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This section provides language-learning, language preservation, and language revitalization resources.
Last Updated: Jun 19, 2015 URL: http://ncsa.libguides.com/language Print Guide RSS Updates
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Overview of Aboriginal Languages

In Canada, there are over 60 Aboriginal languages spoken which are grouped into 12 distinct language families. Despite the diversity of languages, speakers fluent in these languages have been on the decline due to European settling of the land. Native tongue speakers tend to be elders with youth not learning the language. Because of this situation, Aboriginal language preservation efforts have been underway to conserve the way the language is spoken, prompting the development of revitalization tools (often aided with the rise of digital technology) so the language can live on for generations to come.

On this page, you'll find various websites, online dictionaries, videos, and tools to teach the language, phrases, vocabulary, grammar, and pronunction of some of the most common languages in Canada. More information on strategies for revitalizing these languages are also provided. There is also a listing of apps developed for smartphones and tablets so speakers can learn the languages on the go.

 

Selected Titles From The BearPaw Library

These select titles are available for loan in the BearPaw Resource Centre's physical library.

Cover Art
Alberta Elders' Cree Dictionary - Nancy LeClaire; George Cardinal; Earle Waugh (Editor); Thelma J. Chalifoux (Foreword by)
Call Number: 497.3 LEC 1998
ISBN: 9780888642844
Publication Date: 1994
"Cree is the most widespread native language in Canada. This is a highly usable and effective dictionary that will serve students, business, governments and media. Designed for speakers, students and teachers of Cree; includes Cree-English and English-Cree sections."

Cover Art
The Blackfoot Dictionary of Stems, Roots and Affixes - Donald G. Frantz; Norma J. Russell
Call Number: 497.3 FRA 1995
ISBN: 9780802007674
Publication Date: 1995
"This second edition of the critically acclaimed dictionary originally published in 1989 adds more than 300 new entries and amplifies over 1000 others. The Blackfoot Dictionaryis a comprehensive guide to the vocabulary of Blackfoot, an Algonquian language spoken by thousands in Alberta and Montana. It contains more than 4,000 Blackfoot-English entries and an English index of more than 5,000 entries, and provides thorough coverage of cultural terms. The transcription uses an official, technically accurate alphabet and the authors have classified entries and selected examples based on more than 25 years of research."

Cover Art
Indian Sign Language - William Tomkins; A. J. Stover (Illustrator)
Call Number: 419 TOM
ISBN: 9780486220291
Publication Date: 1969
"Learn to communicate without words with these authentic signs! Learn over 525 signs developed by the Sioux, Blackfoot, Cheyenne, Arapahoe, and other tribes. Written instructions and diagrams show you how to make the words and construct sentences. Book also contains 290 pictographs (language in pictures) of the Sioux and Ojibway tribes."

Chipewyam Dictionary: English to Chipewyan - Leon W. Elford, Marjorie Elford
Call Number: 497 ELF
ISBN: 0920731163
Publication Date: 1981
"This English to Chipewyan dictionary has been produced as an aid to those studying the Chipewyan language. It is by no means exhaustive or without error. Many more words will need to be added and corrections made in later revisions. Our purposes in compiling this book have been severalfold; to list regular, compount and borrowed nouns, to demonstrate verb paradigms and changes made for aspect, person and class, and to supply an appendix of difficult-to-classify segments of the language. It is also our hope that many speakers of Chipewyan, who wish to expand their vocabularies, will find this volume helpful." --Preface

Meet Cree: A Guide to the Language - H. C. Wolfart; Janet F. Carroll
Call Number: 497.3 WOL 1981
ISBN: 0888640730
Publication Date: 1981
"Across various regions of Canada, the Cree language is spoken in several dialects that differ from one another in a few sounds and in occasional words. Most examples in the book are given in both Plains and Swampy Cree, which account for at least three-quarters of the total number of Cree speakers. But since all Cree has the same basic structure, speakers of neighbouring dialects have little difficulty in communicatiing, and the examples apply equally to all dialects of Cree.

'Meet Cree' introduces the reader to the Cree language, mainly by showing how its structure differs from that of English. It does not attempt to teach the Cree language itself, but those who read the book will find it much easier to learn Cree afterwards."

A Sarcee Grammar - Eung-Do Cook
Call Number: 497.2 COO
ISBN: 0774802006
Publication Date: 1984
A study of the Sarcee, the language of the First Nations people south of Calgary, Alberta.

Cover Art
Making Dictionaries - Preserving Indigenous Languages of the Americas - William Frawley (Editor); Kenneth C. Hill (Editor); Pamela Munro (Editor)
Call Number: 497.21 MAK 2002
ISBN: 0520229967
Publication Date: 2002
Many Indigenous American languages face imminent extinction, and the dictionary, often the only written documentation of these languages, stands as a powerful tool in preserving them. These essays, written by leading scholars in Native American language studies, provide a comprehensive picture of the theory and practice of Native American lexicography. The contributors discuss the technical, social, and personal challenges involved with the complex task of creating a dictionary of a Native American language. The book is also the first of its kind to address both standard and new issues surrounding the challenging task of transforming oral languages in general into written dictionaries.

These essays cover a wide array of topics ranging from practical concerns to linguistic theory. The authors discuss the cultural and social contexts of Native American dictionaries; the role these dictionaries play in the communities themselves: issues of definition, form, and organization posed by the structure of the languages; and the effects of new technology on the compilation, design, and accessibility of dictionaries. The book touches on many different languages including Nahuatl, Nez Perce, Huichol, Ulwa, Miskity, Hopi, Cherokee, Chickasaw, Siouan languages, Dogrib, Slave, Kaska, Maricopa, Zapotec, Ojibwa, Chippewa, Havasupai, Karuk, Sierra Miwok, and Mono.

Towards a New Beginning: A Foundational Report for a Strategy to Revitalize First Nation, Inuit and Metis Languages and Cultures - Canada. Task Force on Aboriginal Languages and Cultures Staff (Contribution by); Ronald Eric Ignace; Mary Jane Jim; Canada, Canadian Heritage Staff (Contribution by)
Call Number: 497.22 TOW 2005
ISBN: 0662691210
Publication Date: 2005
In December 2002, the Minister of Canadian Heritage appointed a Task Force on Aboriginal Languages and Cultures to develop a strategy for preserving, revitalizing, and promoting First Nation, Inuit, and Métis languages and cultures in Canada. The task force was also to advise on the structure and functioning of a proposed Aboriginal languages and culture centre. The task force report reviews the historical and cultural context of Aboriginal languages in Canada, summarizes the results of consultations, and offers recommendations.

 

Preserving First Nations Languages - Shaw TV Victoria

A key part of First Nations identity is their unique languages. Originally aired in June 2012, Shaw TV Victoria's Sucheta Singh tells us about the latest effort to preserve the languages using modern technology with a mobile phone app from the University of Victoria.

To download the free Yati language app discussed in this news video, visit the iTunes app store.

 

FirstVoices Language Archive

"FirstVoices is a suite of web-based tools and services designed to support Aboriginal people engaged in language archiving, language teaching and cultural revitalization. FirstVoices allows Aboriginal communities to use the latest technology to accurately document their language data and manage their own language resources to keep their languages and cultures vibrant and accessible for future generations."

To learn more about this web-based tool, visit FirstVoices.com and FirstVoicesKids.com

 

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Language Statistics, Maps, And Facts

Programs & Workshops

  • Kanatsiohareke Mohawk Language Immersion Program
    A Mohawk-language immersion conducted under their mission to provide programs in the culture & traditions of the people; to foster an active accumulation of spoken Mohawk language by members of the community; and to continue the oral traditions, stories, songs and dances in the unique spirit of the Mohawk path.
  • University Of Victoria Aboriginal Language Revitalization Program
    The award-winning and accessible Certificate in Aboriginal Language Revitalization is offered by the University of Victoria's Department of Linguistics and the Division of Continuing Studies in partnership with the En'owkin Centre. This program is designed to strengthen understanding of the complex context and characteristics of language loss, maintenance, and recovery and develop knowledge and strategies for language revitalization within communities.
  • First Peoples' Cultural Council
    The First Peoples' Cultural Council is a First Nations-run Crown Corporation with a mandate to support the revitalization of Aboriginal language, arts and culture in British Columbia. They provide funding and resources to communities, monitor the status of First Nations languages and develop policy recommendations for First Nations leadership and government.
  • Squamish Language Academy
    A small group of young people will live together for twelve months in a language immerion home to commit to becoming fluent speakers of the Skwomesh (Sḵwx̱wú7mesh) language. The project involves speaking only this endangered language together with the help of a semi-fluent resident, visiting elders, and fluent speakers.
  • Cree language and culture kindergarten to grade 12 : Alberta authorized resource list and annotated bibliography
    This list contains Cree language and culture resources that have been authorized for use in Alberta schools.
  • Nehiyawewin (NWT Cree Language Program)
    This Northwest Territory-based program produces language books, dictionaries, flash cards, cookbooks, alphabet charts, and more.
  • 10 Ways to Boost Tribal Language Programs
    An article from Indian Country Today providing tips, activities, and resources and for improving Indigenous language programs.

Aboriginal Language Apps

These apps are available for use with your smartphone or tablet. Check the details for each app on its compatibility with your electronic device.

  • Cree FHQTC
    File Hills Qu’Appelle Tribal Council of Fort Qu’Appelle Saskatchewan, Canada is delighted to present to you a Cree Language app now available on iTunes App store. This app offers learning, practice, games and quizzes in many everyday categories such as greetings, phrases, vowels, expressions and much more! Learn your language so that it will be kept alive for generations to come.
  • FirstVoices suite of apps
    Suite of downloadable smartphone apps repurposed from the FirstVoices website. Features 17 different Aboriginal languages.
  • Singuistics
    Singuistics is an iPad app that helps teach Inuktitut through song. Created by the Nunavut-based startup Pinguaq, the app includes both traditional and original songs by Inuit musicians.
  • Yati
    This app, developed by a University of Victoria linguistics professor and the Tlicho Community Services Agency helps users learn Tlicho, a Dene language of the Northwest Territories. As far as aboriginal languages go, Tlicho is relatively strong, with upwards of 3,000 active speakers, and the app is designed to help young learners perfect their pronunciation and vocabulary.
  • Anishinaabemowin App
    Developed by the Wikwemikong Heritage Organization, this app is for individuals who are wanting to enhance their Ojibway/Odawa language skills. Features complete access to Anishinaabemowin words and phrases, pictures, songs, and prayers. The app is available for $7.99.
  • Ogoki Learning Systems Inc.
    A 100% First Nations owned and operated company that specializes in the design of rich applications that engage the youth audience and provide an educational value with utility. They offer language learning apps for a multitude of languages including Saulteaux, Cree, Yurok, L’nui’suti, Ojibwe, Potawatomi, and Arikara.
  • Naqittautit
    From the Pirurvik Centre, Inuktut Naqittautit is a set of three keyboards for typing in either syllabic (qaniujaaqpait) or roman (qaliujaaqpait) Inuktut.
 

Marie's Dictionary

"This short documentary tells the story of Marie Wilcox, the last fluent speaker of the Wukchumni language and the dictionary she created in an effort to keep her language alive."

 

CBC's Geraldine Carriere demonstrates Cree app

A demonstration of the Cree FHQTC app developed by the File Hills-Qu'Appelle tribal council in southern Saskatchewan.

To download the free app, please visit the iTunes app store.

 

Vanishing Voices, Native languages

"By official count, there are more than 50 First Nations languages across Canada. Some are thriving. Dozens others, though, are in danger of disappearing. In this video by Leah Hennel, we take the pulse of Southern Alberta First Nations languages."

This video was produced by the Calgary Herald in October 2009.

 

First Speakers: Restoring The Ojibwe Language

"A ground breaking documentary about the Ojibwe people creating a language immersion school to save their language."

Released in 2010 by Twin Cities Public Television and made possible with funding from the Minnesota Historical Society. For more information about this documentary, please visit their official website.

 

Learning Ojibwe With Online Tutorials

In this short video, James Vukelich, the Indigenous language specialist for Minneapolis Public Schools, gives his insights teaching the Ojibwe language using digital tools and posting his language lessons online.


For more information about James Vukelich and his projects, please visit his website.

 

The Cherokee Language

Cherokee language segment taken from the documentary, "Voices of North Carolina."


More information on the film is available at the Talking NC website.

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