This past summer, thanks to a Foreign Language and Area Studies fellowship in the Inuktitut language through the Canadian Studies Center, I had the opportunity to travel to the Canadian Arctic, and live in the village of Inukjuaq, in Nunavik, in the far North of Québec. While there, I lived with an Inuit family and spoke Inuktitut everyday. At first this was extremely difficult for me, however, the patience of the community members and the generosity of my family was simply empowering. I felt welcomed and learned an extraordinary amount—not only about language but also culturally, and the friends and contacts that I made will last throughout my life.
When I arrived in Inukjuaq, I was met by my contact from the Avataq Cultural Center. This was wonderful as she introduced me to my new family and we began to get acquainted. This was the beginning of my language experience, and also the start of my education about the current state of Inuit communities. My research involves with social networking movements in Inuit communities, and more broadly language preservation online. I was particularly interested in learning how Inuit communicate with each other face-to-face, and how this changes when taken online. In order to learn more, I spoke with as many Inuit as I could (an adventure in itself!), asking about language, culture, and trying to understand the Inuit experience more fully. I felt welcomed throughout and my Inuktitut was a constant sorce of fun and amusement for the Inuit who enjoyed helping me with my pronunciation and vocabulary.
During the voyage I gained so much—not only data for my research, and ideas for writing, but friendships, language, and knowledge of an ancient and noble culture, all wrapped up in the kind, smiling faces of my Inuit companions. The Foreign Language and Area Studies fellowship opportunity has been the highlight of my program. It is a way that theory and coursework can be applied to the real world.
Timothy Pasch is a doctoral candidate in the Communication Department. He is working with committee chair Anthony Chan on the use of the internet in Arctic communities in Canada. The working title of his dissertation is, “Inuktitut Online in Nunavik: Mixed Methods Web-Based Strategies for the Preservation of Aboriginal and Minority Languages.” Tim is in his fourth year of Inuktitut and has been awarded a FLAS fellowship for the Inuit language each year since 2005.