Our languages are something that keeps us individuals unique, setting us apart from everyone around us. They define our identity and assist in keeping our culture and traditions alive. Traditions are what inspire and influence the way we work, learn, behave and live our lives. So, loss of tradition has become a well-known concern we face in today's world.
The next generation of children will be the ones to inherit the responsibility to keep our languages alive. By understanding today's generation, the most viable method for them to learn their native language is through interactive play - through verbal, physical, visual, aural, solitary and social interaction. These techniques are all included in the design of this game.
Talanoa focuses on the issue of loss of Samoan language. It's main goal is to help promote and educate the younger generation to speak Samoan and comprehend the significance of the language.
"New Zealand is one out of few countries with the most ethnicities in the world" (Anon, 2015). New Zealand has offered a lot to many; it has become a homeland to the majority of immigrants from different cultures. It became my home, and I am grateful for that. Recently, it has come to my attention that we all communicate using mainly one dominant language: English, which has become almost every Pacific students' first language.
While living in New Zealand's diverse society, I embraced what makes each and every one of us unique: our culture, our tradition and most of all, our language. It has come to my attention that our native language is a valuable aspect of our people. It is what developed and carried our culture and traditions, from the past to the 'now'. It is part of who we are (our identity) and it builds strong connections between worlds.
My concern is seeing my native language die. Many of the new generations don't see the importance, just yet. Not knowing how to speak their native language has become a normal trend. About 7,000 languages are spoken in the world today, and it is predicted that nearly half are most likely to disappear in this century (Wilford, J.N. 2007). Loss of language leads to loss of culture, traditions and above all, loss of connection to our ancestors and to our people.
I have spoken Samoan all my life, and no one can take that away from me. It is a treasure of my country that I carry with me. Therefore, for this project, I have decided to tackle the issue of ‘loss of language’ by designing an interactive product, mainly for the young, seeking to teach the importance and value of language. I envision a generation that will gladly acknowledge their home roots and history.
After months of research, prototyping and testing, I have designed Talanoa (‘Converse’), a board game for Samoan families who try to teach the young ones their language. Talanoa is an Alphabet and Spelling word game for beginners. Talanoa was designed for each player to have their own board, learning together through weave-like action, as well as individually.
The process is simple: the board creates the sound of the letters or images when pressing on them or placing them on the Fala Faitau Pi (Alphabet Mat). There are electronics inside both sides of the board game for the sound pronunciation to work. I have embedded magnets underneath each wooden piece to help with the interaction and intuitive learning.
Although designed for children 5 to 10 years of age, it works for anyone who wants to learn the Samoan language. It is a timeless game that can be passed down to the next generation. Perfect in both home and public settings.