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Text your friends in your Indigenous language

Trevor Jang writes about FirstVoices Keyboard, a new Indigenous language app for Apple and Android mobile devices

There's a new app available that lets you write an email, send a text message and other documents in more than 100 different Indigenous languages.

The FirstVoices Keyboard was developed by the First Peoples’ Cultural Council in response to multiple requests from First Nations youth who wanted to be able to type in their own languages on their phones and tablets.

"A lot of the elders aren't as mobile as they used to be so now the youth can text the elder ‘how do you say this,’ and the elder can text it back," said Alex Wadsworth, IT Manager at the FPCC.

Wadsworth says most Indigenous writing systems use unique characters that have never been available in mobile technologies before.

"Once Apple and Android opened up keyboard technology, we took the keyboards that were available and created proper keyboards [for Indigenous languages]."

The app contains keyboard software for every First Nations language in Canada and New Zealand, plus some Indigenous languages in Australia and the USA.

"We are so excited to be able to offer this new keyboard app, which is the first of its kind in the world," said Tracey Herbert, CEO at the FPCC. "We were able to leverage our previous work in language technology to create this entirely new app, and are proud to share it at no cost in the spirit of Indigenous language revitalization."

Cliff Fregin, CEO of the New Relationship Trust, said language revitalization continues to be a top priority of B.C. First Nations and the New Relationship Trust.

“We are pleased to continue to partner with the First Peoples’ Cultural Council to support British Columbia First Nation Languages,” he added. “This new FirstVoices Keyboard app is an excellent example of combining innovation and technology to support First Nation’s communication in all aspects of their everyday life.”

Download the Apple or Android app and tweet in your language using these hashtags: #FVKeyboards and #nameofyourlanguage

Trevor Jang is a reporter for Roundhouse Radio in Vancouver

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