Mexican Undergraduates Make Mixteco Language App For Android

A team of Mexican developers and language specialists developed a language learning application for the Mexican language of To'on Dadavi, a variant of Mixteco. The team was led by Ricardo Jiménez Jiménez, a recent graduate from the language teachers program at the Autonomous University of Oaxaca - Benito Juarez and by Crescenciano Hernández Cuevas, a language teacher and native speaker of the language. The application is called ‘Daka To’on Dadavi’, available for Android phones.

While Ricardo Jimenez-Jimenez handled the developer aspect of the application, also crucial to the efforts were other Teammates curating and creating the data. Paola Cruz Hernández contributed and uploaded image and word pairs for the app to display to users. Cruz Hernandez is also a recent graduate of the language teachers Bachelor degree program.

Bootstrapping Corpora, Android Developement

Perhaps, all the more amazing is the fact that Ricardo Jimenez Jimenez received no formal training in Android Development at the university level. Instead, Ricardo Jimenez Jimenez developed his expertise at a technical high school setting.

The group received no sponsorship, but wants to exhibit the application in as many venues possible. They are set to present at the February 21, Commemoration of Mother Languages Event, in San Pedro Jaltepetongo, Oaxaca. They also have been invited to visit a Mexican university in the city of Mexico.

Battling Stigma

The application’s intent is to teach people the language and preserve as much documentation of the language possible. Despite the stigma of learning an indigenous language, Ricardo's family and parents taught them the language little by little, because they have never been ashamed to speak it, teaching him the value and importance of their language.

In years past and today, people still view learning the native languages of Mexico as not a good idea. Racialized colonial structures still dictate perceptions around whose 'smart' and beautiful, but efforts like this application fight that notion.

Language Pedagogy, Fortouitious Meeting

A major contributor to the application is Crescenciano Hernandez Cuevas. At the project's onset, Ricardo had a vision as to what language materials to incorporate. He sought the help of Crescenciano, not knowing that the Mixteco language expert was from the same region of Oaxaca as Ricardo's parents. This led to a smoother integration of their efforts since they relied on the same community, referenced the same places and could receive feedback from people near and dear to them.

Mr.Cuevas is a language teacher and native speaker of the language, and provided all the audio and validation of the content. He also happens to be the President of the Board of Directors of Ve'e Tu'un Savi (Academy of the Mixteca Language). The institution is tasked with preserving the language through standardizing writing, supporting projects for language documentation and creating pedagogical tools.

The group divided themselves between data specialists and software developers. The small group split its time between creating content entries for Mixteco and pairing these words and pronunciations with images. In the application, a user can sort through image/audio pairs for over 600 utterances or phrases. On the Vocabulary button, the user can choose between 16 different semantic domains, drilling down into specific examples of the domain. And in the same way on the Phrases button, content divided into 5 categories.

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