FEL 2017 grant: Mapuzugun immersion camps in southern Chile

This is the third in our series of posts on grants FEL awarded in 2017.

Overview. Mapuzugun is an endangered indigenous language currently spoken by around 120,000 people (45,000 fluently) in southern Chile and Argentina. Throughout 2017, the Mapuzuguletuaiñ team of language activists organised language camps in rural areas of southern Chile where the language is still spoken, funded by FEL. Each camp consisted of an intensive schedule of language classes and immersion activities, including traditional Mapuche games. The aims of the camps were to create spaces where Mapuzugun is the default language of interaction, to improve the Mapuzugun proficiency of participants, and to foster a network of (neo-)speakers who interact with each other in Mapuzugun. An additional aim was for younger learners of the language to interact with fluent older speakers who live locally, thereby making the most of a small time window that exists when fluent first-language speakers still exist and there is a group of learners (mostly in their twenties) enthusiastic to learn from them.

Grantee. This project is led by Robbie Felix Penman.

Robbie completed an MA in Language Documentation and Description at SOAS, University of London, in 2016. On his third trip to South America in 2015, he researched the officialisation of Mapuzugun and the language policies of NGOs, for a course in language revitalisation and for my dissertation, respectively. He also presented at a SOAS conference on Mapuzugun revitalisation in connection to the so-called “Mapuche conflict”. Since finishing his MA he has been living in southern Chile, where he has been working on language revitalisation, particularly by advising the Ministry of Education on language pedagogy for Chesungun, the variety of Mapuzugun spoken in Osorno province. He speaks fluent Spanish and some basic Mapuzugun, as well as having a Trinity certificate in English teaching and professional experience in TESOL and translation. This project is being carried out in collaboration with the Mapuzuguletuaiñ team of Mapuche language activists.

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