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Overcoming Common Language Myths
In order to gain public and organizational support for language revitalization efforts, one of the most important tasks is overcoming negative language myths and attitudes.

Through a long process of colonization, many Aboriginal people have come to devalue their own culture and language. In order to gain allies at the community level, language activists must confront the negative and fatalistic attitudes towards Aboriginal culture and language and build understanding and pride in traditional knowledge and practices.

The most common myths and attitudes concerning Aboriginal languages are presented below.

Myth # 1
Learning to speak an Aboriginal language at a young age, as a first language, will make it more difficult or confusing to learn English as a second language.

A number of studies have clearly demonstrated the exact opposite – that a child who has learned an Aboriginal language at home as a first language can easily achieve proficiency in English. In fact, children who have the opportunity to develop two or more languages develop stronger cognitive (intellectual) skills than a unilingual child.

These studies are supported by the long history of bilingualism and multilingualism among Aboriginal people in the Northwest Territories. Many elders and middle-aged adults speak two or more languages and have the knowledge and wisdom gained from understanding two or more perspectives of the world. In fact, today's younger generation is the first generation of Aboriginal people in the new Northwest Territories in many years to speak only one language.

From this perspective, one could say that we are becoming less educated.

Aboriginal male adult and two bys
NWT Archives, GNWT


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