This workshop was wonderful, I led a discussion group and some of the ideas that the youth and elders came up with were just amazing; things like university courses, radio classes, total immersion summer camps and weekend school, shared language programs between all Mi’gmaq communities and emphasizing advertisement were mentioned. This was a very well thought out workshop and I am glad that I got the chance to participate.
Guest speaker Diane Mitchell
Some of the points made about Diane’s speech were really moving. Diane talks about how the Mi’gmaq language used to be universal and now we have so many dialects for each community that to bring the language back for each community is nearly impossible compared to if we tried to bring back the universal language as it once was. The problem is that we no longer have a “universal” language and this will possible lead to the extinction of our language if nothing is done about it immediately.
Guest speaker Starr Paul
I liked that the guest speakers didn’t just speak in English, being a learner I had a hard time understanding everything that was being said in Mi’gmaq/Mi’kmaq but just the fact that there were words that could be understood by almost everyone shows that our language is not completely lost and can be revitalized if we work really hard to bring it back.
A few weeks ago Janine and I attended Dr. Lindsay Morcom’s seminar on “Language Preservation, Education, and Diversity”. The following are some highlights from her seminar.
- The medium is the message. We view the education system as a system that can tell you what is useful and what is important. If your language is not part of the equation , then you are told that it is not important. This was the way schools used to rob language from children in the past. But, by the same reasoning, there is is no reason that a school system in the hands of Native people shouldn’t be able to counteract the damage inflicted in the past.
- There is a high correlation between immersion programming and self esteem (collective and personal). Taylor & Wright (1995) (see attached article) conducted a study with Inuit, White, and mixed-heritage participants to see the connection between heritage language instruction and self-esteem. The results showed that early heritage language education had a positive effect on personal and collective self-esteem of minority-language students. This has many long-term benefits, such as a stronger sense of personal identity, stronger connection to collective identity (feeling like you belong to a group), and positive impacts on academic success.
- Aboriginal language immersion programs have an important role in language revitalization, maintenance, and education. Usborne et al. (2011) (see attached article) compared a strong Mi’gmaq immersion program with a Mi’gmaq as a second language (L2) program, and found that students in the immersion program not only had stronger Mi’kmaq language skills compared to students in the L2 program, but students within both programs ultimately had the same level of English. This ultimately shows that learning a Native language at a young age does not negatively impact the process of mainstream language-learning.
- The type of language programming (immersion, L2 ) should be decided on a case-by-case basis, as it is more of a continuum: programs of study in the language, programs of study for the language, or a combination of both. Factors that should be considered: what is the goal of the community? what is the history of the community with the language? what is the status of the language now? (e.g. is it used everyday in the community? are there many fluent speakers?) Illustrated with 3 case studies: Pokomchi’, Dene, and Michif.
- Native language programming allows students to learn through a culturally-appropriate lens, which is important. Just as everyone has different learning styles (visual, aural, tactile) a culturally-appropriate lens can be conducive to learning and can help propagate traditional practices, values, etc.
For those interested to find out more, there were two articles that we discussed: Identity and the Language of the Classroom and Learning through an Aboriginal language – the impact on students’ English and aboriginal language skills. Also, Dr. Morcom has allowed us to post her slides from the seminar, which you can find here: Language Preservation, Education, and Diversity.
Mary Ann Metallic, Mi’gmaq language teacher at Listuguj Education Directorate, receives LSA’s Excellence in Community Linguistics Award. The LSA writes:
Mary Ann Metallic has done exemplary work to revitalize the Mi’gmaq language in her home community of Listuguj, Quebec. Her infectious passion for Mi’gmaq has led to the development of a successful teaching program, and her work with linguists has resulted in significant contributions to language documentation and linguistic theory.
The annual LSA meeting will be held in Minneapolis, MN January 2-5, 2014. Mary Ann and her daughter, Janine, will be traveling there. Congratulations Mary Ann!