Alaska Commercial Company stores across the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta have begun to roll out a special Yup’ik language translating service. It scans an electronic code on the labels, and with the appropriate application, a smartphone says the name on the label.
The program is part of Alaska Commercial Company’s effort to support indigenous languages. Here in Bethel, AC has made labels to post on shelves to tell shoppers the category of items available in both English and Yup’ik. To hear the Yup’ik word, the shopper must use a smartphone to scan the electronic QR Code. With a special app, the phone will say the word in Yup’ik.
Bethel store manager Seth Madole stands in front of an open refrigerated section with meats and places his phone over a label.
“So we have one tag that basically represents a section,” said Madole. “So in other words, like the cookie section or the crackers section, cereal section, so we don’t have tags for each individual brand. So the customer can come to one of these tags that are all over the store and scan it.”
AC head Walt Pickett says that his company is planning to install this type of translating service in any community with a high indigenous population.
“We’re doing this especially for the elders, knowing their language, and sometimes it’s hard for them to navigate,” said Pickett.
He says that it’s also great for the kids. Pickett says that children who are in immersion programs will benefit by seeing and hearing the Yup’ik language outside of the classroom.
Residents in Aniak, Emmonak, Hooper Bay, Kotlik, Mountain Village, St. Mary’s, Pilot Station, and McGrath will be able to start accessing the QR codes this month at AC stores in their communities. Shoppers can find out more about how to scan the codes by asking local staff.