Graduate Certificate in the Linguistics of Hul’q’umi’num’ Information

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Graduate Certificate Program

Simon Fraser University (Department of Linguistics and First Nations Language Centre) is pleased to announce a new program leading to a graduate certificate in The Linguistics of a First Nations Language (Hul’q’umi’num’).


Tap on the following link to go to the official SFU website concerning this program.
• Go to SFU official web page.

• The graduate certificate offers training for language researchers, educators, and material developers.
• Students gain expertise in communication skills, language documentation, and the analysis of Hul’q’umi’num’.
• Emphasis is placed on the language in its socio-cultural and educational setting.
• The learning model features mentorship and participation in projects in addition to formal lectures and paper writing.

This is a cohort program, with students taking all their courses together.
• Students in the cohort should either be Hul’q’umi’num’ language specialists or be aiming for a career where knowledge of Hul’q’umi’num’ is a necessary skill.
• Students should either be fluent in Hul’q’umi’num’ or have some academic training in Hul’q’umi’num’ language and linguistics.
Courses are taught by a team of Elders and academic experts on the language. Leading the team will be:
— Ruby Peter, trained in linguistics at University of Victoria, has been doing research on Hul’q’umi’num’ on and teaching the language for sixty years.
— Donna Gerdts of SFU, who has been studying Hul’q’umi’num’ since 1975, will be the lead linguist for the program.

Applications for admission. NOW CLOSED.
This is a nine-month program, starting in April 2017 and finishing in December 2017.
Courses are scheduled on evenings and breaks during the school year and during the day in the summer in order to accommodate language teachers.

View Calendar

Click to view PDF

YELLOW DAYS: 9 am – 3 pm
GREEN DAYS: 5:30 – 7:30 pm
BLUE DAYS: 9:00 am – 1:00 pm

Courses will be held in Duncan, BC.

What are the requirements:
Students complete four courses (16 units) of approved graduate coursework on linguistic methodology, the linguistic structure of a particular language, and the sociocultural or educational setting of First Nations languages. Students must achieve a 2.5 CGPA in these courses to graduate.


These are the courses planned for the Hul’q’umi’num’ cohort.

LING 804 Field Methods Summer 2017 (Duncan, BC)
Students elicit, transcribe, organize, and analyze linguistic data collected from native speakers of Hul’q’umi’num’ .
View outline: Click to view PDF

LING 811 Morphology/Syntax Fall 2017 (Duncan, BC)
Students learn the principles of Hul’q’umi’num’ word architecture and sentence structure.
View outline: Click to view PDF

LING 812 Narrative/Discourse Structure Fall 2017 (Duncan, BC)
Through studying stories from the Hul’q’umi’num’ Elders, students gain an appreciation of their design and performance. Students analyze various aspects such as information flow and prosody and create new stories of their own.
View outline: Click to view PDF

LING 813 Socio-cultural and cognitive aspects of Hul’q’umi’num’  Summer 2017 (Duncan, BC)
Students examine the interplay of language and culture and study linguistic features that convey the worldview of Hul’q’umi’num’ speakers.
View outline: Click to view PDF

How much will this program cost?
We are still working out the details of fee structure and also financial support.
SFU is working with the Hul’q’umi’num’ Language and Culture Collective to try to keep the cost as low as possible.

Why take this program?
Coming together to study the language is a great form of professional development that promotes knowledge about the structure of the language and improves fluency and literacy.

The graduate certificate is the first step toward further post-secondary education, such as, an MA in linguistics or First Nations languages. Planning is now underway to offer courses in Duncan in 2018 that will afford an opportunity for graduates of the certificate program to next complete an MA. If this program is approved by SFU, we anticipate that we will have further information about it by December 2017.

Admissions information (Applications are now closed.)

Official instructions for application are still being drafted. We will update our website as soon as we know more. In the meantime, there is much you can do to prepare for the application process.

Admission requirements

The ideal applicant will have academic preparation as well as proficiency in the Hul’q’umi’num’ language.

Academic background can be demonstrated by the university course work as ascertained in transcripts sent from the post-secondary institution to SFU.

The student should have completed:

(1) Undergraduate course work leading to a bachelor’s degree in an academic field relevant to linguistics with a cumulative grade point average of at least 2.5/4.33, or a grade point average of at least 2.67/4.33 (B–) based on the last 60 credits of undergraduate courses.


(2) A Certificate in First Nations Language Proficiency at SFU with a CGPA of at least 2.5.

Note, that exceptional admission may be possible in other circumstances, especially where a person is a fluent speaker of the Hul’q’umi’num’ language, as determined by a board of Elders, or has substantial expertise in the language gained through teaching or work experience. Students should consult with us on how to build a case for admission based on a list of courses, course outlines, etc.

Proficiency in the language can be demonstrated by completion of the Certificate in First Nations Language Proficiency, by providing grades in language courses, or by providing a letter from an Elder.

Required documents
Besides transcripts, students have to submit a number of documents for admission.

Be sure to edit and proofread them very carefully.

We are glad to help you prepare these documents and will be holding some information sessions during the month of November.

Current CV or Resume (maximum two pages)
This is in outline form, not narrative form.

Your CV should include:
• Name(s) and contact information
• Education: list secondary or post-secondary schools attended, with dates and diplomas or degrees, and give details of coursework relevant to this program.
• Work history: list work relevant to this program first, giving dates and description of duties.
• Other work history: list other employment that helps to situate your skills.
• Summary of qualifications in Hul’q’umi’num’ language
Do a self-assessment of your abilities at speaking, reading, and writing Hul’q’umi’num’.
• Cultural activities: list any specialized skills or important events.
• Other skills or technical training: Word processing, video editing, accounting, etc.
• Research: list any participation in research projects or grants.
• Publications: list any publications or other work products, such as reports.

Statement of Research Interest (maximum two pages)
This is a narrative statement to let the admission committee know about your past experiences and your future goals. It allows you to give more details about relevant aspects of your CV.

• Start with a brief statement that explains that you are passionate about the Hul’q’umi’num’ language and why you want to be part of the graduate certificate cohort. What motivates you?
• Give some personal history about your experiences with the language. What experiences do you bring that will help you as a student?
• Discuss your educational background, especially what courses or other training you have had that have prepared you for the graduate certificate.
• Describe your work history and any specialized cultural knowledge that you hold.
What resources or skills do you have that will help you succeed in completing the certificate?
• Are there any areas of research that you are particularly interested in?
• What are your goals for the future and how will a graduate certificate be a benefit to your career?

Writing Sample (maximum 10 pages)
Students can attach an example of written work, such as a course paper, research report, or short story. This is to verify the students ability to communicate effectively in written form. (Note that the writing sample can be on any topic, but if possible it should concern some aspect of Hul’q’umi’num’ language or culture.)


All applicants must provide a portfolio highlighting their work on the language, providing examples of products created or projects completed, with role or contribution specified. Especially, students who are applying without having completed a bachelor’s degree should document significant experience showing that they have expertise as a language specialist (researcher, teacher, etc.). This expertise can be demonstrated through:
a) Academic writing: course papers, conference presentations, journal articles, research reports, proposal submissions, personal journals;
b) Language materials: video and audio tapes, CDs, DVDs, lesson plans, curriculum, stories, translations, transcriptions of taped interviews, stories or other materials produced in the language, transcriptions of taped interviews, reference materials;
c) Professional training: description of mentorship or research assistantships with linguists, educators, anthropologists, ethnobotanists; workshops and conferences attended. Other pertinent information will be considered.

The portfolio will be submitted electronically, and may consist of .pdfs, scans, photographs, audio/video files, or links to webpages where materials are posted.

Please contact Donna Gerdts for help with your portfolios.

Letters of reference
You will need to provide the names of three people (for example, a professor you have taken courses with, an Elder, your employer or supervisor), who can provide a letter of reference for you. They will be asked to access your potential as a graduate student and language specialist.
To assist each person in writing the reference letter, you should provide them with copies of your CV, your statement of research interest, and some examples of your work.

Frequently asked questions

Fluent speaker:
Q: I speak the language fluently but do not read or write it. Can I apply for this program?
A: Learning to speak the language is so much more difficult than learning to read and write it. We would love to have you in our program, give your talent proper respect, and help you gain the skills you need to move to the next level of linguistic knowledge of the language. But you should come and speak to us about undertaking a program of self-study to get some experience with reading Hul’q’umi’num’ as well as learning some linguistic terminology before courses begin in April. For starters, please study this introduction to the sound system.
Next, you can start enjoying some of the little stories posted at:
In preparing your application, be sure to explain what materials you have studied and what you have learned from them.

Q: I am an educator and want to learn to speak, read, and write Hul’q’umi’num’ so I can use it in my classroom. Can I apply for this program?
A: If you have a BA or BEd (or even an MA or MEd), we would love for you to join our cohort. If you have experience speaking, teaching, learning, or researching other languages, those skills will be very useful for you in getting started in Hul’q’umi’num’. Also, we can suggest some self-study materials for you to start learning the language and linguistic terminology before classes start in April.

Language student:

Q: I have taken some of the Hul’q’umi’num’ language courses offered by VIU or SFU or as a secondary school student, can I be part of the cohort, even if I haven’t completed the SFU Certificate in First Nations Language Proficiency?

A: That is going to depend on what other academic training or skill sets you have that can lead to academic success in our graduate courses. We will be glad to meet with you and discuss whether the program is a good fit for you.

Undergraduate student:

Q: I am currently an undergraduate student and will not have my bachelor’s degree by April. Can I still take the courses?
A: You should contact us and let us work with you and your current university to come up with an assessment and a plan. Because our courses are scheduled at the edges (evenings, summer, breaks), it may be possible for you to go ahead and start the grad certificate as you finish your BA. This is likely to be the only time this particular graduate program is taught by SFU on Vancouver Island, so we would like to make every effort to include all students who would like to make Hul’q’umi’num’ the central focus of their careers.

PhD student:

Q:I already have a Masters degree, but I want to improve my Hul’q’umi’num’ skills. Will I be welcome in this program?
A: You are welcome in the certificate program. However, you should contact us and we can help access your situation. You might want to apply for a PhD program at SFU or elsewhere and you should be able to count some of the courses offer in Duncan toward your coursework requirement for PhD. 

Q: I don’t live in the Hul’q’umi’num’ territory? Is there a way for me to complete my certificate but keep the commuting to a minimum, especially during the school year?
A: We try to put together a program that suits each student. For example, you might be able to complete the program by attending courses in Duncan during summers of 2017 and 2018. Or it might be possible for you to take some of your coursework in Duncan and some elsewhere, for example at the Burnaby SFU campus, or through the University of Victoria. Please contact us for more information.

Q: Several orthographies are being used to represent Hul’q’umi’num’ in the different schools. What orthography will the courses use?
A: We will be presenting materials in the orthography developed during the CURA grant between University of Victoria and HTG (though we don’t use the letter /o/, opting for the phonological form /’uw’/ instead). You can see how we write things in the materials on this website. When you are writing or producing materials, you can use any orthography you would like, as long as you provide us with the key to what the symbols represent and use it systematically. During the MA program we will also be using a version of the International Phonetic Alphabet during the course on phonetics and phonology.

Q: I’m eager to learn and use my own dialect of Hul’q’umi’num’. What dialect will you be using in class?
A: We encourage everyone —teachers and students—to speak and write their own dialect. For example, if you are Snuneymuxw, you will say tl’uts’a’ for “rock”, but if you are Quw’utsun’ you will say smeent. Also if you are from the northern part of the Hul’q’umi’num’ territory, you will say tu swuy’qe’ and not tthu swuy’qe’, as some people say. The differences among the dialects are something that greatly interests Prof. Gerdts. She wrote her MA thesis back in 1977 on differences between speakers from different locations. She has worked for many years with speakers of all the dialects and she is eager to share what she has learned about both the differences that distinguish speakers and also the similarities that tie them together as speakers of one language.


Q: How hard will the courses be?
A: Graduate courses are very demanding both in terms of time commitment (52 in-class hours per course, and a big expectation for engaging in study and research outside of class time) and in terms of expectations about the quality of the work. But we will do our best to help break the learning down into small, manageable tasks focused on important and valuable topics. You need to be ready to commit to attend every class and do each assignment in a timely fashion. This may require some sacrifice of personal time during the nine months of the program. Psychological factors play an important part in success, and we turn to spiritual guidance from the Elders and emotional support from our families to help us stay strong and persevere.

Application process:

Q: How and when will my application be processed?
A: A committee of SFU faculty members from the departments of Linguistics and First Nations Studies will be reviewing the applications. Notifications are expected to go out in early January.



For more information, contact Donna Gerdts at


phone: 250-701-1236