Syilx Language House

Postdoctoral researcher and Mitacs awardee Sʔímlaʔxʷ Michele Johnson is running an immersion language house in the Syilx territory (www.thelanguagehouse.ca). The Syilx Language House learning and documentation project builds upon years of advocacy and grassroots revitalization work in the Syilx (Okanagan) Nation, and creates a unique collaboration between Syilx Nation governments, partner organizations, academia, and community members to create and support a language house for young adult learners. The activities in the language house are two-fold, addressing the two greatest language needs in our Nation: training new speakers; and documenting and archiving our remaining speakers. The groundbreaking project will deliver 2,000 hours of intensive immersion curriculum over four years, with regular filmed language assessments. Paul Creek Language Association curriculum (also known as the Salish School of Spokane, www.interiorsalish.com) is being taught to a class of thirteen young adults, two full days a week, by a team of five young adult co-teachers. The class completed the first of the six Paul Creek textbooks two months after startup. The Paul Creek curriculum has a proven track record of creating speakers when delivered in a supported program, partnered with fluent Elders. This project will also generate new documentation from Elder speakers. This fills a critical gap in advanced literature in Nsyilxcn. We have rich beginner to high-intermediate learning materials, but no advanced literature. Documentation meets a critical need to record our remaining Elders who are precious resources.

Sʔímlaʔxʷ and students on the first day of class September 30, 2015
A typical moment of immersion second-language acquisition—laughter
Participants at the first Community Language Planning meeting Nov. 25, 2015
Sʔímlaʔxʷ and some of the students celebrating their first milestone Nov. 25, 2015