29 June 2012

The boardgame and the flashcards

Before the era of online games in my household, the kids and I played a lot of UNO, Snake and Ladder and Monopoly. There were other games of course, but for some reason, the kids kept asking me to play these games with them. So it was no surprise that these three games had influenced the Dusun Cultural boardgame that my friend and I invented recently. It started in a very peculiar manner. We were trying to bear one of those long, repetitive 'department' meetings, and ended up talking about our research and how we could possibly combine our knowledge in creating a language boardgame. My friend scribbled down some ideas, as we excitedly brainstormed in whispers. We got through the meeting, and ended up with loads of ideas for an ambitious game. To cut a long story short, the end product though wasn't as elaborated as we planned it initially because of time constraints. I decided to take on the task of game designer, based on some of the friend's research findings. We selected a few words relevant to the culture of the Dusun people- of which, some are not in use anymore. We thought it would be great to teach the learners these words (in our case in UMS, the learners are non-native speakers of any Kadazandusun dialects, thus learning the KD language as a third language). Because we didn't even have the time to rope in our friends who are IT experts in UMS, we have (or rather I have) begged Kastumized.com to transfer our game concepts into IT. I am very impressed that despite having less than a week to do it, they actually did a wonderful job. They gave us a wonderful board and rewards/sanction cards. And my son lent me his lego pieces to be the player icons. A dice completed the game. The night before we presented the game for the PEREKA (literally 'inventor') competition in UMS, I had some KD students played it (before, I piloted on my 3 kids-the best critics, twice). When I saw my students having so much fun playing it, I knew we had done something worthwhile. And yes, we bagged a Silver Medal for that simple game. Credits to Kastumized.com team, of course!
Well, another kastumized.com story. I have always been personally impressed with this young company, run by a team of resourceful, smart, and versatile young professionals. Their recent product is a set of English-Kadazandusun flashcards. I have willingly vetted the contents based on my knowledge of 'Kadazandusun'. To those who are not aware of the language scenario in Sabah, there are many labels used to refer to the various ethnic and language groups sharing similar culture and dialects. Kadazandusun is the general term used nowadays to refer to the many ethnic groups who share the same culture and speak dialects of the same language. Many would be familiar with the term Kadazan, most often associated with the 'Kadazandusun' people of Penampang and Papar areas. Dusun, is also quite a popular term. I refer to myself as Dusun, as I believe I should define my ethnicity based on the language of my community. To be specific, I am a Bundu Dusun. Now, Bundu and Liwan are two prominent dialects spoken in most areas (mostly interior)in Sabah. You'd find Bundu in Kota Belud, Kota Marudu, Tamparuli, and Ranau, mostly. While you'll find Liwan in Ranau, Tambunan and Keningau, mostly. Among Bundu and Liwan themselves, there are many other labels and sub-dialects. My friend's phd research (the friend who co-created the boardgame) is on the political system of the Kadazandusun people. (and he is not even a Kadazandusun- he is from Malaya). For over 4 years he went to all the places inhabited by the different Kadazandusun people in Sabah, and has come to this conclusion: 'The most widely spoken dialects of Kadazandusun are Bundu and Liwan'. I am quite relief to hear that. Not because I am a Bundu speaker. But because it justifies the merit of basing the so called standard Kadazandusun language taught in Sabah schools on Bundu/Liwan. Dusun Sokid (another referent :)= meaning 'upper', 'hill') or not, these dialects actually count. What has that piece of long info got to do with the flashcards? Well, because in Sabah, any sincere and innocent efforts to add to the existing Kadazandusun educational aids will STILL be CRITISISED. I don't blame people for criticising. It's human nature after all. If one said, for example, that the word 'Kolibambang' is wrong for 'butterfly' because in their dialect it is 'Bambayangan', it is merely a dialectal difference. I did a few months data collection among speakers of Bundu, have been living next door to Liwan speakers most of my life, and know for a fact that 'Kolibambang' means 'butterflies' (you know those beautiful, colourful bugs) in these dialects. So yeah, there's no satisfying people. The only way to be satisfied is to do the research yourself- I am lucky I am in the position to do so. And I always encourage the Kadazandusun people to enrich the standard KD languages by having a lot of synonyms (next project, Kastumized? Kadazandusun synonyms :). So we can have bambayangan and kolibambang as synonyms, and be happy! Anyhow, the intention was to congratulate Kastumized for the flashcards. The size was a bit small for me, but just nice for my son who has been devotedly reading the cards day by day. His conclusion was ' That's all, Mom?". Obviously wanting more!