U of S researchers develop Indigenous languages app
Researchers at the University of Saskatchewan want to make it easier for people to learn Indigenous languages.
The app will have similar principles to the popular language app Duolingo, using games and audio components to form sentences.
"There is a need here," Marguerite Koole, a professor working on the app, told CTV News.
"We found about 158 apps for Indigenous languages in Canada … but the problem is there were no syntax apps."
In linguistics, syntax refers to sentence structure and word order.
Koole said the majority of Indigenous language apps are dictionaries and don’t teach users how to form phrases.
"The goal is to hear (Indigenous languages) in the office, hear it at school, in classrooms, and ultimately, at home," said Kevin Lewis, a professor and expert in Indigenous languages.
"A personal goal would be, if I can talk to my grandchildren in Cree and they can converse back."
Lewis said it’s important to preserve Indigenous languages, in a step towards reconciliation.
The app is in its early design stages.
"Hopefully after using the app you’ll be able to say, 'It’s raining today' or 'Would you like a cup of tea?' That sort of thing, to actually be able to put the pieces of the words together," Koole said.
The idea to create an app followed Koole’s own struggle to learn Cree.
In 2016, Koole created a website database called wîcêhtowin – meaning fellowship in Cree.
Wîcêhtowin links to hundreds of videos, podcasts and apps related to learning Cree, and many other Indigenous languages.
In the development of wîcêhtowin, Koole realized a gap in Indigenous teaching tools.
The U of S professors received a $100,000 from the Canadian Internet Registry Association to create the app. They hope the app will be ready by next year.