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Lakota immersion schools utilizing technology to teach language

Students use the application on launch day
Siċaŋġu Co
Students use the application on launch day

As efforts to give a new generation of Lakota youth the gift of their traditional language continue, one school is using technology to make that education easier.

In Mission on the Rosebud Reservation, the Wakanyeja Ki Tokeyahci immersion school has introduced an app to students to bolster their language learning efforts.

Foster Cournoyer-Hogan is operations manager at the school.

“The Uncí Wóslolye app was a partnership between our school, the Maȟpíya Lúta immersion program, and an app developer by the name of Jonathan Lu. Our app this time was going to be more for mathematics, basic vocabulary for fruits, vegetables, food items, and then they get a little bit of vocabulary with learning the sound of our language," Cournoyer-Hogan said.

He said it’s offering real learning opportunities to the student body.

“They get to see characters and avatars that have long braids and having the language accessible on the app as opposed to playing something that’s in English," Cournoyer-Hogan said. "It just boosts their own confidence. Being able to see themselves in these games, they’re learning along the way.”

But Cournoyer-Hogan said it’s more than just students learning from this program.

“Even then, five minutes a day on the app you’re boosting some vocabulary," Cournoyer-Hogan said. "You’re boosting some learning regardless. We hope that a lot of people utilize it. It’s a fun time, I enjoy playing it. I’m learning a lot, I’m not fluent – I understand the language some – but as an adult I’ve been learning from the app. It’s an app for everyone, and they’re picking it up quicker than I am.”

The app is available to download for free on Apple platforms, and developers are currently creating a port for Android devices. Users do not need to be affiliated with a school to use the app.

C.J. Keene is a Rapid City-based journalist covering the legal system, education, and culture