New Brunswick

'Reviving a language': New app teaches people to speak Wolastoqey

An Indigenous woman in Fredericton is fighting to keep her language alive with the help of modern technology.

People will be able to use the app in everyday life

Elder Imelda Perley has designed a new app that will teach users words and phrases in the Walostoqey language. (CBC)

An Indigenous woman in Fredericton is fighting to keep her language alive through modern technology.

The Wolastoqey Latuwewakon Language app is designed to teach people in the community how to use words and phrases related to the Walostoqey people and their culture.

"Our language is alive," said Imelda Perley, elder-in-residence at the University of New Brunswick.

With the help of the Mi'kmaq-Wolastoqey Centre, Perley founded the app with her husband, David Perley. The app is now available for download for Apple smartphones and Android devices.

Users of the app are greeted with Perley's voice, sounding out words. Phrases are read in English and then repeated in Wolastoqey.

"We're using technology to weave traditions with contemporary ways of knowing and learning."

The app, which was unveiled earlier this year, also features tutorials on words related to animals, seasons, holidays and medicine.

It can also be used in everyday life. Perley uses the example of playing a game of pool.

"You can actually learn to say, 'I'm going to shoot the eight ball in the right corner,'" she said.

The idea stemmed from a need for language revitalization, language maintenance and foundations of making sure the language stays.

"It's not a dying language … and I think it's important enough to learn a few terms in the language," she said.

Move over Siri 

Perley often teaches her language in schools across New Brunswick, to preserve it.  But she said others need to be interested too.

"Sometimes when you teach it [language] in a classroom, it gets treated like a subject, like math or history," she said.

"I carry it but I need others to be interested," she said.

Perley said the elders she used to go for advice or help with her language have all died.

"I'm that generation now," she said. "That's why I had to come up with ways of being able to making sure language can be seen."

She's hoping the app will be used to tell traditional stories and help provide healing for Indigenous people.

"I want it to be the Indigenous Siri, so I could be the elder on the app to help somebody when they're going through a dark time," she said.