People may not realize just how apt the name New Mexico is for our state. As it is, New Mexico is indeed a place where the old world and the new world meet.
Take the ancient village of Acoma (aka Sky City), located atop a mesa 60 miles outside of Albuquerque. It is the oldest continually inhabited village in North America. From a distance the village looks no different than it did over a hundred years ago. But get up close and one will see cars, plastic trash barrels, small propane tanks and other modern amenities that neutralize the illusion of stepping back in time. In these modern western times, it also isn’t out of place to watch a cowboy ride by on a horse whilst talking on a cell phone. Today, a Ruidoso entrepreneur has taken one of the most ancient concepts of New Mexico and turned it into a potentially revolutionary language platform.
To explain, we must digress far into the past. Of the “New World”—as Spanish explorers referred to North America—no territory was more bewitching to them than what would later become New Mexico. While Florida was supposedly home to the Fountain of Youth, the area of New Mexico was home to the fabled Seven Cities of Gold. In Spain, the legend went that seven Christian Visigothic bishops fled from the invasion of Mérida by the Moors in 1150 to the Atlantic Ocean. With them they carried great riches, and word had it they may have settled in the strange “New World”. The Spaniards supposed that these bishops had set up seven cities of great wealth in the North America. When the Spaniards arrived in Central America they asked the Aztecs about these Seven Cities of Gold. Coincidentally, the Aztecs misinterpreted this as an allusion to their own mythic homeland: Aztlan.
Aztlan was situated atop a series of seven mystical caves (hence the confusion with the seven cities) to the north—and north of Mexico meant the as of yet unnamed New Mexico. According to Aztec legend, seven tribes (each tribe unique to one of the caves) making up the Nahuatlaca people left the caves to journey to the surface world. There on the surface they settled in Aztlan, which conflicting sources describe as either a paradise or a place of extreme hardship. The Aztec then migrated south to Mexico where they were later found and conquered by the empire of Spain. Of course, when the Spaniards travelled north to find Aztlan and the seven cities they eventually found them to only be a myth.
In 1969, Aztlan took on a meaning synonymous with the revolutionary Chicano movement. The name of Aztlan resurfaced thanks to poet Aberto “Alurista” Baltazar Urista Heredia at the National Chicano Youth Liberation Conference held in Colorado by the Crusade for Justice. At the conference Alurista read his poem, “El Plan de Aztlan”, which put forth the idea that the Mexican territories annexed by the United States as a result of the Mexican–American War of 1846-1848 should be returned to the Hispanic peoples. The idea was that this new territory would be called the República del Norte and consist of Northern Mexico, Baja California, California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas and southern Colorado.
Today, a new revolution of sorts is afoot based on the communications history of the Aztlan region via the web-based language learning platform YakYapp: AZTLAN. The platform’s creator, Robert Deming, was inspired to build the platform due to his experience growing up along the border. Deming recalls, “Growing up on the U.S. – Mexican border, one is exposed to a wonderful thing sometimes called broken English/broken Spanish. In actuality, this language environment is far from broken; it, in our opinion, is a rich exploration of a means to bridge culture and language – a very efficient way for us to easily familiarize ourselves with each other through language.” Deming continues, “Undoubtedly, there are border situations all over the world where a myriad of languages and dialects and expressions are bandied about and mixed within a sentence. El Paso is a good example where there are Asian and Hispanic shopkeepers, professionals and merchants in the downtown area who throw around English, Spanish and Chinese in a single discussion!” With a creative and communications background in New York and Southern California, Deming heads a team of software developers and finds himself often in Southern New Mexico. He and his team are bringing to the world a set of language algorithms and new language experiences known overall as YakYapp – and yakyapp.com with offices in New York. The web-based portion of the platform Deming has named with respect to the region some call AZTLAN, a place he considers a language bridging Mecca.
The AZTLAN online app uses this concept of language fusion. When one uses the app they have a field to dictate or write in their original language, and the adjacent field will display a partially translated sentence. Though “partially translated” may sound strange at first, think of it this way, if the app gave you a straight translation you may not actually know what was what within the translated sentence. With part of the sentence still in one’s native language it makes it much easier to pick up certain words and phrases within the partially translated sentence – very similar to the way one or two words of another language are introduced to a person and then experienced. The experiential, contextual language fusion method lets a person eventually come to understand more words from the other language. Basically, YakYapp is structured so that as one self-educates and one can engage key words such as restaurant, hotel, taxi, restroom, coffee, etc. “This is a basic feature; there is much of the platform under development to be launched in early 2019,” Deming says. This early portion of AZTLAN is already available on Windows desktop, Android, iOS and most smartphones. There are already 20 languages within AZTLAN. The “base language” at the moment is English with Spanish next.
Deming is working with an international team on the project that includes Hangfu Zhang, desk top and web-based developer; Yossi Kedmi, physicist optics; and Sandeep Chauhan, app development leader. Much of the project’s architecture and features are steered here in the region from Ruidoso. To support the technology and the rational for method, the team has created fun and challenging language-bridging puzzles to help introduce unfamiliar foreign words into a person’s own daily communications. “YakYapp puzzles are entertaining, yet enlightening games that bring commonly used foreign words and phrases into a person’s own immediate understanding. You are reading another language immediately,” Deming says.
This practical and actual means of use and learning is a natural way a person takes the introductory steps into a new language or, at least, into a new awareness of a different culture. YakYapp’s new technology is designed to be the most immediate efficient way to become familiar with the vocabulary of another language. Think of it a language familiarity accelerator. There is no pressure, no regimen, no classes – the structure for familiarity is totally user/learner guided driven. Overall, YakYapp strives to introduce unknown, uncommon languages to non-native speakers so that they can learn a little about other languages spoken on our small planet earth. Lest anyone question Deming’s motivation, he will tell you about himself– “¡Mi corazon es medio mexicano!” So far the platform has received coverage in USA Today via the Ruidoso News and is gaining traction. So remember, when you see YakYapp AZTLAN’s language fusion platform revolutionizing the World of language learning, it came from Chihuahua, Northern Mexico, a taste of Texas and most importantly our own little corner of New Mexico.
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