“Speak Kumaoni App Aims to Bridge Communication Gaps in Uttarakhand Tourism”

Did you know that according to UNESCO, Kumaoni is considered a vulnerable language?  It means that it is at risk of becoming endangered if not actively preserved and promoted. Thus one man is on a mission to save the Kumaoni language as well as its culture.  Interview of the month this time has Dr R K Thukral,  an Economics and IT-veteran who has recently launched the “Speak Kumaoni” App to bridge the gap in Kumaoni language and culture in India. Let’s learn from him how “Speak Kumaoni” bridges communication gaps, supports sustainable tourism practices, and fosters deeper engagement with Kumaon’s rich heritage. An exclusive interaction on Visionary Voices with Mahima Sharma, Founder, The Think Pot. 

What challenges did ‘Speak Kumaoni’ face during its development phase? What measures were taken to overcome the same to ensure the app’s effectiveness in promoting Kumaoni?

During the development phase of the “Speak Kumaoni” App and website, the primary challenge was selecting practical and effective content. Learning a language can be approached in two main ways: naturally, as a mother tongue through immersion, or systematically through grammar for non-native speakers. This will help even the travellers to the Kumaon region, take help from the app and communicate better and easier for a better experience as an Indian. So, we opted for a balanced approach, focusing on reading and listening to situational phrases and sentences. This method not only accommodates native Kumaoni speakers who reside in other regions than  the Himalayan State of Uttarakhand,  but also caters to non-native learners interested in a more intuitive language acquisition process. We aim to enhance its effectiveness in promoting the Kumaoni language and culture, making learning accessible and engaging for a broader audience. 

How does Speak Kumaoni leverage technology to enhance the traveller experience in the Kumaon region of Uttarakhand? 

Nowadays, almost everyone owns a mobile phone, and many are proficient with smartphones. To enhance the experience of travellers in the Kumaon region of Uttarakhand, we developed an easy-to-use app that allows users with two key features that are designed to facilitate seamless communication by offering features such as:

  • Pronunciation Assistance – Utilising advancements in speech synthesis and natural language processing, the app provides users with accurate Kumaoni pronunciations. Real-time data indicates a rising preference for apps that offer such interactive language tools, reflecting a broader trend in travel tech.
  • Multilingual Support – Recognising the linguistic diversity among travellers in India, the app supports 10 different Indian languages including Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, Marathi, Bengali, Urdu, Punjabi, Gujarati, Hindi, and English. This capability is informed by current usage patterns, where multilingual interfaces are increasingly valued for their ability to bridge communication gaps effectively.

In short, I would take pride in saying that the Speak Kumaoni App enhances the traveler experience by making interactions with locals more enjoyable and accessible. This approach not only aligns with current mobile usage trends but also underscores the app’s commitment to promoting cultural understanding and linguistic diversity in the Kumaon region.

Any unique features does ‘Speak Kumaoni’ offer to enhance travellers’ experiences in Uttarakhand?

The “Speak Kumaoni” app offers a unique blend of reading and listening experiences, featuring voice-overs for common words, simple sentences, and situational themes. For example, users can learn phrases for taking a taxi, visiting a bank, shopping, or asking for help from locals. This practical approach helps travellers navigate everyday situations more effectively.

Also, we have a very USER-Friendly interface which means enhanced user engagement. “Speak Kumaoni” addresses this by ensuring its app is easy to navigate and user-friendly, promoting a seamless learning experience for travelers of all backgrounds.

What measures have been taken to ensure DATA privacy and security of the travellers who would be using the app?

We strictly prioritise the privacy and security of our users’ data. Our strict Privacy Policy ensures that user information is not shared with any third parties and is not used for commercial purposes. This commitment helps protect the personal data of travellers using the app. For example, all user data, such as names and emails, are encrypted to prevent unauthorised access. Additionally, we regularly update our security measures to guard against potential threats and ensure ongoing protection for our users.

What’s your vision of – How will ‘Speak Kumaoni’ contribute to the economic growth of local communities in the Kumaon region?

“Speak Kumaoni” aims to significantly enhance economic growth in the Kumaon region by leveraging its language-learning capabilities to enrich the tourism experience. Currently, tourism contributes around 4.5% to Uttarakhand’s GDP,  making it a crucial sector for local communities’ livelihoods. The app plays a pivotal role in this context by facilitating meaningful interactions between travellers and locals through Kumaoni language skills.

By enabling travellers to communicate effectively in Kumaoni, “Speak Kumaoni” encourages longer stays and deeper engagements with local culture, cuisine, and traditions. This not only enhances the overall tourism experience but also stimulates local economies. For instance, tourists equipped with basic Kumaoni language skills are more likely to explore off-the-beaten-path destinations, participate in local activities, and patronise small businesses.

Moreover, the app’s promotion of cultural understanding fosters a positive environment for sustainable tourism development. As tourists gain a deeper appreciation for Kumaoni heritage, there is potential for increased demand for authentic cultural experiences, local handicrafts, and traditional cuisine. This, in turn, generates income opportunities for local artisans, guides, homestay hosts, and other service providers.

Looking ahead, what are the future plans for ‘Speak Kumaoni’ to further enrich travel journeys in Uttarakhand?

Looking ahead, we plan to incorporate advanced technologies such as text-to-text translation, text-to-speech, speech-to-text, and video-to-text capabilities for the Kumaoni language. These enhancements will further enrich travel experiences in Uttarakhand by providing more versatile and comprehensive language support.

TO DOWNLOAD THE SPEAK KUMAONI APP FROM GOOGLE PLAY STORE CLICK HERE

For the Unversed….

Dr. R. K. Thukral, a Punjabi native of Rudrapur (District Udham Singh Nagar in Uttarakhand formely in District nainital of united Uttar Pradesh) with a PhD in Economics from Kumaon University, Nainital. He is the founder-director of a 24-year-old ITeS company in Delhi, also has his residential roots in the village of Managher-Sundarkhal in Nainital District.