New app teaches Inuktitut through song

No language is easy to learn, but Inuktitut?

Many a langauge student has been sidelined by the complex sounds and system of infixes.

But a new iPad app is attempting to make learning Inuktitut just a little more fun by using songs as a teaching tool.

Singuistics was created by Pinnguaq, a company based in Canada’s eastern Arctic territory of Nunavut.

User’s can listen to Inuktitut language songs, accompanied by images created by Inuit artists. The app incorporates language and vocabulary lessons and allows users to record their own singing and then share the recording.

Language and culture through music
Pinnguaq's Ryan Oliver. (Courtesy Pinnguaq)
Pinnguaq’s Ryan Oliver. (Courtesy Pinnguaq)

Pinnguaq’s Ryan Oliver said he got the idea for the app while working  at Trent University with a Cree elder who introduced his language through music.

“He’d explain what he was singing, what the words meant and why the song was  important,” Oliver said. “And I realized we were learning Cree just though that introduction.”

So far, the app has had 100 downloads from as far away as Guatemala and Australia. Oliver hopes the app can eventually be adapted to other aboriginal languages in the Arctic and beyond.

“I think this idea of using artists from these culture groups along with the language learning is really a neat way to introduce people to these cultures,” he said.

Listen to Eye on the Arctic’s conversation with Ryan Oliver

Related Links:

Osmos iPad game translated into the Inuit language, Eye on the Arctic


Eilís Quinn, Eye on the Arctic

Eilís Quinn is an award-winning journalist and manages Radio Canada International’s Eye on the Arctic news cooperation project. Eilís has reported from the Arctic regions of all eight circumpolar countries and has produced numerous documentary and multimedia series about climate change and the issues facing Indigenous peoples in the North.

Her investigative report "Death in the Arctic: A community grieves, a father fights for change," about the murder of Robert Adams, a 19-year-old Inuk man from Arctic Quebec, received the silver medal for “Best Investigative Article or Series” at the 2019 Canadian Online Publishing Awards. The project also received an honourable mention for excellence in reporting on trauma at the 2019 Dart Awards in New York City.

Her report “The Arctic Railway: Building a future or destroying a culture?” on the impact a multi-billion euro infrastructure project would have on Indigenous communities in Arctic Europe was a finalist at the 2019 Canadian Association of Journalists award in the online investigative category.

Her multimedia project on the health challenges in the Canadian Arctic, "Bridging the Divide," was a finalist at the 2012 Webby Awards.

Her work on climate change in the Arctic has also been featured on the TV science program Découverte, as well as Le Téléjournal, the French-Language CBC’s flagship news cast.

Eilís has worked for media organizations in Canada and the United States and as a TV host for the Discovery/BBC Worldwide series "Best in China."

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