Freshmen Starr Rodrieguez and Natahny Chacon will take three college level quarter classes (Serrano 1, Serrano 2 and Serrano 3) which will fulfill their two years of world language credits and also give them college credit at the same time, according to Janna Burton, Assistant Principal of Academics at Aquinas.
As members of the Serrano native people Rodriguez and Chacon are excited to be learning their native language. Chacon said that the language is not spoken much anymore and she is excited to see it revived. She said not much of the language is spoken in her home. Some of the younger kids know more than the older ones or adults because of what they learn in the (San Manuel) community center, she added.
The course description reads, “Long before the coming of their younger brothers, the Europeans and Americans, the San Bernardino Mountains and valleys were inhabited by the native Serrano people. Despite centuries of oppression and systematic attempts to destroy their culture and language, the Serrano have endured to this day. Through a partnership with San Manuel Band of Mission Indians, this course marks the first attempt to teach the Serrano language at a university level and is the first of three courses that will introduce students to the Serrano language and its everyday use. In addition to instruction in basic grammar and vocabulary, one third of class time will be devoted to an examination of Serrano history and culture, led by Dr. Ernest Siva, a Serrano elder from the Morongo Band of Mission Indians. Taken as a whole, this class will provide a unique opportunity for the student to study the life, legacy and language of the original inhabitants of the area.”
Rodriguez and Chacon both agree that learning the Serrano language is no easy task. They say there are over 40 letters to its alphabet and 10 vowels. They also feel the pronunciation of the letters and vowels are much harder than the English language or even Spanish and French. However, they are committed to bringing their native language back to life, and attend the class five evenings a week, at the tribe’s community center.
Rodriguez and Chacon are enjoying teaching their parents the language as they progress in the course, they said. The class currently is quite small, with only six students, but they hope it will grow as more and more people find out about it. The class is much like other language courses, employing the use of smart boards and quizzes and tests. One thing that Rodriguez and Chacon find very helpful but a little intimidating, they say, is the video recording of them speaking the language that the instructor implements. They say it is a great way to really see how you look and sound in speaking the language. They also say their friends at Aquinas are impressed and curious about the Serrano language, and who knows what further interest it may spur?