Work and record with language speakers



When you’re working with language speakers to collect language information, you are doing elicitation. This is a shortened version of the Elicitation guide for collecting language information that will guide you through the basics of working with language speakers to elicit the best audio and most useful language information possible.


Audio recording best practices

Consider your speaker

  • Has your speaker given Informed consent to participate in recording?

  • How comfortable is your speaker? Are they going to feel the need to shift around, causing unintentional background noise? Are they sitting somewhere that they will be able to sit for long periods of time?

  • What is your speaker wearing? Are they wearing comfortable clothes? Are they wearing loose clothes or jewelry that will move or brush up against other things, causing unintentional background noise?

Consider your equipment

  • How far is your audio equipment set up? Is it at an appropriate distance to record audio?

  • What are your audio levels? Are you able to continuously monitor your levels while recording?

Consider your environment

  • Are you working in a silent space? Will there be background noise that could interrupt or potentially harm your audio file?

  • Is the environment safe and comfortable for everyone involved?

Consider your timing

  • How long will you be able to record for? Will you foreseeably be interrupted?

It is best practice to record one continuous audio file​.


General elicitation information

We want to ensure that the information we collect is:  

  • As accurate as possible

  • As thorough as possible. This is especially important when it comes to collecting verbs (action words)

  • Useful for language learners. If you open up an English dictionary, you can find all sorts of words that aren’t used on a daily basis. It’s great to collect those things in the long term but your priority should be useful information

It’s good to remember to ask yourself: “Is this a useful thing to say?” 

Ways to collect language information

There are several different ways you can go about eliciting language information.

  • Word lists

    • When you use word lists, you are asking for one word at a time. Record the word on its own, but also ask the speaker to provide a full sentence with the word in it. This makes it much more useful for language learners and for understanding the proper context in which to use a word. These can be uploaded as ‘Related Phrases’ when uploading your words to FirstVoices later on.

  • Stories and conversations 

    • Ask your speakers to tell you a story. Traditional stories are great but we tell “stories” in everyday life too. A similar method is to get two or more speakers together and ask them to have a conversation about a topic.

  • Brainstorming 

    • Another way to collect language information is by brainstorming around a theme or topic. Take fishing for an example. How many action words can you think of that describe everything you do when you go fishing? What about the names of fishing equipment and kinds of fish? It is easy to generate word lists by focusing on a topic and these can be very useful for teachers who want to develop a lesson around a topic. Combine brainstorming with the story method; have the speaker tell a story about fishing to get you started.

Kinds of language information

Every language is made up of certain types of words. In order to be accurate about the language information you enter into FirstVoices, you need to have a basic understanding of some linguistic terms. Here are the word classes used in FirstVoices with an explanation of each.

  • Nouns 

    • These words are people, places, things and ideas.  

    • Example: woman, Vancouver, chair, love  

  • Pronouns 

    • Pronouns are words used in place of a noun, usually referring to people. For example, David is a noun. David is sleeping. But you could also say He is sleeping. The word “he” is a pronoun because it is used in the place of the noun “David”.

  • Verbs 

    • Verbs are the action words of the sentence. The action might be physical or mental.

    • Example: run, jump, cook, eat, think, love 

    • Subjects are the nouns that are doing the action in the sentence. 

    • Objects are the nouns that are undergoing or receiving the action in the sentence.

  • Adjectives and Adverbs 

    • These are describing words.  

    • Adjectives describe nouns. Example: bright, hot, cold, skinny, tall, red, blue 

    • Adverbs describe verbs. Example: quickly, slowly, carefully, never, always 

  • Prepositions and Postpositions (Adpositions) 

    • These words usually describe a location or time and they go together with a noun. (They might also be part of the verb.) 

    • Pre-positions come before or precede the noun

    • Post-positions come after the noun.

    • Example: in, under, on top of, up, down, with, for, to, during  

  • Conjunctions 

    • Conjunctions are words that join two sentences, phrases or clauses together.  

    • Examples: and, but, or 

  • Interjections 

    • Interjections are exclamations.  

    • Examples: oh, ah, ow, wow, dear me, yikes 

    • Swear words are generally categorized as interjections.  

  • Particles 

    • Particle refers to a leftover category of words. First, try to see if a word fits in one of the categories above. If not, you might be dealing with a particle.

    • Particles can be words on their own or they can be part of a verb (or other word class) like a prefix, suffix or infix.

More about verbs

Verbs (action words) are THE MOST IMPORTANT PART of most languages and this is especially true when it comes to Indigenous languages spoken in B.C. Whenever you elicit any verb, you should try to get as many forms of the verb as you can.  

If a speaker says something and you ask what it means, chances are she or he will say something like “eating, that means eating”. But actually there is a lot more information in the word. Who is eating? When are they eating? There are lots of different ways of saying the same verb. The set of different ways is called a paradigm. It is really important that you try to collect a full paradigm for each verb. This is what we mean:

Present tense paradigm for “to dance” 





1st person singular 

I am dancing 

2nd person singular 

You are dancing 

3rd person singular 

She/he/it is dancing 

1st person plural 

We are dancing 

1st person dual 

We (just two of us) are dancing 

1st person inclusive 

We (me and you) are dancing 

1st person exclusive 

We (me and someone else or others but not you) are dancing 

2nd person plural 

You guys are dancing 

2nd person dual 

You guys (just two of you) are dancing 

3rd person plural 

They are dancing 


Make sure that you and the speaker you are working with clearly understand what you are eliciting or else you can get into a “who’s on first, what’s on second” situation! For example, if you ask a speaker how to say that you want the form for “you are dancing” they might think you are asking them to say “I am dancing”.