PAHS Klallam Language Class on NPR’s All Things Considered

PAHS Klallam Language Class on NPR’s All Things Considered
Posted on 06/11/2018
PAHS Klallam Language Class on NPR’s All Things ConsideredPAHS Klallam Language Class on NPR’s All Things Considered

Jamie Valadez and her Klallam language students were recent subjects on an episode of All Things Considered, aired on KNKX, a public radio station in Seattle.

KNKX producer Geoffrey Redick visited Valadez’ classroom recently to talk with her and her students and listen as they read aloud and discussed stories written in the Klallam language.

Valadez, a world language and social studies teacher, has been teaching the Klallam language class at Port Angeles High School since 1999.

A Klallam dictionary and grammar book were painstakingly developed to facilitate teaching the language.  “We did this foundational work for this generation of students, so they can learn,” said Valadez, gesturing to the students seated in her classroom.

Klallam Class

“All tribes around here are Coast Salish,” explained Valadez.  “By learning our language, we will be able to understand other tribes.  They have some similarities.”

When asked by Redick what they find difficult about speaking the language, 10th grader Gabe Ritchie mentioned the 8 popping sounds that are difficult to master.

Fluidity is another challenge.  “We have to make the words flow like water,” said 11th grader Johnathan Arakawa.  “We’re just touching that surface.  We don’t have any more elders who are first language speakers.  We are second language speakers.”

These students have had multiple years of exposure to studying the language.  The Lower Elwha Tribe offers baby talk language classes, and Head Start incorporates Klallam language in their preschool program.  At the high school level, students pick up the grammar structures.

Klallam is a living language, and so new words are developed.  For instance, the Klallam word for ‘computer’ translates literally in English as ‘container of thoughts’. 

Keeping up with today’s technology, a cell phone app has been developed with a special keyboard to help text in Klallam.  “It enables us to apply what we’ve learned outside of the classroom,” said Arakawa. “I use it to talk with my friends to tease each other, but isn’t that what our elders did as well?”

“This language is part of our identity, as well as our culture,” continued Arakawa.

A lot of ceremonies need to be performed in the language that takes us over to where our ancestors’ spirits are,” said Valadez.  “We can’t speak in English for this.”

Here is the link to the story Redick produced about Ms. Valadez's class.


Redick plans to return in the fall to profile the U.S. history class from the perspective of indigenous people. 

Photos by Patsene Dashiell/Port Angeles School District:

Valadez NPR All Things Considered 010 –  PAHS world language teacher Jamie Valadez being interviewed by Geoffry Redick from Seattle’s KNKX radio station for an episode of All Things Considered. 12th grader Preeti Court is seated next to Valadez..

NPR All Things Considered 023 – PAHS 11th grader Jonathan Arakawa (left) demonstrates for an app on his smart phone that allows texting in the Klallam language.  9th grader Jada Acosta-Cargo is seated in the background.

For additional assistance, please contact:

M. Patsene Dashiell
Communications & Community Relations Coordinator
Ph: 360-565-3703
Port Angeles School District
Central Services – 216 East 4th Street
“Like” us on Facebook to receive updates!