Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Good Morning Nunavut

Hello everyone,
Good Morning, we had a couple of arrivals in the overnight hours. Melissa's new hair arrived, the Co-op ship arrived and the snow arrived and at least stayed to greet us in the morning, we'll see if it going to stay.
About a month ago Tina asked a question I put on the back burner, well we're bringing it to the front burner. The language of Innuktituk. Or more concisely the languages of the Nunavut Inuit. There are seven major dialects of the innunktituk (hereafter refered to as INT) found in Nunavut, as well as several other dialects found in NWT, Yukon and Northern Manitoba. Now, locally they are referred to as dialects but I believe this to be a political action rather than a linguistic choice. There are at least 4 of these dialects that are completely different from the others, that meaning the tones, words, written word and letters (symbolics). They share no common bounds other than geography. From what I understand none of the dialects are interchangeable and the common language used to communicate throughout the territory would default to English and move to INT when specifics are needed and a common language is available. That being said the territorial government is attempting to change the official language of the government to INT, even though its own ministers must speak english to each other to communicate. The problem is that many of the dialects are no longer being used (or taught) so they are very quickly fading from the collective. Since the people of Nunavut have such a long oral tradition this is causing great concern for obvious reasons. And as usual politicians think the answer is simple enough, if they speak it and mandate it then "thy will be done". Now we know something must be done, however we've seen that dual language schools fail up here, the children are leaving with half the skills in both the languages. The Government would like to force private businesses to use all signage in INT, however from what I have heard INT is a very graphic language. For example when they tried to label the hospital in Iqualuit they used a letter by letter translation and the resulting word in INT meant "unwashed and smelly female parts". The other problem is which dialect will be the common one used? Or will all businesses be expected to post all 7 dialects, and who can do the effective translation. We've seen it to be very difficult to get translation services that avoid the mistakes we've discussed. My own company took 3 years to label their stores in INT due to the difficulties in translation.
I think in the back of the government's mind is also all the BS that happened when Quebec demanded language rights. Anyways these are some of the difficulties Nunavut is facing in their upcoming language debates.
Take Care,


Anonymous said...

Oh my - Christopher is going to make an adorable head-banger / rocker some day :+)

So the Co-op ship arrived... and the Northern ship hasn't? Does that mean your store is a ghost town until it does? Once the snow hits do you expect to see any sort of rush in shopping - do people stock up on canned goods / dry goods over winter?

I must say you provided quite the discussion topic at work when I told everyone my friends were already experiencing flurries. They thought I was batty to begin with - my excitement on your behalf has just cemented that opinion!

Warm thoughts!
T :+)

Anonymous said...

Up to this point the whole education system here has proven to be a huge train wreck. At the moment, the grade at which a child receives their first English instruction varies widely depending on the community.

Nunavut does have several models to choose from from other countries in terms of dual language education in its schools. From my perspective, pretty much any change would be a huge improvement over the current system.

Anonymous said...

So will Christopher be learning all 7 dialects? Do you figure the wig will help store the information?

Here's hoping the government actually "talks" to the people involve to see if there are less official/ dictated ways to preserve language and sanity!