Project to upgrade the FirstVoices Language Tutor software and create predictive text software for FirstVoices Keyboards

 

The NRC is collaborating with the First Peoples' Cultural Council on its suite of FirstVoices language tools, including updates to its Language Tutor software. We are also developing new predictive text software for FirstVoices Keyboards, using Keyman technology.

Collaborators

First Peoples' Cultural Council

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 keyboard layout for Plains Cree and prototype of predictive text software
  • Create predictive text software for FirstVoices keyboards in SENĆOŦEN and other languages for mobile devices

Deliverables

  • Updated FirstVoices Language Tutor software available at no cost to all First Nations communities in British Columbia
  • Plains Cree keyboard layout and predictive text prototype
  • Predictive text suggestions for First Voices keyboards that can be downloaded free of charge as part of the Keyman12 suite for Android and iOS mobile devices
  • SENĆOŦEN language model (for linguists) used as part of the predictive text software

Activities

The FirstVoices Language Tutor is a web-based tool that allows language teachers to create interactive online lessons for Indigenous language learners. Using the FirstVoices Language Tutor, 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 entered into an agreement with FPCC to update the FirstVoices Language Tutor in 2018.

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 is working on predictive text software for FirstVoices keyboards. This effort is being led on the NRC side by Eddie Santos. He has recently released a fully functional predictive text software for SENĆOŦEN, which is available on Keyman's website (Figure 1). He has also developed a keyboard layout for Plains Cree (Figure 2), and is now developing a prototype text predictor for Plains Cree.

Predictive text on mobile devices is often mentioned by Indigenous youth as something they would like to have available for their ancestral languages. The NRC plans to collaborate with other language communities to make tools that enable them to create predictive text relatively easily.

Predictive text suggestions in SENĆOŦEN

Figure 1: Predictive text suggestions in SENĆOŦEN

Plains Cree keyboard layout

Figure 2: Plains Cree keyboard layout

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

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