October 28, 2009

Inuktitut ilisarasuaqtunga. Mikijumik tukisijunga...

Today two Elders visited the school and, when they arrived, I felt I should greet them...the instructor who was hosting them was stuck on the phone, and they looked a bit lost. What happened next made me sick...
I've been in Pangnirtung for over two months and the extent of my linguistic ability spans all of 6 expressions: ii (yes), aagga (no), aatsuu (I don't know), qujanami (Pang dialect for 'thank you'), ilaali (you're welcome), ullaakkut (good morning), and the ever-present qallunaaq (southerner/foreigner/white person). What makes it even worse is that I generally don't try to use even these words! Not something I'm proud of, that's for sure.

...so there we were, the three of us trying to communicate, and it just wasn't clicking together. Estonian, French, Spanish, Korean, Japanese - even a little bit of 'New York' - I have been able to manoeuver, bit this was like running across one of those sticky mouse-traps; I felt ready to chew my leg off to get out of the situation! I cannot stay here without trying to learn more about the culture and language falls directly within its parameters; eating seal meat is not going to cut it.

I guess I'm off to work with my phrasebooks...my students have already given me an Inuktitut name (Tauja), so I'd better start living up to it.

5 comments:

Way Way Up said...

Oh how I miss the sound of Inuktitut! It really is a fun language to speak once you get the hang of it. After my 6 years there I was no where close to the fluency level I had hoped I'd be. But I kept a phrase book and tried to use it as much as I could. I found that the more I used it, the more responsive people became. I'm sure you'll pick up a lot of the language if you're willing to speak it as much as possible. Even if you mangle it.....and I did that a lot.....people will gently correct you and share their language with you when they see a qallunaaq putting forth the effort. The Inuktitut name given to me by some of my former students was qavvigaarjuk...wolverine.

Christa said...

Here we must speak a different dialect because good morning is more like "ooh blah qut" and we are "kah- blu -naaq" we have those Bs thrown in there.

Really though, I've been here 3 months and my vocab includes "it's morning" "mistake" (if you work in high school you hear "I tumuk" about 100 times a day) "lice" (only because a boy in my class insists on saying it ALL the time. I can say "how are you" and "good" and that is about it.

I can't spell any of those words, which is why I didn't write them out.

I would like to learn more of the language as well. The thing is, in Gjoa, most of the students don't speak much Inuktitut either. They are about as good at it as I am at French, which is to say not very good at all! The ones that live with grandparents are much better of course.

Tara Muise said...

ya, that's what i heard about gjoa and most of the western communities...english is taking over. here in the baffin region the students are still fluent in inuktitut; it's the working language of the hamlet.

...and, ya, there's a bit of a pang dialect thing thrown in there...

Anonymous said...

I just started reading your blog and am enjoying it very much (thanks to Townie Bastard for his list of Nunavut blogs)!

http://www.tusaalanga.ca/ is a fantastic resource for learning some Inuktitut that also includes some audio. They also have a book out called "Inuktitut Essentials - A Phrasebook". I highly recommend both!

In Iqaluit

Tara Muise said...

hey anonymous...

qujanami...thanks for reading! yup, i've checked out tusaalanga and i do own the book...actually, the sister of one of my students helped edit it. i'm working on it!

tauja