Learn to speak Moose Cree with this free app

·3 min read

The Ininew Friendship Centre (IFC) and Moose Cree First Nation have released a new free app for Cree learners.

Launched in early April, the Moose Cree Language App is currently available on iOS only.

The app features a syllabics chart, audio pronunciations and different categories such as basics, camping, food, weather and time.

“I’m very excited that it’s finally available. It’s been a long year coming,” said Mary Jane Archibald, a cultural resource worker at the IFC. “I’m really glad to be a part of this project of reaching in our language.”

Archibald, who partnered with Moose Cree on creating Cree language posters and children's books last year, is passionate about revitalizing and bringing the language back.

The app was created to help retain the language, she said.

"Through technology, we can cater to how people are interacting and learning new information. The app is easy to use for young and seasoned learners, it’s easy to use for both new and reviving language users," said Archibald.

The work on the app, which was funded by Canadian Heritage, took less than a year.

What makes the app stand out from other apps is that it includes a broader collection of phrases to appeal to more circumstances, according to Kevin Brousseau, who worked on the project. He was also the editor of the Moose Cree Dictionary.

During the production of the app, Brousseau wrote up the content, interviewed a few speakers to modify the phrases and took the speakers’ suggestions to remove or add new phrases. Then, a fluent speaker was hired to sit down and record the phrases and more suggestions were made at that point as well, Brousseau said.

In total, three middle-aged to elderly speakers were involved in the project, according to Brousseau.

With limited human and financial resources, time and the COVID-19 restrictions such as wearing masks and keeping physical distancing during interviews, it takes a lot of effort to do these types of projects, he said.

“We’re working with a dialect that has very few speakers left, so there’s always a challenge with finding someone who’s available to actually do recordings and work with,” he said. “The fact there aren’t many speakers just added a layer of difficulty.”

Jamie Davey, a Cree teacher at R. Ross Beatie Senior Public School, said her students have already done a few assignments using the app.

“It’s very user-friendly. You just click on, for example, the numbers and you can learn how to count to 100,” she said. “My favourite is the basics (category) that anyone can learn how to have an introductory conversation with Moose Cree members.”

Davey said she’s also been using the Moose Cree Dictionary and has been doing Cree Word of The Day so that the students would learn how to read Roman orthography.

Archibald said they’re hoping to record, translate and add more phrases and words to the app in the future.

“We like this app because it’s a question and an answer. It’s interactive, you can learn with someone,” she said.

Researching what other apps and websites are out there, reaching out to multiple software developers for quotes and using standard orthography is vital during the production of any language products and can help save a lot of resources that may already be scarce, Brousseau said.

The friendship centre is also running an art contest in celebration of the app’s launch. It is open to all ages and the deadline for art submissions is May 8.

The contest, sponsored by Moose Cree First Nation, Taykwa Tagamou Nation and the IFC, will have $2,500 worth of prizes.

For more information on how to enter the contest, click here.

Dariya Baiguzhiyeva, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, TimminsToday.com