Fun app for learning Te Reo health terms

13 February 2017

Unsure what 'hot', 'sore' or 'unwell' is in Te Reo? Then a new game app for teaching common health terms used in Māori could be for you.

The free game app Aki Hauora was released this month by the University of Otago, Christchurch.  It was developed by the Christchurch-based Māori /Indigenous Health Institute (MIHI) in partnership with the Dunedin-based School of Māori, Pacific and Indigenous Studies (Te Tumu).

Associate Professor Suzanne Pitama, the director of MIHI, said having taught Te Reo to medical, nursing and allied health professionals over the years she was aware many were keen for something more engaging and interactive than rote learning lists of words.

A game was seen as both a fun way of learning but also providing professional development to help health professionals, like nurses, engage with patients who use Te Reo Māori.

Pitama said a colleague at Te Tumu, Professor Poia Rewi, developed the original Aki app as a fun game for families wanting to learn Māori vocabulary. The game has now been adapted to focus on words (kupu) used in the health environment. 

Pitama said the words used in the game are built on an evidence-based glossary of commonly-used words in Te Reo that Māori patients would be likely to use in a health setting.

The app was designed to teach not only medical and other health professional students but also for practicing health professionals wanting to expand their knowledge of Te Reo so they could understand more words and terms that a Māori patient may use without needing to ask for a translation.

For example the first level of the game covers simple words like harikoa (happy), makariri (cold), wera (hot), mamae (sore), hōhā (annoyed/frustrated) and māuiui (sick/unwell/fatigued). At more advanced levels it goes on to words like pukupuku (cancer) and mate pāpōuri (depression).

The premise of the game is that you start in your waka at the bottom of the country at Rakiura (Stewart Island) and paddle your way up the country by successfully answering enough questions at each increasingly complex level to progress to the next landmark. 'Get too many questions wrong and you get swallowed by a taniwha (water monster) and have to start that level again.

"We're hoping it's fun and relaxing and you'd want to do it sitting out in the sun on a Sunday afternoon," said Pitama.  "It's a professional development opportunity that is designed to be done at your own pace."

Pitama said their research had shown that the use of Te Reo by clinicians was seen as a quality indicator by Māori patients. She said one reason was that it was validating for Māori patients and secondly it showed a clinician's readiness to engage in Te Reo and the aspects of being Māori that were important to that patient, including using words that they felt better expressed their symptoms or the context of their illness.  "Lastly it helps us develop a better relationship with patients and increases our sensitivity to do the most appropriate assessment with the patient," said Pitama who said that sensitivity would also help inform a patient's management plan.

When to use Te Reo?

Clinicians are always encouraged to be patient-led about when, or if, to use Te Reo terms with patients, said Pitama.

"We always teach clinicians to always start with 'kia ora' as that always opens the door to letting that person know you are ready to speak Te Reo – even if they don't say 'kia ora' back." From then on in it is patient-led – so if a patient uses a Te Reo term then clinicians are encouraged to use that Te Reo back in the right sentence or context.  "Or you ask for clarification on what that word means and then you use it in a sentence."

"Because you don't want to have gone to a first year Te Reo class than overwhelm a patient who may not know any Te Reo themselves," said Pitama.  "So it is about tailoring to the individual Māori patient in front of you. It is giving you confidence that if they use Te Reo to take that direction and use the same term or specific kupu (word) back.  And it is easier if you are more familiar with the terms and we are hoping that the App covers most of those (most commonly-used) terms."

Pitama says current nursing training does look at the Treaty of Waitangi and cultural safety but the institute's research is also indicating that the ability to use Te Reo, when a patient uses it, is a really good clinical skill. It would also be useful for nurses who are not New Zealand-trained.

The game shows each Te Reo word, says the word aloud and the gamer then has to chose which of four options are the correct translation. The words covered at each level get added to your personal glossary along with percentage ratings of how successful you are in remembering that word's meaning. People can go at their own pace and return to lower levels to refresh their memory before pushing on to higher and harder levels. For competitive types there is also a leaderboard so you can see how your rank compared to other gamers.

The Aki Hauora App is available for both Apple and Android devices.

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