Life saving first aid to the South and Lule Saami languages

Member of the Sami Parliament praises Nord University’s launching of a primary teacher education programme in South and Lule Saami languages.

This autumn, Nord University launches a primary teacher education programme in South and Lule Saami languages. This has raised widespread interest and can in many ways be described as a first-aid contribution to these minority languages.

- Lule Saami and South Saami are endangered languages according to UNESCO. Fortunately, more and more children and youth learn the languages, however, the lack of teachers in South and Lule Saami languages is critical, says Associate Professor Asbjørn Kolberg at Nord University.

31 top priority applicants

Nevertheless, there is light at the end of the tunnel. This time in the form of a historic launch of a South and Lule Saami teacher education programme.

This programme will allow students to specialise in the Saami languages while also being part of a larger group of teacher students, and without their having to prolong the duration of their programme, as has been the case until now.

- We have 31 applicants who have this specialisation as their top priority on their application, so we will definitely launch the programme, says a happy Study Programme Coordinator, Åshild Karevold, at the Faculty of Education and Arts.

Member of Sami Parliament: - Crucial for the future

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Long wanted: - We have waited a long time for this programme and are thrilled that there are so many applicants, says Member of the Sami Parliament Ellinor Marita Jåma. (Photo: Sara Márjá Magga/The Sami Parliament)

The application figures also excite Member of the Sami Parliament Ellinor Marita Jåma.

- It is great that there are so many applicants to this programme. That just goes to confirm that there is a need and an interest, so this is all very positive.

- It is also quite crucial for the future of both South and Lule Saami language. We need Saami teachers all over, as there are far too few today, Jåma says. She is a member of the Sami Parliament's Standing Committee on Adolescence, Care and Education.
Jåma has the following message to all applicants:

- You have made the right choice and I really hope you will accept your offers of a study place. You will become very important resource persons for Sami training and education, and you are definitely secured a job upon completing the programme.

- Norway way ahead of Sweden

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A great dream: - Getting the opportunity to contribute to the education of South Saami teachers is a dream come true, say the newly appointed Mikael Vinka and David Kroik at Nord University. (Photo: Bjørnar Leknes)

Before launching the programme this autumn, Nord University now strengthens its South Saami professional community. Mikael Vinka was recently appointed Professor II, whereas David Kroik was appointed Assistant Professor.

They are both South Saami and bring solid experience from language studies in Sweden.

- I am very, very excited, especially since Nord University in Levanger carries a special position when it comes to focusing on the South Saami language. Because if you are to work with a language, you have to be close to those who master it – and here, students will be, Vinka says. He works as a professor at Umeå University in Sweden.

- I think it is fantastic that Nord University now launches a teacher education programme in South and Lule Saami languages. Norway is way ahead of Sweden when it comes to Sami education issues in general, and that makes it extra special for us to be here.

- What I really hope for and look forward to, is to graduate South Sami teachers in the longer run. That is a great dream of mine, says David Kroik, who is a PhD Candidate at Umeå University.

Optimistic about the future

Even though minority languages face major challenges, both Vinka and Kroik see great opportunities for turning the trend in the coming years.

- Fortunately, there are still very strong native speakers. These are vital for our research, as they have lived a traditional life and their language has not been influenced much by the dominant majority languages, Swedish and Norwegian, Vinka says.

- Nevertheless, there are challenges when it comes to learning a second language. There are some data available, and more is coming, however, there are key details that are not yet clear to us.

Cross-border community

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Stronger professional community: From the left: Professor II Mikael Vinka, Assistant Professor David Kroik, Associate Professor Trond Risto Nilsen, Programme Coordinator Åshild Karevold, Associate Professor Leiv Sem and Associate Professor Asbjørn Kolberg. (Photo: Bjørnar Leknes)

Associate Professor Asbjørn Kolberg says the appointing of Vinka and Kroik is crucial for the Faculty's initiative on Saami language.

- This has been long wanted, as Nord Universty has not really had a solid professional community around South Saami language over the past years, quite unlike the case for Lule Saami language. We have depended on getting in South Saami teachers from elsewhere, he says.

- Our getting colleagues from across the border just adds to the fun. It serves as a reminder that the international aspect is very important in relation to everything Sami, as national borders are less interesting, says Programme Coordinator Åshild Karevold.

Did you know…

…that Nord University's South Saami name is Noerhte universiteete, and in Lule Saami it is called Nuortta universitiehtta?