Glasgow, UK (TP)
An EU funded project has released a new language learning app IndyLan, encouraging English, Spanish, Norwegian, Swedish and Finnish speakers to learn endangered languages.
IndyLan offers users a platform to learn Northern Saami, Gaelic, Scots, Cornish, Basque and Galician – all of which are endangered to different degrees. Funded by the EU’s Erasmus+ programme, the app was developed by five partners from the UK, Spain, Finland and Norway.
The Saami Council is one of the partners, representing the Sámi people. About 20000-25000 people speak Northern Saami in Finland, Norway and Sweden. In Finland only, it is spoken by about 2000 people.
‘We believe that the app will be a good complement to those who want to learn the Saami language. The app is suitable for both those who do not know anything, and those who already know a little, but want to practice more,‘ said Áile Jávo, the Secretary-General at the Saami Council.
IndyLan contains around 4000 words (both terms and expressions) in around 100 different categories and includes modules for Words, Phrases, Dialogue, Grammar, Culture and tests.
Striving for language survival
The project was started in 2019, which was the Year of the Indigenous Languages. This year marks the start of the United Nations’ decade of Indigenous languages, so it is particularly fitting that the app will be launched just this year.
‘We need everyone who wants to learn Saami, whether it is at a level where they can use the language actively in everyday life or if it is just to say “Good day” in that language. Therefore, all aids that can contribute to it are important,’ Jávo said.
IndyLan’s aim is to offer a complementary solution for culture and language courses and to work as a tool for self-study: ‘Our vision is that the IndyLan app contributes to the revitalization and learning of endangered languages so that these languages remain alive and relevant in today’s society and economies,’ the developers said on their website.
EU initiatives to save endangered languages
The steady decline and in some cases critical loss of minority and endangered languages has led to a sharpened effort to promote and revitalise them. As a result, the EU has committed itself to safeguarding the existence and future of what it calls the Endangered Languages. The European Pact for Regional or Minority Languages places particular emphasis on education and language training as key priorities, given the lack of education in minority language communities.
In Finland, the Saami language has official status but both present-day and historical challenges the Sami have experienced are under assessment. Under the Finnish Constitution, the Saami have the right to maintain and develop their language and culture. In their native region, the Saami have linguistic and cultural self-government, which allows them to access services in their native language.