by Patrick Fothergill, Ontario AAC Consultant & SLP
As an AAC-focused SLP with connections to Quebec and northern & eastern Ontario, among other places, I often hear from people seeking French speech-generating devices (SGDs). And while they exist, until recently I didn’t think there was anything for folks whose abilities & needs suit a robust, picture-supported, predictive (and therefore selection-saving) language system.
Enter Nancy Inman, the veteran SLP behind WordPower. When she heard about this gap, she dusted off her university French and, in collaboration with some first-language-French speakers, intrepidly set about bridging it.
“What’s the big deal,” you might say, “just translate English WordPower. Sure, it’ll take a while, but most of the hard work is already done, right?”
If only it were so simple! As Nancy can tell you, the French language works differently enough from English that straight translation of anything beyond a keyboard and pre-stored messages is impossible. For example, English verbs have a maximum of 6 forms in total, whereas some French verbs have as many as 6 forms in a single tense—and at least 5 basic tenses!*
Plus, a word in one language often doesn’t conveniently match up to just one word in another. As English speakers who’ve tried to learn Spanish know, “to be” translates as ser or estar, depending what you’re using it for. And French may be even ‘worse’ for English speakers: for instance, it lacks anything equivalent to the English “out”…and consider how often we use that core word, especially with early language (and therefore AAC) learners!
So it’s remarkable that, in a couple of intense years, Nancy published not one but two essentially brand-new French page sets—WordPower60 français and WordPower120 français—that nevertheless feel familiar to WordPower jockeys. The first new French WordPower in decades, the first ever with picture support, and the only ones to run on modern SGDs, they incorporate almost all the conveniences people appreciate in modern English WordPower for NovaChat & TouchChat such as logical next words, word completion, category-based vocabulary including core words, etc.
And with the arrival of the Via Pro, people for whom touch isn’t an option and for whom switch scanning is too slow or frustrating can choose a fully-vendor-backed SGD that makes these files accessible through head tracking. Or if someone needs a bilingual system, WordPower60 français is built to resemble the popular WordPower60 Basic for NovaChat & TouchChat, and you can easily link them together using these platforms’ Profiles function.
So French-speaking AAC communities, take note: there’s a new kid on the block!
To find out more about WordPower60 français & WordPower120 français, be sure to check out our videos and/or contact your local Saltillo/NovaChat consultant.