Developing augmentative systems to assist both Irish L1 users and L2 learners
Background and context:
The period of not being able to attend school during the pandemic has been challenging for both students and educators from an education, communication, connection and relationship perspective. Furthermore, it has been argued that there has been an even greater challenge for students with specific and additional education needs, including those with who use augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) systems to communicate effectively. The availability of AAC systems for students for whom Irish is their first language and for L2 learners of Irish has been limited to date and is an additional challenge. Notwithstanding this however, ongoing device development and research continues to emerge and progress, all the time broadening to be more inclusive for those who utilise these systems.
Research Aims and Objectives:
Optimising AAC technology for the Irish language offers inclusive and accessible ways to communicate for those with speech and language difficulties who are educated through both remote and hybrid access. This paper explores what key features are necessary for Irish AAC (bilingual, layout, high-tech or low-tech) and why such technology is in demand by those who need to communicate in Irish, as an L2 learner or as members of the Irish-speaking community.
Methods and data sources:
A needs analysis survey was conducted to establish if and in what way Irish AAC is required for Irish language users and L2 learners of Irish to communicate effectively in education settings. The survey yielded 130 responses which were analysed quantitatively and qualitatively using a Qualtrics platform.
Results confirm an interest in the specific development of Irish language based AAC technology. Key recommendations include integrating Irish text-to-speech synthesis into the AAC system, along with significant interest in a keyboard with Irish diacritics and the opportunity for users to model their own phrases. Other recommendations include working with Speech and Language Therapists to help address the lack of AAC assessment available through the medium of Irish.