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Social Issues
5 Online Projects And Apps Working To Protect And Spread Canada’s Aboriginal Languages
February 21, 2014
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First Voices

Since 2008, the UN has marked February 21 as International Mother Language Day, an opportunity to celebrate linguistic diversity and multilinguilalism, and to draw attention to the thousands of languages that are in danger of extinction worldwide.

Depending on how you count, Canada is home to between 50 and 90 languages that are at risk of disappearing (UNESCO's Atlas of the World’s Languages in Danger lists 85 different languages that are vulnerable, definitely endangered, severely endangered or critically endangered, as well as two that are extinct).

And just this month, the last known speaker of Klallam, a language once spoken in B.C. and the U.S. Pacific Northwest, died at the age of 103.

The languages that remain tend to be spoken by older people, and in many cases they haven't been passed down to the younger generations at all. "All of them are endangered," according to Lorna Williams, a member of the Lil’wat First Nation and holder of the Canada Research Chair in Indigenous Knowledge and Learning at University of Victoria. "No exceptions," Williams told University Affairs.

According to the 2011 Census, almost 213,500 people reported having an aboriginal mother tongue, and the most common language family was Algonquin, which includes the Cree languages, Ojibway, Innu/Montagnais and Oji-Cree. But only 17.2 per cent of the total aboriginal population reports being able to have a conversation in an aboriginal language.

There are all sorts of projects across the country attempting to save and spread Canada's aboriginal languages. In the gallery above, we've rounded up five of them.


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