Modern technology meets an ancient language in a new series of games developed to help engage students in learning the Secwepemc language.
The Chief Atahm School, a Secwepemc language immersion school near Chase on the Adams Lake Indian Band, has partnered with an educational game development team called Jetpack Learning from Belfast, Ireland to develop several games centred on the Secwepemc language.
The Jetpack team worked closely with the Chief Atahm School to design games that fit with Secwepemc culture and imagery while also providing a fun way to further learn the language.
According to Kathryn Michel, language education specialist with the Chief Atahm School who helped with production of the learning games, there was common ground between the school and Jetpack Learning which made the project a great fit.
“I was doing some searching and I happened across this Irish language education site and they had some games, I was really impressed with the quality so I contacted the developers,” she says. “They are really wanting to do minority language games, that is their focus. Obviously they have a passion for the Irish language so they were excited to do the project.”
From there it was a process of back-and-forth consultation to decide on the focus of the games and what language skills would be the priority for the initial run of games. Some discussion also took place regarding the imagery presented by the game to ensure it included visuals that are rooted in Secwepemc culture.
“Bringing more attention to the language and feeling we have a quality product we can be proud of, I think that is what we are gaining from this. We are bringing our language into this modern age, where maybe before we just had textbooks,” Michel says.
Seven different language games have been developed so far, ranging from basic sound recognition and pronunciation tests to spelling lessons and sentence construction. While noting there are challenges that come with teaching a historic language through games, Michel hopes the games become a tool to further classroom learning and make simple lessons available anywhere, anytime.
“I think the big thing about being online is we have a number of people from the Secwepemc nation living nearby and they cant really come to community classes or their children can’t attend our school,” Michel says. “So I think our biggest gain is we have made it a lot more accessible so a lot more people can gain access to it.”
Michel says there are plans to develop other games as well, potentially with more advanced lessons for higher level students, but for the time being they are meant as more of a starting point for learners.
She hopes the fusion of modern learning tools with the ancient Secwepemc language can assist with introducing the language to a new generation.
“A lot of times we have to find different ways of teaching our skills,” she begins. “I think sometimes people see it is a dated language and there is no way to use it in today’s world, but I think doing something like a game shows you can actually use modern technology and still be able to learn the language. It’s important to learn our language is still viable in this day and age, I think this is showcasing we can use technology to bring it to the forefront.”
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