B.C. Indigenous language learning sees ‘remarkable growth’

A new report says there is a “significant increase” in the number of Indigenous people learning languages ​​in British Columbia.

2022 edition of the First Peoples Cultural Council Report BC Indigenous Language Status Released Tuesday, it found that an “unprecedented” investment in language activation has increased teaching and learning opportunities since our last report in 2018. We have tripled the number of Learning Nests offering , expanded full-time adult programs, one-on-one mentorships, and online options.

St’uxwtéws Bonaparte First Nation member and council CEO Tracy Herbert told CTV News:

“It’s a birthright, not a privilege. It’s a birthright that we all have access to … Today, many of us don’t have speakers in our families. The natural transmission of language and indigenous knowledge.” can no longer happen. We need to be outside our families, we need these opportunities, we need support to access these opportunities.”

Since the last report, the number of fluent speakers has decreased from 4,132 to 3,370, while the number of learners has increased by more than 20% from 13,997 to 17,103.

The council notes that the decline in fluent speakers is largely caused by the death of the elders. According to the 2020 report, 61.9% of her fluent speakers are over the age of 65. Conversely, her 67.4% of language learners are under the age of 25.

Herbert says the adoption of learning among young people is new.

“I have been in this business for a long time, and I have worked with people who are mostly in their 60s and 70s. It’s really great to see people doing it. It’s our responsibility to learn the language and pass it on,” she says.

Progress delivered in a ‘unparalleled’ challenge

The report also notes that progress in revitalizing the language has been difficult in recent years.

The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted learning opportunities and limited opportunities for in-person immersion programs. The move to teaching and learning online was complicated by the fact that the community did not have access to fast or reliable internet access.

“In addition to the challenges posed by restrictions on social gatherings, many communities were hit by illness. Many cherished elders, including those who were fluent speakers, died,” the report said. increase.

Devastating wildfires and floods have displaced indigenous communities, damaged infrastructure and cut off key transportation routes.

“These unprecedented events have had a negative impact on language regeneration efforts over the past three years,” the report said.

“The fact that we have been able to continue working in many places and that the number of learners has increased despite these challenges is a testament to the resilience and perseverance of First Nations community members.”

More parents teaching their children at home

For Herbert, one of the most encouraging things about this year’s report was the stories of parents teaching their children languages ​​at home.

“This is really rebuilding our family’s natural system where the transmission of our native language was impeded. I think it’s a great example, and their stories are really inspiring,” she said. she says.

“The fact that language is passed on in the home is one of the key indicators of language viability. This is just starting to happen in the pocket, but ideally a high percentage of parents are fluent in language. You can see them mastering it and working towards passing it, passing the language on to their children.”

The language’s momentum is encouraging, but Herbert says it needs more stable funding to sustain it. A project-based funding model means that initiated programs bear uncertain future risks.

“What we’re really looking at is moving away from projects and into long-term revitalization plans and funding those plans.”

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