Nunavut organization spreads the word about Inuktut, one post at a time

By Sarah Rogers, Nunatsiaq News - February 20, 2017

“Word of the day, Feb. 9,” Alexia Galloway-Alainga begins, speaking to the camera.

“Nallinniq,” she pronounces, slowly and clearly, the final syllable coming from the back of her throat. “Love.”

The 19-year-old student has started practicing her Inuktitut, with help from the Qikiqtani Inuit Association’s Word of the Day. Every day this month, the Baffin organization posts Inuktitut words or phrases to Facebook, Twitter and Instagram as a way to promote the Inuktut language to native speakers and non-speakers alike.

Galloway-Alainga falls somewhere in between those two: She grew up in Iqaluit with an Inuktitut-speaking mother. But she was largely raised by her English-speaking father, so she considers herself a beginner.

“I don’t hear it here enough,” said Galloway-Alainga, who is currently studying social work at Carleton University. “So when I saw those postings, I found a really good opportunity to surround myself with the language.”

Galloway-Alainga has started to push herself further; she posts videos of her pronunciation of the QIA’s words and phrases to her Instagram profile, so her own followers can offer advice or learn along with her.

The QIA has been sharing their Word of the Day for some time, but the organization has recently stepped up its efforts to make the language posts more colourful and fun, said Danny Ishulutak, who works in communications for the Inuit association.

Recently, the QIA took a page from Learning Inuktitut, another online Inuktitut terminology resource created by Iqaluit’s Isaac Demeester, and started to add Inuit art illustrations to the postings on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

“They’ve been a huge hit lately,” Ishulutak said. “We had lots of shares, particularly on Twitter.”

If you were looking for the right thing to say to your Inuktitut-speaking sweetheart this past Valentine’s Day, for example, the QIA had you covered.

The Word of the Day postings to social media over the last week offered some suggestions: Nalligivagit (I love you), kunik (an affectionate nose-to-face kiss) and Ullumi nalligusunnirmut ulluqaqtilluta ulluqattiarissi (Have a wonderful Valentine’s Day.)

The love-themed phrases were QIA’s most popular posts to date, Ishulutak said, in part thanks to retweets by a few well-known followers, including former Olympian and mental health advocate Clara Hughes.

Ishulutak said the Word of the Day is an outreach tool designed to promote the Inuit culture and language to just about anyone who’s interested in learning.

But the QIA also hopes to reach out to young people and Inuit who use social media—people like Galloway-Alainga—in a space where English is dominant.

Galloway-Alainga knows she won’t become fluent by learning a few words each week, but the posts are a good start.

“Because you get to see the building of the words and the phrases,” she said, “and I find it’s much more accessible for everyone.”

“I just want to encourage anyone else who’s interested to try and read these phrases, and try to help each other out.”

You can follow the QIA on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook by looking for @Qikiqtani_Inuit.