Project to upgrade FirstVoices Language Tutor, create predictive text software, and add keyboard layouts to Google

 

The NRC collaborated with the First Peoples' Cultural Council to update its FirstVoices language Language Tutor software. We also developed new predictive text software for FirstVoices Keyboards, using Keyman technology and word lists from the W̱SÁNEĆ School Board.

We developed and added new keyboard layouts to Google Input Tools to enable students on reserve to type in ᓀᐦᐃᔭᐍᐏᐣ (Plains Cree) and Qʷi·qʷi·diččaq (Makah). Both are the first keyboards to enable Plains Cree and Makah speakers to write in their languages on Chromebooks.

Collaborators

First Peoples' Cultural Council (FPCC)

The First Peoples' Cultural Council (FPCC) is a provincial Crown corporation formed by the Government of British Columbia in 1990 to administer the First Peoples' Heritage, Language and Culture Program. The mandate of FPCC is to assist B.C. First Nations in their efforts to revitalize their languages, arts and cultures. The organization provides funding and resources to communities, monitors the status of First Nations languages, develops policy recommendations for First Nations leadership and government and collaborates with organizations on numerous special projects that raise the profile of arts and languages in British Columbia (B.C.), Canada and around the world.

Keyman

Originally created in 1993 to type Lao on Windows, Keyman is now a free and open source keyboarding platform which allows anyone to write a keyboard layout for their language. The NRC is using Keyman to develop new predictive text software for FirstVoices Keyboards.

W̱SÁNEĆ School Board

The W̱SÁNEĆ School Board and the ȽÁU, WELṈEW̱ Tribal School promote the values of the Saanich People by offering a quality education guided by the B.C. Ministry of Education and locally developed SENĆOŦEN language and culture curriculum. The W̱SÁNEĆ School Board and linguist Timothy Montler have provided the NRC access to SENĆOŦEN word lists that helped enable the development of predictive text capabilities for SENĆOŦEN.

Objectives

  • Update FirstVoices Language Tutor to align with current technologies and enable new functionalities
  • Improve user tools and language lesson templates, and integrate them with other technologies
  • Create predictive text software for FirstVoices keyboards in SENĆOŦEN and other languages for mobile devices
  • Create keyboard layouts for Plains Cree and Makah

Deliverables

  • Updated FirstVoices Language Tutor software available at no cost to all First Nations communities in British Columbia
  • Predictive text suggestions for FirstVoices keyboards that can be downloaded free of charge as part of the Keyman 12 suite for Android and iOS mobile devices
  • Predictive Text Studio – under development
  • SENĆOŦEN language model used as part of the predictive text software
  • Plains Cree and Makah keyboard layouts available via Keyman and Google Input Tools
  • Reference documents for keyboard implementers - Plains Cree and Makah

Activities

Update FirstVoices Language Tutor

The FirstVoices Language Tutor is a web-based tool that allows language teachers to create interactive online lessons for Indigenous language learners. First Nations communities can build media-rich, intuitive language lessons that incorporate images, video and audio clips from the FirstVoices library of words and phrases. The Language Tutor also includes a learner management system that allows teachers to track the progress of each student through the lessons. The NRC worked with FPCC to update the FirstVoices Language Tutor in 2018-2019.

Predictive text suggestions for First Voices keyboards and Predictive Text Studio

The suite of FirstVoices tools also features several innovative applications, including FirstVoices Keyboards for use on mobile devices, and dictionary applications for several B.C. First Nations languages. The NRC’s Eddie Antonio Santos has developed predictive text software for FirstVoices keyboards. He has released a fully functional predictive text software for SENĆOŦEN (Figure 1) and a keyboard layout for Plains Cree (Figure 2), which are available on Keyman's website.

Predictive text on mobile devices is often mentioned by Indigenous youth as something they would like to have available for their ancestral languages. Mr. Santos is working on an interface for community members to create their own predictive text keyboards. It's called Predictive Text Studio and is currently under development.

Predictive text suggestions in SENĆOŦEN

Figure 1: Predictive text suggestions in SENĆOŦEN

Plains Cree keyboard layout

Figure 2: Plains Cree keyboard layout

Plains Cree and Makah keyboard layouts for Google Input Tools

Mr. Santos collaborated with Dr. Craig Cornelius, senior software engineer at Google Internationalization, to add new Plains Cree and Makah keyboard layouts (Figures 3a and 3b) to Google Input Tools. Google Input Tools are used in Gmail and other services, and can be added to Google Chrome as an extension. Both keyboards are the first keyboards to enable Plains Cree and Makah speakers to write in their languages on Chromebooks.

Figure 3a: Makah keyboard layout – lowercase letters

Figure 3b: Makah keyboard layout – uppercase letters

Publications

Project team

Eddie Antonio Santos

Eddie Antonio Santos

Software engineering; Applied language modeling; Unicode wrangler.

 

Contact us

Roland Kuhn,
Project Leader, Indigenous Languages Technology Project, NRC
Telephone: 613-993-0821
Email: Roland.Kuhn@nrc-cnrc.gc.ca
LinkedIn: Roland Kuhn

Related links