Partnerships for Success: Revitalizing languages



Release Date

February 17, 2014


Marianne Ignace and Lucy Bell talk about their partnership with 23 First Nations grassroots organizations to help revitalize and prevent the loss of critically endangered First Nations languages in the 21st century.

Read the transcript

Marianne: Our partnership grant is titled "First Nations languages in the twenty-first century: looking back, looking forward," and it bring together about 23 First Nations grassroots organizations, where aboriginal language revitalization is happening on the ground with academic partners and collaborators, to work on this really daunting task of revitalizing languages and stemming the tide of language loss.

Lucy: I think for us, it's important because our Haida language—it's on the brink of extinction, and to be able to have seven years with this grant, to be planning, to be working together, is really important. So it's really bringing us together to work as one to revitalize our language.

Marianne British Columbia, where we operate, is, within Canada, if you want, the hotbed of linguistic diversity. We have eight different language families represented, and about 30 different indigenous languages. And every single one of those 30 languages is critically endangered or, as with Xaad Kil Haida, on the brink of extinction. In fact, over the period, the seven years of the grant, in many of those, about a dozen languages that are part of our partnership, there will be no fluent speakers left that learned their language as the first language.

And it's partly connecting the still-living elders with those that are able to carry on the work that I think is going to leave a tremendous legacy for the future, to have still-living languages.

We, as university-based academics, can work with First Nations language communities, with organizations that are already doing the work, or trying to do the work to support them, and I think that's where a partnership grant can make such a strong contribution, because it's engaging together and bringing things to a newer level by doing collaborative work.