FirstVoices helping to preserve dying aboriginal languages

Want to preserve a dying language? Turns out there’s an app for that.

B.C. company FirstVoices has developed two apps for the iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch to help preserve and teach two dying aboriginal languages, Sencoten and Halq’emeylem. The free apps are aimed at the next generation of aboriginal youth in B.C., who represent the best hope of preserving these languages.

From The Vancouver Sun:

“Young people today are distracted by a lot of technology. They want to text, be on the web and play games,” says Peter Brand, co-ordinator of FirstVoices, which helped develop the apps. “And so we knew that, if we had any hope of keeping the language in front of them, it had to be presented in these ways.”

The struggle to keep B.C.’s 34 aboriginal languages alive becomes more difficult as elders die.

On Vancouver Island’s Saanich Peninsula, for example, only about 10 fluent Sencoten speakers remain.

Brand believes the apps could also be useful to non-aboriginal people. “It’s something a business person or a politician could carry into a remote First Nations community and could bone up on a few words or greetings as a courtesy.”

In addition to the apps, FirstVoices has an extensive website where over 60 communities are archiving their languages, and 35 are available to the public. You can find out more information about FirstVoices here.