What were the projects about?

The project name, Atatittiniq, means “to link together.” It was chosen to reflect Ilitaqsiniq-NLC’s objective to investigate the links between first language acquisition and literacy development in Nunavut. Research shows that individuals are most successful acquiring advanced language skills, such as literacy, when they have the opportunity to do so first in their mother tongue. If Inuit do not have the opportunity to acquire advanced oral skills in the Inuit language, it makes it difficult to achieve functional bilingualism in Nunavut.

The current context in Nunavut is described as an “unstable bilingualism,” where both the Inuit language and English are widely learned and used, but where knowledge and use of English is surpassing that of the Inuit language.

What were the goals of the projects?

Atatittiniq, and the complementary Strengthening Our Communities project, aimed to identify wisdom and promising practices within Nunavut and from other bilingual contexts regarding effective language and literacy acquisition. The Atatittiniq Project sought to build knowledge about the links between language acquisition and literacy development in order to create a solid base for program and policy development. Strengthening our Communities Project aimed to provide information, resources, and training to build capacity among those developing language and literacy related programs.

How did we do the research?

With support from our research guide – linguist, Shelley Tulloch – and our board of directors, Ilitaqsiniq staff:

  • Interviewed ‘language role models’ in 4 Nunavut communities. We defined ‘language role model’ as a parent of any age who works to strengthen their own Inuit language skills and also encourages and assists other people in their community to do the same.
  • Hosted 5 radio call-in shows (one in each of the 4 research communities and one Nunavut-wide)
  • Reviewed academic literature on language and literacy development relevant to the Nunavut context.
  • Identified promising practices in language and literacy programming in Nunavut and other bilingual contexts.

What were some of the findings?

  • Functional bilingualism is achievable in Nunavut
  • The Inuit language must be favoured in order to achieve functional bilingualism
  • Language development must be viewed holistically
  • The development of advanced language skills in the mother tongue (the Inuit language) supports the development of advanced skills in another language (English)
  • The development of oral language skills (such as speaking and understanding) forms the basis for the development of literacy skills (such as reading and writing)
  • The development of advanced oral skills forms the foundation for the development of advanced literacy skills.

The project report recommended five action items:

  • Survey of dialects
  • Mobilization of community-based language/literacy specialists
  • Early childhood and adult language programs
  • Elder/adult/youth literacy programs
  • Creative circles and production workshops

Who funded the project?

Atatittiniq Project was funded by the Canadian Population Health Initiative. Strengthening our Communities Project was funded by Social Development Canada of Human Resources and Skills Development Canada. Many of the language and literacy resources for the projects were developed with the support of the Department of Culture, Language, Elders & Youth, Government of Nunavut, and the Public Service Alliance of Canada Social Justice Fund.

Strengthening Our Communities

Through the ‘Strengthening Our Communities’ project, Ilitaqsiniq developed and delivered 4 regional 3-day workshops in Nunavut. Participants included community members whose work involved supporting literacy and language acquisition: daycare workers, pre-school teachers, adult educators, teacher assistants, librarians, community program coordinators and others. These workshops were an opportunity to:

  • Share information about promising practices in language revitalization and literacy acquisition in Nunavut and from indigenous communities in the world.
  • Share Ilitaqsiniq’s Atatittiniq research findings.
  • Better understand bilingualism and first and second language and literacy acquisition in indigenous contexts.
  • Understand the needs of workshop participants in supporting language and literacy development in their communities.
  • Share information with participants about how Ilitaqsiniq can support literacy initiatives.