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Inuktitut now available as a language on Facebook

Inuktitut is now available on Facebook.
Nunavut Tunngavik President Aluki Kotierk says adding Inuktitut to Facebook is a great first step toward reinforcing the language. Trevor Wright/NNSL photo

Inuktitut is now available on Facebook.

The translated interface, announced July 8, to help promote the daily usage of Inuktitut among Nunavummiut is a culmination of a five-year-partnership between Nunavut Tunngavik Incorporated (NTI) and Meta, better known as Facebook.

“Inuit expect to see and hear Inuktut in all aspects of our lives. Recognizing Inuktitut as an official language on Facebook, equal to English and French, reinforces the legitimacy of our language,” said Aluki Kotierk, president of NTI. “Being able to access Facebook in our own language is an important and concrete step towards seeing and hearing Inuktut in all aspects of our lives.”

The translation was led by the Pirurvik Centre, an Iqaluit-based learning centre. There were some new concepts created for Facebook with Inuktitut being a poly-synthetic language — ‘Facebook page,’ for example, will be known as ‘Facebook makpigaq.’

“Pirurvik is honoured to have worked with Meta and NTI to ensure the new words created in Inuktitut reflect the nuances of our language and culture,” said Leena Eric, executive director of the Pirurvik Centre. “The Facebook interface in Inuktitut will be a daily educational tool for younger generations to learn Inuktitut and a communication tool for Inuktitut-speaking Inuit.”

At an Iqaluit event hosted by Meta to celebrate the occasion, Kotierk said she appreciated the time and effort on Meta’s part to bring it to their Facebook platform, but added there’s more work to do, such as integrating syllabics, which Inuktitut in Nunavut is normally written in.

“I feel excited because I feel like it has demonstrated the possibilities; it’s not in syllabics but it’s important celebrating important first steps and it demonstrates the possibilities out there,” she said. “We can strive to have in it syllabics, we have strive to have it in different dialects. But (it’s important) a big social media company, a global one, is willing to spend some time with us and focus on our language is a big deal.

“This is a way to rebuild the pride in our language and our culture and I think this will be a big tool in that area,” Kotierk added.

In the announcement, Meta added that language revitalization is included in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action in Canada.

“Language revitalization as Canadians, we know this is incredibly important,” said Kevin Chan, global policy director at Meta, who was present at the Iqaluit event. He added this is one of Meta’s ways to move forward with reconciliation.

“We have a history that is challenging when it comes to these things. Part of it is to reflect and understand our history, another part of it is finding ways to move forward with new ways to help revitalize language.”

Chan also added this is one of Meta’s first physical events following the lifting of Covid-19 related public health measures.

“It’s been a journey — it’s just so great to be actually able to see something and start something with other people. To see it through in this time is really fantastic, very rewarding. I feel very grateful for Aluki’s partnership in order to bring this to life,” said Chan. “To finally be able to get out in the world and celebrate something as great as this is a great thing and I feel really good about it.”

Facebook remains the North’s most used social media network across all three territories. In 2018 Meta launched Inupiaq (Northern Alaska Inuit dialect) language settings, also spoken in parts of the Northwest Territories.

“Facebook is a vital tool for connection and community for Inuit,” said Debbie Reid, Indigenous policy manager at Meta in Canada. “We recognize that language is integral to the Inuit way of being and identity, and we are honoured to play a role in supporting the efforts of NTI to strengthen and promote the vitality of their language.”

To change Facebook’s language settings from English to Inuktitut, go to settings on the Facebook profile page, go to ‘language’ and ‘region’ and click on edit Facebook language.