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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