Five simple ways to make space for Indigenous languages in your everyday life

Five simple ways to make space for Indigenous languages in your everyday life

Indigenous languages need to reclaim space in our everyday lives once again. But when you are a beginner, finding a starting point to do that can feel daunting and overwhelming. So, here are five simple ways that have worked for me to help bring Tłı̨chǫ Yatıì back into my everyday life:

  1. Pick one word and commit to replacing it in your everyday speech. It will start to feel more and more normal until you don’t think twice about using it. Once that happens pick a new one. One of the easy words that I, my daughter, and even my non-Dene husband use is the Tłı̨chǫ word for “nothing” to indicate there’s no more. I can hear my husband use it all the time with my daughter… “there’s dàòdì cookies!”
  2. Make the words visible around you. They say the best way to learn is by being immersed and not reading/writing the language. But I have found that I have learned many new words without trying just by having them constantly around me. I have words taped to my kitchen cupboards and fridge. I taped over words in my daughter’s storybooks. I updated all of my cellphone contacts to include kinship terms with family member names, such as: “Sebà Dahti “, which means “my big sister Dahti”. I taped words on the walls by my desk at work. Just seeing the words each day, throughout my day, has helped me to grow the number of words that I know.
  3. Make it part of your cellphone addiction. If you download First Voices App, it gives you access to Indigenous language keyboards for your phone so that you can use the proper characters. This makes writing in your language in text messages, social media posts, or emails super easy. I use words that I know in texts to family members and posts on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.
  4. Tell everybody and anybody that you are learning. The more I spread the word that I was trying to learn, the more people in my life and even strangers would start sharing or trying to speak the language with me.
  5. Learn to introduce yourself in your language. Each and every time you introduce yourself around speakers, its like a big warm invitation to them to use the language with you. It also feels rewarding to reclaim that, and taking a minute to appreciate each and every small win in your language journey is important, because it’s a long road ahead full of hard work.


Itoah Scott-Enns is Tłı̨chǫ and lives in Yellowknife, NT with her husband and daughter. Itoah founded the #SpeakTłı̨chǫToMe social media campaign in 2015 to promote learning and using Tłı̨chǫ Yatıì. She is currently enrolled in the Tłı̨chǫ Mentor-Apprentice Program, and is grateful to her mother, Gabrielle Mackenzie, who is teaching her the language. Itoah is the owner of Įdaà Strategies and is supporting communities in the North to build trails into the future that are rooted in our Northern and Indigenous languages, cultures, and ways of life.


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