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By Alister Toknoa

TOFOL, Kosrae (October 18-30, 2001 – The Kaselehlie Press)---A team of two linguists and two computer experts from Shonan Institute of Technology (SIT) in Fujisawa, Japan, arrived in late August to begin work on a three year joint project with the Kosrae State Department of Education to revise the Kosraen dictionary and put it on a computer database.

The project is being funded by a science research grant from the Japan Ministry of Education. Team members are Dr. David Hough, who heads the team, and fellow linguist Don Maybin . Dr. Nagasawa and Hirohiko Honda are computer specialists.

The project began as a request for technical support from Mr. Alister Tolennoa, Kosrae State Department of Education Administrator for Instruction. "We feel it is very important to both preserve and enrich the Kosraen language and culture," explained Mr. Tolennoa. "To that end, it is imperative that we encourage our young people to read and write in Kosraen as well as English. This project will go a long way in helping us to attain our goal of maintaining bilingual literacy."

Mr. Tolennoa added that the project will also help to spread knowledge among older Kosraens of the new standardized spelling. "Although a new spelling system was developed in 1973," "marry people still feel more comfortable with the old system. That system, written by missionaries in the 19th century, contains many inaccuracies.

Dr. Nagasawa explained the advantages of a computer database. "Unlike a printed book," he said, "a computer database can be constantly updated and revised. Also, the dictionary can be put on the Internet and be made available to Kosraens living off island, such as in Pohnpei, Guam, Hawai‘i, or on the U.S. Mainland. These people want their children to grow up speaking Kosraean. As the number of people with computers is increasing, it will be possible to use the Internet as an educational tool to teach Kosraen." Dr. Nagasawa added that another advantage of a database is that small numbers of copies can be printed out and given to students as needed.

In addition to the dictionary project, which is scheduled for completion in March of 2004, the SIT team will work with the Kosrae DOE team to complete a number of short-term projects. The first of these is a children’s picture dictionary, which is scheduled for completion next March. "We didn’t want people to have to wait nearly three years before they could start to see the results of our work," explained Dr. Hough. We also wanted to complete some three-to-six-month projects, which people can start benefiting from immediately.

The team also brought digital audio and visual equipment and editing software with them. Together, the DOE and the SIT team are now using this equipment to develop a video library about the people and culture of Kosrae.

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