January 28th, 2021 – Strengthening Language through Technology: A Context for Capacity Building


The emerging field of Language Technology offers a unique environment for capacity building. It is where computational linguistics meets software development meets media production in a context rooted in language and culture. During this session we will be chatting with Justin Bambrick, Aaron Plahn and Heather Souter to discuss their roles in Indigenous language Revilatization.

During Aaron’s segment he will be discussing how Tŝilhqot’in National Government (TNG) (with the financial support from the NRC), TNG undertook an ambitious capacity building initiative in 2019-2020, and successfully developed local talent with expertise in app development and design, IT support, audio tech, and business technology applied to language data management. All apprentices also developed an extensive audio and text data in Tŝilhqot’in, and had the chance to participate in group work, translation sessions, and one-on-one sessions with Tŝilhqot’in language experts and elders. Aaron will share with us the results of their project, where developing language apps and tools served as a context for tech capacity building.

Heather will be sharing with us her journey to involvement with digital language revitalization technologies–including the development of an online interactive language course, an online dictionary and app and a verb conjugator–and use of them to foster both in-person and virtual language learning communities.


Thank you for your interest and participation!

This session’s video is now available for viewing.

Thank you to everyone for your continued interest in our events.

We would like to reiterate that everyone is welcome to our UBCLC sessions.

Our events aim to embody a safe space for everyone of all different backgrounds to have their opinions and voices equally heard.

Date: Thursday, January 28th, 2021 (PST)
Time: 10 a.m. to 11:30 am

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About the Presenters:


Justin Bambrick is a Junior Front-end Developer at Tŝilhqot’in National Government. He is from the community of Tl’etinqox and grew up in Williams Lake BC.

In school, Justin always excelled in art and mathematics. Exercising his critical thinking skills, Justin graduated from Thompson Rivers University Williams Lake in 2013 with an Associate’s Degree in Psychology. For Fall 2014 Justin decided to challenge his mathematics skills at Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops BC where he started the Bachelor of Business Administration program and graduated with an Associate’s of Commerce & Business Administration. Justin will receive his Bachelor of Business Administration degree later in 2021.

Justin’s biggest passions include art and hockey. With web-development, Justin has been able to connect his skills with his passion. In 2020 Justin created his own website https://bambrickhockey.ca which is dedicated to hockey history, news, and rankings. Justin has also started his portfolio website https://justinbambrick.ca which will include personal art, web projects, and resume.


Aaron Plahn, MSc, BSc

I have been married into the Tŝilhqot’in Nation for about 15 years. I am a second-language speaker, motivated to learn to help ensure that my mother-in-law and grandmother-in-law pass the language on to my children. I have learned through extensive immersion in combination with working with the language on the job.

After completing a BSc (Math \ Physics minor) at TRU and an MSc (Physics) at SFU, and spending years working in the space of scientific computing, I entered the emerging field of language technology. In the past 5 years I have worked on digitization, audio restoration, database administration, natural language processing, full-stack web and mobile app development, and Linux system administration, as well as teaching and mentoring others in all of these things. I am currently interested in practical applications of AI \ Machine Learning for rapid language documentation.


Heather Souter (Unfortunately Heather was not able to join us for this webinar)
Chair of the NRC’s Indigenous Languages Technology Project Advisory Committee;
Secretary-Treasurer and Projects Manager, Prairies to Woodlands Indigenous Language Revitalization Circle; Lecturer at the University of Manitoba

With Elder Verna Demontigny, Heather directs the Prairies to Woodlands Indigenous Language Revitalization Circle, a community-based non-profit. Their work includes a Master-Apprentice Program, development of digital language learning technologies and resources for Southern Michif and consulting on Indigenous Language Revitalization.   She holds a Bachelor of Arts from the University of British Columbia and a Masters of Education in Indigenous Language Revitalization from the University of Victoria. Heather is reclaiming her heritage language and, in collaboration with Elders, has published educational resources for the Michif language, such as a conversational phrase book and a college level beginner’s course. Heather’s interests include the use of the Internet to reach language learners in the diaspora and to create technology-mediated speech communities. She is a citizen of the Métis Nation and a member of the Manitoba Métis Federation. She is fluent in English and Japanese, conversant in Michif and French and has a limited understanding of German, Spanish and the Saulteaux dialect of Ojibwe and Plains Cree.




Other resources from the Chat:

  • Juneau Sm’algyax Learners on Facebook
  • Sm’algyax Learners on Instagram
  • Te Reo Māori Speech Recognition website
    • Te reo Māori Speech Recognition: A Story of Community, Trust, and Sovereignty video


Haida Gwaii Atlas (Working Title)
The Haida Gwaii Atlas project is led by John Broadhead and the Gowgaia Institute in partnership with the Haida Gwaii Museum.  It has been an idea in development for many years but recently shifted into action with interviews and consultation around a series of stories relating to culture, language, forestry, geography, maps, and many more aspects of Haida Gwaii.
Gowgaia Institute:
Haida Gwaii Museum: http://haidagwaiimuseum.ca/
The Haida Arts and Culture Web App
The Haida Arts and Culture Web App is a project of K’aalts’ida K’ah Haida Storytelling Society that will weave together images of ancestral and contemporary artworks, Haida stories, interviews and new media including K’aalts’ida K’ah stop motion animation productions in the Haida language.  It is a platform that will be used for artist research employing a relational database to link together Haida concepts and knowledge.
K’aalts’ida K’ah Haida Storytelling Society: http://kaaltsidakah.net/


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