Creating Language Courses

How can a games journalist improve language learning?

Hi, my name is Suzanne and I’m here to help you use Capeesh to create a more inclusive workplace. 

I used to write about games (you may have read one of my 4000 pieces) and I still do now and then, but I’m currently more focused on pursuing another passion of mine: language – or more specifically, the importance of context in communication and how it relates to a more inclusive workplace (And also, how games can be used for the betterment of society). There’s no better place to do that than at Capeesh!

I’ve been a translator for the past 12 years (and a games journalist for eight of those). Throughout my career I’ve translated odds and ends -- mostly offshore stuff, manuals and such, but also computer hardware, medical texts, comics and manga. Needless to say, I know a lot of words. More importantly, I know a lot about how their meanings change depending on how they are used. 

Context is key

Take the Norwegian word “skål”, for instance. It might mean “bowl”, or it might mean “cheers!” depending on where and when you use it.

For those of us who speak the language the distinction is clear: One is used in the kitchen and one is used in the pub.

Now if you mix these two up all you get is a slight misunderstanding and a funny story to tell your friends later. But let’s say that the word in question is “gift”. It can mean either “married” or “poison” (Churchill had something to say about marriage and poison, didn’t he?) Here the mix-up can lead to slightly more trouble. It might even cause accidents. So, you really don’t want to misinterpret it.

For a non-native speaker distinguishing the different meanings of the same word might be difficult, after all they are spelled the same, pronounced the same. The only thing that separates “gift” from “gift”, or “married” from “poison” is context (in some instances there’s another layer of potential problems – the fact that the words have their own meaning in the target/source language).

Helping machine intelligence learn

This is where I come in. You see our machine intelligence, which helps us make courses, is pretty good at picking out useful words and sentences and translating them. My job is to make sure it picks the right translation for a word when that word has multiple meanings. Sometimes it’s as easy as picking poison instead of married. Other times it involves spending 1,5 hours researching to find the correct term for a very specific excavator part (Did you know excavators have something called crawler shoes? Because I do). And the more feedback I give it on its choice of words based on subject areas and context, the smarter our machine intelligence gets. Pretty cool, right?

Machine intelligence? Context? Poisonous marriages? What does any of this have to do with a more inclusive workplace? Good question! In and of themselves? Not much. Put them all together and combine them into gamified tailor-made language courses for minority speakers? A whole lot.

A language course for a student learning Norwegian

Skills for the future

See, what we do here at Capeesh is helping non-native speakers learn the Norwegian they need to stay safe and secure in the workplace. We believe that language and the ability to communicate with everyone in the workplace is one of the most important skills of the future. Being able to speak a language, to have the right words and expressions, within a given context or working environment boosts confidence. Confident employees are more inclined to talk to their colleagues. Communication fosters understanding and understanding leads to inclusion. So really, integration is the name of the game and our aim is to level up the players.

Not only do we help employees stay safe and secure in their jobs, we also help people get employed through our partnership with NAV, we provide communication tools for refugees and refugee organizations like AsyLex. We also participate in the EU project named EasyRights, which aims to combine co-creation and AI technology to make it easier for (im)migrants to understand and access the services they are entitled to. Not bad for a pocket-sized app.