Don Thornton, a member of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma, has spearheaded the movement to revitalize endangered languages through interactive media. And Apple has recognized his company, Thornton Media, and its Language Pal App, customizable to any indigenous language, in its 2013 Developer's Video.
Apple's Official 2013 Developer's Video, a 10-minute video titled “Making a difference. One app at a time,” profiles four companies, selected among 6 million developers worldwide, that have revolutionized communication and learning through Apple applications.
Don Thornton discusses Thornton Media's language apps.
The video can be seen at apple.com/ios/videos; the segment about Thornton Media starts at 4 minutes and 30 seconds and features Thornton Media showing its language learning apps in Inuvialuktun and Inuinnaqtun in the Northwest Territories of Canada.
“It is truly an honor to be chosen by Apple from among 6 million developers worldwide to be featured in the 2013 Developer's Video at WWDC,” said Don Thornton, CEO, president and co-owner of Thornton Media.
The video project was created for Apple's annual Worldwide Developers Conference held last week, June 10-14, in San Francisco, California. More than 5,000 developers from more than 60 countries attended the convention—tickets sold out to the event in record time, just 71 seconds. During the annual, week-long conference, Apple unveils its upcoming products, updates and technologies.
Apple reached out to Thornton Media, expressing interest in the company's upcoming trips, and one particular location peaked their interest—"Inuvik, which is above the Arctic Circle," Don Thornton said. "We asked our clients if they would mind a documentary crew filming the project and they were OK with it. We were there to work on apps for the Inuvialuktun and Inuinnaqtun languages."
Don and his wife Kara Thornton, company co-owner and vice president, travel extensively making language learning apps for mobile devices. Apple's short film is intended to show app makers, like Thornton Media, who are changing the world for the better. The segment on the Thornton's work includes interviews with an Inuvialuktun elder, Lillian Elias, one of the best remaining speakers of the Inuvialuktun language.
Lillian Elias, Inuvik, shares her perspective on keeping indigenous culture alive in the Apple video: "My grandmother always said, 'You can do whatever you want in this world, but never forget where you come from.'"
“We have a goal to create the next generation of language learning technologies. We want to make language-learning more game-like, fun and interactive,” said Don, “my mother spoke Cherokee until she was 12 and sent to boarding school. She never pass the language on to us.”
Founded in 1995 in Los Angeles, Thornton Media (www.ndnlanguage.com) has created custom language tools for more than 170 endangered languages. The husband-and-wife team travels often to Canada and isolated parts of the United States to create apps for very small languages, some with only a handful of speakers.
“We want to expand our business to include apps that will allow underrepresented languages to text, email, ePub, and web browse in their font,” said Don.