After much success with an Ojibway language app he designed almost two years ago, Darrick Baxter is expanding to build a Cree language app.
Baxter, president of Ogoki Learning Systems Inc. in Sandy Bay Ojibway First Nation, created Ojibway People and Language out of a desire to teach his now 14-year-old daughter their native language. Baxter had initially bought about three to four language books for her, but they were never opened.
"I figured it’s best to engage her using media that she understands," Baxter said.
After creating the app, the St. James resident put it onto her iPad without telling her. In a week, she had learned some Ojibway words.
Now, Baxter is designing a Cree app so people can learn the Cree language.
Ojibway People and Language is a free app which can be downloaded onto Apple and Android devices. The app is a collection of 250 to 300 pre-programmed, basic words and phrases from the Ojibway language. The app is divided into different categories, such as food, animals, and body parts.
"You’d actually just click a category, like ‘body parts’, and it’ll show you a list of buttons that say ‘ears’, ‘hands’, ‘legs’, and so on," Baxter said.
Once you click the button, the audio component says the Ojibway translation of that word.
Baxter said this app would be great for northern communities to learn Ojibway because an Internet connection is not required for the app to operate.
"It’s completely self-contained," Baxter said.
He said other people outside of Manitoba have heard about the app, including educators.
"I’ve been getting calls and emails from local schools and schools as far away as Toronto (about) how they’re using the app," Baxter said.
Health care professionals, paramedics, and nurses are also contacting Baxter to increase the vocabulary choices on the app to better communicate with their aboriginal patients.
Regardless of its demand and popularity so far, Baxter insisted the app is simply a starting point for learning Ojibway.
"The way we see it being used is a young person, around five to 10 years old, would download it onto their iPod and go to their parents to show them the app," Baxter said. "Then the family members would engage childhood learning and add to their vocabulary. It starts from the app, but it ends with learning within the family."
Baxter said he is planning on installing an input device onto the Ojibway People and Language app in which people can record their voices, adding words from their own vocabulary to the app. This process could take five to six months.
For more information about the app, visit ogokilearning.com