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Native Pathways to Education
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Yup'ik RavenOur Language Our Souls:

The Yup'ik bilingual curriculum of the
Lower Kuskokwim School District: A continuing success story.

Edited by Delena Norris-Tull, University of Alaska Fairbanks,
School of Education, Fairbanks, Alaska
copyright 1999

Chapter 3
Creating Yup'ik Books, Translating, and Orthography
By Pamela Yancey and Sophie Shield
Bethel, Alaska
Copyright 1998

People who are publishing books for children strive to create books that are pleasing, informative, entertaining, and grammatically correct. The LKSD Yup'ik teachers and Yup'ik instructional aides are responsible for creating books for the Yup'ik bilingual programs and strive to create books for children that are both educational and enjoyable to read.

For the 1998 Summer Institute, the Lower Kuskokwim School District hired Yup'ik teacher Sophie Shield as a Yup'ik orthography instructor for the Yup'ik teachers and aides. She was also asked to edit and proofread the books that were translated and created during the LKSD Summer Institute.

Part of creating books is to be able to write in the new writing system that was created back in the 1970's at UAF by Irene Reed. (The old writing system developed by the Moravian missionaries was hard to learn because each sound was written in several different ways. As a result, writing varied from person to person.)

During the school year prior to the Summer Institute, Sophie wrote a letter to the teachers and aides who had expressed an interest in coming to Bethel for the institute. In that letter (written in Yup'ik) Sophie stated that she wanted them to respond in Yup'ik so that she could have an idea in which Yup'ik orthography class to place them. Like the previous summers, we were planning on offering three levels of Yup'ik orthography. We had plans to have Walter Tirchick teach a beginning class, Sophie would teach the intermediate class, and James Berlin would teach the advanced group. Almost all the teachers responded to the letter and were placed into their classes correctly on the first day.

About the same time the Summer Institute was starting, Sophie's responsibility as an editor and proofreader for the translated books started. This task continued throughout the summer. This is not an easy task to take on for she has to go through the English text while proofing and editing. The most important process while working on this was to keep in mind if the translators followed the translation rules laid out by James Berlin, titled "Translation Checklist." (See Attachment A). Sophie must look very carefully at the translation to see if the meaning came across effectively. For example in one instance, a translator translated the sentences literally and skipped some important information that the students should be learning while reading the book. The translator skipped the names of the trees whereas the original author seemed to be emphasizing the particular names of certain trees. The Yup'ik students around here should know that they have different kinds of trees all over the world as we do around here. In the last part of the book, there was a sentence that read, "The mango trees were at the end of a road lined with coconut palms." (As it is, this sentence is confusing in English.) Anyway, it was translated as, "The bushes were at the end of the road, on the edge of the big trees." These are the kinds of things Sophie has to look for and change if necessary. That part of editing is the hard part of the job because some people are very defensive about other people changing their work. Sophie doesn't make changes just to make changes or because the translator is using his/her own dialect. She makes changes so that the material will be easier for the students to understand what they are reading. Just to give you an idea of how demanding this job is, she realized that in one night, she had proofread about 80-90 short books.

Attachment B contains the rules for writing in Yup'ik. If they know and understand the rules by heart, they will become pretty good spellers. The rules are pretty basic and are appropriate for beginning and for intermediate students. There are other rules that are introduced as the students get more advanced, like rhythmic lengthening and gemination rules.

Our hope is that the teachers and teacher aides that are working in the villages will take every opportunity they can to learn how to write using the new Yup'ik orthography.

Anyone attending college and going after a teacher's certificate is required to pass certain subjects in college in order to become a certified teacher and one is to be competent in his/her language. We recommend that LKSD bilingual teachers be required to pass certain levels of Yup'ik orthography before becoming teachers or teacher aides. This would greatly benefit the students in the LKSD region.

Attachment A


Translation Checklist

___Did you translate holistically (and not literally, word for word)?

___Did you only use genuine Yup'ik words (and not invented ones)?

___Did you use fluent Yup'ik phrases?

___Did you use correct subject/verb agreement?

___Did you use correct punctuation?

___Did you use correct spelling?

___Did you follow grammatical rules?

___Did you keep to the true message?

___Did you use good foreign words for those that aren't translatable in Yup'ik?

Attachment B

Yugtun Igaryaramta Alerquutait 


  1. Eltetuli erinangqerquni akuliigni erinitulik, ataucirqumek igausngaarkauguq. (ex. ulik, tusek, araq)
  2. Eltetuli erinailkuni akuliigni erinitulik malrurqugnek igausngaarkauguq, cali-llu ataucitun erinituliunrilngurtun aulukumaarkauluni. (ex. kaassaq, alla, teggalquq)
  3. Eletulik makruk erinalgek ayuqevkenatek caniqliqlutek uitakunek akuliigni erinitulik, ataucitaarlutek igausngaciquk. (ex. agalria, nerliu, malruk, agluk)
  4. Eltetulik malruk erinailnguuk ayuqevkenatek caniqliqutek uitakunek, ciuqliq eltetuli malrurqugnek igausngaarkauguq, tunglia-llu ataucirqumek. (ex. uggluku, aqessluni, qerrluku)
  5. Eltetuli erinailkuni qengakuatulim ciungani wall'u kinguani, malrurqugnek igausngaarkauguq. (ex. ellma, anlleq, amllertut)
  6. Qengakuatulit arulaitulit kinguantaqameng erinaitelartut. (ex. apnia, utnguk, atmak)
  7. Qengakuatuli erinangqerqan arulaitulim kinguani, taukuk avvnarqagken apostrophe-mek aturluten. (ex. up'nerkaq, at'ngellruuq)
  8. Eltetuli erinangqerqan arulaitulim ciungani wall'u kinguani, apostrophe-mek aturluten avvnarqagken. (ex. at'lek, nut'legni)
  9. Eltetuli erinangqerquni qengakuatulim ciugani wall'u kinguani atauciuluni igausngaarkauguq. (ex. arnaq, erneq, qanra, ermia)
  10. Eltetuli erinailkuni arulaitulim ciungani wall'kinguani atauciuluni igausngaar-kauguq. (ex. arca, pista)
  11. Erinituli e-aaaq igausngaciquq niicugngakevni. (ex. anerneq, tepet)
  12. Arulaitulit, qengakuatulit, w-aaq, y-aaq-llu malrurqugnek igausngangaitut.
  13. Erinituliunrilnguut ayuqevkenateng quyungqangaitut pingayuuluteng, wall'amllerrluteng ataucimi qaneryarami.
Table of Contents

  • Introduction to the Kuskokwim Delta - Delena Norris-Tull
  • Introduction to the Yup'ik Language and Culture Programs of the Lower Kuskokwim School District - Delena Norris-Tull & Beverly Williams
  • Chapter 1: The Yup'ik First Language Program: Lower Kuskokwim School District - Mary Lou Beaver & Evon Azean, Sr.
  • Chapter 2: The Balanced Literacy Program in Yup'ik - Pamela Yancey & Sophie Shield
  • Chapter 3: Creating Yup'ik Books, Translating, & Orthography - Pamela Yancey & Sophie Shield
  • Chapter 4: Ayaprun Immersion School - Loddie Ayaprun Jones
  • Chapter 5: Analysis of the Yup'ik Immersion Program In Bethel - Agatha Panigkaq John-Shields
  • Chapter 6: Yup'ik Language and Culture: A Description and Analytical View of the 4-6 Yup'ik Thematic Unit - Dora E. Strunk
  • Chapter 7: K-3 Thematic Units and the Alaska Cultural Standards - Nita Yurrliq Rearden
  • Chapter 8: Yup'ik Language and Culture: A Description of the 5th-12th Yup'ik Curriculum and its Revision - Rosalie Lincoln
  • Chapter 9: Yup'ik Discipline Practices Inerquutet and Alerquutet To Implement Into Yup'ik Schools - Theresa Arevgaq John
  • Chapter 10: Recommendations for Yup'ik Curriculum at Lower Kuskokwim School District - Sally Casey

email the editor, D. Norris-Tull


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Last modified August 18, 2006