Most people in the community agree that language is important and that efforts should be made to support language revitalization. The Laich-Kwil-Tach Mentor-Apprentice Program is one such effort. It pairs fluent language speakers with dedicated language learners. The goal is to create fluency among people who are also dedicated to teaching the language. According to language revitalization experts, this kind of program is among the most important in language revitalization efforts as it creates a pool of fluent speakers who are committed to learning the language and to teaching it to others.
The Laich-Kwil-Tach Mentor-Apprentice Program began in June, 2015. It is a collaboration between the Wei Wai Kum Treaty Society and the Laich-Kwil-Tach Treaty Society. The Laich-Kwil-Tach Mentor-Apprentice Program follows the First Peoples Mentor-Apprentice program process. It requires a three-year commitment during which time the speaker, or the “mentor,” and the learner, or the “apprentice,” agree to meet about 10 hours a week for 300 hours over the year. During this time the mentor and apprentice agree that they will work together in an immersion capacity as much as possible.
Together, they develop a program, focusing on a particular topic for several months to give the apprentice time to master it. Each of the apprentices is also in a position to pass their language learning on to students at preschool or public school and/or to the children in their lives. In this way, there is a ripple effect that results in a number of individuals benefiting from the work of each mentor-apprentice team.
Currently, the program is working with five teams. Four of the teams have been successful in securing external funding and one team is funded internally by the Wei Wai Kum Treaty Society and the Laich-Kwil-Tach Treaty Society. Each apprentice completes a report every 50 hours and after each 100 hours the apprentice presents to the other mentors, who offers constructive feedback and support.
This tried and tested process for revitalizing a language has proven successful elsewhere around the world. It quickly results in greater language opportunities for the community members as the teams become more active in language initiatives in education programs from preschool, to curriculum development, to community language classes.