Linguistic Heritage

Language is one of the most commonly used means of expression. A language speaks volumes about the culture that developed it. Despite the value society places on language, there are a number of Aboriginal languages in Canada which are in risk of dying off within a generation. The impact of the residential school system and the Canadian government’s policy of assimilation played a major role in the loss Aboriginal language. By removing children from their communities and forcing them to speak English multiple generations of Indigenous people have lost their traditional language.

A recent segment on Spark discussed the use of digital translators in Inuit communities as a means of teaching dying languages to youth. The digital translator discussed was Phraselator. Phraselator allows language speakers to record as many phrases and words as possible and then their students can listen access these recordings as necessary. At five thousand dollars each and given the fact that the Phraselator cannot compare to being exposed to an actual native speaker, the device seems like a poor solution.

Despite the drawbacks of this particular digital translator’s implementation, it is crucial that we begin some form of language preservation. This may include educational incentives for those wishing to learn a language or preserving both written and recorded language alongside accurate translations. The use of digital recordings, transcription, and OCR software all have potential to be adapted to help preserve Indigenous language and teach a new generation the language.