FirstVoices apps bring B.C. First Nations languages to iPhone

People wanting to learn First Nations languages can now download resources onto their iPhone or iPod Touch.

The First Peoples’ Heritage, Language and Culture Council launched today (December 15) two free FirstVoices mobile applications—one for the Halq’eméylem language of the Sto:lo Nation in the Fraser Valley, and the other for SENĆOŦEN, which is spoken by First Nations on southern Vancouver Island.

Next, six more First Nations communities in B.C. will be given the opportunity to create their own mobile language apps.

The apps, which are tied to the FirstVoices language-archiving website, offer dictionaries and phrase collections, along with audio recordings, images, and videos.

According to Tracey Herbert, the council’s executive director, the apps are aimed at First Nations youth and First Nations people living off-reserve.

“Youth are more likely to incorporate technology into their language learning, which is critical for the survival of our languages,” Herbert said in a press release. “It can also be a challenge for off-reserve First Nations to learn their languages without direct access to fluent Elders or language programs. This app will make language more accessible to both groups.”

The council, which is a provincial Crown corporation, developed the apps with funding from its sister organization, the First Peoples’ Cultural Foundation.

It hopes to optimize the apps for the iPad in the future.

In April, the council released a report that says First Nations languages in B.C. are heading toward “imminent extinction”, but they can be saved if quick action is taken.

“Based on three variables for measuring language endangerment (speakers, usage and language resources), all of B.C. First Nations languages are severely endangered or nearly extinct,” the Report on the Status of B.C. First Nations Languages 2010 states. “Some are already sleeping.”

The report notes that Halq’eméylem, with only 278 fluent speakers, is “severely endangered”.

SENĆOŦEN is classified as “nearly extinct”, with just 60 fluent speakers.

You can follow Stephen Hui on Twitter at twitter.com/stephenhui.

Comments (5) Add New Comment
beelzebub
Wasn't there somebody who submitted a whiney article about how their native language was dying out and blamed the government for not funding its "revival"? So does this mean we have to buy them all phones now too?
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heritage
Are you, beezlebub, implying that native people can't afford an IPhone? How arrogant of you!
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Proud Native
I am not going to sink to the level of beelzbub of making false accusations about first nations people. I will admit that not all first nations can afford iphones or ipods. beelzbub does not need to be so judgemental amongst other races. I can betcha that there are more than one or two non natives that cannot afford to purchase iphones or ipods. Maybe I should contact my the current Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia who is Native, I am sure he would have a very diplomatic response to First Voices app. bring B.C. First Nations languages to iPhone and iPod touch. For beelzbub information I have purchased 4 ipods for my family members. I am a PROUD FIRST NATIONS MOM who works hard to play hard
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Chinese
I'm not Aboriginal, but I'll be using this app to learn Halkomelem anyway.
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Mel
I am glad technology is being used in language learning. I taught the Gitksan language for two years and we had to develop the material ourselvesbody part charts, colours, etc. At that time, one first Nation was losing their lang. so they had to borrow from a neighboring nation to keep their's alive.
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