Just Released! Report on the Status of B.C. First Nations Languages 2018
We are excited to release the third edition of the First Peoples’ Cultural Council’s Report on the Status of B.C. First Nations Languages 2018. This report reveals that while the number of language learners continues to increase, there are still serious threats to language vitality with an ongoing loss of aging fluent speakers and challenges accessing language resources.
While B.C. language revitalization efforts continue to face many challenges, there has also been positive progress with the development of federal language legislation, increased investment from the B.C. government, a growing interest in language revitalization, and an increasing number of people — especially young people — who are learning and speaking their languages.
2018 Current Language Status from 177 of 203 First Nations Communities in B.C.
- There are 4,132 (3%) fluent speakers in B.C.
- Fluent speakers decreased by 1,157 (4,1% to 3.0%) since 2014.
- 52% of fluent speakers 65+ resulting in the decline of fluent speakers.
- Younger fluent speakers (ages 0-24) increased to 117 from 54 in 2014.
- There are 13,997 (10.2%) language learners, an increase from 9.1% in 2014.
- 78.1% of learners are under the age of 25.
- 24/34 B.C. languages have been partially documented on FirstVoices.com.
B.C.’s Unique Language Diversity
- B.C. has more than 50% of Canada’s First Nations Languages.
- B.C. has 34 First Nations languages with 7 distinct, unrelated language families.
- There are 93+ dialects within the languages.
- There are 3 languages once spoken that are now sleeping.
- Languages Indigenous to other parts of Canada are also spoken in B.C.
Increase in Government Support
- Truth & Reconciliation Commission’s (TRC) Calls to Action support language rights and revitalization work.
- Federal language legislation is currently in development in consultation with First Nations.
- In 2018, the B.C. government made a historic investment of $50 million, over three years, to support language revitalization efforts across the province
We are encouraged that the 2018 report points to a growth in the number of young fluent speakers and learners in the province, but also see areas where more is needed for First Nations communities in their language revitalization efforts.
It’s also important to note that this work will not happen overnight, but will require stable, long-term investments in community-based revitalization programs to help turn the tide on Canada’s dark colonial history of language suppression. Increased support is needed for immersive language programs at all age levels, for language recording and archiving, for strategic planning and for language programming in educational institutions.
As individuals, we can all consider the role we play in supporting language revitalization in B.C. by supporting language champions, requesting language programs in schools and communities, and advocating with all levels of government to support the TRC Calls to Action for language.
“Learning my language has been an amazing journey that I wouldn’t trade
for any monetary value because it is priceless.
My identity is slowly emerging and I’m beginning to feel whole
and powerful as a woman of my Nation!”
Yvonne Joe, Nłeʔkepmxcín language apprentice
For more information see the following resources:
Link to Report on the Status of B.C. First Nations Languages 2018
Link to 2018 Language Report Fact Sheet
Link to Press Release
Link to TRC Calls to Action