February 6, 2019 - Recently launched Indigenous language apps, titled “KOBE Learn” have been developed and created by community members who live in Northwestern Ontario. The apps were officially released in November of 2018 and have already become popular within the community and beyond.
The KOBE Learn apps were created to help users learn over 500 words and phrases from the three traditional languages most prominent in the North including Cree, Oji-Cree and Ojibway.
KOBE stands for the Keewaytinook Okimakanak Board of Education, whose board members and staff took the lead behind the design and development of the apps. The project started in October of 2017, when all the words and phrases were selected. In order to translate the words and phrases into the three languages, teachers were given the words to bring back to their communities, where they worked with elders in order to translate.
Sarah Johnson, native language lead with KOBE, visited communities to see how they were doing in the writing stages of the development process. The communities and elders provided her with hand written words, which she then typed out and sent out for editing. The entire process took about one year.
Three individual apps (one for each language) are available for download on tablets and smartphones. Once downloaded, the user is invited to choose amongst different categories such as food, common sayings, clothing and more. Once a user selects a category, words and phrases corresponding with that topic appear. Users are provided with an image of the item or phrase, an audio clip on pronunciation, and the spelling. The apps are equipped with quizzes and games to make the learning experience more interactive.
The need for this tool is crucial as Indigenous children in the Northwest are growing up and entering school, not speaking their first language(s). The user-friendly apps encourage the younger generation to easily learn and understand the languages, allowing them to carry the language on.
Currently, the app maintains an average rating of 4.8 stars in the Apple Store, one user stating, “Grateful for this app! Meegwetch for taking the time to make this app for people interested in learning.”
You can download the app for free on Chromebooks and Android devices through the Google Play Store, or iPads and iPhones through the Apple App Store by searching KOBE Learn Ojibway, KOBE Learn Oji-Cree, or KOBE Learn Cree.
To learn more about the Keewaytinook Okimakanak Board of Education click here.
Jenna Marsh is the Communications & Events Officer at Northern Policy Institute.
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