Educator Insights

Language Learning as Peacebuilding? Not always

At Language for Peace, our work is rooted in the belief that learning language has the potential to be an act of peacebuilding. But is it always? When is it not?

The case of indigenous language learning in Canada, a colonial nation with a horrific history of linguicide of indigenous languages, is a complex one. Learning indigenous languages outside the context of respectful relationships with communities of speakers can reinforce unjust power dynamics and end up in cultural appropriation. 

Similar complexities exist with language learning in Jamaica, according to Mary Hills Kuck’s article on The Reception in Jamaica of Non-native Speakers of Jamaican Creole. Attempting to speak Creole can be perceived as appropriating culture or mocking native speakers. 

What other situations highlight the complexities of language learning as peacebuilding? How can we respond to these complexities as language teachers?

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About clwoelk

Cheryl Woelk is coordinator of Language for Peace and specializes in language and peace education in multicultural contexts. She holds an MA in Education and a graduate certificate in Peacebuilding from Eastern Mennonite University in Virginia, USA. Cheryl currently lives in Saskatchewan, Canada with her spouse and son.

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Contributing Author

Cheryl Woelk is coordinator of Language for Peace and specializes in language and peace education in multicultural contexts. She holds an MA in Education and a graduate certificate in Peacebuilding from Eastern Mennonite University in Virginia, USA. Cheryl currently lives in Saskatchewan, Canada with her spouse and son.

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