New Inuit language classes target Kitikmeot youth

'It's kind of like you're in your own world when you're speaking to an elder in your native language,' says one Grade 9 student.

'It's kind of like you're in your own world when you're speaking to an elder in your native language'

Youth in Kugluktuk, Nunavut, attend a class in Inuinnaqtun run by the Kitikmeot Inuit Association. The association is offering courses to get youth in the region learning and using Inuit languages, in an effort to keep them alive. (CBC)

Nunavut's Kitikmeot Inuit Association is offering courses to get young people in the region learning and using Inuit languages, in an effort to keep them alive.

Inuinnaqtun is the Inuit language spoken in Cambridge Bay and Kugluktuk, while Nattilingmiut, a dialect of Inuktitut, is spoken in Gjoa Haven, Taloyoak and Kugaaruk. All of the communities are located in western Nunavut. 

In the 2011 census, 285 people claimed Inuinnaqtun as their mother tongue and only 100 said it's the language they speak most often at home.

Coral Westwood of Kugluktuk, who is in Grade 9, took part in a recent five-day Inuinnaqtun immersion course through KIA. She said she was hooked after three days.

Coral Westwood of Kugluktuk, left, who is in Grade 9, took part in a recent five-day Inuinnaqtun immersion course through the Kitikmeot Inuit Association. Her mother Christabelle Newman, right, also wants to improve her Inuit language skills. (CBC)

"It's kind of like you're in your own world when you're speaking to an elder in your native language, the language that people in the community don't usually speak," she said.

Her mother Christabelle Newman says her own skills in Inuinnaqtun are shaky.

"When I was in school it cut off at Grade 9," she said. "Once we hit Grade 10 all it was was core language, so I lost my language. That's why I'm pushing for my kids to get theirs.

"She's going to have to teach me and then we'll be able to do it together."

Sarah Jancke, a program co-ordinator with the KIA, says the youth basic language learning course is aimed at people ages 13-30.

"This program is one piece to a huge puzzle," she said. "I think with what we're teaching them, no matter what level they come in with they'll leave with something else."

Similar courses will be offered in all five Kitikmeot communities over the coming months.

Inuit language as the main language at home

Community200620011996
Cambridge Bay6.1%6.5%10%
Gjoa Haven14.2%28.6%29%
Kugaaruk23.2%36.4%47.5%
Kugluktuk6.9%9.9%12.5%
Taloyoak20.4%22.2%33.3%

source: Nunavut Bureau of Statistics

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