ONLINE LANGUAGE GAMES FOR ENDANGERED LANGUAGES (JEUX.TSHAKAPESH.CA & WWW.EASTCREE.ORG/LESSONS)
It is often a struggle to create a strong presence on the web for Aboriginal languages and to make use of Information and Communication Technologies to support language preservation and maintenance. One crucial aspect of aboriginal language retention, at least in Canada, (1) has been the development of literacy in Aboriginal languages. We report on a series of projects with two Aboriginal linguistic groups in Canada: Cree and Innu. Using a collaborative (participatory action) research framework with partners involved in language teaching, we have been developing for the last 6 years on-line language lessons and games aimed at aboriginal bilingual speakers (Cree-English and Innu-French) that wish to become literate in their language. The first set of lessons and exercises, developed in 2006, was aimed at fluent adult speakers of East Cree who had been schooled in English and wanted to learn basic syllabic orthography. The next sets had to take into consideration multiple uses and users, including a parallel development for the Innu language, which does not use syllabics. The latter sets of games include vocabulary enrichment, the teaching of grammatical concepts, and the discovery of language structure.
Different interfaces allow on-going creation of new lessons and exercises. Features include: sound and image, computer generated random variation, tractable results and progress, specialized writing systems like Cree Syllabics.
Such online language games are database driven web applications with an extensive collection of multimedia. They require a web and database server on the back-end, and a web browser for access on the user-end. These two requirements form the main technical challenges, but are compounded by the need to integrate the multimedia collection with other language applications such as online web dictionaries (2), (3).
The project has provided training to aboriginal educators. Team design of the tool as well as the games content has allowed flexibility and incremental development, as well as resource transfer from one language group to another.
In this multimedia presentation, we report on the design process, and discuss the tools, technology, and methods used to implement these language games (4), (5).
(1) Drapeau, Lynn. 1992. Bilan de l'instrumentalisation et de la modernisation dans les langues autochtones. In Jacques Maurais (ed.) Les langues autochtones du Québec. Québec: Publications du Québec.
(2) The Eastern James Bay Cree Dictionary on the Web: http://www.eastcree.org/cree/en/dictionary/
(3) Dictionnaire Innu Dictionary Aimun-Mashinaikan: www.innu-aimun/dictionnaire