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Language and Culture (13-17)

Mi’kmaw language users can now text with new Apple keyboard

October 23, 2023

New keyboard will help the next generation use the language, says Mi’kmaw speakers

A Mi'kmaw keyboard that features Mi'kmaw symbols.
A Mi’kmaw keyboard offered by Apple Inc. in partnership with Mi’kmaw Kina’matnewey. (Mi’kmaw Kina’matnewey/Facebook)

CBC Indigenous: Apple users can now text their friends with a keyboard tailored for Mi’kmaw dialects and one fluent speaker thinks that will help the next generation of language learners.

The Mi’kmaw language keyboard, which rolled out Friday as part of Apple software updates, was a partnership between Apple and Mi’kmaw Kina’matnewey, a language education authority for 12 communities in Nova Scotia.

“Some of the kids at the immersion school will be able to properly communicate and properly use a keyboard that will have the Mi’kmaw way of spelling,” said Patrick Denny from Eskasoni First Nation, 270 kilometres northeast of Halifax. “That will further develop their communication skills that they’ll be able to pass on.”

Denny said he’s lucky to be a fluent speaker and writer in his language at age 29.

His community has over 1,000 speakers but he said there’s still hesitation by some to write in the language.

An Indigenous man wears glasses and long wavvy hair
Patrick Denny is Mi’kmaw from Eskasoni First Nation and he’s excited to see the next generation able to speak and write in Mi’kmaw. (submitted by Patrick Denny )

Denny said people fear misspelling words, but with so many people communicating by text and social media, having a Mi’kmaw keyboard will help normalize using the language. “We have all these resources and these tools that are available to us so that we can continue to revitalize and further the Mi’kmaw language,” said Denny.

Blaire Gould, executive director of Mi’kmaw Kina’matnewey, said they’ve established a relationship with Apple for a number of years, and use iPads in their classrooms. She said it’s about blending traditional knowledge with innovative technology.

An Indigenous woman with glasses.
Blaire Gould is the executive director of Mi’kmaw Kina’matnewey, an organizational team representing the educational interests of Nova Scotia First Nations. She said in order to revitalize the language, educators have to use innovative tools. (Robert Short/CBC)

“My belief is that language has to evolve and the evolution of languages ensures the survival of languages,” said Gould. “We have to evolve with the times and not forget our our old ways, but infusing new ways into the work that we’re doing.”

She said Apple approached her a year ago about the Mi’kmaw keyboard. Apple did not respond to a request for comment by time of publishing.

Gould said she had Apple meet with their IT manager and their elders advisory board, which is made up of about 15 elders and language keepers from surrounding communities, because she wanted to make sure their elders approved of the way the language was presented and to ensure it was accurate.

A head shot of a Mi'kmaw man
J.R. Isadore is the IT Manager for Mi’kmaw Kina’matnewey (Mi’kmaw Kina’matnewey)

J.R. Isadore, the IT manager, is from Membertou First Nation and helped with developing Mi’kmaw language apps like L’nui’suti. “Apple is really supporting efforts to revitalize First Nation languages and I think they’re showing it in this way,” said Isadore. 

He said the keyboard includes words from different orthographies and dialects like Francis-Smith, Pacifique and Listuguj and features symbols like the schwa. 


Oscar Baker III

Oscar Baker III is a Black and Mi’kmaw reporter from Elsipogtog First Nation. He is the Atlantic region reporter for CBC Indigenous. He is a proud father and you can follow his work @oggycane4lyfe