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Video game launched to teach endangered languages

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  • Robert Schmidt
    http://nativetimes.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=535&Itemid =0 Native company launches video game to teach endangered languages, cultures
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 3, 2008
      http://nativetimes.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=535&Itemid
      =0

      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
      mainstream culture.

      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, TMI’s Chief Executive
      Officer. To reach the game’s 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 don’t 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 don’t learn now, the language will be gone forever.”

      How effective is this language game? RezWorld™ is based on Alelo’s
      technology. Alelo’s products started as a research project in 2003 at the
      University of Southern California’s 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, Alelo’s 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 Alelo’s
      technology for the indigenous market and will be presenting the game in
      Melbourne, Australia next month at the World Indigenous People’s Conference
      on Education.
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