An application that helped the indigenous people of Brazil communicate in their languages An application that helped the indigenous people of Brazil communicate in their languages

An application that helped the indigenous people of Brazil communicate in their languages

An application that helped the indigenous people of Brazil communicate in their languages

Indigenous groups in the Brazilian Amazon have always had a problem writing phone text messages in their local languages, but an application has come up with a solution that provides these groups with the ability to use the letters of their languages ​​to communicate, according to Agence France-Presse.

“Linklado” is the name of the application that was launched in August 2022, and this word is composed of “lin”, which refers to indigenous languages, and “clado”, which is derived from the Portuguese word “teclado”, which means keyboard.

The application aims to provide indigenous people living in remote areas of the vast Amazon, as well as urban centres, with a digital keyboard suitable for their languages ​​when the communications network is available to them.

Cristina Quirino Mariano, from the Ticona indigenous group, says, "The Linklado app is of great benefit to me and the indigenous people. Before its creation, we could not write what we wanted on our phones."

Not all members of these groups speak Portuguese, the official language of Brazil, in addition to the fact that phones sold in the country are equipped only with the Latin letters used in this language.

After the indigenous cultures of the region currently known as Brazil were limited to oral speech, writing entered the region when European settlers sought to write it down.

It was necessary to find specific resources, and add a set of accents and features (diacritical marks, as linguists say) to the letters of the Latin alphabet to try to reconstruct these languages.

Launch the application
But none of these languages ​​were available before today on mobile phones, which have become essential in the lives of Brazil's indigenous population, which numbers about 1.7 million people.

Since phones were not equipped with a proper keyboard, “the indigenous people communicated largely through voice messages,” according to Linklado project coordinator Noemiya Ishikawa.

Ishikawa (51 years old), a biologist, faced difficulties in translating her research and sharing it within local communities. She says: “For 14 years, I have been asking for a keyboard to solve this problem.” Her wish was fulfilled thanks to two students born in the area but not indigenous, namely Juliano Portilla (17 years old) and his friend Samuel Benzekri (18 years old). When Samuel learned of the problem, he talked about it with Juliano, who had good knowledge in programming, and began designing the application with his friend.

Giuliano explains, “It took four days to create the application, and we did not imagine that we would complete it so quickly.” A group of tests began to be conducted on the application as of May, then it was released for free in August of the same year.

Now, “the application works in various indigenous languages ​​of the Amazon region,” meaning about 40 languages, according to Portela, who, like Benzekri, is pursuing his studies in the United States.

The app works as a translator too
The application has been downloaded more than three thousand times, and Giuliano indicates that the number of users is even greater than that. He says: “In the testing stages, we used a file that we sent via the WhatsApp application, and some of the indigenous people sent the archive to each other before the application was even released.”

In addition to everyday communication, the application allows the translation of books and other texts from Portuguese into indigenous languages. It also allows women from these communities to earn financial returns by using their knowledge of local languages. A project called "Linkladas" was created to bring together these translators, among them the former teacher of indigenous languages, Rosilda Cordero da Silva, who considers the application "a very positive thing" and enhances her confidence when she translates.

The application also helps preserve some indigenous languages. Vanda Witoto, an activist, is trying to “save the Buri language of the Wetoto group,” and says: “The keyboard has given us the possibility not to use other letters that are not included in our language.”

Aside from the Amazon region, protecting terminology is a global challenge, as half of the world's languages ​​are at risk of extinction by 2100, most of which belong to indigenous groups, according to a report published by the United Nations in 2018.

Google report calls for curbing spyware companies

Google on Tuesday denounced a group of surveillance software companies that it said allowed the use of dangerous hacking tools, and urged the United States and its allies to make a greater effort to rein in the spyware industry, according to Reuters.

Spyware companies say their products are intended for governments for national security purposes, but they have been shown to have been used to hack the phones of civil society, political opposition and journalists over the past decade.

This industry has been subject to increasing scrutiny since the Pegasus spyware of the Israeli company NSO was found on the phones of many figures around the world, including human rights defenders.

In a report issued Tuesday, Google researchers said that NSO is a well-known company, but there are dozens of smaller companies that help spread spy technology for malicious uses.

Last year, the United States and a number of its allies committed to working to curb the surveillance software industry after discovering that at least 50 American government employees in 10 countries had been targeted with spyware.

Google's report comes a day after the United States announced a new policy to restrict visas for individuals it described as abusing commercial spyware.

“Limiting the ability of spyware vendors to operate in the United States helps change the incentive structure that has allowed them to continue to grow,” Google said in its statement.
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