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The Canadian Studies Center is a recipient of a U.S. Department of Education Foreign Language and Area Studies (FLAS) Fellowships program grant. The grant provides allocations of academic year and summer fellowships to assist meritorious graduate students undergoing training in modern foreign languages and Canadian Studies. Each fellowship includes an institutional payment and a subsistence allowance. The Canadian Studies Center is extremely proud in having awarded several Fellowships in least-commonly taught Canadian Aboriginal languages including Inuktitut, Dane-zaa, Musqueam Salish, and Anishinaabemowin.
FLAS Coordinator: Robyn Davies
Chelsey Dambro, Public Affairs
Amie De Jong, Linguistics
|Walter O'Toole, English
Summer FLAS 2014, Inuktitut
|Yedida Valenzuela, French
Summer FLAS 2014, French
Yedida enthusiastically studied French language this summer in Seattle at the Alliance Francaise, University of Washington and North Seattle College. She is proud to add French to her repertoire of romance languages. Yedida's curiosity in French and its use in Canada was piqued as she contemplated her dream of opening a multi-lingual school in Seattle. More ...
Jason Young, Geography
With FLAS, I stayed in Seattle and took the intensive firstyear French program that covers the equivalent of FRENCH 101, 102, and 103. The class was extremely rigorous but it was a great way to be introduced to a language. I am proud of all the French I've been to learn and I hope to keep up with it in the future. I foresee French being very useful with my future career since I hope to get involved with international development. For the moment though, heading into my third and last year with the Jackson School of International Studies and the Evans School of Public Affairs, I will utilize the French I have learned so far to study food aid systems in the US and Canada and how they affect agricultural policies in SubSaharan Africa.
This summer I started learning Nuu-chah-nulth, a language of the Wakashan family that is spoken but communities native to Vancouver Island, B.C. The name Nuu-chah-nulth means something like “along the mountains” or “mountain range”. The mountain range that runs the length of the island is the most visible thing from the sea, so the name is fitting for people who have traditionally relied on whales, fish, and other ocean resources and thus spent a lot of time on the water.
Unfortunately a major part of Nuu-chah-nulth culture, their language, is in imminent danger of extinction. The Canadian government’s aggressive language assimilation policies beginning in the late 1800’s, including mandatory English-only residential schools for First Nations children, have contributed to this. The whole population once spoke Nuu-chah-nulth as their first language; out of more than 7,000 Nuu-chah-nulth people there are now around 300 fluent native speakers (Lewis et al. 2014), all of whom are from older generations.
Some say The Pacific Northwest of North America is one of the most linguistically diverse areas in the world in terms of indigenous languages (Beck 2000). Most of them are in as much danger as Nuu-chah-nulth, if not more; I was surprised that more is not being done to save, document or study them. I thus set out to learn Nuu-chah-nulth as quickly as possible. Finding a language class was not easy; few universities regularly offer any native language of the Pacific Northwest (if you would like to help change this, consider joining the Coalition for the Equitable Representation of Indigenous Languages [CERIL] at the UW).
I was fortunate to have met Adam Werle, a linguist and Wakashanist who agreed to be my teacher. In addition to our one-on-one lessons, he organized a week of intensive language learning in collaboration with fluent Nuu-chah-nulth elders and other advanced learners, many of whom are language activists and/or teachers themselves. The intensive classes were held in c̓uumuʕaas (Port Alberni), traditionally a Tseshaht and Hupacasaht town on Vancouver Island. It sits at the end of an inlet, surrounded by lakes and mountains.
This was honestly one of the most interesting and enjoyable language classes I have ever taken thanks to everyone involved. Morning sessions consisted of grammar, vocabulary, and pronunciation lessons, punctuated with activities to practice with other learners or elders. Everyone was very supportive and encouraging to each other (I learned expressions like čuuckana, “great job, you’ve reached the goal”). This was very important for all of us when learning a language so different from English. For example, Nuu-chah-nulth are 35 consonant sounds, only 9 of which are shared with English. Nuu-chah-nulth words are made up of a root and multiple affixes; often, a complex word in Nuu-chah-nulth translates to a whole sentence in English.
In the evenings during the intensive week, we all met again for conversation and fluency practice led by the elders. The elders shared stories of fishing and boating, including one about a group of fur seal hunters who were lost and never came back. They also told traditional stories and teachings. I learned how to be good listener, waiting until someone is done speaking to reply and making sure everyone who wants to speak gets to do so.
The elders’ and learners’ dedication to bringing their language back was inspiring, and I enjoyed working toward a common goal. They gave me two dictionaries of their language, one of which was originally published in 1868. They will be great resources for my future work on Nuu-chah-nulth. Best of all, we learners and Adam have committed to meeting two days a month for the rest of 2014 to continue our intensive classes, with or without (but hopefully with) funding. With people like those I met on Vancouver Island working toward documenting and reviving their language, there may still be hope for the Nuu-chah-nulth language.
French Yedida enthusiastically studied French language this summer in Seattle at the Alliance Francaise, University of Washington and North Seattle College. She is proud to add French to her repertoire of romance languages. Yedida’s curiosity in French and its use in Canada was piqued as she contemplated her dream of opening a multi-lingual school in Seattle. The growth in bilingualism according to Canada’s census is credited with more and more Québecers being able to converse in both French and English, affording Québecers unique work and travel opportunities. Yedida’s interest in bilingual education includes both the scientifically supported reports of increased cognitive skills and increased global awareness.
This summer she was able to access both the French language and francophone cultures outside of France thanks to her coursework through the FLAS. She greatly benefitted not only from learning the grammar, but also from her instructors’ shared enthusiasm for the various cultures and dialects of francophone populations, Québec being one of them. Instructors ensured students understood both the complexity and the benefits of being a bilingual state as they guided the students through the multitude of francophone countries. Yedida’s understanding of France’s dialectical variations grew to include not only Canada but Africa, French Polynesia, South East Asia and the Caribbean. Like Québec, many of these countries have both the advantage and burden of incorporating French - among other languages - to their list of official languages. This duality, Yedida is evermore convinced, is a worthy pursuit capable of bridging cultural gaps.
Yedida's most immediate goal is to open a bilingual school. She has worked in bilingual education for years and is very inspired to branch off and found one herself. She has been researching how to create a Go Fund Me or Kickstarter account for the past few months in order to gain capital to open the school. Ideally, she would incorporate English, Italian and French, however she thinks she should gain a bit more French fluency beforehand. This means she's planning for an eventual visit to Québec (spring 2015 or summer 2015) to really put her language skills to use, take a class or two and visit a bilingual school.
Yedida plans to continue her studies in French with the hopes of becoming fluent. Thanks to her experience with the FLAS she is more motivated than ever to open her full immersion language institute. Through full immersion she hopes to plant the seeds of curiosity in young children, motivating them to know the world. At the language institute she hopes to offer French, Italian and Spanish coupled with English, just as so many schools do in Québec. She continues to strive to learn, travel and know more. Yedida additionally hopes one day to become a foreign service officer and use her language skills in an official capacity.
I am currently a PhD student in the Department of Geography at the University of Washington, with an interest in the political implications of emerging information and communication technologies (ICTs). More specifically, my dissertation research focuses on the use of digital technologies by Inuit, Canadian citizens, scientists, and policymakers to discuss and implement environmental management strategies in response to climate change in the Arctic. I am particularly interested in the ways in which Inuit are adopting social media and other Internet technologies to advocate for themselves within international political fora. I expect this research to require both analysis of online discussions, and also interviews with Inuit community members, Inuit elders, and Inuit involved in environmental politics.
With support from the Foreign Language Area Studies (FLAS) Program and the UW Canadian Studies Center at UW, I had the unique opportunity to study the North Baffin dialect of Inuktitut throughout Summer 2014. The language is quite difficult for English language speakers to learn, and Inuktitut language programs are quite rare, especially in the United States. However, I have been lucky enough to study with two incredible teachers, Alexina Kublu and Mick Mallon. These lessons, which have taken place both online and in Igloolik, Canada, have taught me the complex grammatical structure of Inuktitut, day-to-day communication skills, and a great deal about Inuit culture and their Arctic home. My 3-week trip to Igloolik was particularly exciting, particularly since I was able to participate in qamutiik (sled) trips, camping, and other cultural events. I will never forget my qamutiik trips across the frozen Arctic Ocean, with a midnight sun beating down on me! Moreover, all of these experiences will be incredibly important to my future research.
|Canadian Studies Center|
|University of Washington|
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|Seattle, WA 98195-3650|
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