Learn the Language

Andre Cramblit andrekar at NCIDC.ORG
Fri Jun 9 23:24:22 UTC 2006


Learn Inuktitut or iqqanaijaaqajjaagunniiqtutit, mandarins told
Last updated Jun 7 2006 08:47 AM CDT
CBC News
Senior government officials in Nunavut have been told they have to be  
able to speak Inuktitut by 2008, or risk losing their jobs.

Premier Paul Okalik revealed the policy during the mid-term  
leadership review Tuesday.

"Well they have to be fluent, they have to work with members and with  
people within Nunavut," the premier said. "They should understand and  
be able to communicate with Inuit that may be unilingual."

Learning Inuktitut
 From an essay "Our Language, Our Selves", on the future of Inuktitut  
in the new Nunavut territory, circa 1999.

"In English, and in most other European languages, a sentence is a  
string of beads. Each bead is a tiny little word, and the beads are  
strung together to make meaning.

"I am happy to be here.
Je suis content d'être ici.
Yo estoy contento de estar aquí.

"But in Inuktitut the words are like LegoTM blocks, intricate pieces  
locked together to produce a nugget of meaning.

"quviasuktunga tamaaniinnama
(happy + I here + in + be + because I)

"How about this word, produced at random:  
Pariliarumaniralauqsimanngittunga, "I never said I wanted to go to  

"These words are produced by a grammatical system that is much more  
regular than anything in English. Inuit students like studying  
grammar. They get pleasure out of seeing the logical flow of  
something they always took for granted. The grammar is not only  
precise, it is complex."

Okalik says seven deputy ministers and presidents of Crown  
corporations are taking Inuktitut lessons three times a week in a 14- 
month course. Three assistant deputy ministers are also taking classes.

Okalik says the goal is to have senior staff who are comfortable in  
Inuktitut, the first language of 85 per cent of the territory's  
population, within 18 months.

"We felt that that was enough time," he said. "I recall when I was  
learning English, I didn't have much help … so it's about time that  
our language was respected and treated in the same way."

Education Minister Ed Picco, one of the few non-Inuit in the  
territorial assembly, has been increasing his use of Inuktitut in the  
legislature. He says he backs the premier's move.

"He's not saying that other languages cannot be used," he said. "He  
wants to have the fully bilingual system in place."

But MLA Hunter Tootoo thinks the policy goes too far.

The Iqaluit Centre MLA doesn't speak Inuktitut, but he supports the  
territory's goal of having it as the government's working language by  

"I think the way to achieve that is not by taking the language and  
forcing on somebody," he said.

"I think if we do things, like make changes in the education system,  
you won't have to teach them Inuktitut, they'll be from here," he said.

Nevertheless, the premier said, he's starting with top senior staff,  
and the Inuktitut language requirement will eventually reach those in  
the levels below.

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