Children's book series available in Cup'ik on app

The Associated PressJuly 15, 2014 

— A new app features a translation of a New Zealand children's book series into Cup'ik, through a language preservation project.

The Cup'ik Milly-Molly storybook app was developed with a language innovation grant from the Association of Alaska School Boards, KYUK reported (http://is.gd/4kVXXS). The app was developed to help Cup'ik students learn their language and share it.

The grant was awarded to the Kashunamiut School District, a single-site district for Chevak, one of two Bering Sea villages where Cup'ik is still spoken.

Robert Whicker, director of the association's consortium for digital learning, and other AASB members traveled to Chevak to help with the recording of the series in Cup'ik. But they decided they could save time and money by sending Cup'ik speakers to a New Zealand recording studio.

Three months after the recording was completed, the Cup'ik versions of the series are now available in the iTunes store. The series also has been translated into other languages.

Whicker said the Cup'ik version is a way of helping to preserve Native languages.

"Now we have 20 Alaskan Native languages, some on the verge of being very endangered and some on the verge of disappearing," he said. "And we're seeing a strong interest at the state level and also the federal in the preservation of these languages."

The app is considered an interactive book. When a word is tapped, it is pronounced. When a word is double-tapped, there is a syllable pronunciation.

Whicker said the series is being downloaded worldwide.

"They're being downloaded in Russia, they're being downloaded in Europe, they're being downloaded on the East Coast of the United States," he said. "Why? I'm not really sure, but there's an interest in learning and seeing how other people communicate in their native language."

Chevak is a western Alaska community of almost 1,000 located about 140 miles northwest of Bethel.

Information from: KYUK-AM, http://www.kyuk.org

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