Learn Haida and become one of its 55 speakers

If you want to know how to speak Haida, you can attend either formal or informal lessons which are offered in various Haida communities. One such example is the University of Alaska Southeast, which offers lessons on the language. By learning the language you will be among the remaining 55 people who still speak the language. Currently, most Haida’s communicate through English. Many revitalization strategies have been put in place to try and save this endangered language. Mostly, it is the older generation, individuals who are over 70 years old who can speak the language. However, the younger generation have taken a keen interest in the language and are willing to learn their ancestral language so that they can start using it again within their community. Many things led to the decline of this language. This includes epidemics, assimilation by other communities and the banning of the language in public schools.

Originally, Haida’s come from Haida Gwaii, which is also known as Queen Charlotte Island, off the Canadian coast. There are differences in dialects among the various communities. The greatest difference is between northern Haida and Southern Haida. Northern Haida is spoken in Hydaburg and Masset while southern Haida is spoken in Skidegate. It takes time and a bit of interaction for the speaker of one dialect to understand someone who speaks a different dialect. The differences largely lie in the pronunciation of words and the choice of vocabulary.

There are 2 systems for writing the language. One writing system was invented by John Enrico. This system is based on the Roman alphabet. Enrico used this writing system to publish some of his works such as Myths and Histories and Skidegate. The other writing system was developed by Alaska Native Language Center linguists, including Jeff Leer and Michael Krauss. This writing system borrowed some of its features from the Coastal Tlingit orthography, which was designed by Constance Naish and Gillian Story, who were linguists. This second writing system has 3 letters which are underlined. These are letters q, k and x. This writing system has been in use in Alaska.

One Comment on “Learn Haida and become one of its 55 speakers”

  1. Hello,
    I´m interested in knowing how Haida translates adjectives such as “good”, “evil”, and other words denoting moral qualities. I understand from what I can read about Haida that the language doesn´t have adjectives (which is not uncommon; Old Norse not possessing too many, either), and instead rewrite them using verb phrases, but how is that done in the case of the words above?
    Dick Nilsson
    Falun, Sweden

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