First Nations, Métis, and Inuit K-12 Language Programming: What Works?

Gillies, C., & Battiste, M. (2013). First Nations, Métis, and Inuit K-12 Language Programming: What Works? In K. Arnett & C. Mady (Eds.), Minority Populations in Second Language Education: Broadening the Lens from Canada (pp. 169-183). Bristol, England: Multilingual Matters.

     In 2005 the Saskatchewan Ministry of Education contracted the Aboriginal Education Research Centre at the University of Saskatchewan to identify literature that assists in illuminating best practices in implementing First Nations and Métis language programming in Saskatchewan schools.  This updated literature review then represents a portion of that report, drawing particular attention to five areas that support success in the development of Indigenous language strategies for K – 12 learners.   
    Indigenous languages have suffered immeasurable losses from common enemies—colonization and official governmental policies and practices supporting only official languages of English and French.   Imposed assimilative education through official language instruction, such as Indian residential schools in Canada, have further contributed to the significant losses to Indigenous peoples’ languages, disrupting the intergenerational transmission of language within Indigenous communities.  This disruption has caused Indigenous languages to decline rapidly, leading to Indigenous language revitalization and self-determination movements for at least 30 years that have initiated bi-lingual programs, special subject language classes, to an increasing movement towards immersion programs.  Recovery of Indigenous languages, though, has been a difficult process as hegemony and power dominate as issues for Indigenous peoples. While many schools have experimented with different Indigenous language programming approaches, research indicates that K-12 Indigenous language classes in blocked timed slots do not contribute significantly to acquisition or retention. Rather, immersion programs have been documented as the most successful for Indigenous language learning, as well as an important vehicle for language renewal, maintenance and transmission. While a paucity of research exists on Indigenous languages, and program development will be shaped by community contexts and needs of schools, students and provincial and territory ministries, this literature review highlights five key areas that can strengthen K-12 Indigenous language programs especially in the Canadian context.  Immersion programming is most significant to Indigenous language learning, and each of the areas identified suggest the need for a framework that can be used to guide commitments to effective K-12 Indigenous language programming. Current scholarship on Indigenous language acquisition and retention offers critical information regarding how governments, schools and communities can work collaboratively to create innovative and successful K-12 Indigenous language initiatives. This literature review of promising practices in Aboriginal language education thus is organized in the five central ‘pillars’ of Indigenous language programming in various international contexts that have demonstrated success: Sustainable Funding; Community Support and Influence; Language Status and Prestige; Teacher Certification and Training; and Indigenous Pedagogy.

ISBN: 9781783090303 (hbk), 9781783090297 (pbk)

Also available as an eBook.

Document Date
Added to Archives 2015
Document Type
Chapter in Book