Char-Koosta News

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Salish language app helps in the quest to save the tribal tongue

By B.L. Azure
Char-Koosta News

The Salish language app is available in the Google Play or Apple App store. (courtesy photo) The Salish language app is available in the Google Play or Apple App store. (courtesy photo)

ST. IGNATIUS — The Salish language preservation effort at the Salish Pend d’Oreille Culture Committee recently got a technological boost with the addition of an App program for use with smart phones and tablets. The Salish Language App is another arrow in the tribal language quiver that will further advance the salvation of a language that is on the precipice of existence. There are about 26 fluent Salish speakers remaining — more are needed. 

“Over the last three, four or five years people have asked if or when we would get a language App for Salish,” said Chaney Bell, Salish language specialist with the Salish Pend d’Oreille Culture Committee. “It is expensive to develop such an application but worth the money if it is an effective way to teach Salish — teaching tools have to be effective and this is.”

Expenses can be cut if there is already teaching materials in play to transfer to the App.

“We already had books with teaching lessons that we’ve been using,” Bell said. “The App supports and reinforces what we are teaching and what people are learning. It is also a learning tool for those who can’t or don’t take (Salish language) classes.”

Bell researched App development companies that specialize in language learning applications and came across one — Thornton Media, Inc. of Las Vegas — that specializes on tribal languages.

“I contacted Thornton and told them what I would like to do and could they help me do it,” Bell said. “They told me they could make it work and they did. When they were done they said it was the biggest App they ever created.”

After numerous getting-ducks-in-a-row phone conversations between Chaney and Thornton Media, the company dispatched App developers to St. Ignatius where they spent a workweek developing the Salish Language App.

“There was still a lot of ground work, especially photography, to do related to the App,” Bell said. “They came here on a Monday and we got right into it. They were well prepared and were good to work with, very helpful, very professional. By Friday we had a rough draft of the App.”

Following that Thornton Media and Bell and others at SPCC edited the rough draft.

“It took us two weeks to edit the App, to fix the kinks,” Bell said. “We got all the corrections taken care of then finalized it and made it available for Apple and Android operating systems. It went into effect in July and is free to download on the Internet.”

Bell said the Salish Language App only works on smart phones and tablets, not computers.

The App has 45 lessons that start with basic lessons then onto more complex ones. There are four sections that include Language, Culture Notes, Search and Credits.

It has Salish language translations in English via text, audio, video and images. It contains a historic timeline that begins with Creation stories.

It has a 500-word dictionary that will continue to get additions. A second Salish Language App will come online in March.

“The Salish language is really important and we need to do everything we can to save it. It is a very critical time for us to accomplish that,” Bell said. “We are doing everything we can to save it and pass it on. The best way to do that is face-to-face but in today’s world that is hard to do. This is a tool that supports learning for those who can’t take classes. It is a good place to start. This was well worth the effort and cost.”

The Salish Language App is available at “Google Play” for Android operating systems, and at the “Apple Store” for Apple operating systems. Google the names to get at the sites then “search” Salish to get to the App. It is free.

For more information about the Salish Language App and assistance to access and download it, contact Chaney Bell at SPCC by calling 745-4572.

To download it for Apple iPhone or iPad, click here.

To download it for Android, click here:

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