UL grad helps Apple open its products to local French culture

Boisy Pitre, who lives near Opelousas, has bachelor's and master's degrees in computer science from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. (Photo: Freddie Herpin, Daily World)

(The Daily Advertiser) – In the future, your iPhone or iPad could present information in Cajun French and Louisiana Creole.

That reality may be years away. But Boisy Pitre, a computer scientist who lives near Opelousas, has helped to open the door to Cajun and Creole apps on Apple’s computer products.

Last year, Pitre attended the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference and approached engineers about adding the language of his ancestors to their operating systems. Pitre returned to the conference this year and discovered that Apple made good on his request.

Cajun and Creole have been added to the company’s long list of supported languages.

Pitre said that for the change to work, software developers still have to come up with apps in Cajun and Creole. But Apple’s recognition is a significant step.

“For me, this is a source of pride,” said Pitre, who has bacherlor’s and master’s degrees in computer science from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. “I think Apple was glad to do it.

“It wasn’t a big, big thing, technologically. It was something fairly easy for them to put in. They’re not doing any translations.

“They’re just saying, we support this language. Here it is. If (developers) want to use it, use it. The fact that they took time to do it says a lot about the company. I’m pretty pleased with that.”

Pitre explains that only iPhone, iPad and Mac computer users with Apple’s latest operating system, iOS 10, can see the change. A search under “Settings” and “Languages and Region” shows Cajun and Louisiana Creole are now among the dozens of listed languages and dialects.

Users can set Cajun and Creole as priority languages. But apps will remain in English until one that supports Louisiana French is used.

“People who write these apps would have to have them in Cajun French and Louisiana Creole,” said Pitre. “You won’t be able to talk to Siri in Cajun French and Siri won’t talk to you in Cajun French.

“But, I believe this is the beginning of a process that allows the door to be opened so that if there’s enough demand for it and Apple has the resources, they would do it.”

Technology and culture are Pitre’s passions. When he’s not in front of a computer screen, Pitre is a Cajun musician who plays fiddle and accordion at jam sessions and sits in with local bands. He visits local French tables to practice the language of his grandparents and parents in Prairie Ronde.

Pitre, who is also a ham radio operator, is thrilled to combine his love of technology and culture.

“I’m a technologist. I believe in looking to the future. At the same time, I like looking to the past. I think this bridges our very beautiful, local, special languages to technology and it tells us that we’re relevant and that our language is relevant.

“Without our language, our culture isn’t all that it could be. Our culture is built on our language. By being recognized as a first-class language, we can take some pride in this.”

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