Frisian language games

How do you help children cross the language barrier?

Together with Province of Fryslân and SFBO we are researching – through gaming and prototyping – ways to stimulate the use of Frisian among young children. Children sometimes encounter obstacles when speaking Frisian, which creates a language barrier. They do not yet have a large vocabulary, or are used to speaking Frisian only with family and adults. It is sometimes difficult to cross that threshold, but in a creative and interactive form Frisian becomes fun and low-threshold.

The strength of this collaboration

Greater language enjoyment through application of gaming and storytelling
Pioneering minority languages!
Research and testing together with the target group
Language lessons for primary school children

Language activation with a serious game

Being bilingual or multilingual at school or at home sometimes seems quite difficult for children and teachers. Frisian-speaking children often do not speak Frisian at school and Dutch-speaking children are not much challenged to learn Frisian. The older you get, the higher that threshold seems to become. That is why it is important to tackle this at an early age.

In the research and prototypes we develop, we engage children in a joyful and interactive story. By responding to their experiential world, children not only have fun playing, but also increase their vocabulary. The focus is on fun and it does not matter if something does not succeed immediately. After all, with a game you can just start again!

This is how we have handled it

For the game ‘Fryske Bern’, we tested a first prototype with children (aged 4-5) from the Koningin Julianaschool in Kollum, commissioned by SFBO. In the prototype, the children are introduced to the character Tsjonge, a Frisian-speaking young lion on a desert island. Tsjonge only understands Frisian, so to communicate with him it is important to speak Frisian!


The children help Tsjonge bake pancakes by finding the right Frisian words to go with the different pictures and ingredients. Tsjonge is interpreted by a Frisian volunteer, who interacts live with the children via a digital connection. This way, the children can talk and ask questions directly to Tsjonge at their own pace. Don’t know the right Frisian word for a moment? Classmates and the teacher (game supervisor) are only too happy to help in this search. So both Frisian- and Dutch-speaking children can participate!

Language lessons for children with serious game

Lessons from this starttraject

Read more about serious games in education

In the testfase of a starttraject several aspects are important to us: how do children react to the storyline? Do they dare to speak Frisian and do they enjoy the activity? Conclusion: the children were very interested in Tsjonge and enjoyed the live interaction immensely. They waved at the screen and asked many questions: ‘How old are you?’ Because the children saw Tsjonge as a peer, they still found the story quite exciting: how can you go on a trip all by yourself?

Due to their enthusiasm about the story and the task, all children dared to pronounce Frisian words. Even the children who do not speak Frisian at home. Young children pick up bilingualism very easily, but need an environment that stimulates bilingualism. Precisely by playfully finding and practising the right words together, the threshold to speak Frisian becomes a lot lower!

In the coming period, we will continue to work with the Province of Friesland and SFBO on a new intervention for very young children (2-4 years old): Fryske Taalaktivaasje. On to even more language promotion!

language lessons for primary school children
Testing at the Koningin Julianaschool in Kollum
language lessons for primary school children with serious game Fryske Bern
Johan van der Meulen, Sytske de Boer, Maaike van der Ploeg en Jet van der Sluis

Want to know more about language activation with a game?

Call 058 843 57 57


Johan will be happy to tell you more!

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