Video games into Arapaho for language survival
Thread poster: Emilie Fahlenkamp

Emilie Fahlenkamp  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 21:38
English to Danish
+ ...
Feb 26, 2009

Hello all,

Here is an idea you don't hear often: a friend of mine is working with the Arapaho tribe doing research for her (unrelated) Ph.D., and one of her colleagues came up with the idea of localizing video games into Arapaho to interest the younger generation in learning and revitalizing the language. Obviously there are many, many issues related to this -is there anyone proficient enough in 'video game' as well as Arapaho to do it, how to create new terms in a language that has not evolved to include modern technology, and so on.

I am not sure whether this forum is even the place for this question, but thought I would throw it out there and see what came back. Anyone out there with any ideas, advice, contacts, funds? Or even up for a good discussion on the possibility of reviving a language through the modern medium that is video games?

I look forward to hearing what comes up!

Emilie


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Edward Vreeburg  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 03:38
Member (2008)
English to Dutch
+ ...
lots of endangered languages Feb 26, 2009

Hi Emilie,

There was a posting a few days ago saying that there where many endangered languages, and I guess some are beyond saving (imagine a small group of 90+ people getting on a games console with their grand children...) I imagine they would simply have no words for "first person shoot 'm up", or "end of level nasty"...

Some might not have access to games or other "western" technology at all, but in the vase of Arapaho if there is still a large community, and a lot of young people, and there is some funding the "early learning games" can be easily adapted. (teaching words, colors and counting etc). A full fledged adventure game is simply not going to happen I guess. Development cost would simply be too high...
..The question is, could a game save the language??...
Unless there is some need for a language, even if only used for encrypting messages for instance, it will die...
Is it wise to spend money on saving a language, or would you rather spend it feeding war refugees for instance..

But it's am interesting concept!

Ed Vreeburg
Translate.ED


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Fabio Descalzi  Identity Verified
Uruguay
Local time: 22:38
Member (2004)
German to Spanish
+ ...
Right place to post Feb 26, 2009

Hi Emilie

Thank you for using this forum. First of all, this forum is about language endangerment, survival, revitalization and promotion; and video games in Arapaho are a wonderful way to try this. Thank you for sharing this with all of us.

Then, about the real usefulness of posting here. This forum has become established among ProZians interested in "rare language" issues; but don't forget that such languages deserve a special effort from part of the persons really interested in their promotion, so here goes my advice.

If I were you, I would consider this issue from three points of view:
- pure technical
- pure linguistics
- technical+language aspects
- economical

The "pure technical" part is pretty obvious. A good knowledge of technical devices involved is essential; and localization is a discipline in its own right.

The "pure linguistics" aspect means: translate expressions, dialogues, etc. - whatever could be heard from a "normal" Arapaho speaker in everyday life. That might be the easy part of this.

Then, the interface between language and technical aspects. As Edward puts it, a more difficult part, which in turn means (maybe) the biggest interest of this. Let's see how the grammatical structure of Arapaho allows for... "modernisation"!

And last but not least, Edward says it: "development cost would simply be too high". Yet another aspect to analyze.

Good luck!
Fabio


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Fabio Descalzi  Identity Verified
Uruguay
Local time: 22:38
Member (2004)
German to Spanish
+ ...
... and other forums to post or look for information Feb 26, 2009

As I stated, this issue has many aspects. And we must consider them in-depth.

I did a simple Forum Search and found some suggestions.

Localization forum: didn't find anything there, but maybe if you post "Localization into North American Languages" as a broader concept (without even mentioning video games) might help. http://www.proz.com/forum/29 Remember, though, that Forum Rules forbids re-posting; so in case you decide to use these other forums, beware of this, and fully rewrite your issue in order to adapt it.

The Lighter Side of Translation forum has some interesting available threads: one about "Videogames: They suffer the WORST translations" http://www.proz.com/topic/10782 and another about "Literature on videogames translation" http://www.proz.com/topic/32509

Translation Theory and Practice forum offers a thread about "Computer game terminology and glossaries", http://www.proz.com/topic/121808

And, last but not least, at Getting Established forum you see a very general thread for beginners, about "Translating video games", http://www.proz.com/topic/54956

Hope this helps.
Fabio


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Alan R King
Local time: 03:38
Basque to English
+ ...
other fundamental factors and some thoughts Feb 26, 2009

Fabio Descalzi wrote:

If I were you, I would consider this issue from three points of view:
- pure technical
- pure linguistics
- technical+language aspects
- economical


Fabio's points address development of the material, but I would start by taking a further step backwards (to get a bigger perspective) and asking not, first, about the feasibility of producing something but the likelihood of its being useful. Here again we could roll out a list of "points of view". I'll leave you to work on that, since I haven't got a ready made answer. But you definitely need to think about target audience: who will use it? You also need to think about the target audience's material conditions: will they have access to the infrastructure and equipment needed to use video games? Can they get them if not, and would that be useful to them and their community? How?... Then there is the "point of view" of cultural and educational readiness: do the target audience have the basic skills needed to make use of such games? Does the answer to this question have a bearing on what kind of games (how "sophisticated", how text-oriented...), if any, would be appropriate? Again, a dynamic response to this is possible: can the target audience be helped to ACQUIRE such skills if they don't have them yet?

I think that such questions are there to be answered and can be addressed either in a more superficial or a more thoroughgoing manner - and the resulting product may be of less or more value to the target community and language correspondingly. Here the word (and concept of) responsibility should loom on the horizon: let us not only hunt for resources but use them well when we get them. (The future of somebody else's language or entire culture may be hanging in the balance.) From experience and conviction I make a plea not to be slipshod at this preliminary, all-important planning stage.

Now for a word of optimism and encouragement. If you can get these answers right and develop a good product, this may turn out to be a model that can be applied to other minority/endangered languages too. Perhaps the same game could be translated or used as a template. You might like to consider that possibility from the drawing board stage and plan for it.


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FarkasAndras
Local time: 03:38
English to Hungarian
+ ...
why Feb 26, 2009

Emilie Fahlenkamp wrote:

Hello all,

Here is an idea you don't hear often: a friend of mine is working with the Arapaho tribe doing research for her (unrelated) Ph.D., and one of her colleagues came up with the idea of localizing video games into Arapaho to interest the younger generation in learning and revitalizing the language. Obviously there are many, many issues related to this -is there anyone proficient enough in 'video game' as well as Arapaho to do it, how to create new terms in a language that has not evolved to include modern technology, and so on.

I am not sure whether this forum is even the place for this question, but thought I would throw it out there and see what came back. Anyone out there with any ideas, advice, contacts, funds? Or even up for a good discussion on the possibility of reviving a language through the modern medium that is video games?

I look forward to hearing what comes up!

Emilie


Interesting idea.
I personally think there is no point in trying to artificially sustain a language if the community of native speakers is too small and/or uninterested in their own language. It's theirs, if they prefer switching to English because they want to integrate better and get better jobs, so be it.


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Fabio Descalzi  Identity Verified
Uruguay
Local time: 22:38
Member (2004)
German to Spanish
+ ...
Why not? Feb 26, 2009

FarkasAndras wrote:
Interesting idea.
I personally think there is no point in trying to artificially sustain a language if the community of native speakers is too small and/or uninterested in their own language. It's theirs, if they prefer switching to English because they want to integrate better and get better jobs, so be it.

I like the word you use, "switching". If speakers of the Arapaho language, together with potential speakers of that language, start seeing an attractive option (and a modern one!) to use it, why not switching to Arapaho...?


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FarkasAndras
Local time: 03:38
English to Hungarian
+ ...
why not Feb 26, 2009

Fabio Descalzi wrote:

FarkasAndras wrote:
Interesting idea.
I personally think there is no point in trying to artificially sustain a language if the community of native speakers is too small and/or uninterested in their own language. It's theirs, if they prefer switching to English because they want to integrate better and get better jobs, so be it.

I like the word you use, "switching". If speakers of the Arapaho language, together with potential speakers of that language, start seeing an attractive option (and a modern one!) to use it, why not switching to Arapaho...?


Do you mean why not switch (back) to Arapaho? Of course, why not? "Modern" is a bit of a stretch, but if anyone wishes to speak any language they fancy for whatever reason, I'm all for it. Of course, they shouldn't expect the majority to adapt to them (make their language an official language if the speakers make up


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Emilie Fahlenkamp  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 21:38
English to Danish
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks Feb 26, 2009

Hello everyone,

Many thanks for your advice and comments; that is exactly why I decided to post here. I of course realize that there are issues beyond the practical in this case, least of all the issue of using these resources responsibly, and the risk of imposing a cultural majority “fix-it” attitude onto a very complex problem.

Alan, I think you make an important point in mentioning the target audiences’ cultural and material readiness for this kind of project, and whether this will even be useful in a linguistic revival context. As I understand it, the aim here is to get a younger generation to use the language in a dynamic way; as it is, I am told that they are using Arapaho words with English but will not speak Arapaho in full sentences. As a target audience, teenagers may well be receptive to video games in Arapaho, since they are possibly already playing in English.

Edward, I agree that a fully-fledged action-game may not be possible in this case, nor might it even be useful. Here, reviving the language is about more than the academic and linguistic achievement, the aim is to allow a group of (young) people with some very real social problems to develop pride in their ancestry and culture. As you say, there are many other ways to spend money wisely in this day and age, but perhaps this could be part of an effort to revitalize a dying language, and with it validate the cultural environment –void, even? –in which these young people find themselves.

Fabio, thanks for the resources, I will definitely look at these other threads. It is easy to get caught up in the academic merits of concepts like these, and forget that there are very real logistical, financial and practical issues, too.

FarkasAndras, interesting point about trying to artificially sustain the language in a community that may not be interested in this. The question is whether the interest is there but the resources are lacking, or whether the resources are lacking because the interest is not there? Sure, in order to survive, they need English-speaking jobs, but perhaps one would not need to exclude the other?

Thanks again for your many insights!

Emilie


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