With few fluent speakers left, young people are teaching Inupiaq as they learn it

The young teachers sparkle with energy in the classroom, but they also feel fear, guilt and disapproval as they teach the ancient Native language of Inupiaq to students on Alaska’s North Slope. Because they aren’t fluent themselves.

Teachers who spoke Inupiaq as a first language entered the classroom in the 1980s and now most have retired. With hardly any fluent speakers left under 50 years old, the North Slope Borough School District started hiring young teachers who were learning the language themselves.

“In my estimation, these are the bravest, most courageous people on Earth,” said Pausauraq Jana Harcharek, the district’s director of Inupiaq education. “With our first learner-teacher, the feedback we got from the community instantly was, ‘What are you doing hiring a non-speaker in the classroom to teach the language?’”

Read more: Alaska Dispatch News

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