Module 3 / Post 1: Indigenous Language Apps

I’ve been thinking about my research topic and I think I’m far more intrigued by First Nations language revitalization. I think this is a natural outgrowth of my previous research interest in Indigenous ways of knowing. I’m interested in how technology is being used to revitalize First Nations languages. Language and culture are intertwined and the way that we come to know the world is through language. Therefore language plays a big role in the development of a culture’s epistemology. Language helps define a culture’s way of knowing.

To that end, I’ve discovered some fascinating iOS apps to support First Nations language revitalization. Most of the apps take the form of dictionaries with words and phrases from an Indigenous language accompanied by audio recordings, images and sometimes video. Most of the apps use the English alphabet instead of that language’s orthography. Here are links to many of the apps I discovered:

CreeDictionary app
A Cree dictionary that features the ability to translate between the English alphabet and the Cree syllabary.

Nisga’a app
Another dictionary app that features audio recordings and images.

FirstVoices Chat app
I thought this app was awesome. It features keyboards for over 100 Indigenous languages! It is a texting app designed to make it easier for Indigenous peoples to use custom keyboards for their language on Facebook and Google chats. You don’t need to login or create an account to use this app. You can skip past the login screen and play with all the various keyboards.

I found many of these apps a little confusing. There was little to no introduction with these apps. I would have liked a pronunciation guide and a little guidance in speaking the language. For example, in the Nisga’a app, there are three words for ‘uncle’ with two of them being identical. It would have been nice to understand the difference between them.

While these apps are all very well done for a first attempt, I fear that many of them are no longer in development as many were released in 2012 and no updates have come out since. Many were programmed by the same developer and a list of 13 First Nations language apps can be found here.

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