University of Calgary

Preserving the past, developing policy for the future

UToday HomeApril 20, 2012

Donna Patrick of Carleton University will deliver the keynote address at the April 30 conference on Aboriginal languages in Canada. Photo courtesy of Donna PatrickDonna Patrick of Carleton University will deliver the keynote address at the April 30 conference on Aboriginal languages in Canada. Photo courtesy of Donna PatrickWhen it comes to the discourse on languages and language policy in Canada and the discussion moves beyond English and French, people tend to think of what might be considered “new” languages—or at least new to Canada—that have been brought to North America through relatively recent immigration. The talk rarely turns to the languages that have been spoken for centuries, right here.

“Aboriginal languages are an integral part of Canadian society and the nation’s collective memory,” says. Thomas Ricento. “Yet, only three of the 50 Aboriginal languages in Canada are considered robust enough to have chances of survival in the long run.”

“One way to revitalize these languages is to teach them as second languages. For smaller languages, such as Tlingit, Kutenai, and Haida, second language speakers make the difference between survival and extinction.”

Ricento, professor and Chair of the English as an Additional Language program in the Faculty of Education, has organized a conference to highlight research on Aboriginal languages in Canada. In particular, the full day program will consider the integration of Aboriginal students in urban educational settings in Canada. The conference, taking place in the Rozsa Centre on April 30, will feature Professor Donna Patrick, Carleton University, who will deliver the plenary address entitled 'Indigenous Languages, Education, and Urbanization: Directions for practice and research'.

Five afternoon roundtable discussions will address dealing with Aboriginal languages in Alberta, educational policy in the Calgary Board of Education, Aboriginal ways of knowing, ways of promoting inclusiveness in educational settings, and initiatives in health and wellness research and policy in Aboriginal communities in Alberta. The discussions will be chaired by academic faculty, students from several faculties and Calgary Board of Education leaders.

Ricento says “this conference will be of interest to students, faculty, and community members who wish to learn more about Aboriginal languages and cultures in Alberta and Canada, and about the important work being carried out by University of Calgary researchers and how this work impacts the lives of our various communities.”

The conference, “Aboriginal Languages in Canada”, will take place from 8:30am to 4pm. While the program is free and open to all and includes lunch, those interested in attending must register in advance for the few seats that remain. For more details and to register.