New App Facilitates Translation between Indigenous Language and English

New App Facilitates Translation

A relatively lesser known clinic in Alice Springs, Australia is developing a sophisticated application to translate a variation of the indigenous language through a two-way communicator to help patients coming in for dialysis interact effectively.

Pintupi Luritja, an Aboriginal language, may be familiar but is not understood by the nurses and doctors working at the Purple House, a clinic in Alice Springs. This had earlier led to a big divide in communication between the patients and the caregivers. The patients coming in there, mainly for dialysis treatment every week are not adept at English and caregivers not in their native language. As a result, complicated dialysis processes were becoming difficult to breakdown often leading to misunderstanding.

Now, with the help of an expert and in collaboration with fluent English indigenous people, there is a software being developed that translates between Pintupi Luritja and English. This will help the medical staff effectively communicate with the patients, who often leave their remote areas and settle in Alice Springs only to access the treatment in the hospital. With speech-to-speech capabilities, the app is able to translate spoken English into spoken Pintupi Luritja, meaning a patient does not need to be able to read in order to understand what is being said.

This is also a culturally significant effort for the patients, who now feel proud and secured in dealing with the medical staff. App developer and linguist Brendan Kavanagh said the software put patients and their comfort first. He says the app has transformed the language and cultural essence at the clinic, “It gets them thinking about how to communicate in Pintupi Luritja. It shifts everything away from English. It makes Pintupi Luritja the norm in the workplace.” The app is currently available for Windows on desktop, and will next be adapted for iPhone and Android.