Thompson Rivers University

Talk to the Experts: Training the next generation of First Nations language teachers

  Posted on: January 31, 2019

Newsroom —Wyt-k Hello Talk to the Experts

TRU's First Nations language courses are open to everyone and can count toward a degree’s language requirements.

Language not only helps us communicate and connect with one another, it is also a lifeline to our past, present and future. It is a link to our ways of being, our beliefs, customs, norms and so much more.

June Kelly, the co-ordinator of TRU’s First Nations language program, recently stopped by the Radio NL studios for an episode of Talk to the Experts with guest host, Francesca Lucia. See below for the interview in three parts and some Secwepemc resources.

“When students first start learning the language, they are very quiet and very shy, because pronunciation is key when you’re learning to speak,” said Kelly, adding “because if you pronounce a word wrong, it can have a totally different meaning. But by the end of the course they’re standing up in front of the classroom and guests and doing their entire presentation in Secwepemctsin or St’át’imcets (languages spoken around the middle Fraser and Lillooet rivers).”

While explaining some of the similarities and differences between English and the local Secwepemctsin, Kelly said:

“Secwepemctsin uses the English alphabet to write the language. There are 43 consonants in Secwepemctsin and seven vowels and one number seven. When a learner is looking at all of that and they’re trying to read the language from the dictionary, it can be quite difficult. Because, what does the number seven do? In Secwepemctsin it either means an abrupt halt, or it has its own pronunciation as well.”

Some Secwepemc resources

TRU library

Secwepemc resources

First Voices You can also find First Voice in your app store

Secwepemc Cultural Education Society

Secwepemc history and culture pages on TRU’s website

Secwepemc app in your app store

The interview with June Kelly in three parts

Clip 1
Some topics covered: How and why the program started, what students learn, finding identity in learning an Indigenous language, counting an Indigenous language toward language requirements, gaining confidence through learning another language.


Clip 2
Some topics covered: Words in Secwepemctsin, student success stories, course length and structure, course work.


Clip 3
Some topics covered: Host Francesca Lucia shares why language is more than just speaking, writing Secwepemctsin and deciphering the letters and symbols, pronunciation, available resources from book to audio and online, how new words and phrases are introduced into Secwepemctsin.