The Samoan language has 30 new words, thanks to the team efforts of experts, community leaders, creatives and the popular game Minecraft.
With a simple pack of playing cards featuring Minecraft-inspired designs, the team wants to get the latest vocab about technology – including words for the cloud, algorithms and hotspot – into daily Samoan use.
The new cards – which feature designs from the Moananui Minecraft world, courtesy of Microsoft – were launched at Sutton Park Primary School on Tuesday. Principal Fa’atili Iosua Esera, who is also on the Samoan Language Commission, was on the team developing the new words.
Also on the team was Auckland University Samoan linguist and lecturer Lemoa Henry Fesulua’i.
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Fesulua’i is also secretary of the Fotu o Malama Association – the group for Samoan language teachers at secondary and tertiary institutions.
He said it was important to him for there to be genuinely Samoan words for new technologies, rather than loan words or transliterated words.
For example, when it comes to the word for the cloud – where files and data are stored online – the group didn’t want to call it the same thing as a cloud in the sky, he explained.
Instead, they went with āo tafailagi, a combination of the word for cloud (āo), with part of the word for internet (upega tafa’ilagi), in order to contextualise the older word with the new technology.
The Sutton Park class, whose students each got a pack of cards, is a Samoan-English bilingual unit.
Fesulua’i said ultimately, growing the vocabulary is about enriching gagana Samoa, especially for children.
“This generation, who are definitely more IT savvy than I am, it can provide them with context and maintaining the language.
“If it’s just a transliteration, it feels English. Making it our own, it [tells] our kids that our language, our vocab, it’s rich.”
He said while there may be backlash or criticism about some words, and the fact that their development came from Aotearoa and not Samoa, he is confident the right people were on the team putting the words together.
But he is guessing it will take years before some newer words are used and accepted regularly.
“I don’t think there will be acceptance of the terms until five or 10 years,” he said.
As well as Microsoft and Fotu o Malama Association, the cards were developed by Piki Studios, the Taga Moana Trust, the Ministry of Pacific Peoples and two other organisations focused on learning and teaching Samoan: FAGASA and SAASIA.
Tagata Moana director Nina Oberg Humphries was at Sutton Park on Tuesday to introduce the cards she helped design to the school, as well as show them how to make their own Pasifika-inspired designs on their Minecraft characters.
She said combining arts, culture and Stem (science, technology, engineering and maths) for young people is what Tagata Moana is all about.
Microsoft owns Minecraft, and Piki Studios has been partnering with the game to develop indigenous designs for learning resources, including these playing cards.
The online world-building game is a popular teaching resource for both educators and children.
Microsoft and Piki Studios released a similar deck of cards but with tech words in te reo Māori.
They included new kupu developed with the Māori Language Commission, such as kimu matihiko, which means digital games. Matihiko comes from mati, meaning fingers, and hiko means energy.