan Salish language, which none of the SAM participants participated in or had prior knowledge of. A copy of the 29 survey responses the SAM participants used for the activity can be found here:

They analyzed the data as a group to extract evaluation ratings and open-ended comments. The SAM participants then took this data and developed visual representation. Each group decided what audience that their survey results were intended for. Some examples included presenting to tribal leadership, requesting funding to continue the events, or informing a future event and discover best practices.

During the second session, each group showed their visuals and explained their process and some things they learned from the breakout session. Below, you will see some images that were developed from this activity.

The NLCC T/TA Center, the participants, and ANA were very pleased with the Survey Analysis activity and overall agreed that the report out on Day 3 was awesome. Some items we discussed included that not everyone used Word Clouds to generate a thematic summary of the 29 surveys, each group (and at times individuals) conducted a content analysis instinctively, and some took the qualitative data and turned it into quantitative findings by coding the words and phrases. Plans are in the works for a breakout session for groups to develop an event survey.