2.  | 
  3. Industry
  4.  | 
  5. Alaska Native
  6.  | Sealaska Heritage Institute Launches Language Apps

Sealaska Heritage Institute Launches Language Apps

Dec 27, 2023 | Alaska Native, Education, News, Telecom & Tech

New apps from Sealaska Heritage Institute teach endangered Alaska Native languages through vocabulary and games, such as this one entitled “Birds!”

Sealaska Heritage Institute

Sealaska Heritage Institute (SHI) has launched its first apps that teach the Haida (X̱aad Kíl) and Tsimshian (Shm’algyack) languages, both of which are considered to be endangered.

Two of the free apps teach vocabulary and phrases in Haida and Tsimshian, while another teaches Native words for birds and ocean animals in an interactive environment. All are available for iOS and Android mobile devices.

Keeping Connected: Revitalizing Languages to Preserve Knowledge

The effort is part of SHI’s quest to revitalize the indigenous languages of Southeast Alaska, says SHI President Rosita Worl.

“We know when ancient languages are lost, a whole universe of wisdom dies with them. Indigenous languages contain so much knowledge about our planet, including history on ancient geographical events, such as glacial movement and climate change,” Worl says. “We must do everything we can to revitalize our languages and to preserve Indigenous knowledge, and these apps are a part of that.”

SHI is a private nonprofit founded in 1980 to perpetuate and enhance Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian cultures of Southeast Alaska. Its goal is to promote cultural diversity and cross-cultural understanding through public services and events. SHI also conducts scientific and public policy research that promotes Alaska Native arts, cultures, history, and education statewide. The institute is governed by a board of trustees and guided by its Council of Traditional Scholars, a Native Artist Committee, and a Southeast Regional Language Committee.

Current Issue

Alaska Business May 2024 Cover

May 2024

In the ‘90s, SHI’s board of trustees instructed staff to focus on revitalizing Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian languages. Prior to that, SHI was focused mostly on documenting the languages, which historically were oral and not laid out in written form.

Name That Bird or Ocean Animal

The application “SHI: Language Games” builds on a platform formerly offered in only Tlingit. Now, users can scroll down to select Lingít, X̱aad Kíl, or Shm’algyack.

The app includes two programs that teach the words for birds commonly seen in Southeast and ocean animals indigenous to the region. As the birds and ocean animals move, users can click on them to see and hear the Native words. The “Birds!” game teaches the words for eagle, raven, owl, hawk, Steller’s jay, robin, sparrow and kingfisher. The “Ocean Animals” game teaches the words for beluga whale, blue whale, humpback whale, seal, sea lion, porpoise, killer whale, squid, jellyfish, herring, and ocean.

Both games include quizzes and a feature that allows players to track their highest scores. The apps are available by clicking the links for iPhone and for Android.

Immersive Options, Broad Vocabularies

The “Learning Haida” and “Learning Shm’algyack” apps include sections on vocabulary, phrases and their respective alphabets, plus indices that show all of the words and phrases in alphabetic order by English translations. The apps also include links to YouTube videos that teach elements of the languages.

Industry Sponsor

Become an Industry Sponsor

The Haida vocabulary is grouped into forty-one categories that include animal body parts, animals, art, bathroom, beach, birds, human body parts, buildings/structures, clothing, colors, commands, cultural art, fishing and hunting, food and meals, foods, home, insects, landscapes, location, mammals, matter/minerals/materials, Native Youth Olympics, numbers, nursery, ocean and beach, outside, person/people, plants, recreation, regalia, school, sea animals, sea vessels, sky/atmosphere, time, tools, transportation, verbs, water, weaving, and wellness and health. The Haida phrases include categories for plants and weather.

The Tsimshian vocabulary is grouped into twenty-six categories that include bathroom, beach, birds, body, building/structure, clothing, colors, cultural, fish, food, home, insects, kitchen, mammals, numbers, nursery, occupations, ocean, plants, pronouns, recreations, school, sea creatures, sky/objects in the sky/weather, tools and transportation. The Tsimshian phrases include categories for beach, birds, body, building/structure, clothing, colors, cultural, fish, food, home, insects, and kitchen.

Users have the option to turn off the English words and audio to immerse in the Native languages. Both apps include quizzes and a feature that allows players to track their highest scores. SHI will continue to update the apps as new words and categories are added.

Click the following links for “Learning Haida” on iPhone or on Android. Click these links for “Learning Shm’algyack” on iPhone or on Android.

Haida translations were done by Skíl Jáadei Linda Schrack, Dag Júus Robert Yates, Kugíin-g Dúu Lauryn Framke, Susie Edwardson, and Kelsey Thompson. Haida audio was recorded by Schrack and English audio was recorded by Thompson.

Tsimshian translations were done by Ggoadm ‘Teebn Victoria McKoy and Shiggoap Alfie Price and audio was recorded by Price. Both apps were developed for SHI by Wostmann & Associates of Juneau.

Alaska Business May 2024 cover
In This Issue

Making History

May 2024

The track of oil and gas development in Alaska shows the footprints of bold companies and hard-working individuals who shaped the industry in the past and continue to innovate today. The May 2024 issue of Alaska Business explores that history while looking forward to new product development, the energy transition for the fishing fleet, and the ethics of AI tools in business.

Share This