iwaidja phone app, high-tech solution, ancient language

Ma! Iwaidja Phone App

Ma! Iwaidja Phone App


The Iwaidja Inyman Team's current focus, and one of the major outcomes for the 2011-12 ILS (formerly MILR) funding round, is the development of the Ma! Iwaidja mobile phone app. A concept layout for one of the app's screens is pictured at left. The Croker Island-based team is collaborating with Melbourne-based developer Pollen Interactive, and designers David Lancashire Design.

Version 1.0 of the Ma! Iwaidja mobile phone app, which will run on both iOS and Android platforms, will be launched in May 2012. The app will consist of:

  • a 1,000 entry Iwaidja-English dictionary (with audio)
  • a 400-entry Iwaidja-English phrase book (with audio)
  • a Conjugator with a 'wheel-based' interface (UIPickerView) allowing the user to conjugate verbs, body parts, etc
  • an information section containing information aboutendangered languages in Arnhem Land, an introduction to Iwaidja, and cultural notes



The app will also give users the capacity to record new dictionary or phrase book entries using the recording capability of their phone, allowing each user to 'customize' their app by including, for instance, new phrases which are particularly useful in their interactions or their work.


Version 1.1, to be launched in May 2013, will essentially turn the app into a highly innovative state-of-the-art language documentation tool. With the setting up of a web server, users will be able to upload their new entries to be 'moderated' (i.e., checked for appropriateness and accuracy), adjusted where necessary, perhaps re-recorded where the sound quality is poor, and made available for download to all users of the app when they connect to the internet.


In addition to uploading audio and transcriptions and translations of phrases and words, users will be able to upload metadata relevant to the recording, i.e., who was the speaker, how old were they, etc, as well as an image (of the speaker, for example, or, if they were recording the name of a tree, they could upload an image of it). The date, location, and collector's ID would be automatically recorded and uploaded with the other information.


As well as users spontaneously deciding to record a new entry, more structured use of the app is envisaged, whereby school students will be assigned the task of collecting phrases around a particular theme, or words in a specific semantic category (e.g., endangered kinship terms) and uploading them to the server to be moderated by members of the Minjilang-based Iwaidja Language Team.


We are already gathering content for a Mawng version of the app, and will follow that with a Kunwinjku version. The team has also had expressions of interest from speakers and documenters of other languages around Australia and overseas.