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Nunavut gov't employees' bilingual abilities to be put to the test

Nunavut's Inuit language authority is developing a new Inuktitut proficiency test to assess the language skills of government employees who receive a bilingual bonus.

Test would assess oral and written language competency for workers getting bilingual bonus

Inuit Uqausinginnik Taiguusiliuqtiit executive director Jeela Palluq-Cloutier and chair Mary Thompson answered MLAs' questions about the language authority's work this week. (Jane Sponagle/CBC)

Nunavut's Inuit language authority is developing a new Inuktitut proficiency test to assess the language skills of government employees who receive a bilingual bonus.  

Inuit Uqausinginnik Taiguusiliuqtiit's duties include creating competency levels and ways to measure Inuit language proficiency "as part of the Government of Nunavut's proposed language incentive," according to its 2014-2015 annual report.

About 1,500 Nunavut government employees receive a bilingual bonus if it is part of their job description. The incentive program could apply to any bilingual employee.

"Even though they can speak Inuktitut, sometimes we can't really work on the written part of it. And some have different proficiency levels, so once we find out what level they're at, they will be given a bilingual bonus," said IUT executive director Jeela Palluq-Cloutier in Inuktitut at a legislative standing committee hearing Wednesday.

Palluq-Cloutier said the test, which would assess both oral and written competency, would be done one-on-one.

"It is someone that would sit with the employee, talking with them, having them do reading and writing exercises to exactly what skill level they are at."

Once the assessment is done, employees would be filtered into one of three proficiency levels. The more skilled an employee is in an Inuit language, the higher the bonus they would receive. Employees could earn a higher bonus if they received more training.

The proficiency test for the North Baffin dialect is almost complete, then work will start work on tests for the South Baffin and Inuinnaqtun dialects before the end of March, said Palluq-Cloutier.

The language authority is working with the Department of Finance on how the tests would be implemented. How much money would have to be set aside for the tests is still in the research stage, she said.

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