EMES school offers Tłįchǫ language in kindergarten

CBC Story - September 02, 2012 - For the first time in almost 20 years, kindergarten classes in Behchoko, N.W.T., are being offered entirely in Tlicho Yati, the language of the Tlicho First Nation people.

It’s a move parents hope will help connect their children with their culture.

Almost 30 children are enrolled in the immersion kindergarten, more than double what was expected.

Missy Mantla is a young mother. She said she sees the language is dying out and many of her friends don't speak it.

"People my age don't even want to try, but I'm very interested in trying," she said.

Mantla said she can't wait to hear her son speak his first sentence in the language of his ancestors.

"It's gonna make me cry. Because it's so important to me."

The Tlicho Community Services Agency, which is in charge of education in the region, wants to see at least 75 per cent of Tlicho citizens speaking the language fluently by the year 2020.

"We're finding that our young people are no longer entering school speaking Tlicho as a first language," said Tammy Steinwand-Deschambeault, who works with the agency.

Less than half of kindergarten-aged Tlicho children speak Tlicho Yati.

This makes teaching it a challenge.

"They're not speaking and they don't do anything in sentences right now," said kindergarten teacher Therese Mantla.

But one week in, teachers said they’re seeing progress.

Through repetition and singing, the kids are learning how to introduce themselves, how to count, and the days of the week.

If this year is a success, this program will grow as the students do.

The hope is to have immersion available to those who want it all the way to Grade 3.

Rosa Mantla was a teacher when a similar course was offered almost 20 years ago.

She said the students from back then are now contributing to their communities.

"All those children that we had taught now are fluent, they're bilingual and they are working in the public organizations in our communities," she said.


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