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Local Journalism Initiative

New language app makes Mi’kmaw language more accessible for children and parents

SYDNEY — A recently released smartphone app is the newest resource for learning the Mi’kmaw language. Ksite’taqn, which means “precious child” in Mi’kmaw, was developed by Mi’kmaw Kina’matnewey, the organization that oversees education in First Nations communities in Nova Scotia and focuses on words and phrases related to children and childcare. The idea for the app came to Faye Googoo while she was on maternity leave from her job as the client support co-ordinator for the Atlantic Canada’s First Nation Help Desk, a department of MK that provides technology-related resources and supports to schools. She was at home with her new daughter, Fiarah, and was trying to speak to her in Mi’kmaw. “I’m not fluent but I know a lot of the language and I wished I had something that I could look at, a quick reference, just to see if I was saying it properly,” Googoo said. When Googoo returned to work in 2019, she brought that observation to a brainstorming session of the app development team, which meets three times a year and includes Googoo, JR Isadore, Blaire Gould and Yolanda Denny. Googoo had been involved with other Mi’kmaw language apps developed by Mi’kmaw Kina’matnewey, including the first, L’nui’suti, meaning “speaking our language.” That app was released in 2014 after a three-day workshop with Darrick Baxter, an Ojibway software developer and president and CEO at Ogoki Learning, a Winnipeg-based company that specializes in creating language learning apps for Indigenous languages around the world. FOCUS ON BASICS Googoo and her colleagues learned how to code and layout an app with artwork, word lists and audio with the help of Baxter. They’ve been creating apps ever since and now have nearly 40 apps in total between Apple and Android app stores. Googoo said the difference with the new app is the simplicity. “I just wanted to keep it simple, just have the language basics, so we have the alphabet, numbers, shapes and colours, and commands and conversations, and that was the big one for me because I’m speaking Mi’kmaw with my daughter so it’s things like sit down — ‘pa’s’ — and come here — ‘juku’e’ — and I love you — ‘kesalul.’ “So I created a list of those things, just simple, everyday basic things,” said Googoo. OPPORTUNITY TO LEARN The app is for all levels and ages of Mi’kmaw speakers but Googoo said she had parents in mind when creating it and said the team is planning to make another version of it to engage young children even more. “My daughter is glued to YouTube Kids but I wish we had something that’s more, where you can listen to songs and watch animated videos of songs, so that’s going to be in the next version because with our songs my daughter catches on quick so I feel that’s how you learn, with music,” she said. The artwork for the app was made by Fox Thomas and Sinead Meader and the audio clips were voiced by Beverly Jeddore. Googoo said the app was originally only available for iPhone but is now in the Google Play app store as well and she hopes people will download it and take the opportunity to learn the language. “We know (Mi’kmaw) isn’t as strong as it used to be so we need a way to preserve it and I think this is great because we know where technology is going, especially with the youth and children and how they learn.” She said the Ksite’taqn app is currently being used in many of the First Nations schools across the province. Ardelle Reynolds, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Cape Breton Post

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