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Use of Virtual Reality for the Revival of Ancient Nisga’a Language and Culture

A project led by Amy Parent will use VR technology to teach Nisga'a language and culture. (Elahe Rajabi)
People enthusiastic about ancient Nisga’a now will be able to learn more about their culture and language using virtual reality technology. The hereditary chief of Nisga’a Nation and traditional knowledge holder Amy Parent has come forward to take language learning to a different level.

The multi-year project is named Raising Nisga’a Language, Sovereignty and Land-based Education Through Traditional Carving Knowledge, and it is financed by the Social Sciences Humanities Research Council’s New Frontiers in Research Fund. The project involves the progress of learning language, using VR technology, the creation of an authentic house totem pole from an Edinburgh-based museum.


A Language Revival Module

When talking about the potential of the innovative project on language learning, the assistant professor in the Department of Educational Studies in the Faculty of Education at the University of British Columbia, Amy Parent, who is also a Nisga’a researcher, said that the language revitalization module is very important for researchers, as she believes that the component can spark the interest among the enthusiasts.

Such innovative technologies can encourage the youth of future generations to learn the language in an interesting way and engage in that, she added.

The assistant professor also said that she considers VR technology is one of the key components that can spark their imagination. The technology can drive others to continue with their language or opt for others. She added that no person in the Nisga’a Nation has used this innovative technology to learn traditional yet. She includes that a part of the project will show some interviews of the Nisga’a speakers and walking tours.


It Takes Learning Experience to a New Height

Wal-aks (Keane Tait), who is a teacher of Nisga’a language at Nisga’a Elementary School in Gitlax̱t’aamiks, B.C, said that innovative instruments will help students and researchers to learn a lot more about Nisga’a culture and language.

Wal-aks is quite fluent in the Nisga’a traditional language and working as an advisor of the Nisga’a language part of the project. He said that the use of VR technology in learning a language will be a great experience.

Another key advisor of the project Elder Jerry Adams said that the VR component is very important for the youth of Nisga’a especially for those living in the urban area. This is because now they will not have to travel to Nass Valley to learn the language.

When speaking on his journey, Adams said he wants to know more about his identity. He includes that there was a time when people were afraid to speak the language. When they spoke with an Indian accent, others laughed at them.

No one would encourage them to learn the language. Praising the initiative, Adams said that he is happy to see that steps are being taken for the revitalization of the ancient language.

The use of virtual reality in learning new languages can help many ancient languages to revive. The new technology can help researchers and enthusiasts to learn a lot more about the language and culture of Nisga’a.

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