Saskatchewan

Michif app aims to inspire people to learn the Métis language

A new app is designed to keep Michif — the language of Métis people — alive.

About five to 10 per cent of Métis people can speak the language, according to the Gabriel Dumont Institute

The Northern Michif To Go app is available on the iTunes app store and through the Google Play store, according to Ahenakew. (Bryan Eneas/CBC News)

It seems like there's an app for everything these days — including dying languages.

About five to 10 per cent of Métis people can speak Michif — the language of Métis people — according to the Gabriel Dumont Institute (GDI). The Northern Michif To Go app, released by GDI, looks to change that.

Vince Ahenakew, the principal of Rossignol High School in Île-à-la-Crosse, praised the new app and said it will keep Michif alive.

"Michif is the language of our region, our area. It's a mixture primarily of Cree and French and a little bit of English," Ahenakew told CBC Radio's Morning Edition.

Rossignol High School principal Vince Ahenakew joins Morning Edition host Stefani Langenegger to talk about a new language app for Northern Michif. 8:43

Michif has evolved over the past 242 years, according to Ahenakew, who grew up speaking it. He learned it from his grandmother and the elders who called Île-à-la-Crosse home.

Ahenakew said someone who visits the community and spends time with the older generations is likely to hear Michif, but younger generations don't speak it at the same level.

That's why the community explored the possibility of creating an app to keep the language alive.

"In speaking with people, they say it's really good, user friendly," Ahenakew said.

He said the community is undertaking several initiatives to promote Michif.

Every May it hosts a four-day gathering to celebrate the language.

Both schools in Île-à-la-Crosse teach Michif from Kindergarten to Grade 12 and the school division made it a requirement for graduates to have a Michif credit before finishing school.

There's also evening language classes that are open to all according to Ahenakew.

"Our hope is that it catches fire and all these young guys start to speak the language and start to use it," he said.

With files from the Morning Edition