Talk the Talk (language)

Andre Cramblit andrekar at NCIDC.ORG
Thu Sep 25 16:55:05 UTC 2003

Inuit talk the talk

By OLIVER MOORE Globe and Mail Update Wednesday, Sep. 24, 2003

Inuktitut remains widely understood in Canada's North, a new report finds.
Statistics Canada researchers found that 90 per cent of all off-reserve
Inuit say that they can speak or understand Inuktitut.

After centuries of colonization and assimilation, Inuktitut is the only
major native language group to be flourishing off the reserve in Canada. It
is the only substantial positive amid a report chock full of bleak news
about the low use of aboriginal languages.

The report's authors analyzed the data of the 2001 Aboriginal Peoples
Survey, crunching the numbers to draw conclusions about the entire
off-reserve native population of Canada. They found that, in spite of
evidence that some people are deliberately learning an aboriginal language
later in life, comprehension of these languages is found in only a small
minority of Indians and Métis living off the reserve.

Less than one-third (32 per cent) of off-reserve Indians over the age of 15
said they could speak or understand even a single aboriginal language.

Less than 15 per cent of adults said their comprehension was either "very"
or "reasonably" good. Among children, less than 15 per cent said they could
speak or understand an aboriginal language.

Métis fared even more poorly. Barely one in six Métis (16 per cent) were
able to speak an aboriginal language, and only 5 per cent said they knew it
well. Comprehension was lower among children than adults, with only 11 per
cent of Métis children saying they knew how to speak an aboriginal

Impressive as they are by comparison to Indians or Métis, the Inuit
success story is diluted somewhat by the diminishing ability of their young
to speak the language well. While 80 per cent of adults say they can speak
their native tongue "very well," only 63 per cent of those under the age of
15 said they could speak it "very" or "reasonably" well.

A clear majority of aboriginal people told researchers that they recognize
the importance of keeping their languages alive.

The same proportion (about 60 per cent) said that it is either very or
somewhat important that their children learn an aboriginal language. That
desire may account for the small but significant group of people who learn
an aboriginal tongue later in life.

The 2001 census showed that, while only 12 per cent had an aboriginal
mother tongue,15 per cent claimed proficiency in an aboriginal language.

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