As learners, we feel like we are making history, each one of us. There is a sense of power in the room, as well as courage, dedication, and commitment. Each of us is committed to stay in the room until we become speakers. We will become a language family. Before we started, it looked like student numbers might be too high—a good problem to have—so we chose the larger classroom space, ordered 20 chairs and printed out 20 textbooks. Our starting numbers were twelve adult students, and five co-teachers. We will be joined by one more student after Nsyilxcn 1 is finished in November, making us thirteen students and five teachers, eighteen in total. My role and responsibility is lead teacher, teacher-trainer, and project coordinator. The co-teachers have each finished the first three to five Paul Creek books, putting us about six months of study ahead of the group. We will stay ahead of the students for the first year by studying at a fast pace. By the next school year, the students will catch up to us and we will all be at the same level. One of my favourite teaching roles in the first day is to make sure that everyone has an Nsyilxcn name. Two students did not, so we brainstormed as a group to come up with fitting names. Krista became “person who smiles” which fits her perfectly. I called Andrew McGinnis to confirm the pronunciation of the names and he was happy to hear we were already in the room studying nqilxwcn. He can’t wait to join us, once we have reached at least a solid beginner level. Our experience in the classroom is overwhelmingly positive. We are supportive, encouraging, enthusiastic, and loving. Our teaching practices embrace the best language acquisition techniques and prioritize classroom safety. Our lessons are in full immersion. Each of us feels the tension of language learning, but it is balanced by a feeling of safety and connection to each other.
X̌astítkʷ Jolene Michel posted a beautiful FaceBook post last week (Oct. 21, 2015):
I'm really happy with life these days. I have had the amazing opportunity to attend the language house in Inchelium this past summer. Currently I have transitioned to the Syilx Language House here in Penticton. I'm very hopeful and super excited about the language and where we are going as learners/beginners. I love the continual push to my learning, with this amazing curriculum. I'm also super grateful for the amazing circle of language family I've met.
A great expression I've heard recently is "language doesn't die in healthy communities" [April Charlo from Flathead MT]. The thing I must remind myself is to ignore the negativity that is unfortunately associated with language. To me language is meant to be a positive thing, a way to connect us with not only the land but with each other and ourselves.