Facebook wants help translating into Inuktut

The Canadian Press
Rob Drinkwater

Facebook is asking Inuktut speakers for their help in translating the social networking site into the language of the north.
Starting today, which also is Nunavut Day, Inuktut speakers can access the Translate Facebook app, where they will be presented with words and phrases from Facebook’s interface and asked to provide an Inuktut translation.
People also can vote on the suggestions, and the results eventually will be used for an Inuktut version of Facebook that will be launched sometime next year.
Kevin Chan, head of public policy at Facebook Canada, said the idea follows a roundtable with indigenous leaders who said they wanted a Facebook interface in their own language.
“It will start presenting to you various words–basically all of the phrases and words that make up the Facebook interface–so what linguists call strings,” Chan explained.
“That would mean simple things like the ‘share’ and ‘comment’ buttons, having those read in Inuktut,” he noted.
“But there are also more complicated phrases that are part of the Facebook interface, as well,” Chan added.
“All of those things would be translated into Inuktut.”
Inuktut refers to all languages spoken by the Inuit, including the Inuktitut dialect spoken on Baffin Island.
Inuktut speakers on Facebook already can type posts in syllabics, a written version of the language. But Chan said one of the things Facebook heard during the roundtable was a desire for the interface for the site itself to be in Inuktut.
The interface won’t use syllabics, however. It will use Roman orthography, the alphabet used for English–a decision Chan explained was based on the recommendations from one of Facebook’s partner organizations in order to make the social networking site as accessible to as broad a group of people as possible.
Help on the project is coming from Nunavut Tunngavik Inc., which monitors the Inuit land claim, and Inuit Uqausinginnik Taiguusiliuqtiit, Nunavut’s language authority.
“Facebook’s recognition of their role in the promotion and use of Inuktut is very much welcomed, particularly in Nunavut, where it is the public majority language,” Aluki Kotierk, president at Nunavut Tunngavik Inc., said in a news release.
“This is refreshing because Inuit in Nunavut use Facebook to connect.”
Chan said Facebook use in the north is higher than the national average.
It’s partly a reason why Facebook has partnered with organizations in the north before.
Last year, for instance, it hosted the Boost Your Community summit in Iqaluit, where a five-year plan aimed at reducing the number of suicides in Nunavut was launched.