Popular language-learning software maker Rosetta Stone is all set to unveil its newest offering: the Alaskan dialect of Inupiaq. Inupiaq is an Inuit language spoken by Native Americans in Alaska. According to Wikipedia, there are 4 main dialects of Inupiaq and several sub-dialects.
According to the Seattle Times, Rosetta Stone has been working on the project as part of its endangered language program. The company works with native speakers of disappearing languages to create software that can be used to teach both adults and children alike.
Currently, Inupiaq is one of the stronger Native languages in Alaska, but that doesn’t mean it’s in very good shape. Including all the different dialects and sub-dialects, the language is spoken by somewhere between 2,420 and 1,500 people.
“The language is in danger of becoming extinct after maybe one or two generations,” Edna MacLean, an Inupiaq professor for the University of Alaska who helped Rosetta Stone develop the program. To help protect the language, NANA Regional Corporation, a company owned by Native Alaskans, is purchasing the software and distributing it to homes and schools in the region.
Efforts to protect languages like Inupiaq are relatively recent, unfortunately. The older generation, who spoke Inupiaq at home and still remember it today, also remember being punished for doing so. Edna MacLean described one such instance to the Seattle Times, describing a time when she “yelled something in Inupiaq at the girl in front of me and (my third-grade teacher) came over and pulled my ear.”
In the video below, Inupiaq kindergarten teacher Mary Huntington describes how the memory of these punishments has made it more difficult for younger Inupiat to learn the language. Hopefully, the new Rosetta Stone software can help overcome these obstacles.