Language cops make app to report language violations

The State Language Center (VVC) has launched an app that will allow people to report suspected violations of Latvian language law.

The app, titled Valodas draugs (Language Friend) was released January 23 and is currently available on Google Play, while there are "some problems" with the Apple version, VVC representative Sarmīte Pāvulāne told Latvian Radio. 

Its release was touted at a Justice Ministry press conference, and members of the right-of-center National Alliance party took to Twitter to enthusiastically promote the app.

People can use Valodas draugs to send their complaints directly to VVC, for example, by photographing a sign that violates State Language Law, suggested Pāvulāne. Short videos are also accepted. 

It comes in handy with instructions to help understand whether what is spotted is in fact a language violation, not a typographical or grammatical mistake. 

Possible responses to language violations can take several forms, said Pāvulāne. "Perhaps, a phone call would suffice. Maybe it'd be enough to visit them and meet the responsible persons. If there are any bigger problems, [VVC] would act according to the State Language Law," she said. That can mean a fine.

Interestingly, the app also has an option to praise examples of innovative language use. Pāvulāne suggests that people use the function to praise foreign companies whose employees speak impeccable Latvian, or companies that opt for words with Latvian roots, instead of loanwords. 

Valodas draugs also appears to have a panel listing the 'top 10' language violations, presumably urging language cops to monitor public opinion and deal with these violations first. 

Received warmly by nationalist politicians, the app nevertheless plays less well with others. On the first day of its public launch, Valodas draugs already ranks poorly on the Google Play store, with seven out of eight reviews handing the app a single-star rating.

Several users voiced discontent online about the app at a time when language tensions are high. "The app has been made to humiliate national minorities," said one review. 

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