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Syilx Language House: How and Why We Are Delivering 2,000 Decolonizing Hours in Nsyilxcn
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Syilx Language House: How and Why We Are Delivering 2,000 Decolonizing Hours in Nsyilxcn Sʔı́mlaʔxw Michele K. Johnson Abstract: The Syilx Language House has completed two years of a four-year, 2,000-hour program to create new adult Nsyilxcn speakers, based on Syilx communities’ specific priorities. Our critically endangered status requires radically decolonizing teaching techniques. Nsyilxcn (Okanagan) teachers are learners, trained to deliver sequenced curriculum in full immersion using cutting -edge teaching techniques. Teachers employ strategies that prioritize effective immersion, frequent assessment, and a high level of classroom safety. This article shares our story, applied teaching methods, student testimonials, community feedback, and our 2020 Plan. After completing our second year, students have completed 900 hours of intensive immersion. Students state that our teaching methods are the fastest, most effective language learning they have ever experienced. After four years, students will emerge as mid- to high-intermediate speakers, capable of bringing language into homes, teaching new cohorts of adults, and creating immersion workplaces. Keywords: applied teaching methods, direct acquisition, Indigenous language , Nsyilxcn, Okanagan, Salish Résumé : L’association Syilx Language House est maintenant à mi-parcours dans son programme de 2 000 heures, échelonnées sur quatre ans, visant à constituer un nouveau groupe de locuteurs adultes du nsyilxcn (colville-okanagan ), programme fondé sur les priorités particulières des communautés syilx. Le statut de cette langue gravement menacée exige l’application de techniques d’enseignement radicalement décolonisatrices. Les enseignants du nsyilxcn sont des apprenants formés pour offrir un enseignement progressif en contexte d’immersion totale, au moyen de techniques pédagogiques de pointe. Les enseignants emploient des stratégies qui privilégient des procédés efficaces d’immersion, des évaluations fréquentes et un niveau élevé de sécurite ́ en classe. L’auteure relate l’historique du projet et décrit les méthodes de pédagogie appliquée utilisées, les témoignages des étudiants, les réactions de la communauté et les objectifs visés pour 2020. Après deux ans de participation au programme, les étudiants comptent maintenant 900 heures d’immersion intensive. Les méthodes d’enseignement utilisées dans le cadre du programme sont, affirment-ils, les plus rapides et les plus efficaces qu’il leur ait été donné d’expérimenter dans l’apprentissage d’une langue. Après quatre ans, les étudiants seront devenus des locuteurs de compétence moyenne à This ahead of print version may differ slightly from the final published version.© The Canadian Modern Language Review/La Revue canadienne des langues vivantes, doi:10.3138/cmlr.4040 intermédiaire supérieure, capables d’introduire cette langue dans les foyers, d’enseigner à de nouvelles cohortes d’adultes et de créer des milieux de travail immersifs. Mots clés : acquisition directe, langue autochtone, nsyilxcn, okanagan, pédagogie appliquée, salish Background: Why this program was chosen by community On June 23, 2017, the Syilx Language House celebrated two years of language renewal and is halfway to its four-year goal of creating 10 new Nsyilxcn speakers. Learning an Indigenous language is a personal and community act of resistance, and putting this cohort together required vast amounts of preparation, activism, advocating, and lobbying as well as support from Elders and community (Kelowna Capital News, 2017). Nsyilxcn, also known as Okanagan, N’slxcin, nqilxw cn, Colville-Okanagan, Sinixt, and Salish, is an Interior Salish language located in Syilx territory, southern British Columbia (BC) and northern Washington. It is critically endangered, with fewer than 50 fluent Elders remaining. Nsyilxcn activists recognized a desperate need to create fluent parent-aged speakers and have become groundbreakers in language revitalization. Nsyilxcn is lucky in that we have a proven curriculum and teaching methods to follow, created by the Salish School of Spokane in Washington (Peterson, Wiley, & Parkin, 2015).1 Like all Salish languages, Nsyilxcn has an extremely complex phonology and grammar. It is unique in that we have a full curriculum; most languages in BC do not, though many have a textbook or two. In our critically endangered state, some teaching techniques work better than others. The ongoing pressures of...


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