Over the past few days, a group of Inuit from the Canadian Arctic have been on a study tour of Wales to learn how Welsh is promoted and how it has flourished as a living language.
The delegation of 17 members of the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami’s Language Committee, a diverse group ranging in age and drawn from across Canada’s Arctic region, are meeting with several groups involved in promoting the Welsh language, including Bangor University, the Welsh Books Council, National Library of Wales and the Welsh Joint Education Committee (WJEC).
There are sixty native languages in Canada all of which are experiencing declining numbers of speakers. In addition to that, the Inuit people have nine different ways of writing their language making efforts to support and revive it a very complex matter.
The group, which consists mainly of teachers, are visiting Wales to find out more about the way the Welsh language is being promoted and sustained. It is hoped that there will be advice and help to revive the Inuktut language – their native language.
36,000 people speak Inuktut, though the language does not have a strong written tradition and depends on the older generation to convey it from one generation to the next.
The Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami’s Language committee is currently engaged in an historic process to create one standard written form of the Inuktitut language. As part of their study tour, on Wednesday the group had the opportunity to meet the staff of Geiriadur Prifysgol Cymru (the University of Wales Dictionary of the Welsh Language) and discuss the project.
On behalf of Geiriadur Prifysgol Cymru, Andrew Hawke said:
“It was great to welcome the members of the ITK Language Committee to the Dictionary’s offices in Aberystwyth. Their enthusiasm for their language was infectious – and an example to us in Wales – there are only about 36,000 speakers but nine different ways of writing the language! Just as Geiriadur Prifysgol Cymru is regarded as a means of maintaining the standard of written Welsh, so one standard written form will help Inuktitut to survive and prosper. They said how they admired the Welsh for keeping Welsh alive.”
It is not surprising therefore that the Dictionary’s word of the day on Wednesday was ‘Arctig‘ (Artic).
Before the end of the tour, the group will also meet with the First Minister of Wales, Carwyn Jones, Welsh Language Commissioner Meri Huws and HRH The Prince of Wales
As part of a partnership between the British Council, Prince’s Charities Canada and the Canadian High Commission, Welsh author and academic Alys Conran will accompany the group to document their time in Wales. You can read her Blog about the visit on Wales Arts Review – http://www.walesartsreview.org/inuits-in-wales/