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Ojibwe iPad app brings language to world

Thursday April 12, 2012
Marten Fall’s Darrick Baxter has created an iPad app that allows users to learn the language on their mobile devices. Above, Baxter’s three children use the app.

Submitted photo.
Darrick Baxter of Marten Falls First Nation with his Ojibwe language app.

Submitted photo.

There’s now an Ojibwe language app for that.

Marten Falls’ Darrick Baxter, president of Ogoki Learning Systems Inc., recently released the Ojibway Language App for iPad, iPhone and iPod touch on iTunes after developing it for his 12-year-old daughter.

“I first had the idea about a year-and-a-half ago to use the language app to teach my daughter the Ojibwe language,” Baxter said. “I didn’t tell her I put it on her iPad, but within a few days she was already using it to speak Ojibwe to her grandmother.”

After Baxter saw his two-year-old daughter learning and interacting with the app, he knew he was onto something big.

“She saw her older sister using it and her older brother, so she wanted to take part,” Baxter said. “She grabbed it, put the earphones on and started saying a couple of Ojibwe words. She was two years old and started to count to five in Ojibwe; she didn’t even know how to count to five in English.”

Baxter said “a lot of people” have been downloading the app since he posted it on iTunes. He even introduced the app to National Chief Shawn Atleo during a First Nation ICT summit in Vancouver.

“He thought it was amazing,” Baxter said. “I said ‘can I get you on camera with that reaction,’ and I just started filming and he gave a shout out to the app, which garnered a lot of attention.”

Baxter originally recorded about 140 words or phrases for the app but has only made about 70 phrases available so far.

“Over the next couple of weeks we will be loading up 300 to 400 words and phrases along with objects and a lot more syllabics,” Baxter said. “So it’s going to be a pretty intense tool, and of course we are developing it further so this could be the model for language curriculum, not only in Ontario, but throughout Ontario, Manitoba and the United States.”

Baxter has received positive responses from around the world since the app was released.

“For every local call I get in Canada, I must have interest from three or four different countries,” Baxter said. “We are now helping communities from the Yukon Territory, Nez Perce, Australia, New Zealand, and the Sami Tribe in Norway, with developing their own language app. It is exciting and powerful to see indigenous communities use technology to preserve and promote their languages.”

The app’s source code is available at no cost on the Ogoki Learning Systems website,, for use by different language or dialect groups to share their own languages. Baxter envisions other First Nations in Canada adding their own languages and words and using the app for their own language needs.

“They don’t have to use the words that I’ve selected,” Baxter said. “I’ve built the app in such a way that you could load up four-to-five times the amount of words.”

Baxter’s long-term goal is to evolve the language app into a translation app where a user could talk into the device and have the words or phrases read back to them in Ojibwe.

“I’d like to see the app evolve into a new type of technology that allows you to basically translate words and phrases at the touch of a button,” Baxter said. “Basically a pocket translator that uses all the features and all the power of this mobile technology.”

One hundred per cent First Nations owned and operated with a head office in Sandy Bay Ojibway First Nation in Manitoba, Ogoki Learning Systems is focused on making meaningful software and educational iPhone apps, client training and business consulting.

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