Inuktitut language education terminology developed for Inuit region of Arctic Quebec

The developers of an Inuit-language education lexicon launched on Friday hopes it will help reinforce Inuktitut, the Inuit-language dialect in Arctic Quebec. (Université du Québec en Abitibi-Témiscamingue)
How would you express “professional development” in the Inuit-language dialect of northern Quebec?

What about concepts like “theoretical knowledge” or “child development?”

For Inuit teacher training programs in Quebec, the lack of a formal education vocabulary in Inuktitut, the Inuit-language dialect of the province’s North, has dogged both teachers and students for decades.

But now, a group of Quebec educators hopes to have changed that.

On Friday, they launched an Inuktitut education lexicon for the Inuit region of northern Quebec during the 21st Inuit Studies Conference in Montreal, Quebec.

The people behind the project now hope the lexicon will reinforce the Inuit language for both instructor and students.

“It’s a tool, like the dictionary,” Sarah Angiyou, a teacher in the Inuit community of Puvirnituq, said in a news release on Monday. “We’ll use it to perpetuate our mother tongue. It’s very important to continue the work and get the lexicon into students’ hands. That’s how we can keep our language alive.” 

35 year-old project

Work on the lexicon began in 1984 when it became apparent that the lack of specialized Inuktitut terminology for the realm of education was a challenge for both teachers and students.

A team that came to be known as the Ivujivik-Puvirnituq-UQAT group then got to work on putting the specialized vocabulary together. Like Puvirnituq, Ivujivik is an Inuit communitiy in Nunavik, the Inuit region of northern Quebec.

UQAT is short for the Université du Québec en Abitibi-Témiscamingue (The University of Quebec in Abitibi-Témiscamingue). The university has specialized programs for Inuit and First Nations students, including preschool and primary teaching as well as primary education for substitute teachers.

“When I first joined the lexicon team, I didn’t know it would go this far,” said Siaja Mangiuk, a teacher from Ivujivik, said in the news release.

“I thought it would be just for us. I am so proud. We had lots of teleconferences where we created new Inuktitut words. We worked hard and spent many hours over the years, but it’s worth it because it will help everyone. It’s going to be a lot faster for the new generation of teachers, having this to refer to.”

An evolving resource

The lexicon was put together on a consensus basis for everything from the final Inuktitut term, to the definition of the term.

“The lexicon has to be seen as a living, open-ended resource,” said Véronique Paul, research agent at the Unit for Research, Training and Development in Education in Inuit and First Nation Contexts (URFDEMIA) of UQAT. “The proposed Inuktitut terms in the lexicon are developed based on the understanding expressed and shared by elders.”

The lexicon is available online and is free for anyone to consult.

Write to Eilís Quinn at eilis.quinn(at)

Related stories from around the North:

Canada: Inuit languages declining in Canada’s Nunavut territory, stats show, CBC News

Finland: Budget cuts threaten international Sámi language cooperation, Yle News

Norway: Walt Disney Animation Studios to release Saami-language version of “Frozen 2”, Eye on the Arctic

Sweden: Calls for more Indigenous protection in Sweden on Sami national day, Radio Sweden

United States: Indigenous leaders at UN meeting push for decade dedicated to language revitalization, CBC News

Eilís Quinn, Eye on the Arctic

Eilís Quinn is an award-winning journalist and manages Radio Canada International’s Eye on the Arctic news cooperation project. Eilís has reported from the Arctic regions of all eight circumpolar countries and has produced numerous documentary and multimedia series about climate change and the issues facing Indigenous peoples in the North.

Her investigative report "Death in the Arctic: A community grieves, a father fights for change," about the murder of Robert Adams, a 19-year-old Inuk man from Arctic Quebec, received the silver medal for “Best Investigative Article or Series” at the 2019 Canadian Online Publishing Awards. The project also received an honourable mention for excellence in reporting on trauma at the 2019 Dart Awards in New York City.

Her report “The Arctic Railway: Building a future or destroying a culture?” on the impact a multi-billion euro infrastructure project would have on Indigenous communities in Arctic Europe was a finalist at the 2019 Canadian Association of Journalists award in the online investigative category.

Her multimedia project on the health challenges in the Canadian Arctic, "Bridging the Divide," was a finalist at the 2012 Webby Awards.

Her work on climate change in the Arctic has also been featured on the TV science program Découverte, as well as Le Téléjournal, the French-Language CBC’s flagship news cast.

Eilís has worked for media organizations in Canada and the United States and as a TV host for the Discovery/BBC Worldwide series "Best in China."

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