Stemming the death tide for the Maliseet language

New videos have been launched to help in the promotion and preservation of the Maliseet language in New Brunswick, Canada. The collection of videos feature elderly men talking to young learners, with the intention of encouraging them to learn the Maliseet language, so as to prevent the rapid decline of the language. Research done in the mid 1990s showed that most young people aged between 20 to 30 could not speak the language fluently. Young people below 20 years old only knew a few words in Maliseet. The Maliseet Language Preservation and Restoration Program took it upon themselves to help young people gain a better understanding of their language, culture and heritage. One of the main factors that lead to the death of a language is when there are no fluent speakers and the language is not regularly used in day to day conversations. Maliseet is an endangered language which needs to be revitalized in order to survive, otherwise it will die off.

Maliseet is pronounced as ‘mal-uh-seet’. This translates to ‘talks imperfectly’ in the Mi’qmaq (Micmac) language. Miq’maq is a tribe that neighbors the Maliseet people. The Maliseet people call themselves Wolastoqiyik, which is the name of a river that runs through the original homeland of the Maliseet. Maliseet is a song like language, with complicated verbs. The Maliseet alphabet has 17 letters, 5 of which are vowels.

Maliseet is spoken in New Brunswick, Canada. Original Maliseets lived in the eastern border between the US and Canada before there were any border lines dividing the two countries. Currently, most Maliseets live on the Canadian side of the border. The Maliseets who live in Maine and New Brunswick speak English, while those who live in Quebec speak French. Older Maliseets can speak the Maliseet-Passamaquoddy language. Maliseet has 2 major dialects. These are Maliseet and Passamaquoddy, which are basically the same language spoken using different accents, much like American English and Canadian English. There are currently a total of 1,500 people who speak either or both of the dialects. The Maliseets who live in the US, refer to themselves as a ‘tribe’ like other Indian communities, while the Maliseets who live in Canada call themselves ‘First Nations’.

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