The next generation is bringing Australia’s ancient languages into the future

November 21st, 2020 by Before colonisation, over 250 First Nations languages were spoken in Australia. Now, just over 100 are still in use and 90 per cent are considered "endangered". "Without your language, you're nobody," Ms Holden said. "Your language describes your country and your culture. That's why it's so important for us." Ms Holden is one of a dozen committee members working for First Languages Australia, a national organisation working to reclaim and revive Indigenous languages across the country. "We have to protect our languages … for a long time we weren't allowed to speak our languages, and that's how we're in the predicament we're in now," she said. Researchers from the University of Melbourne are also trying to tackle the issue, starting the 50 Words Project, which aims to record 50 everyday words in every Indigenous language possible. The project has been running for a year and currently has around 65 First Nations languages recorded. Researcher Rachel Nordlinger said the project is breathing new life into ancient languages, many of which have been dormant for decades. "Indigenous languages are a really crucial part of Australia's heritage … they've been the languages of this continent for more than 65,000 years," Professor Nordlinger said. The online audio library is linked to an interactive map which shows the country each language comes from. Researchers hope the language library will be used as an education resource, and more Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages can be embedded into the school curriculum. "Obviously 50 words alone isn't going to preserve a language," Ms Nordlinger said. "It's just a tiny little snippet of a language, but all of Australia should be really proud and fascinated by these languages." Read more: ABC Australia

New twists on an old language: Efforts flourish to keep Cree alive

April 22nd, 2017 by Mahti nehiyawetan — let’s speak Cree. Cree speakers believe the key to preserving the language is just that simple. Neal McLeod, author of 100 Days of Cree, says the language is at a pivotal point in history — it can either fade into obscurity like many other First Nations languages or see a resurgence. However, it all depends on those interested in not only learning it, but in teaching it. McLeod, from the James Smith First Nation, considers himself fortunate because he grew up hearing the language spoken by his relatives. As he grew older, he made a conscious effort to learn it. Each year, the world loses more Cree language speakers than it gains. Their dwindling numbers has become an increasing concern to those, like McLeod, who could be among the last generation of Cree speakers. As an educator and author — but not a language instructor — he decided to do something about it. Read more: Regina Leader-Post

The Life-Saving Movement to Reclaim Indigenous Language

February 6th, 2016 by Let's say your first language is English. It could be French, if you prefer. This is Canada, after all. Either way, English or French: it's your first language, part of who you are. You learned it as an infant; it's the fundamental way you express yourself as an adult. You understand every nuance of meaning in each word and phrase, everything written between the lines. When you hear it and speak it -- something you get to do every day in this officially bilingual country -- your connection to your nationhood and culture is nourished, and thrives. That's easy to take for granted here. Press one for English, tapez deux pour le français -- we all know what that means. It's part of the national identity, about as Canadian as it gets. That's what language does for us: it identifies us, anchors us to place and heritage and culture, and allows us to communicate effortlessly with our fellow speakers so they understand us with no need to divine further meaning or intent. For the one and a half million Canadian Indigenous people whose mother tongues aren't officially recognized in this country, however -- whose languages aren't taught in schools, or celebrated in spelling bees and crossword puzzles and board games and writing contests, or used in hospitals and dental offices and government services -- it's a different matter. What number do you press to speak in Hulqˈuminˈum, or Cree, or Miˈkmaq? Read more: The Tyee‎

First Nations celebrate language success stories

November 27th, 2015 by Stepping into the Saskatoon Inn during the First Nations Language Keepers Conference is like walking into the Tower of Babel. Each step brings a new language. Greetings are said in Saulteaux, while stories are shared in Cree and ideas are explored in Dene. There are even a couple of the few remaining Tsuut'ina speakers exchanging pleasantries at a table. Hundreds of people gathered at the conference to promote indigenous languages in hopes of keeping the words and, by extension, the cultures alive. Groups in Saskatchewan and across the country shared success stories of how they are maintaining ancient traditions or slowly reviving them. "If your language is dying, you need to revive it, but the way you live your life every day, that's the way your people lived their lives," Tsuut'ina elder Bruce Starlight said. Read more: CKOM‎

With the Majority of Canada’s Aboriginal Population Under 25, Young People are Embracing Indigenous Languages

October 19th, 2015 by Quinn Meawasige says he has spent his life walking with “one foot in a moccasin and one foot in a sneaker”. The indigenous activist and youth council representative with the Assembly of First Nations (AFN), Meawasige learned to balance both those worlds when he discovered his Aboriginal roots and heritage in a self-imposed stint in rehab as a struggling teenager. Meawasige, now 21, is far from alone among young indigenous Canadians who are forging a new path paved with old traditions. There are over 1.4 million aboriginal people in Canada, with the majority of the population now under 25. More than 45% of on-reserve youth say learning a First Nations language is very important to them, and just over half of them can understand or speak a First Nations language. Read more: The Guardian