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Thompson Rivers U: Training the next generation of First Nations language teachers

by ahnationtalk on February 1, 201948 Views

January 31, 2019

Language not only helps us communicate and connect with one another, it is also a lifeline to our past, present and future. It is a link to our ways of being, our beliefs, customs, norms and so much more.

June Kelly, the co-ordinator of TRU’s First Nations language program, recently stopped by the Radio NL studios for an episode of Talk to the Experts with guest host, Francesca Lucia. See below for the interview in three parts and some Secwepemc resources.

Covering a lot of ground, some of the discussion included:

  • the program’s history, goals and future
  • the importance of allowing all Indigenous languages to grow and thrive
  • courses are open to everyone and can count toward a degree’s language requirements
  • the transformation students go through from the first day of classes to the last
  • explaining the letters and symbols of the the local First Nations language Secwepemctsin
  • what printed, mobile apps and online resources are available for those learning First Nations languages
  • careers like law, education and social work are just three fields that can benefit from knowing a First Nations language
  • learning some greetings

“When students first start learning the language, they are very quiet and very shy, because pronunciation is key when you’re learning to speak,” said Kelly, adding “because if you pronounce a word wrong, it can have a totally different meaning. But by the end of the class (the course) they’re standing up in front of the classroom and guests and doing their entire presentation in Secwepemctsin or St’át’imcets (language spoken around the middle Fraser and Lillooet rivers).”

While explaining some of the similarities and differences between English and the local Secwepemctsin, Kelly said:

“Secwepemctsin uses the English alphabet to write the language. There are 43 consonants in Secwepemctsin and seven vowels and one number seven. When a learner is looking at all of that and they’re trying to read the language from the dictionary, it can be quite difficult. Because, what does the number seven do? In Secwepemctsin it either means an abrupt halt, or it has its own pronunciation as well.”

Some Secwepemc resources

TRU library

First Voices You can also find First Voice in your app store

Secwepemc Cultural Education Society

Secwepemc history and culture pages on TRU’s website


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