Tui Meki Talanoa

  • Tauira / Student
    Tui Meki
  • Kaiako / Lecturers
    Anke Nienhuis, Kate Weatherly
Judge's comments:

This interactive board game for Samoan families to support teaching their language was praised by judges for its cultural purpose and admired for its clever weaving of materials, process and design expression with the values of its audience.


"New Zealand is one out of few countries with the most ethnicities in the world" (Anon, 2015). New Zealand has offered a lot to many; it has become a homeland to the majority of immigrants from different cultures. It became my home, and I am grateful for that. Recently, it has come to my attention that we all communicate using mainly one dominant language: English, which has become almost every Pacific students' first language.
While living in New Zealand's diverse society, I embraced what makes each and every one of us unique: our culture, our tradition and most of all, our language. It has come to my attention that our native language is a valuable aspect of our people. It is what developed and carried our culture and traditions, from the past to the 'now'. It is part of who we are (our identity) and it builds strong connections between worlds.
My concern is seeing my native language die. Many of the new generations don't see the importance, just yet. Not knowing how to speak their native language has become a normal trend. About 7,000 languages are spoken in the world today, and it is predicted that nearly half are most likely to disappear in this century (Wilford, J.N. 2007). Loss of language leads to loss of culture, traditions and above all, loss of connection to our ancestors and to our people.
I have spoken Samoan all my life, and no one can take that away from me. It is a treasure of my country that I carry with me. Therefore, for this project, I have decided to tackle the issue of ‘loss of language’ by designing an interactive product, mainly for the young, seeking to teach the importance and value of language. I envision a generation that will gladly acknowledge their home roots and history.
After months of research, prototyping and testing, I have designed Talanoa (‘Converse’), a board game for Samoan families who try to teach the young ones their language. Talanoa is an Alphabet and Spelling word game for beginners. Talanoa was designed for each player to have their own board, learning together through weave-like action, as well as individually.
The process is simple: the board creates the sound of the letters or images when pressing on them or placing them on the Fala Faitau Pi (Alphabet Mat). There are electronics inside both sides of the board game for the sound pronunciation to work. I have embedded magnets underneath each wooden piece to help with interaction and intuitive learning.
Although designed for children 5 to 10 years of age, it works for anyone who wants to learn the Samoan language. It is a timeless game that can be passed down to the next generation. Perfect in both home and public settings.