Teenage girl is creating an app to help revitalize her native First Nations language

It’s said that when a place loses its language, the place is lost. If that’s true, there will soon be many more lost places on the planet. But a 15-year-old in Prince George, British Columbia, Canada is determined that her place won’t become one of them.

High school student Tessa Erickson is a member of the Nak’azdli Whut’en First Nation. She recently applied for and received a $50,000 grant to create an app that will hopefully revitalize the Dakelh language that has long been spoken among the Native Americans of central British Columbia.

She says that her father occasionally spoke to her in the Nak’azdli dialect of Dakelh, but even he wasn’t fluent.

Now, she actively developing the app, and hopes to have it finished by the summer of 2018.

Tessa’s is hardly a unique situation. UNESCO has documented 2473 languages on the brink of extinction. In fact, they’ve created a taxonomy of the world’s endangered languages:

  • Vulnerable – most children speak the language, but it may be restricted to certain domains (e.g., home);
  • Definitely endangered – children no longer learn the language as a ‘mother tongue’ in the home;
  • Severely endangered – language is spoken by grandparents and older generations; while the parent generation may understand it, they do not speak it to children or among themselves;
  • Critically endangered – the youngest speakers are grandparents and older, and they speak the language partially and infrequently;
  • Extinct – there are no speakers left.

See CBC article and photo of Tessa.

See My Prince George Now article & photo of Tessa.

See Nak’azdli Whut’en website & image credit.

See the UNESCO atlas of endangered languages.

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