As the use of mobile applications increased, language software developers considered ways to use mobile devices.
- Apps were developed that can publish Scripture to mobile devices. Communities can customize their own version of the app that is compatible with phones used in that region.
- Other apps can help with language programs and literacy.
We created app builders for language groups with the programming work done. A person just launches the program and follows the steps in the New App Wizard, which includes the data exported from any of SIL’s lexicon tools: Fieldworks Language Explorer, WeSay and Lexique Pro.
The language group then follows the App Wizard steps to create its own menus, icons, splash screen, and colors, which allows them to customize their app for their culture. They even choose the app name, the fonts and the About information. Finally, the app builder will package everything together and compile the customized app for the language group.
When an app is generated, the resulting output can be passed between mobile phones via Bluetooth, shared on memory cards, emailed, or uploaded to the internet so others can download it.
Usually an app is developed to be used on Android phones and tablets. In the majority world most don’t have the funds to purchase Apple iPhones and iPads. As time and staff permits, the apps are also developed into iOS products.
Anabel, a speaker of Me’phaa, a language of Mexico, worked with staff to put the text, pictures, and audio of a children’s story into our Reading App Builder. The resulting interactive mobile phone app reads the story out loud, highlighting each word as it is spoken so a beginning reader can easily follow along.
The Reading App Builder can also build apps from the Bloom library to become talking books. An audio MP3 file can be associated with each chapter of a book. With timing files, phrases can be highlighted as the audio is played. The reader can control the playback by moving between phrases or sections. This enables the app to be used by people who are learning to read in their heart language.
This app allows language communities to publish their dictionary onto smartphones and tablets. When a language group learns that they have a dictionary, they realize their language is of value and is not inferior to their country’s main language. This gives them respect, recognition, and can greatly facilitate literacy.
⇒ Also in Production:
Story Producer App
This app is in development and will facilitate audio translation of Bible story videos. With the app, any language group can use a smart phone to produce stories themselves without a computer. They already own phones, cost is low, and the app is simple to use.
Surprisingly, there are many language groups who only believe what they hear, not what is written. Others do not want their language written down. They are afraid someone will steal their language or that the power in their language will be stolen. Creating audio stories can help.
A Key Avenue for the Word
In sensitive countries, the ability to hear or read the Bible discretely is crucial. Many people often walk around with their cell phones in their pockets and an ear bud in one ear. Others would assume they are listening to music or waiting for a call.
In reality, they could be listening to portions of the Bible in their heart language. There is a big difference between carrying a Bible in your hand and carrying one on a cell phone.
Genesis 1–9 had been translated into Zayse and checked by a consultant. Because the language’s writing system had not been chosen, printing of those Scriptures was a long way off. The translation team made a simple recording of several of the translated chapters. With a minimal amount of editing, the audio files were ready for distribution. The team purchased five mini SD memory cards, copied the audio files to them, and gave them to interested local people.
A couple months passed without the team knowing what had become of their experiment. One day, about six miles from his village, a translator starting talking with a man he had never met. As they were chatting, the man suddenly said, “Hey, I have your voice on my mobile!” The man had used simple Bluetooth technology to receive the Scriptures of the audio file as it was transferred from phone to phone. The potential for mother-tongue distribution of Scripture is huge.