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Language Masters

Language Masters 2009-2010

The elderly Masters, recruited to work as language teachers in the field, were the real specialists of the Aanaar Saami language because they had learnt it as their first language. They were also Masters of their own professions in Saami society, so they were able to bring the students to their own specific language domains and show them glimpses of traditional ways of Saami life. They were experienced as very modest people who never offered their services spontaneously in their mother tongue, but with some encouragement, they were happy to serve their own language community.

Nuuvdi-Ailâ / Aili Koskinen

Ailâ was born in 1930 in the village of Čovčjävri (Syysjärvi), north of Aanaar (Inari). While growing up, Ailâ was influenced by both Northern Sami and Finnish languages. She spent most of her life in Aanaar, where she met her Finnish husband and they raised their children. Ailâ admitted that she did not speak Aanaar Sami to her children but has since begun speaking the language to two of her grandchildren, who attended the Aanaar Sami language nest in Aanaar. She now speaks Aanaar Sami to her siblings and cousins as well. In addition to speaking Finnish and Aanaar Sami, Ailâ also speaks Northern Sami with other Northern Sami speakers.

Ailâ enjoyed being involved in the CASLE program as a Language Master. Her involvement improved her own knowledge of the language as well as learning new words during her work with the students. Ailâ noted that she enjoyed the ‘social’ aspect of her time as a Language Master the most, as most of the time when students came over they just sat and chatted in the language, although they did sometimes cook and bake together. Ailâ has continued her role as Language Master with the Aanaar Sami Language program at the Sami Education Institute.

Ailâ is hopeful for the future of Aanaar Sami, she sees that the language is doing much better because of the introduction of programs and opportunities for learning Aanaar Sami. She has found that because the children are learning the language and some are staying in Aanaar, the survival of the language is far more likely. Ailâ also noted that she felt it was important that Aanaar has an Aanaar Sami speaking Pastor in the Church. She has found that overall, the status of the language has improved greatly, and that people who speak Aanaar Sami are happier and there is no longer negativity surrounding the language, it is something to be proud of.

Aili's voice sample:     

Ailâ Maaret / Aili Maarit Valle

Ailâ Maaret was born in 1940 to an Aanaar Sami father and a Northern Sami mother from the Norwegian side. Her mother learned Aanaar Sami after marrying her father, and Aanaar Sami was spoken in the house when she was a child. Ailâ Maaret began to speak Finnish when her family was moved south because of the war. When Ailâ Maaret went to school she learned Northern Sami 1 hour per week but usually spoke Aanaar Sami to Northern Sami students. Ailâ Maaret was an only child, so she found that as an adult, she had few people to speak Aanaar Sami to. She recalled that after school was finished, people were ashamed to speak Sami. If someone addressed a young person in Sami, they often didn’t respond back and rarely wore their Sami dresses out in public. Ailâ Maaret remembered that the only time young people spoke the language was inside their homes with parents and other relatives.

During Ailâ Maaret’s time as a Language Master, she hosted students in her home for many hours. Ailâ Maaret and the CASLE students mostly spent their time talking in her living room. She connected the increase in Sami people wanting to learn the language to the growing interest of the Finnish regarding Sami language and culture. Ailâ Maaret noted that the status of Aanaar Sami has risen in the last several years, creating a newfound interest in the language. Ailâ Maaret also spoke of how important it is that the Aanaar Sami language is spoken in the village of Aanaar. She felt that having the language attached to the name of the village was important for the Aanaar Sami culture. Sadly, Ailâ Maaret passed away in 2011.

Aili Maaret's voice sample:     

Junnás-Haanu Ailâ / Aili Mattus

Ailâ was born in 1942 in a place called Junnás near Aanaar, and now resides in Rovaniemi. As a child, Ailâ’s parents spoke Aanaar Sami with her and her siblings in addition to Finnish. She also learned to speak Northern Sami when working in Northern Sami region. Ailâ moved south to Helsinki, and stayed there for 17 years. During her time in Helsinki working in a hospital, she spoke only Finnish, as she did not have anyone to speak Aanaar Sami with.

As an adult, Ailâ spoke only Finnish when she returned to Aanaar to visit; when she spoke with her siblings, they used Finnish only. During her time as a Language Master, Ailâ worked with one student who also lived in Rovaniemi. Ailâ noted she not only learned new words but also remembered old words she had forgotten. Two of Ailâ's brothers, Heikkâ and Hansâ were also Language Masters for the CASLE program. Ailâ enjoys reading the quarterly magazine, Anarâš, despite never learning to write Aanaar Sami.

Aili's voice sample:     

Anja Kaarret

Anja was born in 1960 in Aanaar, and spent her early childhood in Niižžjävri (Nitsijärvi). When Anja was young, she spoke Aanaar Sami with her mother and other relatives but as she got older, Finnish became the language in the home. The school system in Finland changed just when Anja went to school, so she is the first generation of students who attended Finnish elementary school. When Anja went to school in Pärttih, she lived in the school residence with her mother. During her time there, Anja recalled that people were not proud to be Sami, and that children generally hid their identities. Although, Anja does mention that they were not forbidden to speak Sami at the school and that nurses in the school often encouraged them to speak the language.

Anja attended high school in Aanaar and considered it to be a strong Sami environment because of all the different language groups. Anja could also study Aanaar Sami language once a week taught by Matti Morottaja. Anja spoke only Finnish to her children when they were growing up but has begun speaking Sami to her grandchildren.

Anja now lives in Pärttih and Aanaar, where she works for Sami Radio, Yle Sápmi as an Aanaar Sami reporter. Anja has not only begun to speak Aanaar Sami to her grandchildren but with other Aanaar Sami speakers as well, including friends and relatives. She became involved in the CASLE program as an instructor of traditional fishing and as an instructor of practical training at the radio. This involvement eventually evolved into Anja becoming a Language Master with the program. Anja had a wonderful experience with the program and would love to be a Language Master again and take on even more students. She learned a great deal from the students, including new words. Anja also commented on how impressed she was with students at the speed in which they learned the language, noting that after only two months, she could interview them for the radio. For the future of the language, Anja notes how important the connection between children and older language speakers is.

Anja's voice sample:     

Aaslâk / Aslak Saijets

Aaslâk was born in 1926 in Niižžjävri (Nitsijärvi), northeast of Aanaar. Aaslâk’s father was Northern Sami and his mother was Aanaar Sami, which resulted in him learning both languages as a child in addition to Finnish. When Aaslâk was a child, he recalled a teacher coming to his home for a few weeks straight to give instruction and then the teacher would continue on to the next house. This instruction was conducted entirely in Finnish. As an adult, Aaslâk tried to speak Aanaar Sami as much as possible with Aanaar Sami language speakers, which tended to be mostly older speakers.

Aaslâk was not only a Language Master with the CASLE program but also taught cultural courses on ice fishing with the nets. One of Aaslâk’s biggest concerns was that when he took the students out to fish, they wouldn’t catch anything. It was a relief when the students caught a few fish! Aaslâk found that one of the best parts of the CASLE program and his involvement as a Language Master was getting a chance to meet new people. Aaslâk also found it humorous when Finnish people began to take an interest in learning the Sami language, although he saw this as only positive.

Aslak's voice sample:     

Piäkkáá Avni / Aune Kuuva

Avni was born in 1940 in the village of Njellim (Nellim) on the east coast of Lake Aanaar and now resides in Aanaar. As a child, the language in her home was Aanaar Sami, although she recalled learning Finnish at home before she went to school from her older brothers and sisters. In Njellim, there is a strong Skolt Sami presence, so Avni learned to understand Skolt Sami as well. Avni remembers being forbidden from speaking Sami at school, with Finnish as the dominant language. Avni has a clear memory from school when she began to feel that Aanaar Sami was a bad language, that it was not a proper language. Commenting on this time of her life, she does not place blame on one anyone in particular, calling this period of combination of timing and conditions. However, as the years have passed, Avni has begun to speak the language again.

As an adult, Avni has spent her years as an artist, involved with music, fine arts, writing and jewelry. Avni first began writing and composing music in Finnish but transitioned into making music in Aanaar Sami. Avni sees music and arts as an effective tool to transmit and pass along the language. Avni has found that Aanaar Sami is an easy language to sing because it’s flowing and soft.

Aune's voice sample:     

Eero-Piäkká / Eero-Pekka Aikio

Eero-Piäkká was born in 1936 in Mihkaljävri (Mihkalijärvi), near the village of Čevetjävri (Sevettijärvi). Eero-Piäkká has lived most of his life in Čevetjävri and spent a bit of time living in Norway. Eero-Piäkká’s first language at home was Aanaar Sami but he also learned Northern Sami and Skolt Sami when he was living Čevetjävri. When his family was evacuated to Southern Finland during the war, Eero-Piäkká learned Finnish as well. Eero-Piäkká did learn how to write the language, unlike many of his peers, although admits to not writing very much. He does believe it is critically important to make more books in Aanaar Sami and develop more written material for language learners. Eero-Piäkká thought the role of the Language Master in the CASLE program was vital because of how important it is for students to be able to learn the authentic language. He also believes that it is not just the language that needs to be learned but the worldview that accompanies it, he argues that this creates a new way of thinking.

Eero-Pekka's voice sample:     

Kaabi-Isá Ellen / Ellen Järvensivu

Ellen was born in 1941 in Aanaar and grew up in the village of Vävli (Väylä) northeast of Aanaar. As a child, Ellen was quite ill and spent several years in a hospital in Southern Finland. During this period, Ellen had to learn Finnish in order to communicate, as her home language had been Aanaar Sami. She eventually left the hospital, returned home, and began attending school in Aanaar. As an adult, Ellen moved to Ucjuuhâ where she met her husband, a Northern Sami speaker. Ellen began to learn a bit of Northern Sami through her job in the hospital and her husband. She spoke Aanaar Sami to her first child but decided to speak Finnish to her other children because of difficulties related to neither her nor her husband being fluent in one another’s Sami languages.

Ellen no longer uses the Aanaar Sami language very often but enjoyed speaking it again during her time as a Language Master. The best part of being a Language Master for Ellen was being able to talk Aanaar Sami to new people and getting to know everyone involved. For herself, it was important to speak her mother tongue language again, because even though she lives in Ucjuuhâ, Aanaar Sami is the language of her heart. She’s thrilled that people, who never learnt the language, are starting to learn after the ‘lost generation’.

Ellen's voice sample:     

Elsa Väisänen

Elsa was born in Rovaniemi in 1941 and grew up in the village of Pärttih (Partakko) northeast of Aanaar. Aanaar Sami was the home language for Elsa, who learned Finnish when her family was evacuated to Southern Finland during the war. Despite learning Finnish during this time, upon their return home, Aanaar Sami continued to be the language spoken at home.

As an adult, Elsa married an Aanaar Sami man, and when their first child was born they spoke Aanaar Sami to her. Elsa’s first husband died at a young age after a drowning accident. Following the death of her first husband, Elsa and her daughter moved to Kärigâsnjargâ and Njuárgám in the municipality of Ucjuuhâ. Elsa ended up remarrying several years later and moved to Kuhmo, Kainuu region. When she had her second child, Elsa did not speak Aanaar Sami to him because of the lack of Aanaar Sami in the area. She also stopped speaking the language unless visiting people in Lapland.

Elsa now speaks Aanaar Sami to her grandchildren, who are growing up speaking the language. Although she was a bit worried in the beginning about being a Language Master, she enjoyed the experience immensely. She loved how interested the students were in the language and also how nice they were. In addition to being a Language Master, Elsa also taught courses on cooking and handicrafts for the CASLE program. Overall, Elsa was thrilled to be part of the program and feels fortunate to have been involved and to speak the language. She also noted how wonderful it was that students asked a lot of questions and during their time together, the spirit was both good and open-minded and if mistakes were made, corrections were made with gentleness and support.

Elsa's voice sample:     

Junnás-Haanu Hansâ / Hans Mattus

Hansâ was born in 1931 in a place called Junnás, near Aanaar. As a child, Hansâ spoke Aanaar Sami with his family. In addition to speaking Aanaar Sami and Finnish, Hansâ also speaks North Sami. He has continued to speak Aanaar Sami throughout his life and still speaks the language when talking with his younger siblings. He was thrilled when he was asked to be a part of the CASLE program as a Language Master, especially because he was asked by a few wonderful women! One of the activities that Hansâ led with CASLE students was the building of a traditional broom. His favorite parts of being a Language Master was being able to help the situation of Aanaar Sami and when everyone was able to gather together – students and other Language Masters.

Hans' voice sample:     

Junnás-Haanu Heikkâ / Heikki Mattus

Heikkâ was born in 1940 in Junnás, where he lived his entire life with the exception of two years when he lived in Norway for work. Heikkâ first learned Finnish when a teacher from a migrating school came and taught at his home. As he got older, he only spoke Aanaar Sami to a few people, mostly his siblings and a few others. Heikkâ enjoyed his time as a Language Master and interaction with the students. He was both teacher and student as he learned new words from the others. Heikkâ’s favorite part of the experience was the final graduating party when everyone involved in CASLE was together. Sadly, Heikkâ passed away in 2013 in a drowning accident.

Heikki's voice sample:     

Issi / Iisakki Mattus

Issi was born in 1937 in a place called Čovčjävri (Syysjärvi) north of Aanaar, where he continues to live today. As a child, Aanaar Sami was the language in the home but he also learned Northern Sami as his community bordered Northern Sami territory. By the time he went to school, he had also learned how to speak Finnish as well. When he attended boarding school, he remembers not being allowed to speak Sami. As an adult, Issi has stayed connected to Aanaar Sami, he taught it as a foreign language in schools, translated books into Aanaar Sami as well as writing his own stories in the language. He enjoys speaking Aanaar Sami with anyone who can speak and believes that anyone who truly wants to learn the language, can learn the language. Issi strongly believes that music can have a lasting impact on language learning. Issi holds Aanaar Sami very close to his heart, as this is his childhood language and he has been speaking and learning it his entire life. He describes his time as a Language Master as a learning process as he learned as much as he taught.

Iisakki's voice sample:     

Uccpárnáá Vuoli Ilmar / Ilmari Mattus

Ilmar was born in 1945 during the evacuation to Southern Finland because of the war. Following the war, Ilmar grew up in Čovčjävri (Syysjärvi), where Aanaar Sami was his childhood language. During his childhood, Ilmar could also understand Northern Sami. He had planned on being a reindeer herder but with the introduction of snowmobiles, he could no longer afford to make the initial investments. Ilmar, instead went to Aanaar to the Sami Christian Institute in 1963, which is where he also learned to speak Northern Sami at the age of 18. Following his time at the Sami Christian Institute, he worked in Rovaniemi and then Cyprus for nine months as a peacekeeper for the army. Following his time as a peacekeeper, Ilmar came back to Lapland and settled in Avveel (Ivalo), where he worked as a border guard at the Russian border. Ilmar couldn’t speak Aanaar Sami while he worked, but he tried to speak it whenever he could.

Ilmar has always spoken Aanaar Sami with his family, including his parents, siblings, and child. Ilmar has been an integral figure in the revitalization efforts of the Aanaar Sami language. In 1986, he was a co-founder of Anarâškielâ Servi (Aanaar Sami Language Association) with Matti Morottaja and Veikko Aikio. At the time that the association was formed, there were no children under school age learning and speaking Aanaar Sami. I

lmari’s child was one of the last children under school age to learn Aanaar Sami. Ilmar also became involved in another form of language revitalization; he was the first editor of Anarâš, an Aanaar Sami print magazine. The first print edition came out in 1988, Ilmar was the first editor and still remains involved today. The print now published four times a year. Ilmar has also worked as an interpreter and translator for the Aanaar Sami language as well as translating books into Aanaar Sami. Ilmar has been active in researching Sami place names in the Aanaar region. After he retired from working at the Russian border, Ilmar worked in the first Aanaar Sami Language Nest during its first year of operation in 1997. Ilmari now uses both Aanaar Sami and Northern Sami everyday and remains a part of revitalization efforts.

Ilmari's voice sample:     

Into Paadar

Into was born in 1949 in Lusmenjargâ (Lusmaniemi), next to lake Pááđáár (Paadarjärvi). As a child his home language was Aanaar Sami but he also learned Northern Sami and Finnish before he started attending school. When Into began school, he recalls being forbidden to speak Sami as well as being punished if someone did speak it. The culture surrounding the Sami language at school influenced his use of the language later in life. Into did not speak Sami to his children because he didn’t think highly of the language following his experiences at school.

Into has spent his life working as a reindeer herder and has a family reindeer farm. Generally the farm serves tourists, taking people on reindeer safaris in the forest and smaller activities in the yard. Into now lives in Solojävri and speaks Aanaar Sami to his grandchildren which has been a rewarding experience for him as he has learned new words and remembered old ones. He is very happy to see new Aanaar Sami speakers – kids and adults. Into had CASLE students over to his reindeer farm where they helped in the forest with herding as well as activities in the yard when tourists were there. Into felt that the best things about the program were being able to teach and learn from the students as well as having people help him around the reindeer farm!

Into's voice sample:     

Lea Tervonen

Lea was born in 1945 in the village of Tuurunjargâ (Tuuruniemi) north of Aanaar, where she still resides today. Growing up, Lea spoke Aanaar Sami in the home with her parents and siblings as well as many cousins who lived nearby. Lea also learned North Sami and Finnish prior to attending school. When she began attending school, students spoke Aanaar Sami but the teachers did not like Aanaar Sami being spoken, as few teachers understood the language. Lea remembers that speaking Aanaar Sami at school was soon forbidden. When Lea got married, the home language was Finnish as her husband was Finnish. She did speak a bit of Sami at home, but not very much. Lea does speak Aanaar Sami to her grandchildren now. Her daughter did study the language as an adult and speaks it to her children even though they are in Southern Finland.

For most of her adult life, Lea worked as a cleaner in various schools in the Aanaar area, including the Kaamâs (Kaamanen) School where she also taught Aanaar Sami as a foreign language for three years. Since becoming a Language Master, Lea has begun using the Aanaar Sami language much more and says she speaks it mostly with older people, as she doesn’t know so many young people. Like many of the other Language Masters, Lea learned new words during her time with the program. When students came over to her home, they cooked, cleaned, and sat and talked to one another. Lea can read Aanaar Sami but doesn’t write it very well and enjoys following the various Aanaar Sami media.

Leena Saijets

Leena was born in 1952 in the village of Kaamâs (Kaamanen) north from Aanaar. She has now lived in Njellim (Nellim) on the east side, for over 40 years. Growing up, her and her siblings learned Aanaar Sami as their first language except her youngest sister who was taught Finnish as her first language. While attending school, Leena recalled not being allowed to speak Sami and if they did, they were punished. Leena did not speak Aanaar Sami to her son and did not speak the language very much as an adult. During her time as Language Master, Leena learned and remembered a lot in terms of the Aanaar Sami language and it became easier and easier to speak it again.

She now speaks Aanaar Sami to other people, mostly elderly people but also to some of the kids she knows. Leena enjoyed her time as a Language Master and would do it all again. She would have loved to host and talk with all the students but enjoyed the times when a few students came to her house and cooked, looked at old photographs, and watched old films. Leena is quite happy that there are new possibilities for people to learn the language and feels positive about the future of the Aanaar Sami language.

Leena's voice sample:     

Kuobžâ-Saammâl Matti / Matti Morottaja

Matti was born in 1942 in Sammutjävri north from Aanaar and now lives in Jormokuoškâ (Jurmukoski), which is about 10 km southeast of Aanaar. As a child, Matti spoke only Aanaar Sami at home and upon arriving at school, was forbidden to speak Aanaar Sami. He also recalls being punished when speaking Aanaar Sami as well as remembering very little of the first year at school because he didn’t understand Finnish. Matti points out that in many ways language is tied directly to memory, as it is very difficult to hang on to memories if you don’t understand the language of that time.

Matti graduated as a teacher in 1969 and then began working at Turku University for a short time. In 1971 he started working at the Sami Christian Institute in Aanaar as a teacher followed by a move to Rovaniemi, where he lived and taught for the next 20 years before moving back to the Aanaar area. When Matti had his own kids, it was clear to him that he would speak Aanaar Sami to them and they would learn the language. He has also been teaching the Aanaar Sami language since 1967 to people of all ages, although a large number have been children and youth. During his time as a teacher he also studied and taught the Northern Sami language.

Matti has also been committed to developing the language as well, he has spent decades working on language research, including comparing the structure of Aanaar Sami to Finnish and Northern Sami and working on issues related to grammar. As a Language Master, Matti hosted students at his home and whenever possible, took students outside where they made traps for willow grouses and were taught the nature words. Matti’s involvement in language revitalization for the last several decades made him an important asset for the program and he felt that there were a few things that could be improved upon for the future, including expanding the time for the Language Masters – student interaction and extending the connection between Language Master and student after the program.

Matti really valued the Language Master – student relationship and felt that everyone interested in language learning should have this type of relationship with a fluent speaker. Matti also believes there needs to be an official language certificate, to motivate people to study the language even more, as Matti believes that a one-year program may not be sufficient. Matti thought the best part of the program was that it gave students the opportunity to use the language in a natural environment because learning Aanaar Sami is connected with working on the land – working with reindeer, fish, and cooking, etc. In 2010, Matti receaved a Honorary Doctorate of Arts from the University of Helsinki because of his contribution to language.

Matti's voice sample:     

Miina Seurujärvi

Miina was born in 1974 in Lappeenranta, in Eastern Finland but spent most of her childhood in Avveel (Ivalo). Miina’s first language is Finnish but she started learning Aanaar Sami when she began dating an Aanaar Sami man. After meeting her husband, she began taking courses in the Aanaar Sami language. After having her second child, Miina worked at the Language Nest during her maternity level and while at work she had to speak Aanaar Sami. The increased use of the language resulted in Aanaar Sami becoming the primary language in their home, although her and her husband still do speak Finnish occasionally.

Miina makes a conscious effort to speak Aanaar Sami to anyone else who can speak the language. She also thought it was very important for her kids to have a connection to their roots and more fully understand where they come from. Miina recalls becoming a Language Master by ‘accident’ as she only spent one day with a student in Rovaniemi where they talked and went shopping. For the CASLE program, Miina was mostly involved as a practical trainer because of her role as a teacher in the elementary school. Most recently, Miina has worked as an Aanaar Sami language worker in Sámi Giellagáldu, The Nordic Resource Center for Saami Languages.

Miina's voice sample:     

Unto Aikio

Unto was born in 1939 in Jolnivuonâ (Jolnivuono) northeast from Aanaar, where he continues to live today. Unto is a middle child and his home language as a child was Aanaar Sami. He also learned to speak Finnish as a young child before attending school. He also remembered that during his time at school, he had to speak Finnish. While he was at school, they could take a Northern Sami class for 1 hour per week. Unto recalled during the period he was at school, everyone in his family began to speak Finnish – both his parents and siblings. Unto attended school in Aanaar and following his completion of school, he returned to Jolnivuonâ where he worked as a reindeer herder until he was 27. When he was 27, he sold his reindeer and moved to Aanaar and then Avveel (Ivalo) where worked as a baker. During his time as a Language Master, Unto learned new words from students and he has said that he still speaks Aanaar Sami to friends and family who speak the language.

Unto's voice sample:     

Uuno Angeli

Uuno was born in 1941 in Ijjävri (Iijärvi) north from Aanaar and now lives in Vuáskujävri (Ahvenjärvi) near the Aanaar village. His mother spoke Northern Sami and father spoke Aanaar Sami, so Uuno grew up speaking both languages. While he was at school, Uuno also learned Finnish. Uuno has spent his life as a reindeer herder and in his work with the reindeer, he uses either Northern Sami or Finnish. When Uuno had children, he did not speak Aanaar Sami or Northern Sami to them. Currently, while Uuno is able to speak Aanaar Sami fluently, he cannot write the language. During his time as a Language Master, he took students out to work with reindeer, which proved to be a difficult task because working with reindeer is so time-consuming but they did what they could. Uuno also took the students around his house where they talked and hung around. Uuno understands the important of language to culture and believes that the two are connected.

Uuno's voice sample: