That many languages are facing threats of extinction is not in doubt.
The US Census Bureau reports that for Native American languages, only a quarter of people aged 65 and older speak them. And only 1 in 10 younger than 18 can communicate in these languages.
It’s good news then that a new iPhone application combines centuries-old Native American culture and cutting-edge smartphone technology to teach youngsters the Lakota.
Lakota Toddler is designed for children aged 2 to 9 to learn to speak the Lakota language through the use of interactive visual flashcards, audio and gameplay lessons.
Lakota is spoken by the Lakota people of the Sioux tribes. The language has approximately 6000 speakers living mostly in northern plane states of North Dakota and South Dakota. It is also considered by linguists as one of the dying languages of Native Americans.
According to indiancountrynews.net:
“Isreal Shortman, a member of the Navajo tribe, created his first app for the Navajo language when he realized his 11-year-old daughter did not know basic Navajo history. He thought teaching her the language would help her remember the culture as well. Shortman now plans to develop two more Native language apps and expand to other Native American languages people request.”
The app contains vocabulary cards for 33 food, body and number words. The cards show a photo of the object or number, the Lakota word spelling and the English word spelling. When a user presses the object, a voice speaks the Lakota word. There is also a matching game where users match written Lakota words to objects.
A local woman, Dollie Red Elk, speaks Lakota words for the app.
Shortman’s company, tinkr’labs, created their first app, Navajo Toddler, last year and started with the same three categories. It now includes animals, colors and phrases.
Shortman feels using this technology is a good way to contribute to the preservation of Native American languages.
“We believe it is very important for the next generation to come and we wanted to bridge the gap between the indigenous culture along with modern technology,” Shortman said. “We want to create an app that will help influence the younger generation to be fully engaged in the language/culture. The numbers [of fluent speakers] are decreasing year by year with the language.”