There is a lot of interest in Apps that can be used with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages. The advent of new technologies has created opportunities to develop learning tools for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and languages. This post will explore some of the Language Apps available – we would like to hear from communities who are using these apps or developing their own apps to support language revival.
Being the first Aboriginal Language App in Queensland means that the Yugambeh Language App is also one of the better known apps. It was launched in April 2013 and is based on an historical wordlist provided by Bulumm (John Allen) in 1913. The App provides background information on the Yugambeh language as well as a pronunciation guide to accompany the Dictionary of words with pronunciation to assist language learning. The App can be downloaded from the Yugambeh Museum website or from iTunes store or Google shop.
Around the same time in 2013, NT Library Services launched a flash-card based App for the Anindilyakwa language based on Groote Eylandt. It comprises everyday words from Anindilyakwa and is designed as a bilingual literacy tool for people of all ages in Anindilyakwa communities, as well as English-speaking workers and visitors to the Groote Eylandt region. It is presented in the style of ‘flash cards’ but includes sound, text and hand gestures through the use of video.
The Ma! Iwaidja app was the first language app developed for an Australian Indigenous language and was released in June 2012! The app is an initiative of the Minjilang Endangered Languages Publication project to preserve the Iwaidja language of Croker Island in the Northern Territory. Ma! Iwaidja contains 1000 words and 400 phrases as well as an overview of the state of languages on Coburg Peninsula and Croker Island; it also has the capacity to record new words and add to the Iwaidja language database.
The developers of Ma! Iwaidja have lent their expertise to other language communities to document their languages via an App – Marrithiyel from Arnhem Land is currently developing an App; while a Gamilaraay Language App has been developed for iPhones with an Android version now available.
In June 2015, the Wiradjuri Study Centre developed and launched their Wiradjuri Dictionary for Android devices; language content is based on the work of Uncle Stan Grant and John Rudders; the App explores the language as well as providing examples of everyday words, phrases and conversations.
Sharing the Dreaming is an initiative of the Western Australian Government and provides a window to the Nyoongar culture. The app explores culture, language, art and Dreaming Stories and is an educational tool as well as an introduction to the Nyoongar language.
There has also been quite a lot of App development with Indigenous languages in other parts of the world, particularly the First Nations of the United States and Canada. The above screenshot is for the Tusaalanga App was developed to maintain the Inuit language which extends from Canada through Alaska and Greenland onto Russia.
My Cree is an App designed to learn Plains Cree in a fun way. It is aimed at young people to find and use the language from a range of categories, e.g. families, food, etc as well as learning activities.
The Maori language of New Zealand has a strong tradition and is used on a daily basis, so it is no surprise to see Maori language apps. Kura is an innovative way to learn language in a player-based concept where learners can ‘compete against other players for language supremacy’! The app entails 5 different games which aims to build language vocabulary and knowledge.
Te Pumanawa App has been developed by the Waiariki Institute of Technology and is a way to learn Maori on a mobile device. It is based on Maori language courses run by the Waiariki Institute of Technology and includes over 150 interactive lessons!
As a companion to the Maori Language Dictionary, there is a Te Reo Maori language App that allows users to learn Maori language as well as cultural knowledge, customs and beliefs.
Another interesting take on technology is the Aboriginal Sydney App which provides users with a guide to the Aboriginal history of Sydney. It is designed as a companion to the AIATSIS Publication of the same name, but includes audio, video and GPS content to guide the user through the Aboriginal cultures, lifestyles and histories of Sydney extending from pre-contact to contemporary times.
The selection of Apps shown here are only a representative sample of what’s available – the weblinks referenced below provide further details on the range of Apps available to promote the learning of Indigenous languages and cultures.
Apps are also a great way to promote Indigenous languages and make them accessible to a wider audience. In terms of language revival, they should be seen as a tool that complements the ongoing language revival processes within communities.
As Claire Bowern reminds us in a post on Fully (sic) Crikey’s Language Blog – ‘phone apps don’t save languages, people do!’
Indigenous Languages Coordinator, Queensland Memory
Aboriginal Art and Culture Blog: There’s an app for that!
Apps in Education: Sharing Australian Aboriginal Culture webpage
Paradisec: Endangered Languages and Cultures Blog
Resource Network for Linguistic Diversity (RNLD): Indigenous Language Apps webpage
Rising Voices: Review of Indigenous Language-Learning Apps