Toddlers Can Learn Lakota With New App

A new Native American language app teaches toddlers basic Lakota words and pronunciation.

Lakota Toddler, a new free app available in the iTunes store, is an easy to use, fun way for toddlers to learn Lakota words.

The app has two options on the menu screen —learn and play. The learn option gives users a colorful flashcard with a picture of an object or number, the Lakota word and the English translation. When the screen is tapped, the word is spoken by Dollie Red Elk, reported the Rapid City Journal.

Currently the app has three categories—numbers, food and body—and it says new lessons are coming soon. App creators Isreal Shortman, Navajo, and Rusty Calder, owners of tinkR’ labs, are excited about expanding their latest app and creating new ones.

Their first app, Navajo Toddler, came out last year and started with the same three categories. It now includes animals, colors and phrases.

“We are hoping to expand the Lakota version to have just as much functionality as the Navajo version,” Calder said. “We will be adding new game features to keep score and more lessons to the Navajo version shortly and will then launch those features and lessons in the Lakota once all the audio is collected.”

Currently the one game in both apps shows the user three objects and one word in Lakota or Navajo, the user then picks which object that word goes with.

Users have responded well to both apps from tinkR’ labs.

“I’m kind of old for it, but still fun,” commenter Ohanzi said on February 28 about the Lakota app. “I wish this was around like 45 years ago.”

A Paiute commenter, Mathew Oakie, called the Navajo app “wonderful,” on February 11 and said he “loved it as soon as I started it up.”

Shortman and Calder feel using this technology is a good way to contribute to the preservation of Native American languages.

“We believe it is very important for the next generation to come and we wanted to bridge the gap between the indigenous culture along with modern technology,” Shortman said. “We want to create an app that will help influence the younger generation to be fully engaged in the language/culture. The numbers [of fluent speakers] are decreasing year by year with the language.

“The apps we are creating are extremely important for the preservation of language because it is our youth that is the future, and our youth are becoming more and more involved with technology as a means for learning and every day use,” Shortman said. “Games are also being used more and more. If we can get the language in front of the children and get them using it, it is the only way to keep it around in the future.”

Shortman first thought to create the Navajo app to introduce his daughter and niece to the Navajo language.

“They both live off the reservation and really have no access or exposure to the language,” he said. “There are many indigenous families that live off the reservation among the Navajo people and their children are not exposed to the language or the culture.”

The idea for the Lakota app came from Shortman’s friend Arlo Iron Cloud, a radio DJ on KILI Radio in Porcupine, South Dakota.

“People are always saying we live in a third world country and we don’t have a lot here, but somehow a lot of us manage to have iPhones,” Iron Cloud told the Rapid City Joural. “This is one area that has never been tapped into as far as language revitalization goes.”

The market for Native language apps is increasing though. There is an app for the Cherokee language by Thornton Media, Inc. that includes the Cherokee syllabary and Native American Public Telecommunications recently released one as well.

What about future endeavors for tinkR’ labs?

“We are looking to work on more games, more lessons, more curriculum around language development,” Calder said. “Our next project will be working on an app for the Mechoopda Tribe located in Chino, California. They currently only have two fluent speakers left that speak their language. It is an exciting project and we hope we can kick it off soon.”

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