September 09, 2004

Report on Yukon Native Languages

Somewhat to my surprise, as these things rarely make the news, CBC news is reporting on the release [pdf document] of the Profile of Yukon First Nations Languages, a new survey of Yukon native languages by the Yukon Aboriginal Language Services and the Yukon Native Language Centre. The good news is that the survey was done by visiting households and individually assessing the language ability of each member. That's the only way to obtain reliable information. All too often speaker numbers are based on self-reporting or on some individual's subjective estimate, neither of which is very accurate. The bad news is that the native languages of the Yukon continue to decline, with two, Han and Tagish, nearly extinct. In particular, the report indicates that the current generation of parents have very weak language skills and generally do not use their native language at home.

The Yukon devotes a fair amount of effort to language maintenance activities, through school programs and the Yukon Native Language Centre, which trains language teachers and produces teaching and reference materials. As in British Columbia, such native-language-as-second-language programmes have, however, had little impact on language loss.

Posted by Bill Poser at September 9, 2004 10:12 PM