The Language Revitalization Program at the Songhees Nation is called həlitxʷ tθə lək̓ʷəŋiʔnəŋ “Bringing lək̓ʷəŋiʔnəŋ Language Back to Life”.
Following on other language reawakening initiatives, it has been running since the beginning of 2018. lək̓ʷəŋiʔnəŋ was/is a sleeping language and we are working to awaken it.
With only one first language speaker of lək̓ʷəŋiʔnəŋ, who’s in his 80’s, our language learners are extremely valuable to us! Every one of the people in our classes, in administration, on staff, and across the Nation who contribute are so valuable! We need everyone.
We host several classes a week in the Songhees Wellness Centre for Community Members, Songhees Nation Staff, Preschool Students, k̓ʷam k̓ʷəm éʔləŋ / After School Program and Chief and Council, which are open to Nation Members and Staff. We are so grateful for the support of our Chief and Council who have endorsed paid time to learn our language!
Language learners learn to pronounce and write ancestral names, colours, animals, family relationship terms and so on. They also learn to greet and respond to each other, understand cultural information and language, create phrases and sentence structure etc. all in lək̓ʷəŋiʔnəŋ. Language Classes are paired as often as possible with Knowledge Keepers who share their wisdom and skills such as drum making, storytelling and weaving.
Students are introduced to a unique version of the International Phonetic Alphabet or IPA for use in correspondence for developing written learning materials. We like to call it LPA or lək̓ʷəŋiʔnəŋ Phonetic Alphabet! A unique and simple-to-use keyboard has been developed for typing lək̓ʷəŋiʔnəŋ on computers and mobile devices.
We are perhaps most excited by the fact that for the first time, for the 2018/19 school year, our preschool children learned their own language. On our mid-2019 annual survey about Language involvement, family members reported that it was their children that are the ones speaking most often at home.
Our Program is partly funded by the BC Language Initiative through the First Peoples Cultural Council. We are grateful for their contribution.