Nunatsiavut President Johannes Lampe doesn’t personally use Facebook day-to-day, but is interested to see how the social media network fares in its new efforts in Inuktut.
On Monday, Facebook Canada announced it would be adding Inuktut to its Translate Facebook app (facebook.com/translations). It’s a starting point to getting a fully operational version of Facebook in Inuktut. The launch is slated for 2019, according to the company’s statement, assuming there’s enough response from people who know the language.
“Inuktut” is a collective name for the official languages of Inuktitut and Inuinnaqtun (in addition to English and French), in the territory of Nunavut. But the languages go beyond the borders.
Lampe noted there are different Inuktitut dialects used across the North, and the Facebook announcement actually comes in the middle of efforts to find a consensus dialect for use from Inuvialuit (an Inuit region in what is now the Northwest Territories) to Nunatsiavut (in northern Labrador).
“There has been a task force and committees set up to look at how we can get there, but right now it’s still a bit of a challenge,” he said, wondering how the social media giant might play a role.
“I didn’t see Facebook coming into play,” he said.
Lampe said he believes Facebook’s efforts will, regardless, be positive for the recognition of the Inuit language and the people of Nunavut. And he is interested in speaking with Facebook representatives.
Facebook’s announcement came on Nunavut Day, and was in partnership with Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. and Inuit Uqausinginnik Taiguusiliuqtiit (IUT), Nunavut’s Inuit language authority.
“As we all know, social media plays a big role in communications, especially among our young people. Providing an interface and allowing communications in our language is one of the ways we can encourage our people to use our language in all areas, including the very widely used social media,” IUT chairperson Mary Thompson said in a statement.
Facebook’s translation app was built in 2007. At this point, the company is encouraging Inuktut speakers to use the app, to offer words and phrases in response to prompts that can be used — proposing translations to things like “friend,” “tag” and “share,” to start.
Users can also vote “up” or “down” on the translations entered, with the votes helping to verify each of the translations for consideration, for Facebook’s launch of a fully translated platform.
Angus Andersen, host of the radio show “NunaKakKaasimajut (First Peoples, First Occupants)” on local CHMR-FM, has taught small classes on Inuktitut. He makes a point to post an “Inuk word of the day” on Twitter (@AndersenAngus) and told The Telegram he sees Facebook in Inuktut as generally a good idea.
"I'm glad they want to do this and it would be a big benefit in maintaining, preserving and even teaching Inuktut," he said in a written response to questions.
Facebook’s translation team is already tackling a list of other languages. The platform is available in more than 100 languages.