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Where in the World is ELAR: ELDP Yunnan Training

This week on the ELAR blog, Sophie Mu recaps the Endangered Language Documentation Project training in Yunnan, China. 

ELDP regularly runs in-country training courses targeting local scholars and language documenters. This year we had our first in-country training courses in Yuxi, China.

ELDP and our co-host Yuxi Normal University welcomed thirty successful applicants from all over China to participate in a two-week training in Yuxi, Yunnan from October 24th– November 4th. We were pleased to have participants working on documentation on many endangered languages in China, including those which have not been officially recognised by the Chinese government, such as Sadu and Xiandao.  The selected participants came from different backgrounds but with the same passion and devotion to language documentation. The participants were young researchers from universities in major Chinese cities, such as Guoling Chen, who had been working on documenting Miao rituals in Guizhou; teachers from borders like Legun Mu, whose work involves creating teaching materials for children living along the border line between China and Burma; and community members like Zhuoma, a Tibetan language activist who works to document her own language, Jiarong Tibetean, in Sichuan. For many of our participants, this event was their first opportunity to attend a language documentation training.

We were honoured to have six language consultants from Yuanjiang and Mengla whose languages are endangered and under-documented. We were also fortunate to have experts from different parts of the world who had had worked in China for many years, to join the training team. Throughout the training, all of our team members supported the trainees with their vast experience working on language documentation in China and practical knowledge of different linguistic tools.

Our morning seminars and lectures were run by Dr Katia Chirkova (semantics and lexicography, ELAN-FLEx-ELAN workflow); Dr Hilario de Sousa (Morphosyntax, FLEx); Ross Perlin (FLEx, Ethics); Dr Mandana Seyfeddinipur (multimodality of language use, video equipment, recording and theory, ELAN, grant writing); Felix Rau (ELAN, ELAN-FLEx-ELAN workflow, metadata with CMDI Maker); Jeremy Collins (documentation project); and Sophie Mu (language documentation, audio equipment and recording techniques).  Every afternoon, the participants were divided into five groups to work with their language consultant to practice the skills and tools they were taught in the morning, with two instructors’ help. In the evenings, the participants had a two hour slot to work with their team members, discuss their proposals with instructors and share their incredible experiences working in different communities.

During the last two days of the training, ELDP held half-day clinics to answer participants’ remaining questions and concerns. On the last day of the training, each of the five groups presented their mini documentation project.

The training received significant attention on local and national levels in China. Yuxi TV, Yunnan TV and Xinhua News aired interviews conducted with instructors, participants and the language consultants on TV, radio, websites and newspapers.

ELDP would like to express our gratitude to all language consultants, our Yuxi co-hosts, participants and instructors at the training. We are looking forward to seeing the proposed projects and our continued collaboration.

Blog post by Sophie Mu

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