Since the 70’s Nancy Hornberger has been working with how education can best serve language-minoritized populations, both Indigenous and other language minority groups. In her dissertation ”Bilingual education and Quechua language maintenance in highland Puno”, her research was about bilingual education for Indigenous students. At the moment she is a guest at the Department of Language Studies.
– I have continued to be interested in how minoritized populations have been mistreated in education, says Nancy. The question of social justice motivates me. I get so much inspiration when working with Indigenous populations and language activists that work to revitalize languages. These people who struggle against huge odds still have hope and ideas to strengthen their language.
Nancy’s interests have led to several opportunities to work with different language groups all over the world, among others the Sami language.
–I have always known about the Sami case and it really interests me, says Nancy. A few years ago, Görel Sandström wrote to me, inviting me to come here and work with her and colleagues here in strengthening and developing the Sami language teaching. I had never heard of Umeå and I don’t know Sami or Swedish, but I admired her vision and ability to bring people together.
–While here, I have among other things been involved in the research project Literacy in Sapmi. I have met with the project group to share my own work, which can be a framework for this kind of research. Hanna Outakoski and I will co-author on a paper that will be presented in June at the Sociolinguistics Symposium 20 in Jyväskylä, Finland. I have also accompanied Görel to speak with Sami language activists in Östersund.
Why is this important research?
–It is a matter of social justice, to redress historical wrongs that go back hundreds of years in terms of ways that national states have related to indigenous populations, not only Sami, she says. Another reason is the knowledge that the Sami have, the knowledge that has enabled them to survive hundreds of years on the earth. The western world has a lot to learn from Sami living, like the wisdom of living with nature without exploiting it.
–Also, in my experience when we face social problems and educational challenges, it is important to recognize that it is the participants themselves that understand and have the answers. As an ethnographer I use participant observation and interviewing in terms of listening. I think my approach can be helpful for researchers at the Department of Language Studies to reflect and analyze their own knowledge and challenges.
What is the best part about being a researcher?
For me it is getting to know inspiring people and the work they are doing.
What will you be doing in five years?
I am hoping that I will be somewhat less involved with the administrative side of my faculty position, though I have enjoyed it. I think I would like to pull back from those things and focus more on research and writing a book, encapsulating the experience I have had all these years with language revitalization.