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Exploring the potential for native language revitalization in an urban context : language education in Vancouver Baloy, Natalie Jean-Keiser

Abstract

This research explores dynamics around Aboriginal language learning and use in Vancouver, British Columbia. With many different First Nations and Aboriginal languages represented in the city, urban Aboriginal language revitalization is complex and challenging. Sixteen research participants talked with me about competing priorities for urban Aboriginal individuals and families, the linguistic diversity of the British Columbia First Nations, and how demographic urbanization of Aboriginal peoples intersects with movements of language revitalization. The resulting analysis highlights some emerging language ideologies connected to urban Aboriginal language use and learning. Language ideologies have been defined as “the cultural system of ideas about social and linguistic relationships, together with their loading of moral and political interests” (Irvine, cited in Kroskrity 2000:5). By identifying some commonalities in research participants’ attitudes around Aboriginal languages in the city, I argue that ‘placing language’ and ‘finding a place for language’ are critical issues for looking at Aboriginal language use and learning in Vancouver. By ‘placing language’, I mean that participants stressed the locality of Aboriginal languages, drawing important connections between land and language. Many honoured local languages by stating that their use and preservation should be top priorities in urban-specific language revitalization initiatives. They also recognized that other Native languages are represented in the city and could be fostered by collaboration with home communities, including reserve language programs. By ‘finding a place for language’, I mean taking time and making effort toward language learning and use in the fast-paced urban environment. Determining a place and a time for language in daily life or during events is crucial for language revitalization efforts in the city. This thesis specifies some suggestions for finding a place for language, highlighting different ideas shared by participants about public school language education, community centres as places for language learning, and use of local languages in service organizations and educational institutions and in the public sphere.

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Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International

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