The lived experiences of participants in the Euchee/Yuchi Language Project: A phenomenological study of language preservation

Jessica E. Park
Workforce Development Education, University of Arkansas
December, 2011


Native languages are disappearing quickly in this country, but there are many programs that are underway trying to save Native languages before they are gone. One such program is the Euchee/Yuchi Language Project which uses a modified version of the Master-Apprentice Language Learning Program (MALLP). Elder language speakers, masters, and younger members of the tribe, apprentices, meet daily in a two-hour language session. The goal of the session is to immerse the apprentices in the language by using conversational Euchee/Yuchi in the form of lessons, props, and presentations, so they can learn the language quickly. The purpose of this study was to discover the lived experiences of participants in the Euchee/Yuchi Language Project by using phenomenological methodology. Research was conducted using interviews and observation sessions. A theoretical concept based on constructivism, Knowles' principles of adult learning, and cognitive apprenticeships was constructed to frame the study within the adult education paradigm. Initial interviews, observation sessions, and follow-up interviews were used to gather data. The Euchee/Yuchi Language Project participants seem to realize the importance of passing down the language to the younger generation, which gives them pride in their tribal heritage. This finding is supported by the data. During the daily language sessions, props and gestures were used to learn new words. New language knowledge was built on existing knowledge because new lessons were taught each day. Observations and interactions were based on real-life situations through which the apprentices acquired new knowledge. Based on the findings, a clear picture of the lived experiences of the participants in the Euchee/Yuchi Language Project emerged. Conclusions were drawn and recommendations based on the theoretical framework were prepared to enhance the lived experience of participants in the program. Recommendations for enhancing the lived experiences of participants in the Euchee/Yuchi Language Project included: (1) more structure in the learning environment, (2) a variety of class times, and (3) the use of reallife learning situations outside of the classroom. Final recommendations were made in the form of further research: (1) Administer a survey to the Euchee/Yuchi community and tribal governance to determine the importance of language preservation outside of the Euchee/Yuchi Language Project and (2) Conduct a program evaluation of the Euchee/Yuchi Language Project to determine if the most effective practices for language preservation and revitalization are being used.