Sharing indigenous stories to help revitalise endangered languages
Edtech start-up Little Mouse Co. are the founders of Lingogo, a digital language learning app dedicated to sharing indigenous stories and revitalising endangered languages.
The world loses an entire language every two weeks. Lingogo is helping bring endangered languages back from the brink of extinction. Their vision is that anybody in the world can go into their local cafe or shop and hear the indigenous language from that area being spoken.
Losing culture and language is something Lizzie’s whānau have personally experienced and know the impacts of. “My Nan was Austrian-Jewish and Mum and I are Māori so we very clearly know the impact of losing culture and language in Aotearoa and the world.”
The Dunns developed a love for language learning while Lizzie was learning Māori and Shelley was learning Spanish. Shelley would buy Spanish kids’ books from overseas for her language learning, then the pair would sit down together with a ruler and a dictionary and work out what it all said. “We discovered that reading and using the context was an awesome way for us both to get more results so we sat down and figured out an easier way of doing it by creating interactive ebooks,” Lizzie says.
All of the ebooks available on the Lingogo app have a uniquely interactive dual-language format that helps to make these stories and languages more accessible to learners. The end result is more people understanding and connecting with the language and culture, then passing it on to ensure it survives and thrives.
Little Mouse are currently seeking libraries to sign up to make the Lingogo app available in libraries during Te Wiki o te Reo Māori – Māori Language week in September 2020. After that, the goal is for all New Zealand public libraries and schools to have Lingogo access for their members, Lizzie says. Pushing into the overseas market and extending out to other endangered languages in places such as Hawaii or Australia is part of the team’s long-term business ambitions.
Lingogo is free to download on the Apple app store and Google play store.
Co-founders Lizzie Dunn (Te Whānau a Apanui, Te Arawa) and her mum Shelley (Te Whānau a Apanui, Te Arawa) are the whānau powerhouse behind the new app that helps people connect with minority cultures by learning a language in an interactive and entertaining format. The Tāmaki Makaurau (Auckland) based mother-daughter duo are joined by Lizzie’s friend, Berlin-based Hannah Craig who has helped design the app and put it all together.
For Little Mouse, the proven business acceleration processes used during the 12-week Kōkiri programme have provided real structure and the answers they needed to develop a clear path forward. “We’ve learned processes that we will follow forever now, that will make sure we’re always moving forward,” Lizzie says.
“Before the programme everything was guesswork – we were doing everything out of order and just trying whatever popped into our heads. Kōkiri has given us so much structure and clarity.”
Lizzie says the academic learning and being able to connect with other start-up teams in the cohort and share their business experiences has been life-changing. The opportunity to create an Advisory Board for the programme duration has opened doors and fostered new connections for the team. “Our coaches and advisors have pushed us out to meetings with other people in our industry. The support and getting out there… we’re getting so many useful learnings out of it.”