Fan Sissoko og Helen Cova

Language games in Þingeyri

At 11 on the morning of August 13th 2023 a group of people got together at the Blue Bank, the Community Centre in Þingeyri, for a colourful mix of language games. The Blue Bank describes itself as a non-profit organization founded in June 2017 by three parties; Vestinvest, Ísafjörður and Simbahöllin” which was “created in response to cuts to services in the village and to promote job creation. The event in Þingeyri took place during a time of transition at the Blue Bank: Birta Bjarnadóttir, who was organizing the event in Þingeyri within the Community Co-Creation project, was the head of the Blue Bank until the end of August 2023. On September 1st Gunnar Ólafsson started his position as Bankastjóri (Bank manager) at the Blue Bank.

Spilakvöld í Blábankanum

The Blue Bank has been serving as a community centre for both people staying longer and those staying a shorter time in the Westfjords, as well as international collaborators. The event on August 13 was attended by locals based in the region as well as temporary stayers who came to the Westfjords for art residencies or studies. Most participants studied Icelandic as a second language at the University Centre of the Westfjords who came to Þingeyri with their teacher Ólafur Guðsteinn Kristjánsson to attend the event.

We played the board game B.EYJA, which is designed by writer and publisher Helen Cova and game designer Fan Sissoko in collaboration with language teachers. Everyone with at least a basic level of Icelandic was invited to play a draft of the game which is designed for people who want to practice their Icelandic while having fun. The board game is in the development stage. The game designers have previously organized practice sessions in different places around the island which often took place in public libraries.

Fan Sissoko og Helen Cova

Attendants found themselves interacting and playing with people with various levels of Icelandic, exchanging experiences learning and using the language. The game is designed in the form of islands, each consisting of a different game, e.g. playing a game similar to charade or constructing a story in Icelandic. Some of the games can be played on different levels. At some point, our group had used all the easy and medium-level cards. We thus had to take the more difficult cards, which in a way this encouraged the group to try to play on a more complex level of Icelandic.

At the end of the session, players shared their opinions on what worked and what didn’t work with the game designers. Among the issues and questions raised in this final conversation was participants sharing challenges to play with people on different levels of Icelandic and gaining the courage to use the language. The discussion was held in English but Icelandic teacher Ólafur Guðsteinn Kristjánsson contributed to the conversation in Icelandic, explaining his approach to teaching Icelandic by using Icelandic as much as possible. Ólafur further advocated for including more explanations of Icelandic grammar in the game.

Questions of language learning and language use are closely intertwined with community co-creation, especially when people of different backgrounds live together in one locality. Playing the game B.EYJA offered the opportunity for people to connect playfully. While language is central to the game and some knowledge of Icelandic is needed to play it, the event also gave an opportunity to connect beyond (or maybe around) the language because learners of different levels could sit around the same table and laugh together.

It will be interesting to follow how the board game B.EYJA and the community involvement of the Blue Bank in Þingeyri will develop in the future. We from Community Co-Creation are certainly curious to follow along!

Further information
Lara Hoffmann
Project manager and researcher

UpdatedTuesday November 7th 2023, 12:02