UNPFII: Developing tools for language maintenance and development

Statement by Norway's Deputy Minister of Local Government and Modernisation, Anne Karin Olli at the side-event on technical solutions for Indigenous languages, 24 April 2019.

| Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues

My name is Anne Karin Olli. I am Deputy Minister to the Minister of Local Government and Modernisation. One of my main responsibilities is the policies concerning the Sami people and the national minorities. Minority languages are an important part of this responsibility.

If you want to update your Facebook status – or send a text message – you need a keyboard (or a push-button keyset) that has the relevant characters. You also need that the characters in your language are presented correctly to those who are going to read your text.

As a user of the majority language, you take this for granted. As a minority language user, it is not that simple.

The Government's goal is that the Sami languages shall be alive and in active use on all arenas alongside the Norwegian language. To succeed in this, we must as far as possible remove the obstacles and make it easy to use the Sami languages.

Efficient language tools are essential when we are writing, otherwise the users may find it too difficult to get started. Divvun* plays an important role in this respect.

We are proud of Divvun's work. Divvun is on par with the technological development – and sometimes ahead of it. They have developed tools which are really helping us to put Sami into writing when using new technology. This makes us feel more confident when we are writing in Sami.  

Divvun has developed programs that discover both spelling and grammar mistakes in sentences and much more. I know that their keyboard solution for computers and mobile phones has been downloaded and is in use by many Sami.

My impression is that there is an increase in the use of Sami languages in public spaces – for instance in social media. Divvun and the tools that they have developed deserve honour for this.

An important positive element is that the developed tools can be used for other minority languages as well. I hope some of you can benefit from them.

Still, it is a problem that all the tools developed by Divvun must be downloaded by each individual user. It has not been possible to include these language tools in the standard packages of the big coompanies.

Divvun and Sámediggi (the Norwegian Sami Parliament) have expressed a wish that pressure should be put on these companies to make them open up for solutions for minority languages on their platforms. Therefore, the Norwegian Government is planning to contact the relevant companies. We hope for support from other governments and organisations in this effort.  

Modern language technology is probably one of the most important elements in the work of getting more active users of minority languages. This is also key to the transfer of Sami languages to the next generation, which must be a primary goal in the work of language maintenance.

I look forward to following the discussions at this side-event.

Thank you.