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Learning my Indigenous Language in the home and community: a Youth’s perspective on Secwepemc language acquisition, why it matters and how it connects to well-being

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Title: Learning my Indigenous Language in the home and community: a Youth’s perspective on Secwepemc language acquisition, why it matters and how it connects to well-being
Authors: Ignace, Julienne
Issue Date: 02 Mar 2017
Description: In this paper, as a 25-year old Secwepemc woman, I will show my own path to becoming fluent in my ancestral language, Secwepemctsin. Having been raised in a household where both of my parents were fluent speakers of the language, I was lucky to have adults speak to me in our language, although it was difficult to keep English out. At age 6 I was the subject of a graduate thesis on my First Nations language acquisition, that produced recordings of my speech as a young child, which I will discuss in my presentation. Throughout my childhood and schooling, small amounts of language learning offered in school, and decreasing exposure to the language led to my speaking ability stagnating. Traumatic events in my family’s and community’s life further led to a decline of the use of our language in the home, and through these examples I will discuss how difficult it is in our Indigenous communities to “just get on with” learning and re-learning our language as we face trauma and stress. There is hope, however, in becoming fluent in my language: Initially in 2013, and then again since 2015 I began learning Secwepemctsin through the master apprentice approach (a.k.a. mentor-apprentice approach) which enabled me to learn my language one on one, initially with an elder in my community, and subsequently with my father’s aunt in another community. From a practitioner’s (apprentice’s) perspective, I will discuss not only the methods and procedures of MA, but also the successes and challenges of MA learning on the ground. Throughout this project, my language skills were assessed on a regular basis by a panel of elders, and in addition, we recorded my speech as I progressed from re-learning words and phrases to increasingly more complex levels, and I will show examples of my speech production as it emerged and unfolded, and compare it to benchmarks of language competency (ACTFL, CEFL). These experiences will also throw light on what works in Indigenous language proficiency assessment. Finally, in the context of my language being a critically endangered language only spoken by about 100 people, I will discuss what it means as a young person to learn my language, why it matters and how I see it connected to the well-being of myself and my community
URI/DOI: http://hdl.handle.net/10125/41927
Appears in Collections:5th International Conference on Language Documentation and Conservation (ICLDC)



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