Well Chilcotin is a TONAL language full of 47 consonants and 6 vowels. FORTY SEVEN CONSONANTS of which very few actually sound like anything you would say in English. Lots of tongue clicking and mouth blowing and generally trying to manipulate my teeth, tongue and lips in ways they have never moved before.
The class is full of FLUENT Chilcotin speakers, many of whom this language is their FIRST spoken language and they are taking the class to increase their reading and writing skills. Its an interesting skill to read a language with English letters (some extras) that make completely different sounds. Its more interesting when you know nothing of the language and are not used to hearing it or speaking it.
My goal at the end of this course is to be able to put together a dictionary of common terms and phrases for other foster parents, or non Chilcotin speaking adoptive or biological parents could use to teach young (pre-school age) children some common words or phrases.
So, dear readers, consider this your first lesson in Chilcotin Language. You have to imagine the sounds because there are many sounds for which there is absolutely NO POSSIBLE WAY to write it in English but I will do my best. Punctuation in the middle of the word usually means a pause and hard sound. ? means the same.
Tsa - Beaver (pronounced SAH with a slight T sound at the beginning of the word)
Seta - Father Se?aba: Daddy (pronounced Seh PAUSE Aba)
Seban - Mother Se?Inkwel: Mommy
Tsaguy - Hat (saw-gooey)
Ha?anh - Yes! (Ha PAUSE ah)
The focus of today's lesson was on fish (lhuy pronounced h-looey with some nasal sounds thrown in for good measure) and fishing. My spelling list for next week includes these words. Lord help me!
?ek'un: Roe / Eggs
Benagh: Fish eyes
?eteqash: Dip Netting (e/te/ki)
biteqash: Dip Net (be-ti-ki)
gnedelh: fish coming (ha-deln)
xalwig (with a cap over the w and a line through the i): fish jumping (hall-wick)
?et'elhjinsh: fishing with a rod (e/tell/gee sorta kinda lots of tongue sounds I cant ever say)
sex: Fishing with a gaffe hook (sahh)
betl'es: Slime on a fish.
ts'eman: sockey salmon
Jas: Spring Chinook salmon
Jens: hook (pronounced Juss)
yatu - ocean
biny: lake (been)
It was assumed, I found out, that my husband must be a "Nenqayni" (Nen-Ki-Nee) or First Nations Person if I was taking the class, and many were surprised to find out I was there for my kids. But all were welcoming and I had the opportunity to sing and drum with my new friends, embarrass myself thoroughly by completely tripping over my tongue repeatedly, and learn many new things.
Next class we are going dip net fishing in Farwell Canyon. This is a traditional activity that my girls' family does still to harvest fish for the winter. It is also something I have never experienced, would never ever be able to before and now will be able to share stories of first hand with my kids. Except for the fact I am pretty sure its not quite legal for me, as a white chick, to be dip net fishing, it should be alot of fun! I will be sure to let you know if I get arrested.