Cree lessons with a bit of a Kung Fu kick

Most Cree language learners don’t turn to Bruce Lee for a lesson, but Simon Bird is changing that.
Cree teacher Simon Bird is using an old Bruce Lee movie to help teach his language. (Simon Bird/Facebook)

Most Cree language learners don't turn to Bruce Lee for a lesson, but Simon Bird is changing that.

He creates videos using clips from movies — both classic and new — to liven up language lessons.

"These are all old clips that I used to watch when we only had CBC on one station," said Bird. "When I'm watching these clips now on YouTube, it just brings back a flood of memories."

Bird often chooses humourous scenes that use action to illustrate the language. 

"Bruce Lee always had a lot of action… just looking at it and not even speaking the language, it's so dramatic and … a lot of fun," said Bird.

Bird started making the videos to help teach his own children how to speak Cree.

"Even though I'm a fluent speaker, I haven't really been able to teach them in a way I've been taught," said Bird, who was exposed to the language growing up.

"What I've been able to do is use things [to] get my kids interested, and fortunately it's relatable to other people as well."

Simon Bird is the principal at Senator Allen Bird Memorial School at the Montreal Lake Cree Nation, Sask. He creates Cree language lessons using clips from movies. (Simon Bird/Facebook)
Bird created a Facebook group called #CreeSimonSays to share the videos he creates, and to date has over 9,000 followers.

"I think it really resonates with people that are maybe away from the language nest of their own families," he said.

"The way I've been presenting the material, it really clicks with a lot of precious memories that [other people] have of their families."

Bird said his most popular video is a Call of Duty commercial, which he created to connect with young, technology savvy Cree language learners.

"The Cree language needs us to be innovative, we can't just follow the same old curriculum … we're fighting for the survival of our language" he said. 

Creating these videos has become a bit of a family activity, recently Bird recruited his daughter to provide the Cree translation for a clip from Disney's Moana.

"We worked on it for a good half a day, and she's not fluent but …  if any fluent speaker were to listen to the Moana clip, they could swear that she is fluent," said Bird.