Monday, June 24, 2024

Students’ smartphone application provides basic Spanish-Mixtec translation

Anyone at a loss for a word in the Mixtec language can now turn to a smartphone app for help.

MixtecApp caters to an estimated 660,000 Mexicans who speak Mixtec, which sits in fourth place among the most widely used indigenous languages, behind Náhuatl, Mayan and Zapotec.

Two computer engineering students at the National Polytechnic Institute (IPN) in Mexico City created the simple smartphone application that teaches the user a basic vocabulary of Mixtec words.

The intention of Ernesto Hernández Bernal and Leo Zuriel Hernández Castillo was to contribute to the conservation of the Mixtec language. The former grew up on a ranch near Tlaxiaco, Oaxaca, where it was the first language of his parents’ generation.

But few people of his age can speak it fluently.

It took the duo over a year to fully research the Tlaxiaco variant of the language. Once a complete vocabulary was compiled, the development stage of the app took another six months.

In its current version, MixtecApp offers the user a basic vocabulary divided into four categories: animals and insects; fruits, vegetables and seeds; numbers; and colors.

Upon accessing a category, the phone displays a picture of the word in question, as well as its spelling in Spanish and Mixtec. After pressing a play button, the correct Mixtec pronunciation can be heard.

The students plan to further develop their Android-based mobile app, which doesn’t need an internet connection to function, by offering a true translation option, in which the user will be able to type a word in Spanish and obtain its Mixtec translation and pronunciation.

Mixtec is one of 68 native languages spoken in Mexico. Fourteen of those are considered at risk of being lost due to declining numbers of speakers.

Mixtec is spoken mostly in the states of Oaxaca and Guerrero, where linguists have counted more than 40 regional variations of the language.

Source: El Financiero (sp)

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