Video game launched to teach endangered languages
Native company launches video game to teach endangered languages, cultures
BANNING, Calif. Thornton Media, Inc. has produced RezWorld, a 3-D fully
immersive video game that teaches Native languages. The game is adaptable
to any indigenous language in the world. This is the first time such a
revolutionary technology is available to Indigenous people before the
In the game, characters speak and interact within the parameters of
Indigenous language and culture.
Like in other interactive games such as Grand Theft Auto and The Sims, the
player controls the main character in the game.
Imagine a world inhabited by intelligent virtual humans that speak only
your Indigenous language, said Don Thornton, TMIs Chief Executive
Officer. To reach the games goals you must communicate with other
characters that recognize not only your language but also your gestures and
behavior. The game teaches languages in context and also cultural protocols
based on character behaviors.
Thornton Media, Inc., the creative minds behind the RezWorld 3-D video
game was the first company to offer customized hi-tech tools to revitalize
Native languages. Since its launch in 1995, it has become the recognized
leader in the industry. TMI, a Native-owned company with more than 100
tribal clients in the United States and Canada, has invested over
six-figures into the game.
The reason I am so aggressive about saving indigenous languages is because
I am a Cherokee Nation citizen and the Cherokee language is in worse shape
than ever, Thornton said. About five years ago, there were 15,000
speakers, now there are only about 6,000. A Cherokee language department
staff member recently remarked, Some weeks we lose 100 speakers. Think
about the language situation in 10 years.
Traditional methods such as language classes, tapes and CDs have been
largely ineffective in producing speakers. Immersion programs dont produce
speakers quickly enough to offset the elders we are losing. Across the
country Indian Nations are working to revitalize their languages. If young
people dont learn now, the language will be gone forever.
How effective is this language game? RezWorld is based on Alelos
technology. Alelos products started as a research project in 2003 at the
University of Southern Californias Information Sciences Institute under
funding from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. The video game
technology has been third-party tested on more than 25,000 students
(learning Arabic) to be proven more effective than traditional methods.
Users achieved an Interagency Language Roundtable proficiency level of 0+,
an ACTFL proficiency level of novice high after as little as one 40 hour
week of study.
In 2007, Alelos Tactical Iraqi Language & Culture Training System won the
Best Serious Game award at the Serious Games Showcase & Challenge hosted by
the Interservice/Industry Training, Simulation and Education Conference.
The game blends cutting-edge technologic and pedagogic innovations in
interactive simulations, intelligent tutoring systems, artificial
intelligence, human-computer interaction, and speech recognition.
The RezWorld pilot, a Cherokee version, is designed to produce
conversational Cherokee speakers. Thornton Media licensed Alelos
technology for the indigenous market and will be presenting the game in
Melbourne, Australia next month at the World Indigenous Peoples Conference