Dene Dedlıne Yatı beneresní-ha

“Kyle Napier and Eileen Beaver presenting at the Sixth International Conference on Communication & Media Studies (October, 2021). Photo provided by Kyle Napier.”

Kyle Napier chu Eileen Beaver

Eight months ago I only knew four phrases in Dene Dedlıne Yatı. Now, I can have a basic hour-long conversation with my language mentor, Eileen Beaver, almost entirely in the language.

Eileen Beaver is my language learning mentor through the Mentor-Apprentice Program. She is a Dene Elder, as well as a 25-year instructor and resource translator for Dene Yatı. Eileen grew up speaking Dene Dedlıne Yatı, Gaelic, French, Cree, Michif and Latin.

Like many fluent speakers of our dialect of Dene Dedlıne Yatı, Eileen grew up in Rocher River. However, when the community school burned down 60 years ago, the residents of Rocher River were forced to move for the children to attend residential schools in different communities. Then, at eight years old, Eileen would be forced to learn English.

I don’t speak any Indigenous language fluently yet. Although Eileen and I have steadily collaborated on language learning projects since 2015, I haven’t taken the time to sit and learn Dene in language learning environments. Like many learners, I feel as though there haven’t been many opportunities to learn the Indigenous languages of my lineage.

Like many Denegóth today, I always knew “ʔesjıa.” I only more recently learned how to ask “ʔedlánet’e-a? and respond “Nezǫ” but nothing much more advanced than that. But now, as a result of learning directly with Eileen through the NWT Mentor-Apprentice Program, I am a beginning speaker of Dene Yati.

ʔedlą́t’o Eileen Dene Yatı hósenełtënıʔa

Eileen and I only spent an average of 10 hours a month learning from each other. However, because of these collaborations and personal practice, I now know how to count beyond łó̩tononona. I also know most of my colours and shades. I now know many of the boreal ch’ądí, as well as different kinds of bugs, birds, and plants. I now know how to describe the weather, and what type of day it is. I can even describe my own and other people’s moods.

Now I mostly know nouns and descriptors, whereas Denededlıne Yatı is mostly verbs. With this foundation of knowledge, Eileen and I can build on the concepts, so I can better learn my verbs and verb conjugation.

Some of the activities and habits that worked best for Eileen and me included:

  • Speaking through immersion sets in the language
  • Attending and promoting weekly classes for interaction
  • Designing a language learning game together, and playing scenes in my spare time
  • Asking questions back and forth in the language, and referencing the dictionary
  • Being open to being corrected
  • Eileen giving me directions for verbs in the language
  • Using ʔetthë́nʔegëné as a prop — seba nezǫ
  • Telling each other descriptive riddles using nouns and body parts
  • Exercising and counting reps in the language

I also took the time to learn the language outside of the program. This included falling asleep listening to podcasters and YouTubers speaking our dialect of Dene Yatı. I would also practice the game we had developed in my spare time, to practice using areas we’d specialized in.

Thanks to the support of the NWT Mentor-Apprentice Program, this collaborative relationship with Eileen Beaver has allowed me to grow confident as a beginner speaker of Dene Dedlıne Yatı.

ʔeyeı ʔǫłı



Dene Dedlıne Yatı beneresní-ha — I will learn Dene Dedlıne Yatı

Dene Dedlıne Yatı — t-dialect Denesųłıné

Denegóth — children

ʔesjıa — take it easy (slang)

ʔedlánet’e-a? — how are you?

Nezǫ — good

ʔedlą́t’o Eileen Dene Yatı hósenełtënıʔa — How did Eileen teach me Dene Yati?

łó̩tononona — 900

ch’ądí — animals

ʔetthë́nʔegëné — caribou drymeat

seba nezǫ — it’s good for me

ʔeyeı ʔǫłı — that’s all


  • Guest Blog by Kyle Napier, Apprentice in the Mentor-Apprentice Program

“Photo of Kyle Napier and Eileen Beaver presenting at the Sixth International Conference on Communication & Media Studies (October, 2021). Photo provided by Kyle Napier.”



“Kyle Napier and Eileen Beaver presenting at the Sixth International Conference on Communication & Media Studies (October, 2021). Photo provided by Kyle Napier.”

Add new comment

This question is for testing whether or not you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.