While online apps for language learners are not new, the ability to learn Indigenous languages from North America is.
The Lakota Language Consortium and its sister organization, The Language Conservancy, are proud to announce the release of an online learning platform for the Lakota language called Owóksape.
Owóksape means “Place of Wisdom” in Lakota.
“The advantage of Owóksape is fundamentally that the designers and the developers of Owóksape have a level of expertise in Indigenous language that is unparalleled among other equivalent language programs,” Wilhelm Meya, Executive Director of The Language Conservancy said.
The linguists working on the project have decades of experience working with Indigenous languages and helped build Owóksape around Indigenous language priorities, specifically the unique grammatical structures and phonology.
“Indigenous languages are much more complex than the languages currently taught using online learning platforms,” Meya said. “We’re building them around the nuances of Indigenous languages.”
Owóksape also focuses on being culturally representative of the language. Not only are the visuals culturally appropriate, but the app includes cultural information such as the protocols that are required for speaking with elders, the use of kinship terminology, and the nuances of male and female speech within the Lakota language.
Meya pointed to the variety of words used to express coming and going, such as the difference between hiyú (to start coming, to come forth, come toward), hinážiŋ (to come here and stand), hí (to arrive here, to get here, to come), uyá (to send subject toward here, to cause subject to come here) and í (to arrive at a place away from here).
“There are nuances in the verb structures that aren’t available in many other languages,” Meya said. “Owóksape is truly a powerful and effective way of learning language because it presents an authentic representation of the language and an authentic learning experience.”The app features strong integration to social media platforms and classrooms to create collaborative environments and meet specific language-learning needs for Indigenous communities.
Pedagogically, the learning modalities, spaced repetition and strong review algorithms are ahead of other online language learning platforms, thus making Owóksape the standard and model for the online learning of Lakota.
The Language Conservancy plans on using the same breakthrough technology to replicate the app in other Indigenous languages.
“This is something that Language Conservancy is planning to do for all the major Indigenous languages in North America, and we’re going to be able to apply this deep knowledge, both linguistic and cultural to this online language program that will set it apart,” Meya said. “From our perspective, Owóksape and the TLC online learning platform is the future of online learning in Indian Country, and this particular program is best suited for true language revitalization needs because we’re trying to build real speakers of the language, not just hobbyist learners who do it on the side.”
Owóksape is sponsored by the Administration for Native Americans (ANA), South Dakota Community Foundation, San Manuel Band of Mission Indians, Lush Fresh Handmade Cosmetics and Santa Fe Natural Tobacco Company.
About The Lakota Language Consortium
The Lakota Language Consortium is a non-profit organization of linguists, Native American leaders, and volunteers leading the way to revitalize the Lakota Language through educational programs, teacher trainings, dictionaries, textbooks, apps and other language learning materials. The Consortium also advocates for endangered Native American languages and culture through the production of award-winning media like the Lakota version of The Berenstain Bears and the documentary Rising Voices. For more information, please visit www.lakhota.org.
About The Language Conservancy
The Language Conservancy is a nonprofit organization leading the preservation and revitalization of Indigenous languages and cultures by developing learning materials, hosting educational events and raising awareness for the importance of sustaining endangered languages. The Language Conservancy currently works with more than 25 Indigenous language communities throughout the U.S., Canada and Australia. For more information, please visit www.languageconservancy.org.