This is a language learning app for the Native American Zuni tribe's language. The objective of this app is to help people learn Zuni and to help educate people about the tribe.


Language extinction is an ongoing and growing threat to many Native American languages as the oldest, native speaking members pass away and the younger generations have no knowledge of their own languages because of racist education systems designed to assimilate Native peoples and eliminate their cultures. The language revitalization movement is an effort to save or in some cases resurrect these languages from extinction. Zuni is a rare language isolate from a tribe in New Mexico, and an imperative part of their culture. As a smaller language they haven't received the attention, funding and support of many other languages and as such are at a heightened risk.

What it does:

Our project is a language learning app which includes ten lessons and 145 vocabulary words. Users progress through levels one at a time learning Zuni as they go.

How we built it:

We built our app on android studio using Java and XML.

Challenges we ran into:

Only one of our team members has experience programming, so the entirety of the app development was completed by one person. Additionally, Zuni, as a smaller language, does not have a lot of resources online. Lauren, our communication disorders major, had to learn pronunciation for Zuni words through phonetics maps from a linguistics database, and transcribe all 145 words in IPA by hand.

Accomplishments that we're proud of:

We are especially proud of the depth of our app and the important need it fills in the community. While larger native languages like Cherokee, Ojibwe and Choctaw has language apps already available on Google Play and the App Store, nothing yet exists for Zuni, before this weekend. Our project will be available to over a billion android users worldwide, and we hope can contribute to preserving this unique language isolate for years to come.

What we learned:

While Jason had done some minimal work with android development before, he has never done a project of this scale or breadth before. Some important skills he learned were saving persistent memory between states and after closing the app, switching activities, and clever use of arrays to minimize hardcoding. Lauren greatly increased her understanding and capabilities in understanding in IPA, and specifically learned a lot about diacritic marks and diphthong phonemes that are not used in any of her 3 native languages. She also learned how to markup and format vocabulary and translations so she could put them in the dictionary section of the application.

What's next:

We intend to add recording for vocabulary, to better educate uses in pronunciation. We would also like to add sentences and information on sentence structure, but enough resources were not available on the internet to complete either of these. To complete these goals it is necessary to contact and work alongside a native speaker of the language, which Jason intends to do as part of his work in Anthropology.

Built with:

Android Studio, Gimp, the International Phonetic Alphabet keyboard, Linguistics and Language Behavior Abstracts database

Prizes we're going for:

Social Entrepreneurship Award

Blu R2 Plus Smartphones

Grand Prize

$100 Amazon Gift Cards

Team Members

Jason R. McFeeley, Lauren E. Machere
View on Github