In celebration of International Mother Language Day, on February 21st, the non-profit organisation First Languages Australia partnered with Snapchat to launch a series of Indigenous language learning lenses to create an educational tool for young Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians to engage with the country’s First languages and cultures (First Languages Australia, 2022).
Since technology is now such an integral part of our everyday lives, young people are heavily influenced by social media and communication apps. For First Nations Australians, this means that the traditional way of learning language by the campfire is no more. Yugambeh descendant and First Languages Australia Young Champion, Shaun Davies (2022), explained in a press statement that social media has become the modern “campfire” where language, culture and stories are shared:
“In the old days, our Elders taught lingo by the campfire. But the camp has changed, and the fire that people stare every day at is not the same. Technology has become a central place in the home and now our lingo needs to go there if it is to survive for mobo jahjum (future generations).”
The “Learn Wiradjuri” language learning Snapchat lens using augmented reality and machine learning to identify a bird (“budyaang” in Wiradjuri). Courtesy of The Daily Advertiser (Image credit: Madeline Begley), 2022.
Beau Williams (2022), the CEO of First Languages Australia spoke to the media about the significance of utilising this easily accessible technology as a new tool to “support and promote the languages of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.”
“We know millions of young Aussies use Snapchat everyday – so this is an incredible opportunity for them to experience our First Nations’ languages in a fun and interactive way on a platform that they love. This project will boost recognition of our languages globally and will support our grassroots programs and help to engage our young people,” he said.
How to use the Snapchat x First Languages Australia lenses:
Each lens utilises the functions of Augmented Reality and Machine Learning to identify over 170 everyday objects and display their English names in one of the four Indigenous languages featured: Wiradjuri (central New South Wales), Yugambeh (south-east Queensland), Wakka Wakka (central Queensland) and Yawuru (Broome in Western Australia) (Little Black Book, 2022).
The lenses are accessible globally through Snapchat. All you have to do to activate the lenses is go into Snapchat’s lenses and type into the “Explore” tab: “Learn Wiradjuri,” “Learn Yugambeh,” “Learn Wakka Wakka'' or “Learn Yawuru.” Or, you can scan one of the Snapcodes below. Then, you just have to point your camera at an object in your surrounds - such as glasses (‘migubi’ in Yugembah), a pot (‘neugum’ in Yugembah) or a dog (‘bugijn’ in Yugembah) - and the Snapchat lens automatically displays the object’s Indigenous and English language names in real time (Little Black Book, 2022).
Scan one of the Snapcodes below to activate the lens:
Snapcodes. Courtesy of First Languages Australia, 2022.
Snapchatters can also select the “Learn More” tab to find out more information about Indigenous languages and culture from First Languages Australia’s website.
At the Yarn office, we had a go of the “Learn Yugambeh” Snapchat lens using objects around the office:
At Yarn, we are passionate about supporting Indigenous non-for-profits and spreading awareness with the wider Australian community about the importance of revitalising and sustaining Indigenous language, culture, art and community. We hope that First Languages Australia is able to continue significant projects such as this one with Snapchat, so that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages will continue to be revitalised and sustained for the next generations of young Australians to learn their mother tongue and stay grounded in their culture.
We highly recommend checking out the Snapchat lenses as it's a fun way to learn and share about how First Nations’ languages can be used in everyday life!
If you would like to learn more about Indigenous languages, check out our previous posts: