One hundred and twenty people participated in this year’s Mi’kmaw program which was held for the first time virtually, taught by a Qalipu member and supervised by fluent speakers and writers from Unama’ki (Cape Breton). The program officially ended June 30th. Mi’kmaw Language Facilitator Dean Simon, says he is very encouraged by the interest shown in language reclamation. “After living in Unama’ki for about 2 years, I know this level of sustained interest is welcomed”. 103 beginners participated in 3 or more classes, along with 15 Novice students.
When the program resumes there will be 15 graduating up to intermediate, 65 beginners graduating up to Novice, 35 people are choosing to repeat beginners and they will be joined by more than 100 others who have expressed interest on our Facebook page. “When you have well over 200 people in a program, you know there is passion.”
There will also be a “Conversation Only” element to the next offering for those who do not wish to learn to read and write, and just want to know some greetings and small talk. The previous program aimed to teach people to read and write proficiently so that they could maximize their own self-study using written resources that are available online and in print. “When you finish the Beginner level you should be able to read a Mi’kmaw word well enough for a fluent speaker to understand AND you should be able to write down words that you hear, accurately enough to go back to them later and pronounce them properly. We don’t have first language speakers here so we have to depend more heavily on reading a writing… to get us to the speaking level.”
By creating a large group of strong self-learners, these people will be able to ‘teach it forward’ and reach way more people in the long run than one teacher could ever hope to reach. This is just one of the valuable lessons Simon says he learned in a course he just finished from the University of Southern Maine (Passamaquoddy territory), called “Revitalization and Reclamation Methods”. He has just finished compiling a study guide for participants which will be mailed out in the coming weeks, along with program tshirts, a Mi’kmaw book (or 2), and a couple of other small surprizes.
The program has also reached people through the first ever Language Week leading up to National Indigenous Peoples Day June 21st, a 12 week series on CBC Radio and numerous other media coverage. “We are being approached by non-indigenous organizations and individuals on a regular basis and even got to do a 90 minute bilingual radio show with Bay of Islands Radio.” People interested in learning a little or a lot of Mi’kmaw are encouraged to visit the language Facebook group by searching for “We are learning to speak Mi’kmaw” or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.