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New Language Resource – BYKI

A new software program could help rescue rapidly-disappearing First Nations languages from the cusp of extinction.

Aboriginal languages are dying at alarming speed throughout Canada.  In some communities, there is as few as one person who fluently speaks the language of their ancestors. In other communities, no one speaks the language of their grandparents.

Now, a new software program could change that.

It’s called BYKI, which stands for Before You Know It.  It uses electronic flash cards paired with actual recordings of people speaking aboriginal languages.  Lots of language-teaching programs start by teaching students grammar.  But, this is where BYKI is different.  It teaches students specific, practical and commonly-used words and phrases.  The more words and sentences you know, the better you can use the language. It’s easy to use – even children can run the program.  And since the program uses voice recordings, students can actually hear the words being pronounced properly.

Right now, every First Nations-run school in Manitoba has the technology to help in their language curricula.  The Manitoba First Nations Education Resource Centre (MFNERC) worked closely with the software’s developer, Transparent Languages, based in New Hampshire in building the database of words and ensuring it was both easy to use and comprehensive.  To date, BYKI is offered in three First Nations languages:  Dakota, Cree and Anicinabe (Ojibway).

This program is so important in places like Brokenhead First Nation which lost its last fluent speaker a few years ago.

MFNERC will monitor how students use the program and how well they retain the instruction of these ancient languages, in a decidedly new-millennium fashion with the hope that the program can eventually be used across Canada.

For more information about the program, to talk to teachers and students who have the software and to speak to First Nations experts on the decline of these ancestral languages, please contact Kelly Fontaine at kellyf@mfnerc.com or 204-594-1290.