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Silent Speaker Program

Reclaiming My Language: A Course for Silent Speakers is based on a successful program that was developed in Norway and Sweden for and by Indigenous Sami peoples. The model uses Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) to support silent speakers to overcome barriers to using their Indigenous language in their communities.

This course is currently in the pilot phase with two completed pilots held with the Okanagan Indian Band (2016) and Splatsin Tsm7aksáltn Society (2017), funded by the Interior Health Region of the First Nations Health Authority (FNHA). The Reclaiming My Language Program will be launched in September 2019. However, there will be a limited number of courses held during the additional pilot phase in early 2019.

This program is currently in the pilot phase and will be open for applications in September 2019.

Who is a Silent Speaker?
A silent speaker is someone who understands a language quite well but does not speak it. There are many different kinds of silent speakers. Here are some examples:
  • Residential school survivors who spoke their language before attending school.
  • People who grew up hearing a language and understand it but do not speak it.
  • People who grew up with a fluent grandparent in the home and understand the language but do not speak it.
  • People who have studied extensively and have developed a high level of ability in reading and writing their language but do not speak it.
  • Speakers who moved away from the community for some time and do not feel comfortable speaking now that they have moved back.
  • Speakers who speak a different dialect of the same language and do not feel comfortable speaking within a community where another dialect is more common.
  • Speakers who simply haven't spoken for years because they haven't really had anyone to speak with.
  • Other terms used for silent speakers include understanders, latent speakers or receptive bilinguals. 
Who is NOT a Silent Speaker?
  • A new language learner.
  • Language learners with beginner or intermediate language proficiency.
  • Someone who lost their language abilities due to stroke or other health issues.
  • A speaker who can speak comfortably in most situations.
What is Cognitive Behavioural Therapy?
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is a proven psychological therapy that helps people change how they think about a situation (think=cognitive) in order to change their response to a situation (=behaviour). CBT is not a therapy meant to deal with deep trauma. It is a short-term therapy designed to help people move forward with a specific situation such as being able to speak their language.

What does the course involve?
During the 10-week course, participants learn CBT skills taught by a certified mental health specialist in order to help them work on speaking their language. In addition, participants are paired with fluent mentors and are given weekly homework assignments to practice speaking with their mentors in a supportive environment. 

FPCC Resources:
I Am Taking My Language Back. This book is written by Jane Juuso who developed the course for Indigenous Sami silent speakers. It has been translated from Swedish.
Reclaiming My Language: A Course for Silent Speakers. This workbook is for use with the FPCC course. 
To request copies of the resources, please contact Suzanne suzanne@fpcc.ca 

Please be advised that all of the resource information about silent speakers is provided for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. If you have or suspect you have mental health concerns, consult your family doctor. If you have or suspect you are experiencing a mental health emergency, please visit a hospital emergency department in your area. Reliance on any information about silent speakers provided by First Peoples’ Cultural Council is solely at your own risk. First Peoples’ Cultural Council assumes no responsibility or liability for any damages, claims, liabilities, costs or obligations arising from the use of the information provided.

Contract Position: We are currently seeking Mental Health Specialists experienced in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy to co-instruct courses at multiple locations in B.C. Please see our employment page for more details. 

Other Information:
To learn more about Sami language initiatives visit: www.sametinget.se/sprak (You will need your browser to translate this webpage into English.) 

Media Coverage: 
Enderby River Talk, April 7, 2017
CBC News, July 30, 2018

For more information, please contact Suzanne Gessner: suzanne@fpcc.ca

Click here to access information about FPCC funding opportunities.

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