Chinuk Wawa Language Classes 2023

September 26, 2023
Tu/Th 4-6pm PST
Lane Community College, Online
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Fall is the time to begin your Chinuk Wawa studies!
Enrollment is now open for Fall 2023
CW101 Tu/Th 4-6pm (CRN 21219)
CW201 M/W 4-6pm (CRN 21220)

Lane Community Colleges offers beginning Chinuk Wawa (CW101) only in fall term.

If you have already learned some Chinuk Wawa, you may be able to join a different course level. Please feel free to reach out a current instructor via email:

Currently, all classes are live streamed via Zoom, so students can join us from any location.
All students are welcome!

A limited number of non-credit students may enroll in the course at low cost via LCC’s continuing education (CE) program. CE is an alternative way to enroll in the very same classes along with credit students, and the course has the same attendance and homework requirements for credit and CE students. CE enrollment opens a few weeks before each term.

What is Chinuk Wawa?
Chinuk Wawa has been called the first language of Oregon, and also shawash-wawa, Chinook Jargon, and Chinuk. Historically it was a language of intertribal and intercultural communication, and currently it is being revitalized as the heritage language of the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde and the Chinook Indian Nation. Grand Ronde has consistently invested in the revitalization of Chinuk Wawa for decades, including their ongoing support of the Chinuk Wawa Program at LCC. Individuals from tribes throughout the language’s historic range and beyond have also contributed and benefited from this unique and important program.

Chinuk Wawa arose along the lower Columbia River from the mouth to The Dalles. It began as a Pidgin–a simple language used for communication between speakers of other languages. Over years it developed into a Creole in several communities–a community language used for all communicative purposes.

At the time European Americans first arrived, 18-25 languages of many different families were spoken in present-day Oregon (Gross 2007; D. Hymes 2007). The following map shows approximate areas for the different languages of Oregon.

oregon native languages map
As the lingua franca of the Northwest, Chinuk Wawa served as the language of communication between speakers of different languages in our region–both tribal and non-tribal. It was the language of exchange and trade at Celilo Falls and at other sites along the Columbia River, and was also used in all areas west of the Rockies from Northern California to Alaska.

Chinuk Wawa includes words from several different languages. The following percentages come from Zenk, Johnson, & Hamilton, 2010:

40% Lower Chinook
9% Coast Salish
3% Nuu-chaa-nulth
18% English
17% French
3% Kalapuyan and other Indigenous languages
10% words of mixed or unknown origin
As a creole language, the grammar of Chinuk Wawa is different from some other languages you might have learned in school. You don’t have to add endings to any words. Instead, you use the word order and combination of words to make your meaning clear.

There are many sounds in Chinuk Wawa that are different from English. The sounds of Chinuk Wawa are beautiful, and they are quite similar to those of many other Pacific Northwestern Indigenous languages you might hear or study in the future.

Chinuk Wawa Classes
Our Chinuk Wawa program includes six courses, taught over two years:

Chinuk Wawa 101 (fall)
Chinuk Wawa 102 (winter)
Chinuk Wawa 103 (spring)
Chinuk Wawa 201 (fall)
Chinuk Wawa 202 (winter)
Chinuk Wawa 203 (spring)