Language revitalization has been more confined into traditional print material such as books, flashcards, and even flyers. Given that we are in the 21st century, and our upcoming generation has more exposure to digital technology. I wanted to intersect language revitalization and digital technology to create something that will create a more fun and exciting environment to be immersed in the language and gain an intuition to learn new words through such a platform. This was also inspired by the work I was able to do with a spring break community service program to develop paper prototype apps for K-12 students from the Eastern Band Cherokee Reservation to learn their language.
Shoshone is a Uto-Aztecan language spoken widely throughout the Western United States, and its dialects (including Goshute and Comanche) stretch as far south as Texas and as far north as Washington. It is linguistically comparable to Paiute, Ute, Nahuatl, and Hopi. There are less than 1,000 native speakers throughout the tribes, and most of these speakers are over 50 years old. With the number of language learners not sufficient enough to overcome the increasing number of losing native speakers, the language is at risk of dying, so there needs to be a new way to gauge interest within the communities to learn their language.
The United Nations has declared 2019 as the International Year of Indigenous Languages, as a resolution adopted upon the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, where this year will be time to focus and raise global awareness on the rate of critical loss and take action to do everything we can to promote, revitalize, and preserve our languages.
The translation project allows for the user to have an immersive experience of the language, which not only retains the cultural aspects of the language, but is on a platform that is symmetric to modern culture that the user would be familiar with outside of Shoshone. This game allows us to redefine what it means to be Shoshone in 2019. It maintains traditional Shoshone terminology and brings it to life in a new setting. The game introduces the user to a consistent writing system that they can use instead of spelling it phonetically, which can become a problem when spelling longer and more complex words.
I modified the assembly code text to display the Shoshone text in the game, and then I compiled the data files to create a playable Game Boy ROM that can be used on any emulator that supports this type of ROM file.
Because of how the language was documented and the extreme loss of the language over the colonization era, and there are no new words that are being created to let the language survive, I was unable to translate some of the words, so it is not a direct translation from English. Also, some of the sprites were not able to display the way I wanted it to, maybe because of whatever pixel it's calling within the game scripts. I tried to make a letter in the game's character map, a̲i̲ , which is not found in the English language and only exists in Unicode encoding. I used the letter q as a replacement since Shoshone does not use q, but since the prototype is not completely translated, where ever an English word would have a q, there would be an a̲i̲ in that spot.
I'm proud of being able to have a working prototype of the game and learn how assembly code works without having to have an extensive coding background. I am pleased with how I was able to translate as much as I could with only the use of a dictionary and printed resources that were readily available within this time frame. Changing the sprite in the beginning was something was seems so small for a developer, but makes a huge difference to be welcomed with an Indigenous perspective right at your fingertips. I also appreciate my attempt to fully support the orthography I picked with using a filler character.
You can do a lot with technology to support our 8th generation Indigenous people, even as simple as translating a game. We can often work with what we have sitting right in front of us to make it work for us. I hope that the different Shoshone communities would be able to use this and create dialogue within the communities to get our next generation to work on digitizing the language and to indigenize tech.
The main goal is to have the prototype be fully and properly translated. The next step would be to change the landscape of the game to fit the traditional place names I had the trainer go to. I also want to be able to put this onto a real Game Boy cartridge that can be played on a real Game Boy to be used for educational purposes, whether that be in a classroom or for on-the-go learning. Additionally, I want to expand this project to be not just Pokemon, but for different games and different consoles, and maybe even design a completely new game available for something like Playstation 4 or Xbox One.
To learn more about the 2019 International Year of Indigenous Languages, visit https://en.iyil2019.org
The time is now to work together to save our Indigenous languages.