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"... a language strategy begins with the mobilization of the community itself... The goal is to enable First Nations to assert and ensure full ownership of their linguistic and cultural heritage... For any language program to succeed, parents and the community as a whole must be persuaded that it is valuable."
A Guide to Language Strategies for First Nations Communities; Assembly of First Nations

drawing - medicine powerDue to the extreme pressures that exist on most Aboriginal languages, a one-dimensional approach to language maintenance and revitalization will not be effective. Developing school programs in isolation of community-based programs and activities can lead to frustration on the part of educators and limited success in terms of promoting or achieving fluency, particularly among children whose home-language is English.

Aboriginal language strategies must be wholistic and comprehensive if they are to succeed in reversing the trend of language shift. Effective language revitalization must involve a coordinated and cooperative approach that includes families, schools, and community organizations.

One linguist, James Bauman, has gone so far as to suggest that an effective mobilization strategy will tie language revival to the correction of some form of social problem. In other words, the direct goal is not to save the language, but to solve a problem or better people's lives through the revitalization of a traditional language and the cultural beliefs and practices that are attached to it.

A fundamental intent of any language retention strategy is to mobilize and inspire Aboriginal language communities to take ownership over their own language revival.

The first step in developing a plan to maintain or revitalize a language involves assessing the current status of the language. When assessing the vitality and usage of an Aboriginal language within a region or community, linguists use a simple rating system. The rating system below was developed by James Bauman in 1980 and presented in the document: A Literature Review – Maintenance and Revitalization of Aboriginal Languages – Evaluation of the Canada-NWT Cooperation Agreement for French and Aboriginal Languages in the NWT [hereafter referred to as the Language Report (1992)].

This language rating system is very useful for understanding the degree of language loss in a particular area (nation, region, or community) and can help to subsequently identify the types of strategies that might be used to maintain or revive that language.

As you review the language rating categories on the next pages, check off those things that apply to your community or region. You will quickly be able to determine the approximate status of your own traditional language.

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