New app reconnects Yakama people with their language

Yakama Language App.PNG

YAKIMA, Wa. -- An Android App is reconnecting people to one of the few Yakama Indigenous dialects that are becoming endangered in Yakima.

“You’ll just open any text input on your phone and then from here you’ll be able to switch between whatever languages so we have the English here and the Ichishkiin here and then you’re able to type as desired," said app creator Keegan Livermore.

Livermore is a second-year master student at Heritage University where he studies linguistics and also learned the Native American dialect Ichishkiin.

During the summer, Livermore decided to put his passion for language to work and came up with the first ever Yakama Ichishkiin English Keyboard App.

“Trying to show that it is a vibrant thriving alive language, really trying to give it into the hands of as many speakers as I can be either teenagers, adults, elders who may be a bit more phone savvy," said Livermore.

After you write on the app you can save the text to post on any document or social media site.

Livermore says his great grandparents spoke Ichishkiin but it was not passed down to him, so the app is a way to reclaim and reconnect those who have lost that part of their heritage.

“We should be able to have the same right to type in our languages, just because big tech isn’t as focused on our smaller language community it doesn’t mean that we should not be able to text in our language more commonly," said Livermore.

Heritage University Language Center Director Gregory Sutterlict says Ichishkiin is one of the 10 Yakama Nation dialects that are becoming endangered with less than 50 fluent speakers.

He says it is important to be able to save these languages for future generations.

“You get a glimpse of the way that the ancestors who spoke this a long time ago, how they viewed the world differently you know what was important to them," said Sutterlict.

Livermore says he hopes to add more languages and have the app working for I phones in the future.

Sutterlict says Heritage University is trying to preserve the dialects by teaching them to students and adults at their school so anyone is welcome to sign up to their classes.

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