Innovation That Matters

App aims to document endangered language


The Ma! Iwaidja app hopes to boost knowledge of Iwaidja in order to keep the at-risk language thriving.

There are already numerous apps helping smartphone users to learn a new language. While many focus on the most widely-used tongues in the world, the Ma! Iwaidja app hopes to help people to learn Iwaidja as well as document its use in order to keep the at-risk language thriving.

The venture has been initiated by the Minjilang Endangered Languages Publication project, which is hoping to keep Iwaidja, spoken between around 150 people in Australia’s Northern Territory, in use. Featuring 1,000 words and 400 phrases translated from Iwaidja into English, the app easily enables people to conjugate nouns using a wheel-scroll function. Users can also play an audio sample of each word or phrase for learning speech, as well as reading and writing. Those interacting with speakers of Iwaidja – such as community workers or researchers – can use the app to record instances of speech and add their own translations. In the future, the developers hope to create a curated database to which users will be able to upload their recordings, helping to create a bigger collection of information about the language.

We’ve already seen efforts to help translate the web, enabling multiple languages to survive in an ultra-connected world, and the Ma! Iwaidja app is standing up for a tongue which faces risk of extinction. Which other languages could be helped out in this way?

Spotted by: Raymond Neo



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