Saving Native Languages and Culture in Mexico With Computer Games
Indigenous children in Mexico can now learn their mother tongues with specialized computer games, helping to prevent the further loss of those languages across the country.
“Three years ago, before we employed these materials, we were on the verge of seeing our children lose our Native languages,” asserted Matilde Hernandez, a teacher in Zitacuaro, Michoacan.
“Now they are speaking and singing in Mazahua as if that had never happened,” Hernandez said, referring to computer software that provides games and lessons in most of the linguistic families of the country including Mazahua, Chinanteco, Nahuatl of Puebla, Tzeltal, Mixteco, Zapateco, Chatino and others.
The new software was created by scientists and educators in two research institutions in Mexico: the Victor Franco Language and Culture Lab (VFLCL) of the Center for Investigations and Higher Studies in Social Anthropology (CIHSSA); and the Computer Center of the National Institute of Astrophysics, Optics and Electronics (NIAOE).
According to reports released this summer, the software was developed as a tool to help counteract the educational lag in indigenous communities and to employ these educational technologies so that the children may learn various subjects in an entertaining manner while reinforcing their Native language and culture.
“This software – divided into three methodologies for three different groups of applications – was made by dedicated researchers who have experience with Indigenous Peoples,” said Dr. Frida Villavicencio, Coordinator of the VLFCL’s Language Lab.
“We must have an impact on the children,” she continued, “offering them better methodologies for learning their mother tongues, as well as for learning Spanish and for supporting their basic education in a fun way.”
Villavicencio pointed out that the games and programs were not translated from the Spanish but were developed in the Native languages with the help of Native speakers. She added that studies from Mexico’s National Institute of Indigenous Languages (NIIL) show that the main reason why indigenous languages disappear, or are in danger of doing so, is because in each generation fewer and fewer of the children speak those languages.
“We need bilingual children only in that way can we preserve their languages,” she added.
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