Nearly four years of ideas and work finally culminated in a new way to teach the Cree language.
A new app, available with iOS devices, focused on demonstrating how the Cree language is used in every day life and was officially launched on Jan. 23 during the fourth annual Reclaiming Our Knowledge conference in Maskwacis.
Called Maskosis, the app is a follow-up to the original Maskwacis Cree app that was released in 2014. The new app is not yet available for download, but is expected to be ready on iTunes sometime in February.
“This app is the first of its kind, with Cree and English in the same app,” explained Brian Lightning, one of the committee members that worked on producing the app.
It provides 14 different scenes of daily life — from a school classroom to the playground to the home to name a few — which people can interact with by clicking on an object and listen to, plus see the written phrase on the screen.
“It’s fully interactive with animations that respond with both the written Cree language, the English translation and the words being vocalized,” Lightning stated.
“The various scenes and phrases show the Cree language in a storybook format, something that’s never been done before. It introduces people to our grammar and showing that the language is life.”
Both apps came about as a result wanting the Cree language to remain vibrant.
“We started on the first app because the language was in danger of dying off. It was almost to a crisis point. We have some unbelievable Cree speakers and we needed a way to tie them together with the other generations,” Lightning said.
“This app began as the first one just wasn’t reaching our young people and technology was a big part of that. So, we thought of using the technology to bring them back.”
He added it was challenging to convince people to use the first app as it was limited to just one word at a time, whereas the new app allows users to see words and phrases on a single page.
Samson Cree Nation Chief Vernon Saddleback was amazed and somewhat stunned at what the new app can do.
“Growing up, we were taught and tested on Cree at meals. Seeing this app, it’s so different and beyond all of mine and council’s expectations,” he said.
“It’s an amazing way for people to learn and the work spent gathering and saving the language is amazing and simply priceless.”