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My Oulu: Learning Sámi languages with an app – watch the video

25.1.2022

Oulu-based software developer Ludocraft has created the “Gávpotfearán” app for teaching Sámi languages to children living in urban environments. The Sámi are the only indigenous people within the European Union area.

With about 60% of Finland’s 10,000 Sámi living outside the Sámi homeland area, there is a danger that children lose connection with their language roots. Of particular concern is the relationship between city life and Sámi languages.

“My child is a fluent North Sámi speaker, but we do not have playgrounds and cafés where we come from in Sámi land,” says Satu Pieski, a North Sámi teacher living in Oulu. She has worked on the Gávpotfearán project.

“You do not learn city words in Sámi land. Our children need to learn new words when they move to cities and this app is helping them to do that.”

Vibrant learning experience

Gávpotfearán teaches hundreds of words and phrases in all three Sámi languages spoken in Finland. It is popular with Sámi children in Oulu, with many using the app enthusiastically every day.

“It is a vibrant learning experience on a mobile phone, combining features of board games and card games,” explains Ludocraft CEO Tony Manninen.

In Gávpotfearán, which means city adventures in Sámi, children play a game as young city explorers. After each roll of the dice, a card is given that players can keep after solving a Sámi vocabulary challenge. The aim is to collect as many cards as possible.

“The focus of the game is children’s everyday life, including going to school and having fun at the playground,” reveals Tony Manninen.

“They also learn vocabulary related to mobile phones, computers and sports equipment.”

Culturally important project

According to UNESCO, all Sámi languages are endangered, even Northern Sámi which has about 30,000 speakers across the Nordic countries, including 2,000 in Finland. The other two languages spoken in Finland, Inari Sámi and Skolt Sámi, have only about 300 speakers each.

Oulu is located 350 kilometres away from the Sámi homeland area in Finland. There are about 800 Sámi residents in Oulu. The city provides free nursery education in Northern Sámi for Sámi children.

Tony Manninen is proud of Ludocraft’s contribution to promoting Sámi languages and culture.

“This was a very exciting project. We had a chance to create a tool that is culturally very important – and we also learnt a lot in the process.”

Gávpotfearán project

Ludocraft created the app in co-operation with a Sámi language education project run by the municipality of Utsjoki and co-ordinated by the Sámi Parliament of Finland.

The project provides online language classes in all three Sámi languages spoken in Finland.

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