North Island College offers free Nuu-chah-nulth language courses this fall

Andrea D. Smith, August 24, 2018

NIC Elder-in-Residence Jane Jones will be an instructor for an upcoming Nuu-chah-nulth language course this fall. (NIC photo)

Port Alberni — 

The North Island College in Port Alberni is offering two new tuition-free language courses this fall. The school works closely with the Nuu-chah-nulth community, and these courses were created to address the need to create more Nuu-chah-nulth language speakers. And because they’re not part of a specific degree or certificate program, they’re open to anyone willing to try them out.

“There is a lot of interest in learning the language,” said NIC Elder-in-Residence, Jane Jones. “Our hope is that this course will allow more students to explore the language and the connection to culture.”

Jones is also going to be an instructor for one of the courses. The first course in the set of two - which she will teach - is the introductory course, Nuu-chah-Nulth 096. It runs from in the fall term, from September to December. Jones, who is known for her work in the Nuu-chah-nulth community with the language, as well as her work with children, will help students develop listening techniques, as well as learn words, phrases, and greetings for every day conversations (like at home, in classrooms, and with Nuu-chah-nulth elders). 097 will then build on what was learned, running in the winter term, from January to April 2019.

 “Learning Nuu-chah-nulth is not just about learning the language,” said Jones. “Something happens inside people once they realize the freedom to speak their language openly.”

According to Kelly Shopland, the director of Aboriginal Education for North Island College, these two courses came about through a collaborative effort from various parties; Three advisory committees—The West Coast, Northern and Central committees (who form the Aboriginal Education Council); as well as efforts from representatives for the multiple NIC campuses across the island, and various First Nations organizations such as local Friendship Centers, and Aboriginal Training Societies. Each group agreed there was a need for this kind of language revitalization.

“Part of it is that it is also accessible, because we’re offering it in the evenings, three hours on Wednesdays. We have a language speaker that is an instructor, and they will also be bringing in elder support. So they work with fluent speakers to support the program,” said Shopland.

“This also gives students the opportunity to explore language without getting into the two-year program,” she added.

Shopland is referring to the two-year certificate program, which NIC helped the University of Victoria launch in February of this year. NIC acted as a partner in the program, along with the Quuquuatsa Language Society (QLS), but the certification awarded to students upon completion is UVic’s. NIC’s new Nuu-chah-nulth courses running this fall are finally their very own.

“Language is an integral part of culture. It’s been a privilege to work with our partners to make this language training available to the community,” said Shopland.

She also shared that while the first course has no perquisites, in order to take the second course students will have had to have taken the first. But the 096 is a “stand-alone” course which can also be taken as part of the college’s Pathways program—a program that allows learners a slower method of transitioning to college life. While in the Pathways program, students can complete English and Math upgrading courses, First Nations Students Skills I and II courses (which teach various life skills which help students with their studies, including time management and goal setting), and they can now take Nuu-chah-Nulth 096.  Then once the students are finished with Pathways, they can apply for and enroll in a university-level program.

“Both the individual language courses and that Pathways program are initiatives brought forward by the West Coast Advisory Committee, as a need they saw for Aboriginal students in their area. That council takes a leadership role in development of our Aboriginal Service plan, and approves everything we put forward,” said Shopland.

The courses are NIC’s second set of Indigenous language courses launched. NIC also offers Kwak’wala 096 and Kwak’wala 097 at it’s Mount Waddington campus in Port Hardy.

Anyone interested in the Nuu-chah-Nulth courses is urged to reach out to an academic advisor at NIC, or go to their program website: https://www.nic.bc.ca/aboriginal-education/aboriginal-curriculum/