An application that helped the indigenous people of Brazil to communicate in their languages

Indigenous groups in the Brazilian Amazon have always had trouble writing phone text messages in their local languages, but an application has come up with a solution that gives these groups the ability to use the letters of their languages ​​to communicate. Agence France-Presse.

“Linklado” is the name of the application that was launched in August 2022, and is composed of the words “lin”, which refers to indigenous languages, and “clado”, which is derived from the Portuguese word “teclado”. , which means keyboard.

The goal of the application is to provide indigenous peoples living in remote areas of the vast Amazon, as well as in urban centers, with digital keyboards suitable for their languages ​​when communication networks are available.

“The Linklado app is very beneficial for me and the indigenous people. Before its creation, we could not write what we wanted on our phones,” says Cristina Quirino Mariano of the Ticona indigenous group.

Not all members of these groups speak Portuguese, the official language of Brazil, apart from the fact that phones sold in the country are equipped only with the Latin letters used in this language.

After the indigenous cultures of the area currently known as Brazil were limited to oral speech, writing entered the region when European settlers tried to write it down.

To attempt to reconstruct these languages ​​it was necessary to find specific resources and add a set of pronunciations and characteristics (diacritics, as linguists call them) to the letters of the Latin alphabet.

launch the application

But none of these languages ​​were before today available on mobile phones, which have become essential to the lives of Brazil's indigenous population, who number about 1.7 million.

According to Linklado project coordinator Noemiya Ishikawa, since phones were not equipped with proper keyboards, “indigenous people largely communicated through voice messages.”

Ishikawa (51 years old), a biologist, faced difficulties in translating his research and sharing it among local communities. She says: “For 14 years, I've been asking for a keyboard to solve this problem.” His wish was fulfilled thanks to two students born in the area but not natives, namely Juliano Portilla (17 years old) and his friend Samuel Benzekri (18 years old). When Samuel discovered the problem, he talked about it to Juliano, who gave him good knowledge of programming and he started designing the application with his friend.

“It took four days to create the app and we never thought we would be able to complete it so quickly,” explains Giuliano. A group of tests began to be conducted on the application from May, then it was released for free in August of the same year.

Now, “the application works in different indigenous languages ​​of the Amazon region,” that is, in about 40 languages, according to Portela, who, like Benzekri, is pursuing his studies in the United States.

Luke Peters demonstrates Siri, an application that uses voice recognition and identification, outside the Apple Store in Covent Garden, London on October 14, 2011.  Reuters/Suzanne Plunkett (UK - Tags: Business Society Science Technology Telecom)
Because phones were not equipped with proper keyboards indigenous people communicated through voice messages (Reuters)

This app also works as a translator

The app has been downloaded more than three thousand times, and Giuliano indicates that the number of users is even higher. He says: “In the testing stages, we used a file that we sent through the WhatsApp application, and some natives even sent the archive to each other before the application was released.”

In addition to everyday communication, the application allows translation of books and other texts from Portuguese to indigenous languages. It also allows women from these communities to earn financial benefits by using their knowledge of local languages. A project called “Linkaladas” was created to bring together these translators, among them Rosilda Cordeiro da Silva, a former teacher of indigenous languages, who considers the application “a very positive thing” and has boosted her confidence when translating. Increases.

The application also helps preserve some indigenous languages. One activist, Wanda Witoto, is trying to “save the bad language of the Witoto group” and says: “The keyboard has given us the possibility not to use other letters that are not included in our language.”

Apart from the Amazon region, protecting orthography is a global challenge, as half of the world's languages ​​are at risk of extinction by 2100, most of which belong to indigenous groups, according to a report published by the United Nations in 2018.

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