A Gwich’in immersion program in in an Inuvik daycare is already seeing results.
A Gwich’in immersion program in in an Inuvik daycare is already seeing results. The program which started in October, and will continue until the end of March at the Children First daycare is teaching the Gwich’in language to 5 children between the ages of 2 and 3. According to Gwich’in elder and teacher, Mabel English, the program is already seeing results.
English says she has been teaching Gwich’in to adults for the last 10 to 15 years, but the young children are able to pick it up much more quickly. She says that she noticed one day while speaking with her grandson in Gwich’in he was picking up the language right away. English says that her grandson was speaking words in the language easily- words that adult learners were having trouble with. After sharing her experience with the language revitilization specialist for the Gwich’in Tribal Council, Andrew Cienski, it sparked the idea for an immersion program for young children. Cienski believes the program could have a serious impact, given that a child may get over 2 years of Gwich’in daycare time before attending school, by which point they may be a competent speaker.
The pilot project is being funded by the Gwich’in Tribal Council after securing $300 thousand in federal money for the language program. The program at this time is working with five children, all of whom have at least one Gwich’in parent. Currently English is a part-time instructor with the program and there is a full time fluent Gwich’in child care worker on staff.
Currently there are thought to be less than 400 fluent Gwich’in speakers, and less than 100 speakers in the Beaufort Delta Region. But according to Cienski, language programs in the area have been growing, including adult learner programs. The Executive Director of the Children First Society, Patricia Davison, says the language implementation program is an exciting opportunity, and would like to continue to grow the program to include something for families to learn the language as well. Davison says that she has also been approached by funders interested in aiding and extending the program.