PFED in Australian Geographic

The PFED has got a mention in a recent Australian Geographic blog post about the National Geographic’s ongoing Enduring Voices project.

Hopefully they’ll have a chance in the future to mention some other great work going on in Australia, such as the Ma! Iwaidja Phone App, and classics like BOLD and PARADISEC.

Umpila/Kuuku Ya’u Dictionary (V.2)

Patrick Butcher, an artist working at the Lockhart River Art Centre, with an in-progress artwork in the background. Commenting on the dictionary: “…more access to language is vital. This is easy to use, the words are just there. It’ll make it easier to make art work names. At the moment I have to search out one of the elders or a copy of the blue book [a sketch grammar containing a wordlist] now help is just in my pocket.”

In the last month I have been in Lockhart River, on the beautiful east coast of the Cape in northern QLD. It was great to be back there, to see my Lockhart friends and to continue work with Umpila and Kuuku Ya’u speakers. Part of my time at the start of my trip was spent creating a second version of the Umpila/Kuuku Ya’u – English Wunderkammer dictionary. I started work on this dictionary in a fieldtrip to Lockhart a year back, recording sound clips with speakers and some illustrative examples too (for a computer/book based version of dictionary), and then earlier this year I put together the first version. See the last two posts from David Thompson and myself which has a little info on the development and distribution of this.

This trip to Lockhart I wanted to vamp up the Wunderkammer dictionary a tad more and also continue getting feedback from users, following-on from David’s April trip to Lockhart. For Version 2, speakers and I recorded more sound clips and re-recorded some clips with better quality – invariably there are some instances where even with three or so productions of the word they all end up having some type of background noise that you didn’t quite notice or didn’t think would get caught by the mic, e.g. branches scratching on the roof, a dog scrap two houses back. The clips edited and prepped for Version 2 take the count to around 200 entries with sound. I also worked with speakers to add a more vernacular flavour to some of the definitions. We particularly worked on plant, animal and material culture vocab. In the first version of the dictionary definitions for this type of vocab were often pretty uninformative, e.g. simple entries like “tree species” or “spear type”. Even where I have scientific idents for plants and animals I wasn’t keen to use them given target audience “youth” user audience. I wanted to add a little more to the definitions of these types of words, something that captured the sorts of identifying features and descriptions that Lockhart people themselves use. So, speakers and I worked to record vernacular definitions for around 100 of the entries. Here are some examples: iinyi ‘cicada, “noisy minya” (nyanguru kuupi) which sings out, especially at dusk’; kanhin ‘trochus shell, in old mission times men used to dive for kanhin to sell to the Chinese and Japanese people’; thakura ‘yam type, hairy “New Guinea” yam, plenty grow on islands, like on Restoration Island’. As you can see these include some local knowledge of places and history, which wouldn’t usually be good lexicographic practice, but seeing as this dictionary has a targeted audience this sort of local flavour is a big plus. Given the limitations of the mobile phone screen “real-estate” we had to make these definitions not too long, but I think we did pretty well. The “full meanings” were one of things people commented on very positively in feedback. Note: Sometimes the Creole vernacular of speakers was somewhat modified into Standard English variety in these definitions. In latter versions we are considering adding Creole into the dictionary in some way. Perhaps not making a trilingual dictionary per se, but including Creole translations of the some of the words, or notation of the traditional language vocab which has been absorbed into the Creole, or a designated Creole vernacular definition field. So, lots more ideas to make this a cooler and more enriched little dictionary in coming versions!

As I went about Lockhart distributing and showing-off Version 2 I was keen to get some feedback back from users. I was particularly interested to see how users first interacted with and familarised themselves with the interface of the dictionary, and if they found it user-friendly. People were overwhelmingly positive about it. Everyone I talked with thought it was perfectly targeted at teenagers and twenty-somethings, including themselves. For this demographic, like elsewhere in Oz, a mobile phone is their main entertainment device, media player and song storage device, games console. There are few language resources available for Umpila and Kuuku Ya’u, and even fewer that would be captivating to this audience. So, that is a big positive for this platform.

As far as modifications go there were very few suggestions for changes, users were happy with the size and form of it, in terms of entries and file size (3.4MB). There were some people who suggested more content of specific types, based on their own usage ideas and needs, e.g. a teacher’s aid suggested including example sentences and a land and sea ranger suggested more detailed plant and animal information including photos. There will be more information on technical hurdles in distribution and user feedback in review/paper to come – more on this by-and-by.

Dictionary distribution: A workaround for Bluetooth block

As in the previous blog entry from David Thompson, David and I are working with Umpila and Kuuku Ya’u speakers in Lockhart River (up in the Cape, QLD) to make a Wunderkammer dictionary. A great resource for the community’s mobile touting younger gens! An unexpected and pretty big obstacle that we’ve faced in Lockhart is difficulties installing the dictionary on community mobile phones via Bluetooth transfer. The solution we’ve come up with might also help other people out there stuck with various Bluetoothy hiccups holding up dictionary distribution.

Because of the remote location of Lockhart in Far North QLD the only telecommunications company is the national carrier Telstra. The majority of the mobile phones in the community are Telstra phones on Telstra contracts. Unfortunately we found out that Telstra restricts some of the functions of the phone, in this case preventing installation of java applications via Bluetooth (or via a USB cable). This was a great shame as the easiest way to propagate the dictionary across the community would be through simple Bluetooth transfer between phones. The solution we’ve found to workaround this is to host the dictionary java file on a secure webpage and download the java file using the mobile phone’s internet browser. However, few of the phone contracts in the community have a data component and therefore cannot access the webpage. This second obstacle has been overcome simply by using a project sim card with a data component. The sim card can be swapped with the community member’s sim card allowing the dictionary to be downloaded and installed. Once installed on the phone, the original sim card can be swapped back. Voilà, a working Wunderkammer dictionary! Some phones might generate a message asking if you want to download the file to the phone or the sim, select phone of course, so that it’ll remain behind when you switch the cards back. Each download of the Umpila/Kuuku Ya’u dictionary (V1.0) is a small 2MB and only takes a few minutes to install.

Lockhart River Mobile Phone Dictionary

I went to Lockhart River on Cape York Peninsula, Queensland, last week to try out a dictionary on mobile phones for the Umpila and Kuuku Ya’u languages. Clair Hill and I are working on a language maintenance project for the community and the dictionary is a great resource to have with it. These two dialects are very close and Clair prepared a combined list of over 400 words, some of them with sound files attached, and she converted it to a Wunderkammer dictionary with help from James.


Photo: Eleven-year old Camden has learnt some language words from his grandmother Lucy Hobson (left) and mother Phyllis Hobson (right). He spent some time using the dictionary to check words and practise speaking them with the help of his mother.

I found that the mobile format of the dictionary created immediate interest. The first man I showed it to said, “It blows my mind!” Lots of young people and adults are using mobile phones and the children especially took to the format. They were soon scrolling and checking words. The sound files attracted most interest and helped them to sound out the words correctly and to avoid English intonations.

I quizzed them about the dictionary and its uses. It is clearly both a self-learning and a shared-learning tool that is readily used in the home or anywhere. As a visual tool it shows correct spellings and meanings while the audio side encouraged people to verbalise the words correctly. The ready phone access contrasts with limited computer access in this community, mainly in the library and local school.

We had a problem with the display of the words as the colour of them did not contrast well with a dark background. The audio could be louder too. This will be tweaked for a second trial. We also had a problem trying to transfer the dictionary to people’s phones by Bluetooth. They are mostly Telstra branded phones, which do not like you doing that. We will have a workaround next time.

One person saw the potential for the dictionary to be developed further in a computer application by adding both sound and pictures to words to enhance the language learning. James will also develop a Kirrkirr version for computers.

wkimport 2.2

wkimport package 2.2 is out now. The new package includes a French localisation and French documentation. See it at the wksite: http://www.pfed.info/wksite

wkimport package 2.1

wkimport package 2.1 is now out. The most notable new feature is Russian localisation of the wkimport UI and documentation. More localisations to follow.

Wunderkammer Import Package 2 final release

The final release of Wunderkammer Import Package 2 is now available for download. Check out the Wunderkammer website for more info.

Thanks to everyone who pointed out bugs and made suggestions for improvement. In this release several bugs have been squished and a bit of input validation and some friendlier error messages have been added.

Work now begins on version 2.1! Keep the bug reports and other comments coming.

Wunderkammer Import Package 2

Wunderkammer Import 2 - Menus tab

Wunderkammer Import Package 2 Beta is now available for download. The major advance in this distribution is a new easy to use graphical user interface. There’s also a new set of documentation to go with the new user interface.

This is a beta release. We invite bug reports and suggestions for improvement on the PFED discussion board or by e-mail at james followed by the at sign pfed dot info.

The Wunderkammer website has also got a new layout and look.

Unicode and custom input methods in Wunderkammer (#4: Custom input method)

Step 3: Custom input method.

First of all, you will need to add your custom input method into the code of the MenulessTextField class in the source code of Wunderkammer. This can be done in any text editor, but as you will need to compile the whole thing later anyway, its probably better to do everything in NetBeans or another Java IDE right from the beginning. You can find the whole MenulessTextField class with the custom Tura-French input method here.

There are only a few things that you are likely to need to modify. Thus, you will probably want to customize the mappings for low case (see picture) and upper case letters onto a typical 3×4 mobile phone keypad. The <\uXXXX> sequences are the unicodes for every special character (I added the characters themselves as comments in green to make things clear).

The low case mappings of the Tura custom input method

Furthermore, you might wish to modify the part “\ue003\ue004\ue005” in brackets after TextField.addInputMode and TextField.setDefaultInputModeOrder, which stands for <ɛ̀ɛ̂ɛ́>. This is just the way I chose to indicate the low case Tura custom input method at the right end of the search box in WK, similar to “Abc” or “123”.

When you are done with adding your custom input method, build the WK project in NetBeans (there is a button for this in NetBeans). To update the WK binaries in wkimporting, all you need to do is replace all the files in the directory wkimporting/bundle/build/preverified with all the preverified binaries from the project. So build the project and then go to build/preverified and copy everything except the ‘META-INF’ and ‘res’ directories to wkimporting/bundle/build/preverified.

Basically, that’s it. Now, after you import the dictionary into WK, you should get a dictionary with the custom input method you defined.

Unicode and custom input methods in Wunderkammer (#3: Theme file)

Step 2: Dictionary theme file.

You can customize the dictionary theme file with the LWUIT resource editor in many ways. For instance, you can create a bitmap font and include it into the theme file. The procedure is rather straightforward. You select a font installed on your system, its size and style, anti-aliasing method and define a character set that needs to be included in the bitmap font. For example, the character set of TuraGSM Sans Condensed I used is reproduced below. Note that the last character in the charset is a space (U+0020).

TuraGSM Sans Condensed charset for the Tura dictionary theme file

TuraGSM Sans Condensed charset for the Tura dictionary theme file