'All the students
that want to learn their language, please do. It's very exciting'
getting to know how to use the resources we have, like the
dictionaries," says Boucher.
If you think using the letter Q to nab a triple-word score is
tough enough in English, try playing Scrabble in Chipewyan.
That's now possible, thanks to Paul Boucher, a Chipewyan language
teacher from Fort Smith, N.W.T.
Paul Boucher playing ?ëk'e´ch'a Hela´ with
(L-R) Faith Gaudet, Cassidy Villeneuve and Silvio Verton
Over the past year, he's developed "Scramble" or ?ëk'e´ch'a
Hela´, a Chipewyan version of the popular word game. And he's
bringing it into his classroom at Paul William Kaeser High School
as a teaching tool.
"This is an opportunity for us to take a game and translate
it into a language so the kids can learn the language," says Boucher.
"We've been playing it already. It's part of my activities during
my lessons, I do that with the Grade 12s and I'm going to be starting
to do that with my Grade 10s."
Scrabble v. Scramble
There is a slight difference between Scramble and
its near-namesake. In Scrabble, you're meant to avoid the dictionary
until someone throws down a challenge. In Scramble, the whole idea
is to comb through the dictionary for possible words.
"It's twofold for me: they're getting to know how to use the
resources we have, like the dictionaries ... [and they're] getting
to use the lessons what I taught them and the words that
they've learned," says Boucher.
"As they learn the game more, I will take the dictionary away.
And as time goes on and they learn... how to spell and be creative
and think about how the words are spelled
this will help
them learn the language even faster."
they learn the game more, I will take the dictionary away,"
Boucher says along with students, he'd also love to see his
game played by fluent Chipewyan speakers.
"One of my dreams is getting two people like that to play and
watch them. That would be super, and for the kids to watch them,
that would be even better. Because then they'll know we can do this."
More games to come
Boucher is working with students to develop other
games in Chipewyan, although he says he'll wait for them to announce
the games so he doesn't steal their thunder.
"One of them is just about done. And again it's involving the
students and involving sentence structures, it's involving them
using the tools that we have for them to learn the language," says
As for his own game?
"I dedicate it to all the students here. And all the students
that want to learn their language, please do. It's very exciting,
because [the languages are] so ancient, and to find the meaning
of it: the history of our people are there."
with files from Loren McGinnis