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Nunavut language app brings Inuit language to life for pre-schoolers

A new app invites children to play with Inuktitut syllabics, learning their shapes and sounds and Uqausiit Pinnguarutiit, or 'playing with words' has already proven a hit.

'It will teach our youngest people to ensure they keep our language alive,' says Paul Quassa

Kindergarten students Haley Akavak and Nikolas Firman take a turn with the Uqausiit Pinnguarutiit language app at Iqaluit's Nakasuk School. (Sara Minogue/CBC)

A new app invites children to play with Inuktitut syllabics, learning their shapes and sounds.

And Uqausiit Pinnguarutiit, or "playing with words" has already proven a hit with kindergarten and preschool students.  

'It will teach our youngest people to ensure they keep our language alive,' says Paul Quassa. (Sara Minogue/CBC)
The game, released in Iqaluit Wednesday, works in three regional dialects, as well as in roman orthography, and will eventually be updated to the new, standardized Inuit language.

"It will teach our youngest people to ensure they keep our language alive," said Education Minister Paul Quassa in a room full of young children trying it out.

The app invites children to add the syllabics in a word, while saying the sounds. The character dances when children are successful. (Taqqut Productions)

The app's launch follows another recent milestone in language education, according to deputy minister Kathy Okpik.

"To date we've published over 300 books," she said, "and it's a leveled reading program where the reading progressively gets more and more difficult."

The books are geared towards early readers and go all the way up to Grade 8.

Children play with sounds and symbols. (Sara Minogue/CBC)
Assessment books have also been published to allow teachers to make sure children have mastered the skills of one level before going on to the next. Those assessments, Okpik says, are "an opportunity for teachers to have conversations with parents about where their children are within the reading continuum."

It's all part of a curriculum and evaluation upgrade announced three years ago, Okpik said. "But this year has just been the catalyst for all the supports and resources that are becoming available for teachers."

It all starts with children learning the sounds of the language at a young age — and not just in school.

"This app is available to everyone, not just in schools but even at home," Quassa said. "So I encourage parents to use this app to teach your children the basic words of Inuktitut."

Uqausiit Pinnguarutiit was created by Taqqut Productions.

It can be downloaded for free from iTunes and the Play Store.

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