The HLCC team speaks at the CUVIC 2016 conference April 28, 2016.

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Ha’kwush tthu sqwal tst: Using immersive techniques in post-secondary language courses.

Thomas Jones, Ruby Peter, Delores Louie, and Donna Gerdts say hay tseep q’u to all those who participated in workshop on adult immersion at CUVIC2016 on April 28, 2016.

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Transmission within families of our Coast Salish language Hul’q’umi’num’ was disrupted due to government policies, including residential schools. The burden is now being placed on the schools to provide language instruction and on the universities to train language teachers. Consensus among language educators points to naturalistic methods, such as immersion, total physical response (TPR), and mentor-apprentice to support learning. However, implementing such methods can be challenging for First Nation instructors, whose traditional style of knowledge transmission might be quite solemn, and for adult learners, whose feelings of loss and guilt might make them uncomfortable in the classroom.

Our workshop reported on a recent nine-course certificate program whose goal was to promote fluency among language teachers. A team of native speaker linguists/Elders together with their university partners designed laddered learning modules featuring naturalistic methods. We showed a short film of the Elders and learners in action, and then discussed best practices in adult immersion.

Way you paddle moving the canoe forward, mirrors a good language class is designed.

Students themselves have to be paddling.

The Elder is there to steer from behind, and call instructions.

Put a strong paddler in the front to turn the canoe.

Everyone has to keep in synch, and make the switches together.


Elements important to the success of our program were:

  • team-building that encourages learners to participate actively and teachers to model rather than explain the language;
  • survival skills for language learners to make best use of time with Elders;
  • constrained worlds for practicing phrases around a particular topic to help move learners from understanding to use of language;
  • approaches to conveying high frequency structures through robust input and “hidden” linguistic analysis.

With careful planning and preparation, we were able to foster intergenerational learning and to model effective methods to future language teachers.

We thank the audience for their comments and questions.