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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
I am a undergraduate student at the University of Washington, majoring in English and minoring in Arctic Studies. Through the Canadian Studies Center at the Jackson School, I spent the 2013-2014 academic year studying Inuktitut with Mick Mallon and Alexina Kublu, via online videoconferencing. More ...
|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
This summer FLAS fellows Jason Young, a doctoral candidate in Geography, and Walter O’Toole, an English major and Arctic Studies minor, spent three weeks in Igoolik, Nunavut in Canada’s Arctic studying Inuktitut, the Inuit language, with Alexina Kublu, the former Language Commissioner for Nunavut.
Walter O’Toole, Creative Writing (major) and Arctic Studies (minor), FLAS Fellow in Inuktitut (the Inuit language), Summer 2014
Igloolik, an Inuit village in Nunavut, Canada, hugs a small cove on Igloolik Island like a crescent moon. It’s no more than ten rows of houses wide at its center, tapering to a single row at the edges. With its dusty dirt roads running out into the treeless Arctic tundra, it almost looks like it could be a small town in a southern desert, if one is looking with one’s back to the shore. Turn towards the shore, however, and an expanse of thick sea ice glares in white and blue hues, dominating the landscape, and placing the scene undeniably in the far north. It was on that ice that some of my most valuable lessons occurred in both in Inuit culture and Inuktitut, which I have been studying with professors Mick Mallon and Alexina Kublu since September 2013. After I received a Foreign Language and Area Studies Fellowship from the Canadian Studies Center, I embarked to the Canadian Arctic to continue my studies in the form of an intensive language course, accompanied by one other student, Jason Young. Thanks to generosity of Alexina Kublu and her family, Jason and I got to tag along for two multi-day camping trips. We travelled across the ice four times with them: three times on top of a qamutiik (a traditional Inuit sled), and once on foot. Each one was an incredible and unique experience.
However, these were not our first times out on the ice. After just a few days in Igloolik, Jason and I decided to explore the sea ice right next to town, thinking that if we stayed close to shore, we would have no worries. Shortly after departing, we found ourselves still very close to the shore, but entirely unsure of how to get back to it. A 13-year-old Inuk came to our rescue and guided us back when his mother saw us blundering our way across the ice through her living room window.
Walter and Jason with Kublu, Inuktitut language instructor, in Iglook.
Jason Young, Geography (doctoral candidate), 2013-14 Arctic Research Fellow, FLAS Fellow in Inuktitut (the Inuit language) Summer 2014, Academic Year 2014-15
My fingers tightened against the sides of the sled as another jolt sent me perilously up into the air. Cold air and salty sprays of water rushed past my face, and above me, even after midnight, the summer sun continued its never-ending march around the sky. Below and around me, ice stretched from horizon to horizon, crisscrossed with enough cracks fissures to prevent me from forgetting that I was really crossing over an ocean. The above scene took place this past August in Northern Canada, as I hunkered down on a qamutiik, or traditional Inuit sled, to travel to a small island in the middle of the Arctic Ocean. I had been invited on this trip by a family of Inuit, so that I could spend a few days camping on the island with them. This was just one of many unforgettable cultural experiences that I was able to participate in this summer as a result of a Foreign Language and Area Studies (FLAS) Fellowship provided to me by the Canadian Studies Center at the University of Washington. This Fellowship helped to fund me to travel to Igloolik, an Inuit community in the Canadian territory of Nunavut, in order to participate in an intensive language program. In particular I was learning the North Baffin dialect of Inuktitut, the language of the Inuit. While Inuktitut courses are quite rare, I had been lucky enough to become involved in a course taught by the husband-and-wife team of Alexina Kublu and Mick Mallon. It was Kublu’s family that kindly invited me and another student, Walter O’Toole, along on the camping trip described above.
Jason enjoying the sun in Iglook on ice.
I quickly found the trip to be an indispensable component of the language acquisition process, since learning Inuktitut involves far more than memorizing a list of vocabulary and grammatical rules. The language truly required me to shift how I think and communicate about the world, and being in the home of the language helped me to start to make that mental shift. I needed to see the land, to be on the ice, to eat traditional foods, and, most importantly, to interact with Inuit speakers of the language. Throughout the trip I was invited to participate in a wide range of cultural events, including multiple camping trips, community celebrations, family meals, and more. I even worked up the nerve to participate in a few rounds of ice pan hopping. This involved me jumping onto small chunks of free-floating ice, and then quickly moving onto the next chunk before the first one sunk down into the water. Although I certainly didn’t win any awards for athletic prowess, I am happy to report that I avoided any plunges into the frigid water. Each of these different experiences left indelible marks on me, both intellectually and emotionally. Of course, not all of the experiences in the Arctic were entirely positive … I also, for example, spent a fair share of time battling the mouse-sized mosquitos of the area! On a more serious note I saw first-hand the very difficult issues currently facing Inuit communities, including astronomical living costs, housing shortages, issues related to health and health care, and much more. In the long run, I hope that I can use my own privileged position within the academic world to work with Inuit communities to solve some of these problems. For now, though, I will continue working on my Inuktitut and continue feeling grateful for the incredible experiences that I had this summer!
View photos from their trip here: http://s1286.photobucket.com/user/Canada-UW/library/Jason%20and%20Walter%20in%20Igloolik
Funding for FLAS Fellowships is provided by a Center allocation from International and Foreign Language Education, U.S. Department of Education. Visit our FLAS page: http://jsis.washington.edu/canada/flas/.
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.
I am a undergraduate student at the University of Washington, majoring in English and minoring in Arctic Studies. Through the Canadian Studies Center at the Jackson School, I spent the 2013-2014 academic year studying Inuktitut with Mick Mallon and Alexina Kublu, via online videoconferencing. This summer, I was awarded a Summer FLAS Fellowship, and with it the opportunity to continue my study of Inuktitut. It was my great fortune to have these summer lessons include three weeks of class above the Arctic Circle, in Igloolik, Canada. My time spent in Igloolik was a cultural immersion as well as an intensive language course, and it was incredibly fun. Traveling across the sea ice and camping were highlights, and in these contexts, the intimate connect between the language of Inuktitut and the Arctic environment reveals itself. These experiences will help immensely in my future study of Inuktitut, which I will most certainly need for this notoriously difficult language. I hope to use my knowledge of the Arctic and Inuktitut to help increase global awareness of climate change, and the danger it poses to the Arctic environment and its people.
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.
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