Lyrical Music and Second Language Acquisition: A study on the use of children's songs as a strategy for Hul'q'umi'num' language revitalization

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Peter, Stephanie
music , prosody , second language acquisition , infant-directed speech , Hul'q'umi'num' , infant-directed music , Indigenous languages
The use of lyrical music to aid in the revitalization of Hul’qumi’num’, a dialect spoken on southeastern Vancouver Island, is a strategy that builds on the connections between music and language. These connections are evident in both infant- or child-directed speech and music. In 2008 and 2010, a group of dedicated volunteers wrote and recorded two collections of children’s songs in English and Hul’qumi’num’. This study examined the usefulness of these CDs in the context of how lyrical music aids in second language acquisition. This qualitative study features the perspectives of Hul’qumi’num’ language instructors on their use of the ’Iiyus Siiye’yu Happy Friends CDs with students in School District 79. Data collected from focus groups and individual interviews with Hul’qumi’num’ language instructors and Aboriginal Support teachers, a principal, and two co-creators of the CDs were analyzed using pattern, theme and content analysis. This provided a clearer picture of how the CDs were distributed and how students were exposed to the songs in classrooms. Motivation and comfort levels of language instructors were two themes that emerged and led to an important question: can partially fluent speakers teach Hul’qumi’num’? Hul’qumi’num’ is a dynamic and living language that has experienced substantial changes in the past century and as the number of fluent speakers continues to dwindle, there will continue to be substantial changes to the language. Recommendations arising from this research included the development of 1. An accompanying CD that includes vocabulary lists for each song and verbal instructions to transitioning listeners; 2. Print-based materials that support using the vocabulary from each song; 3. More songs about the teachings, legends, and other stories that share history, geography, and cultural practices with listeners; and, 4. A resource guide that includes physical activities that encourages movement inside and outside classrooms. Future research with classroom teachers is needed to better understand their needs and to ensure appropriate supports are in place so that they can continue to support the promotion and use of Hul’q’umi’num’ in classrooms.
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