1) You’ll meet cool people.

If you want to get to know really awesome people, working on language revitalization projects is a great place to meet them.

Together with my fellow intern Will Monroe, I spent this past summer in Kodiak, Alaska working with elders and learners of Kodiak Alutiiq.  I was blown away by the warmth, capability, creativity and humor of the team of individuals who dedicated their time to learning and teaching Alutiiq.  They were incredibly supportive and welcoming at every stage, from first getting my bearings on the island, to teaching me how to bathe in a banya and clean fresh-caught salmon (in Alutiiq!), to saying goodbye at the end of the summer.

2) You’ll gain social, organizational and linguistic skills.

WAYK challenges you and lets you shine.  You’ll get to polish your chops in the following arenas, at a bare minimum:

•Explaining what WAYK is and generating enthusiasm

Hone your elevator pitch skills, your charisma and your handshake! When you become a WAYK intern, you’ll get invaluable experience representing an organization greater than yourself.  If you’re shy, prepare to step out of your shell.  The supermarket, a local high school, a restaurant… everywhere you go is an opportunity to reach out to potential learners.

•Creating and running rides

Because WAYK is collaborative and ever-growing, you get to exercise your creativity while helping a particular language and enhancing the game.  Coming up with new rides for Alutiiq was one of the highlights of my summer; you get to think tactically about gameplay while infusing rides with a sense of humor and playfulness.  For instance, Will and I created a ride called “Ministry of Silly Walks” in which players each demonstrate an individualized wacky walk to illustrate the words gwaten (“like this”) and tawaten (“like that”).  It was fun to brainstorm, and even more fun to see people bring it to life!

•Handing it off: teaching how to teach

One of the coolest parts of a WAYK internship is that it doesn’t end when you leave.  You’ll teach as many people as possible to do what you’ve learned to do– to create and run WAYK rides.  And then they teach more people.  And then the people they teach teach more people.  And then the people they teach teach more people… and before long, you have a lot of people learning and speaking the language.  Which is really cool, and good news for that language.

…And as an added bonus, you might find yourself fluent in a rare, fascinating language by the end of the summer!

3) You’ll see first-hand why language revitalization matters.

A language is a cultural treasure trove.  It can provide keys to whole different ways of perceiving and conceptualizing the world.  It contains fascinating structures that can tell us more about how languages in general work.  For these reasons, I had a vague idea going into the summer that revitalizing languages mattered in a larger sense.

But it didn’t really hit home to me until I met the people to whom it mattered: the elders who wanted to hear their children and grandchildren speak to them in Alutiiq, and the members of the younger generation who wanted to learn.  Because ultimately, revitalizing a language is about serving a community– a community of past and future speakers who want to sustain a cultural heritage.

To me, this constitutes the single most compelling reason to care about the future of an endangered language: because other people care too, and they care a lot.

Thanks everyone for a great summer!

Contact for more info on upcoming events and opportunities.

Written by Evan Gardner