Nunavut workers in Cambridge Bay plunge into Inuinnaqtun
Students will follow course developed for Inuktitut by the Pirurvik Centre
Nunavut’s Inuit Language Week wraps up Feb. 22.
But for about eight residents in Cambridge Bay — who mainly work for the Government of Nunavut in the Kitikmeot region’s hub community — the job of learning Inuinnaqtun, the form of the Inuit language spoken in western Nunavut — is just beginning.
From Feb. 25 to March 8, they’ll spend three hours every morning learning the basics of Inuinnaqtun in a GN-sponsored course, which marks the first step towards realizing the territory’s goal of strengthening Inuinnaqtun, along with the other Inuit languages.
The Cambridge Bay students is adapted from an introductory course developed by the Pirurvik Centre for Inuit second language learning in the Baffin region, said the Iqaluit-based centre’s co-founder, Gavin Nesbitt.
Inuinnaqtun Tuhaalanga — which you can also find on the Pirurvik website — will teach students useful expressions, such as “kaapiturumaviit?”.
In this lesson, students learn vocabulary related to coffee breaks, how to ask questions to various people and express the idea of wanting something by using the affix -juma.
Translator and interpreter Janet Tamalik McGrath, who has also taught Inuinnaqtun at Carleton University in Ottawa, will coach first-time Pirurvik teacher Emily Angulalik during the Cambridge Bay course.
McGrath, who grew up in the Kitikmeot, said the idea behind the introductory course is to see the students — many of whom deal with the public — learn to communicate their basic needs, and, hopefully, develop the curiosity to learn even more by, for instance, trying to read Inuinnaqtun signs around town.
But there’s a challenge to practice speaking Inuinnaqtun in Cambridge Bay: only about five per cent of its 1,500 residents, or about 77 people, speak the language with any fluency.
While the GN’s Uqausivut Plan, tabled last October, wants to put English, French, Inuktitut and Inuinnaqtun on an equal playing field in Nunavut, it admitted that there needs to be greater focus on language revitalization, “particularly in the Kitikmeot region where current language loss is a pressing issue.”
Revitalization of Inuinnaqtun could take “between 20 to 40 years if concerted action is taken immediately,” the Uqausivut Plan said.
To build on the language skills many Inuinnait in the community do have – or want to acquire — Pirurvik also plans to offer a first language “revitalization” course in Inuinnaqtun.
That class has a different focus because students will already have a cultural background to the language and know many Inuinnaqtun words, McGrath said.
Kugluktuk is slated to see the start-up of the basic second language course and a revitalization course in Inuinnaqtun next month.
Pirurvik is also offering courses in Iqaluit, Igloolik, Baker Lake, Rankin Inlet, Gjoa Haven, Pangirtung and Arviat during winter semester.