New signs hang in Howsers IGA, showing viewers how to pronounce the Tlingít words for the household items and groceries they’re buying. (Rashah McChesney/Chilkat Valley News)

Drop into Howsers IGA to buy a bottle of orange juice and right next to the price tag – $7.75  – you might notice a new QR code stuck to the shelf. 

A quick scan and Marsha Guneiwtí Hotch’s low, deliberate voice will pop up. “Áanjis kahéeni,” she says three times. 

Pronounced “on-JISS kuh-HE-knee,” it’s the Tlingít phrase for orange juice. A few steps away, a quick scan, and here’s Hotch again saying “Gwádaa,” the Tlingít word for butter. 

These short clips are sprinkled throughout the store. 

“It’s pretty cool,” said store manager Kevin Shove. “Tlingít words are hard to pronounce. So, I thought it was pretty neat.” 

Shove said a group came in last year and asked about the possibility of putting signs up. Then, beginning this winter, they’ve been bringing them by the store for staff to hang up. Each tag has a QR code, the Tlingít word, the English word and the logo of the Chilkoot Indian Association. 

Scan the code with any smartphone camera and a link will pop up, click on it and it’ll take the watcher to Hotch’s 10-second language lessons. 

Aubrey Katzeek and Hotch are leading the effort. 

“I made a Powerpoint with all of the words that we wanted for the grocery store and Marsha [Hotch] did the audio and then I got busy making the QR codes,” said Aubrey Katzeek. “We just wanted the language more in the community. Accessible to everybody.”

Katzeek said grocery store staff have been receptive to the project. 

“They were very gung-ho about it,” Katzeek said. “Anytime I bring them anything, I brought them little things about how to do a QR code. They’ve been very enthusiastic about helping us do that.”

Store staff say they see some people using them, though it’s still slow to catch on. 

“First time I ever did it,” Shove said, of scanning the QR code. “I’m just waiting to see tourists when they show up. They’ll be here soon so they can check it out. And I’m sure that a lot of those people are all into their devices and stuff. I’m anti-device.”

The technology is new to Hotch, too, who said she just recently made her first QR code and has been recording audio of herself and getting it into Powerpoint slides so that Katzeek can do the rest. 

It’s one of several ways that Hotch, who is the only remaining birth speaker who can teach Tlingít in the Chilkat Valley, is lending her knowledge to language learning efforts.  

Shove said the program is still being developed. Next, he’d like to put some Tlingít on the signs above each aisle too. 

“Hopefully it will continue to develop more so it doesn’t get lost,” he said.