The Mi’kmaq-Wolastoqey Centre at the University of New Brunswick is launching a new smartphone app designed to help people learn the Wolastoqey language.

The app, which will be unveiled tomorrow, Friday March 16, is designed to teach users words and phrases that surround the culture and identity of the Walostoquay people. There are sections on seasons, holidays, geographical regions, plants, animals, family, ceremonies and medicine, among others.

“We’re building these resources because we believe there is no reason for young people not to be connected to, and exposed to, languages,” says Imelda Perley, UNB’s elder-in-residence. “We didn’t want it to be another dictionary. We wanted it to be as if you have an elder guiding you as you learn the language.”

The idea for the app originated with Mrs. Perley and her husband David Perley, the director of the Mi’kmaq-Wolastoqey Centre.

Users of the app are greeted with the voice of Ms. Perley sounding out the words. Phrases are read in english and then repeated in Wolastoqey.

Jennifer LeBlanc, co-ordinator of Wabanaki language revival at the Mi’kmaq-Wolastoqey Centre, says that the app is aimed at everyone who wants to learn the language, including students, community members and even those that already know how to speak it.

“We have elders that know the language, they have grown up speaking it all their lives, and know the culture and identity surrounding it, but are now learning how to write it. Everyone that is interested in the language should have the ability to learn it,” say Ms. LeBlanc.

The project was carried out in collaboration with Winnipeg-based native language app developer Ogoki Learning Inc., Fredericton-based digital marketing company Essential Studios as well as the Atlantic Canada’s First Nation Help Desk, which provided funding for student participation and learning in the development phase of the app.

Plans are on the horizon to add more content and features to the app, including how words are phonetically pronounced.

“We want to develop sections that include terms that surround everyday life. If someone wants to go to the grocery store, buy clothes or invite someone to watch a movie, we want make sure we can break that down into simple conversation. This will help people be able to build sentences and have conversations with others,” says Ms. LeBlanc.

The Wolastoqey Latuwewakon Language app will be launched tomorrow at Marshall d’Avray Hall room 120 on UNB’s Fredericton campus from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

The app is available for download now for Apple smartphones and will be available for Android devices at the end of March.

Media contact: Cody Peters