The Ts’msyen Sm̓algyax Language Authority launched the new Sm̓algya̱x FirstVoices site and mobile app, a collaborative project between Knowledge Holders, educators, linguists and FirstVoices developers, resulting in a large collection of data to support language revitalization for those learning Sm̓algyax.
Ts’msyen Knowledge Holders and those who supported them have ensured that decades of work recording and documenting the Sm̓algyax language is now accessible for Ts’msyen people to access on FirstVoices.com wherever they may live. The Sm̓algyax FirstVoices site and mobile app launched this spring and are the result of the work of Knowledge Holders who contributed to a large Sm̓algya̱x dictionary imported into FirstVoices.com.
The development team at FirstVoices supported the transfer of data to the site and the Ts’msyen administrators of the Sm̓algya̱x site now manage this important language resource. This is a significant accomplishment that would not have been possible without the steadfast commitment of Ts’msyen Knowledge Holders – past and present.
“It is exciting that we have our FirstVoices website and our FirstVoices Ts’msyen Sm’algyax app,” said Debbie Leighton Stephens, Sm̓algyax Program Support. “This is very exciting for our Ts’msyen Nation. As much as possible we work to share everything with our Ts’msyen community.”
Development of the Sm̓algyax FirstVoices Site and App
Sm̓algya̱x was taught in three Ts’msyen community schools for over 30 years when, in 1997, a B.C. language education policy mandated that a second language be taught between Grades 5-8. That created an opportunity to deliver the Sm̓algya̱x program in urban schools. The Ts’msyen Sm̓algya̱x Language Authority’s Sm̓algyax Language Program was one of the first in B.C. to be an accredited part of the school curriculum and the Language Authority now offers classes in all schools in School District 52 in Prince Rupert.
Knowledge Holders, the Ts’msyen Sm̓algyax Language Authority, the Sm̓algya̱x Committee of School District 52 and a group of linguists worked together to create the Sm̓algyax Living Legacy Talking Dictionary, hosted on the University of Northern BC’s website, to support the language programs. When the Sm̓algya̱x Language Program was looking to modernize and expand the tools they offer learners, they decided to reach out to FPCC’s FirstVoices team to see if they could support them with a solution.
“One of the reasons I wanted to go with FirstVoices is that it is in B.C., and it is local. The other ones we looked at are all American,” said Knowledge Holder Terry Lowther. “It’s important that we maintain control over our Ts’msyen Sm̓algyax language and First Voices allows us to do that.”
The work to move the language data from the dictionary to a FirstVoices site included collaboration and technical support from the FPCC FirstVoices development team, the Sm̓algyax Ts’msyen Language Authority and Roberta Edzerza, District Principal of Indigenous Education for School District 52, who wanted to make the language available for learners in the school district and the larger community. Dr. Margaret Anderson, University of Northern BC (UNBC) and linguist Larry Hayashi, who helped develop the original dictionary site, worked with the Sm̓algyax Committee to manage the transition of data from the UNBC hosted dictionary to FirstVoices. The FirstVoices team at FPCC worked closely with Lindsay Reeve, who was the Aboriginal Education Sm̓algyax Language/Archiving Specialist Teacher at the time of the launch and is currently a site administrator.
“We are really honoured to have the Sm̓algyax language be a part of the platform. It’s a great representation of the work that Ts’msyen Knowledge Holders have put in over more than 30 years, and that is reflected in the online site and the app.” said Daniel Yona, FirstVoices Development Manager.
With such a wealth of information, the FPCC FirstVoices team was careful to preserve every detail associated with the language when the data was uploaded to the site. For example, if an asterisk was used to denote a prefix, they ensured that detail would not be lost in the transition.
Why This Work is Important
“Dm ap g̱a̱ni wil Sm’alya̱g̱n” Always speak Sm̓algyax
Language technology is one part of language revitalization and works in connection with immersion learning and documentation. The good work that resulted from this collaboration between Knowledge Holders, linguists and technology developers has resulted in an incredible resource that will make the language accessible to generations of future learners and support the efforts to increase the number of Sm̓algyax speakers.
“Learning our language is very complex. We need lots of different tools to help us and the app and the website are exciting because they are a couple of more tools that we can use. We are very thankful for the support we received from FirstVoices.” – Debbie Leighton-Stephens, Sm̓algyax Program Support.
FPCC developed FirstVoices.com when communities asked for a tool to share their language online while maintaining sovereignty over their language data. The language information of the Knowledge Holders is now being shared with the community through this open-source software. It is through close collaboration with groups like the Sm̓algyax language program, linguists, and web developers, that FirstVoices can continue to expand and meet the unique needs of different language communities. These reciprocal relationships help the FirstVoices team to improve the platform for language communities across the province.
This work has a deeper meaning beyond technology, as language, arts and cultural heritage are all braided together and provide strong roots for communities. Sm̓algyax speaking Ts’msyen people live in many regions both in their home territory and other regions and urban areas. Making the language more accessible will provide opportunities to connect language learners and communities, and form pathways to other cultural connections and knowledge which has far-reaching benefits for health, wellness and the transfer of knowledge to future generations.
We raise our hands to the Ts’msyen Knowledge Holders, Ts’msyen Sm̓algyax Language Authority, Sm̓algyax Language Program and community members for their dedicated work on keeping their language alive and available through online tools such as FirstVoices.com. In addition to funding and program support, First Peoples’ Cultural Council assists communities and organizations to help them advance their revitalization work with resources and coaching services. The FirstVoices team can provide access to state-of-the-art technologies, training and technical support. FirstVoices.com connects the knowledge carried in our languages to modern digital technology to support language revitalization. If you are interested in learning more about how FirstVoices may support your language revitalization work please contact FPCC’s FirstVoices team at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Resources on how to use the site and app are now being developed and shared on the Sm̓algyax FirstVoices site.
Check out the Sm̓algyax FirstVoices site here.
To download the Sm̓algyax FirstVoices app on iOS, click here.
To download the Sm̓algyax FirstVoices app on Android, click here.
Learn more about FirstVoices here.
Visit the Ts’msyen Sm̓algyax Language Authority here.
View our other community success stories here.
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