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Can I Ouyaq?

This past week we held our first, “Code Club”, a one week camp in which children from our home community of Pangnirtung were invited for 5 days of non-stop programming.  It was an incredible experience, one of the best I’ve ever had the pleasure of being apart of.  It was well covered in the media and you to check it out if you’re interested.  While you’re at it, see the games the kids made

This post is not so much about the Code Club though but about the fun way we watched Inuktitut grow and adapt to one piece of new technology throughout the week.

It’s impossible to ask a group of kids, aged 6-19 to sit down in front of computers for 8 hours a day, so we broke the day up with many different activities.  Sometimes they would include physical games to introduce new concepts, mental games to work on math problems that would be introduced later and occasionally we would just play video games, often games that related directly to the type of games we were building and working on.  Something that provided historical context to the games we were developing and an example of the mechanic we were trying to develop. The Ouya console was our console of choice for us in developing the Curriculum.  

The Ouya isabout as “open” a console as you can get, allowing us access to a variety of games that showed off the mechanics we were building, both through their exclusive releases and the emulators (which instantly opened the doors to thousands of game examples from all of video game history).  The Ouya became a popular “downtime” tool for kids between sessions of programming.   In an isolated Northern community, products like the Ouya (which are certainly “internet famous”, but not mainstream famous) are all new.  Still, it didn’t take long for the brand to be turned into an Inuktitut word. 

Before I go on, a simple Inuktitut lesson.   

This is an Amauti.  

The Amauti is used for carrying children on the back of an adult.   To “Amaaq” is the act of carrying someone and is specific to carrying on ones back, even more specifically, you’ll hear it used in the context of an Amauti.   You’ll often hear mothers ask their young ones, “Do you want to Amaaq?” Meaning, do you want to be carried on my back?

I was surprised last Wednesday when, during a break, a young child came up to me and said, “Can I Ouyaq”?  (Ou-Yuck) He was taking the brand (Ouya) and combining it with a work like "Amaaq" to create a new word (Ouyaq) which in plain English means, “Play the Ouya”.   Can I play the Ouya?

If spoken in pure Inuktitut it would have been, “Ouyaqlangaa”? Langaa a suffix that, added to Ouyaq, provides the question, “Can I?”.  

It’s amazing what happens when you combine technology, games and multiple languages all in the same room. Ouyaqlangaa? may not be a common question around many Nunavut living rooms in the near future, but its a rare thing to see a living language adapt and change to the world around it and speaks to why Inuktitut remains so strong and so important, here in Nunavut.  

Anyway; I’m going to go Ouyaq for a while.  Until next time…