Nunatsiaq Online
NEWS: Around the Arctic June 07, 2012 - 8:40 am

ITK plans summit on Inuit language standardization

ITK's new Centre for Inuit Education has received $1.4 million for this and other projects

JANE GEORGE
Kevin Kablutsiak, a former CBC-North broadcaster, now works for Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami in Ottawa, where he will spearhead the organization's talks on the standardization of the Inuit language. (PHOTO BY JANE GEORGE)
Kevin Kablutsiak, a former CBC-North broadcaster, now works for Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami in Ottawa, where he will spearhead the organization's talks on the standardization of the Inuit language. (PHOTO BY JANE GEORGE)

KUUJJUAQ — Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami plans to wade into the debate around the standardization of Inuktitut in Canada with a language summit planned for the fall of 2012.

This wouldn’t involve changing how people write or speak the Inuit language today, but it would work towards producing a new standard form of Inuktitut that could be taught in schools, said outgoing ITK president Mary Simon during the organization’s annual general meeting on June 6 in Kuujjuaq.

The move towards standardization of Inuktitut would be similar to what took place in Greenland, she assured delegates to the AGM, some of whom said they are worried about the process.

Greenland has used a standardized written and spoken language since the 1960s.

The spoken language of Greenland, Kalaallisut, developed out of the dialect of mid-western Greenland, supplemented by northern Greenland’s vocabulary for hunting on the ice: a lifestyle unknown in the shepherding south of Greenland.

The standardization of Greenland’s language began in the 1960s, and today Kalaallisut is used for all official communications, although local dialects are still used in the communities.

To set up a “task force to explore the introduction of a standardized writing system,” the Counselling Foundation of Canada, founded in 1959 to help “those organizations determined to 
have a positive impact on their communities,” has given ITK $300,000.

Former CBC North broadcaster Kevin Kablutsiak, who now works for ITK, will spearhead the project.

Simon said ITK’s efforts would complement and not conflict with efforts by the Inuit Uqausinginnik Taiguusiliuqtiit language authority which held an Inuit Language Standardization Symposium in 2011. Created by Nunavut’s Inuit Language Protection Act, Taiguusiliuqtiit also plans to work on the development of standard terminology.

ITK’s national committee on education also plans to focus on three of 10 recommendations contained in ITK’s national education strategy, released last June, to:

• mobilize parents;

• increase access to early childhood education; and,

• improve how educational success is measured.

Work on these goals and the standardization project will take place through ITK’s new National Centre for Inuit Education.

Simon said ITK has raised $1.4 million over three years for the centre, which will be a two-person office located at ITK’s Ottawa office.

The centre will try to support regions, develop an education system “that will graduate kids,” and identify gaps in the educational system, said Simon, who will continue to chair ITK’s national committee on Inuit education and spend two days a week working with the centre.

The official opening of the National Centre for Inuit Education will take place in the fall.

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