Since January I have been learning Inupiaq with an online course from Rosetta Stone. The course is one of a range of indigenous North American language offerings produced by the company. Inupiaq is spoken in Alaska.
Yesterday I finally completed half of the first level. Just two and a half levels to go now!
Overall, I think it’s a fantastic course. I am having some problems with it, but I think that’s because the course wasn’t designed for learners outside of Alaska.
To get the best out of this course, I would need an hour a week in a classroom with a grammar teacher. Although Inupiaq vocabulary is relatively straightforward, the word endings are complex. I need to spend time alone with every single ending.
I would also benefit from having Inupiaq speakers around. Inupiaq pronunciation is not difficult but the word units are looooooooooooooooooong and there are several sounds that we don’t have in English. When doing the pronunciation exercises with Rosetta Stone I often have to talk in the back of my throat like a wookie.
So in short, if I were an Alaskan teenager with an Inupiaq grandmother and weekly lessons at school, the Rosetta Stone course would be perfect for me.
As it is, I do feel that I will gain a lot from Rosetta Stone’s method. Rosetta Stone teach language by pairing photos with written words. They start with the basics such as boy, girl, man and woman. Then they quickly introduce verbs such as run, walk, eat and drink. Possessives and size comparisons appear not long afterwards.
It’s a very intuitive way of learning language. For example, if you know the words for man and woman, and see pictures of a woman running and a man walking, it’s easy to work out which verb means run and which means walk. If you are then shown pictures of a horse running and a dog walking, it’s obvious which noun means horse and which means dog.
Photos aren’t very helpful when it comes to explaining some small grammatical features that aren’t present in the learner’s first language. For example, I still don’t know whether a particular group of words function as articles, pronouns or indicators of possession.
Not all of the small grammatical features are difficult to learn from photos. In Inupiaq they have a lovely way of saying “and” when connecting two nouns. Instead of saying “father and daughter,” they say “fatherloo daughterloo.” (The Inupiaq words for father and daughter are aapa and panina.)
Have you tried one of the Rosetta Stone indigenous North American language courses? I would love to hear how you got on with it.