The Calgary Journal
The Calgary Journal

Former student at Old Sun Residential School develops innovative teaching tool to preserve her language

blackfootapp TNDr. Vivian Ayoungman could remember her mother always being complimented on her beautiful and elegant handwriting.

“My mother would say ‘it’s all the practice I got from writing: I must never speak Blackfoot again.”

Ayoungman and her mother are residential school survivors who were often punished for speaking their native language.

Today, Ayoungman is an educator at Old Sun Community College – a former residential school – where she teaches a Blackfoot class and has developed a language learning app that supports students in the learning of the language.

Using an app platform was essential to Ayoungman because it’s building on pre-existing habits.

“Lets face it, everywhere you look our young people are on their phones or iPads,” says Ayoungman. “They’re listening to music, watching videos, why not use this to our advantage.”

The app includes 29 categories of phrases, greetings, morning routines, etc.

It not only gives users the opportunity to hear and read the word but it offers them the ability to record themselves speaking it, and the option of playing it back.

Produced by: Trevor Solway

Aside from being a language tool, the app also has cultural significance because includes several cultural songs, lullabies, historical images and videos.

Student Dann McMaster says the app allows her to learn at her own pace.

“All it takes is my effort, and how badly I want to learn. That’s what the app does for me; it puts me in a position to learn and encourage myself,” says McMaster.

The Blackfoot app is available for iPhones, iPads and is soon to be accessible on Android devices as well.

Thumbnail photo by Trevor Solway

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The editor responsible for this story is Melanie Walsh, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.