In two weeks’ time, Harrison and I will be driving from the overcast hills of Pittsburgh to the desert city of Tucson, Arizona. Harrison will be beginning their PhD at the university, so we will be in Tucson for a number of years. As part of this transition to the Southwest, I am challenging myself to learn indigenous languages of the region. Tohono O’odham is at the top of my list – but so is Navajo.
I’ve never been the kind of formal, typology-obsessed linguist who knows endless facts about various languages and their respective relationships to language families. So, I can’t tell you a great deal about Navajo. But I am the kind of linguist who is curious about cultural preservation via language preservation – including challenging the hegemony of English in the United States.
So, with Tucson on my horizon, today was a perfect day for my friend – T.J. Tallie – to share this link on Facebook. Native Innovations in Flagstaff, Arizona, headed by Jerome Tsosie, has released a Navajo keyboard app for both iPhone and Android. Given how much we ‘do language’ via digital technologies, making endangered or marginalized languages part of the Internet landscape seems critical.
I gave the app a brief spin earlier today. It seemed straightforward enough: You type your text and then ‘export’ it to another app (e-mail, Facebook, etc.) Since I have no knowledge of the Navajo language, I can’t offer much of a review, but the mere existence of the app seems like an encouraging sign for Navajo’s future.
In addition to Tohono O’odham and Navajo, I’m hoping Tucson will give me a chance to learn Spanish and improve my ASL. Lately, I’ve been using an ASL app named Spread the Sign. It offers a veritable sign translation dictionary for a variety of signed languages around the world. You can find Spread the Sign for iPhone or Android.
Do you know of an app for learning an endangered or marginalized language? Share below in the comments!