Assessing success in revitalization - Syilx Language House

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2017-03-04
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Johnson, Sʔímlaʔxʷ Michele
Kruger, Nqʷaʔsmúlmn Jonathan
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Johnson, Sʔímlaʔxʷ Michele
Kruger, Nqʷaʔsmúlmn Jonathan
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An Indigenous grassroots organization, the Syilx Language House Association, will graduate new adult speakers in four years (www.thelanguagehouse.ca). Leadership from three Syilx (Okanagan, Interior Salish) bands are responding to urgent calls from communty to revitalize our Nsyilxcn language and restore the full health of communities. Students represent six of the eight Syilx bands; most are supported by their Band or workplace to attend two full days a week. Teachers are activists operating outside of institutional structures and able to focus entirely on language delivery, acquisition, and Elder documentation. Learners are teaching learners using sequenced curriculum, cutting-edge techniques, and full immersion. In the current state of endangerment, it is necessary for learners to teach each other, using curriculum designed with this in mind. Nsyilxcn is lucky to have a comprehensive, sequenced curriculum developed by the Salish School of Spokane. Teachers are trained in teaching methods, assessment techniques, recording and transcribing Elder speakers. This paper shares research-based best-practices, successes of our first year of implementation, teaching techniques, curriculum design, schedule, standardized assessments, and participant reflections. Students state this is the fastest, most effective learning they have ever experienced. Assessments show language delivery is on track in terms of hours and proficiency. The four-year goal is 2,000 intensive hours delivered to the first cohort over four years. Research shows that 2,000 hours will produce mid-intermediate speakers in complex languages, such as Interior Salish. The pressures of colonization require techniques streamlined to specific community contexts and strategies that focus on creating a safe classroom environment for learners and teachers. After four years, students and teachers will emerge mid- to high-intermediate speakers, capable of bringing language into workplaces and homes.
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