Andrea Tetlichi, of Fort McPherson (Tetl’it Zheh), is mixing new technology with traditional teachings from elders to teach Gwich’in to her seven-month-old son, Ryan.
“I am using the Gwich'in Alpha app on my iPad which is very helpful to me. I also take my son to his Jijuu (great-grandmother), Jane Charlie, who likes to speak the language a lot to me and my son,” says Andrea. “Ryan’s lucky to have a Jijii (great-grandfather), William (Happy) Robert, who also wants to keep the language alive for the younger generation.
“The reason I am teaching my son is because not a lot of young mothers teach or talk the Gwich'in language, says Andrea. “I know it’s working because Ryan understands some words and listens very well for a child of only seven months.”
Andrea’s experience validates the findings of experts who say talking to children helps with language development, even for premature babies. She plans to start using more sophisticated language as Ryan ages, expecting to focus next on using Gwich’in numbers and colours.
She hoped to take Gwich’in language classes but there was not enough community interest so she relies on the Gwich’in app, developed by the Government of the Northwest Territories and available through iTunes, along with apps for most NWT official languages. Andrea recommends other parents use the language app to learn along with their children.
Andrea graduated from Chief Julius School in Fort McPherson and took the
Aboriginal Language Cultural Instructor Program (ALCIP). She currently sits on the Official Languages Revitalization Board and takes courses through the University of Victoria toward a Certificate in Aboriginal Language Revitalization.
“I take my son along with me to the language courses. He learns too. I enjoy learning and teaching with my son Ryan,” says Andrea.
“I don’t want the language to disappear and in the future I want my son to speak Gwich’in.”