By Mervin Brass

For the next two months, parents from the Clearwater River Dene Nation will have international language experts studying their teaching methods.

The northern Saskatchewan community will be part of a worldwide study about how small children learn to speak their first language.

First Nations University of Canada professor Dr. Olga Lovick will be working with a language expert from Switzerland.

She says Dene is a complex language that is quite suitable for the international study.

“So the goal was to find 10 languages as different from each other as possible and see how do they go about learning things,” says Lovick. “And also what influence the culture has on the language learning process because we don’t all have the same culture and have different ways of interacting with our families.”

Dr. Dagmar Jung from the University of Zurich says Dene is a challenging language to study.

“The Dene language and its relative (languages) are very known for their complexity,” she says. “The verbs are very long and it’s a very different grammar and this is why we are so fascinated by it and really like to learn more about them.”

The other languages being studied include Turkish, Japanese, Russian, Sesotho (a southern African language) Yucatec Maya, Chintang in Nepal, Indonesian and East Cree and Inukitut.

According to Lovick, the Clearwater River Dene Nation is one of three places in the world where children grow up speaking Dene.

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