Dying Nsyilxcn language given new life in classroom

Students and teachers at Syilx Language House.
Image Credit: Contributed

OKANAGAN - Reviving an endangered language is a daunting task but Syilx Language House is going to try to do just that with Nsyilxcn, the Okanagan language.

Thirteen beginning students have signed on with five co-teachers, who are also students.

Lead teacher Michele Johnson says in a media release there are fewer than 100 fluent elders remaining and none have reached that level in over 60 years.

Johnson spearheads the project, a collaboration between the Syilx Language House Association and the Westbank, Penticton and Osooyoos indians bands. It includes students from across Syilx territory.

“Our language is deeply connected to who we are and to the health and well being of our communities,” she says.

Johnson holds a PhD in language revitalization and is promising intermediate speakers within four years.

“It really is the first time we have attempted create new Nsyilxcn speakers,” Johnson says. “Research shows it takes 2,000 hours of study to create a high-intermediate speaker.”

Students will use the Paul Creek curriculum, which Johnson says is cleverly designed to let students also be teachers.

To contact the reporter for this story, email John McDonald at jmcdonald@infonews.ca or call 250-808-0143. To contact the editor, email mjones@infonews.ca or call 250-718-2724


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