News / Calgary

Phone app helps revitalize Blackfoot language

App helps youth reconnect with culture

Jani Red Gun scored a 23 on his new Blackfoot app game and his dog, Mini, stands by. Mini understands some Blackfoot words.

Stephanie Joe / For Metro

Jani Red Gun scored a 23 on his new Blackfoot app game and his dog, Mini, stands by. Mini understands some Blackfoot words.

Aboriginal heritage is being lost with every elder that passes, but Siksika youth can practice his Blackfoot language anywhere, instead of having to go back to his reserve to learn.

A Blackfoot Siksika language app was created by a US company that’s helping several tribes revitalize their languages. Thornton Media is owned by a First Nations man and one of the developers of the Blackfoot app, Vivian Ayoungman, went to him and said that Siksika was ready to start their own version.

Jani Red Gun, a Siksika youth in the tourism administration program at the University of Calgary, currently knows some Blackfoot, but downloading a new Blackfoot language app allows him to broaden his vocabulary.

“I’m going to learn and practice more, and whenever I see my elders, I can speak Blackfoot and communicate from learning off the app,” he said. “This is important to me because I don’t have a whole lot of time to go and sit with the elders to learn the language.”

The app has a game component to it and Red Gun said that having games will bring interest to younger generations to learn the language.

“This is neat because they’ve put the spoken word on the app,” he said. “The images help interpret correctly what you’re saying in Blackfoot.”

The app contains 500 phrases and 29 categories, which are all written in Blackfoot and translated into English, according to Ayoungman, coordinator of the app content.

“We try not to use just words, because students that learn words are not speakers,” she said. “We want them to be able to say a whole sentence.”

On top of being an interactive language app, there is a culture section for people to learn about Siksika culture, the kind of learning not offered in schools.

“It’s a very loaded app,” said Ayoungman. “It has a lot of information and people can sit for a long time and learn language, song and read about our history.”

According to Ayoungman, the app offers a way for displaced Siksika youth to get to know their culture.

“There are Siksika youth all over this province in foster homes,” she said. “They don’t have access to speakers or to our history and through the app they can connect.”

The app is available for download in the iTunes store under Blackfoot, with a Siksika logo.

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