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Learning the Sámi Vocabulary Through City Adventures – Gávpotfearán for Utsjoki and the Sámi Parliament of Finland 

Learning the Sámi Vocabulary Through City Adventures – Gávpotfearán for Utsjoki and the Sámi Parliament of Finland

The Challenge

How to intertwine your language and culture into everyday life when the surrounding world communicates in another language? And how do you do it in a way that is easy to approach and motivating for kids? These were the types of challenges we set out to solve together with the municipality of Utsjoki and Sámi Parliament of Finland as part of their pilot project for using remote connections to benefit Sámi languages.

Language and Heritage Meet in the City

We chatted with the project manager, Hanna Helander, along with other professionals involved in the project and concluded that their goals can be reached quite well with our LudoTrek platform. So, we drafted up a concept combining the themes of the pilot project to our platform and presented it to Hanna and her team. It was already at this point where the name of the game emerged; Gávpotfearán – city adventure in Northern Sámi.

Working and Playing Together

We have a couple of qualified teachers in our ranks at LudoCraft, one of them even happens to be a language teacher. But with no Sámi experts in our team, it meant that we got to work in close co-operation with Hanna and her team. This ensured the themes and vocabulary of the game are applied as effectively and purposefully as possible (while not forgetting the fun of learning the game brings).

Adventure Awaits

With playable versions shared throughout development, we were able to make sure the language and culture aspects were an integral part of development. In addition, the LudoTrek platform’s dynamic set of gameplay mechanics enabled us to make an accessible and enjoyable learning experience. Through collaboration, Gávpotfearán formed into an exciting adventure where kids get to journey through a vibrant city with each roll of a dice.

Languages and Culture at Play

When you think about the Sámi languages and culture, the mind easily starts to wonder towards the north. Perhaps images of the aurora borealis, goahti and nomadic life come to mind. All quite traditional takes of the Sámi culture. But at the same time you might be quite aware that it isn’t the whole picture. The relation between everyday life in the cities and Sámi languages and culture was also something that worried the municipality of Utsjoki and the Sámi Parliament of Finland. Especially when it came to Sámi kids living in predominantly Finnish cities.

With real concern that lack of visibility could lead to people losing touch with the Sámi culture, Utsjoki and the Sámi Parliament started a pilot project for using remote connections to benefit Sámi languages. Gávpotfearán, a game about city adventures, was developed as one tool to help promote Sámi languages and culture to young children in particular.

As part of our initial talks with Hanna Helander, the pilot project’s manager, and her team, it was already apparent that the everyday life of kids would be the central focus of the game. Things like going to school, having fun at the playground and getting ice cream formed the core vocabulary for the city adventure. In addition, Hanna and her team pointed out that language relating to feelings and emotions along with aspects of community bring an added level of depth into the cultural experience.

Shaping the World

Language, stories and words help us make sense of the world around us. They also help us shape and anchor how we see the world. A simple example is the wide collection of words we have for different types of snow when living in the northern part of the world. After all, snow makes up our world for a good chunk of the year. As language is an essential building block of culture, it is highly important that kids – and adults alike – get to ponder, analyze and build their world with their own language. This was the starting point for building the adventures of Gávpotfearán.

The adventures in Gávpotfearán were built with our own LudoTrek platform. It enabled us to create a fully vibrant and immersive learning experience on mobile, combining board game and card game mechanics. Children get to play as a young city explorer. After each roll of the dice, the game presents a playing card that can be kept as long as a Sámi vocabulary challenge is solved. In order to fully explore the city, the aim is to collect as many playing cards as possible.

The game has two levels: a playground and a city. A part of the city adventure is to travel between the two places; a change of scenery keeps the game interesting. The dice plays into the same element of keeping the game interesting. With the dice, the players always takes a chance on the type of vocabulary challenge they will face.

Both levels have their own vocabulary themes and lots to explore. When the player solves vocabulary challenges in the cards, more of the level opens up and what was once grey and dull becomes full of colour. In a sense, by being able to communicate and understand the world through the lens of your own language, it becomes more colourful a place.

Gávpotfearán in Three Steps

Three Languages

Gávpotfearán offers different language options for the player, depending on which of the three Sámi languages spoken in Finland they want to practice. The player can choose from Inari Sámi, Skolt Sámi, and Northern Sámi.

Phonetically Speaking

Gávpotfearán has a voiceover that reads all text displayed on screen throughout the game. In all three languages. It’s highly important that kids are familiar with the phonetics of the Sámi languages to master fluent speaking.

Tracing Your Steps

As children circle the gameboard and collect playing cards through solving vocabulary challenges, more of the game’s environment becomes visible. This helps the player see their progress in an easy-to-grasp and colourful way.

LudoCraft Way of Working

We wanted to focus on Sámi as an active and living language in everyday life. LudoCraft’s way of working incorporated us as a part of their game development team, making sure the Gávpotfearán game integrally emphasises language and culture aspects as part of the player experience. Bringing Sámi pedagogy into the game was important to us and it was therefore great that we were able to edit the script. This way of working resulted in a cohesive game with inspiring and motivating features for children.”

– Hanna Helander, Project Manager, Pilot project utilising remote connections for the benefit of Sámi languages

Collaboration with Language Barriers

For LudoCraftians, Gávpotfearán was a unique project not only because we got to help kids learn. But also because it was done in languages none of us speak or understand. It created a lovely balance where our team and Hanna’s team worked together to make sure all three Sámi languages of the game are in place as they should be. The three languages in the game are Northern Sámi, Skolt Sámi and Inari Sámi.

It also meant our testing process was a bit different. We were able to make sure everything works from a game design, art and tech perspective. But we needed the help of Hanna and her team to make sure the content is accurate. Luckily, Hanna’s team had teachers to make sure the content quality is of high standard, too. As a bonus we got a language immersion course with all the voiceovers of the three languages echoed at our office when testing the game’s overall player experience.

Embark on Your Own Gávpotfearán

Feel like it’s time to go and explore the city? Maybe go for a swim or jump on a seesaw while learning Sámi languages? Download Gávpotfearán and get to adventuring.

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Marja Kuipers