Archive for April 2011

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.