Pilot Program Aims to Overcome Barriers to Language Instruction

The B.C. chiefs were treated royally by their hosts! Their trip included a visit to Gyeongbokgung Palace in Seoul, South Korea. Gyeongbokgung served as the home of Kings of the Joseon dynasty, which ruled for approximately five centuries until October 1897.

Wei Wai Kum Acting Chief Curtis Wilson has just returned from South Korea where he and Chief Brian Assu of the We Wai Kai and Chief John Wesley of the Snuneymuxw (Nanaimo) were invited for a familiarization visit with two companies that are partnering with the Nations to launch a pilot language instruction project.

Chungdahm Learning and Visang Education paid for the trip for the three chiefs. The two firms are the largest language education technology companies in South Korea. They will work with the three Nations to develop language courses that can be delivered by teachers who may not speak the language themselves.

The companies will digitize language content, digitally record culturally significant stories from Elders, and design classroom content and delivery methods. The pilot project will be supported by a grant from the Ministry of Canadian Heritage. The amount is still to be finalized. It is expected to be approved by the end of the year, with project work getting underway next spring.

“We will use their programs and software and input our language, stories and art work to create a language program that best fits our Nations,” said Curtis. “We will focus on the alphabet, numbers, place names and simple words and start with our preschool and plan to expand it from there.”

Curtis says the plan is to augment current work underway to promote Aboriginal language instruction. This work is often hampered by the small number of people who speak languages such as Liq’wala. With this program, teachers won’t need to speak the language of instruction. Curtis says creating the programs will also generate work within the communities.

“We will need some elders to record the spoken language, some people to help with the recordings, some artists to create art for the programs, some to learn how to deliver the technology – and so much more. I feel the project is going to be huge and I am very excited about its potential.”