Technology

Language Revitalization, One Text at a Time

By SHADY GROVE OLIVER
Reporter, The Arctic Sounder

January 15, 2016 – Inupiaq texters and Tweeters and Snapchatters can put away their “ABCs” and pull out their Achagats. Two brothers from Kotzebue recently debuted their new app for iPhones which features the first ever Inupiaq-specific keyboard.

It’s appropriately titled “Achagat”— the name of the Inupiatun alphabet.

“People elsewhere can type in their native languages, whether it’s English or Arabic or Swedish or German. It seems pointless that everyone wouldn’t be able to type in their language,” said Grant Magdanz.

At 21, Grant is the younger of the two brothers. He’s currently a senior at the University of Washington where he’s studying computer science. He was responsible for the technological side of the app.

“We talked to a few people and it was not only something that they thought was a good idea, but it was something they’d been looking for and had been asking about,” he said. “People are trying to use Inupiaq more and they wanted to be able to type and spell correctly.”

His older brother Reid, 25, works as a legislative aide for Representative Jonathan Kreiss-Tompkins, the legislator who made history in 2014 by sponsoring House Bill 216 which made 20 Alaska Native languages official state languages alongside English.

“I feel that it’s really important to have the native language be well-integrated into the system—be that a computer system or a mobile phone,” said Reid. “If you’re taking a language that’s not used very often and you make it work on par with languages that are used often, that’s a huge boost to the ability of that language to continue to be used.”

READ FULL ARTICLE: Alaska Newspapers, Steve Keller designer and application developer. “Language Revitalization, One Text At A Time“. Thearcticsounder.com. N. p., 2016. Web. 15 Jan. 2016.

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