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Volume 3, Issue 1 (2009) Pp. 1–7.

Native Languages and Language Teaching in B.C.
by Robert Levine

This paper is the keynote speech delivered on March 26, 1979, in Victoria, British Columbia, at the Provincial Native Languages Conference by Robert Levine, at the time Associate Curator of Linguistics at the British Columbia Provincial Museum, now Professor of Linguistics at the Ohio State University. It has been edited only in minor ways. We believe that it is useful to publish it now, after a delay of 30 years, not only as a historical record, but because in many ways little has changed.

Writing systems are less of an issue today, probably due to the fact that most communities have settled on one, but in most respects the situation that Levine describes is all too familiar. Documentation is better overall, and in some cases quantum leaps have been made, but the documentation available for most languages remains inadequate. In spite of much effort, the teaching of native languages is largely ineffective. With the exception of the very rare immersion primary schools and a few university-level courses, very few programs impart to their students a functional knowledge of the language. In one respect, the situation has changed for the worse: there are fewer fluent speakers, and they are even more concentrated among elders. The situation was urgent thirty years ago when Levine gave this speech. It is even more urgent now.

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Acknowledgements Copyright © 2009 Northwest Journal of Linguistics ISSN 1718-8563