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Could Pokémon Go tech teach immigrants Swedish?

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Could Pokémon Go tech teach immigrants Swedish?
An example of the Swedish app (left) and Pokémon Go (right). Photo: KTH & The Local
11:40 CET+01:00
A new app aims to use Pokémon Go-style technology to speed up the process of learning Swedish for immigrants.

Like most countries, Sweden went mad for the Nintendo game during the summer, with the phenomenon becoming so big that Swedish priests, police, and even politicians were caught in the wake of the monster-hunting hype.

Now, researchers at Stockholm’s Royal Institute of Technology (KTH) have been inspired by the craze. They hope to use the same combination of digital goals placed in the real world to speed up the progress of Swedish for Immigrants (SFI) students.

“The way it works is that you get information from a specific place. The information on Stockholm Public Library (Stadsbibliotek) for example is located at that library, information on a pharmacy is found at that pharmacy and so on,” KTH professor Gunnar Karlsson told The Local.

“The similarity with Pokémon Go is that it encourages the user to seek out different goals, which in this case are educational tools. We can place videos, audio, text, images with questions and assignments through the app. You may have to record a description of the place you find yourself in, like the observatory or the castle in Stockholm for example,” he added.

Pokémon Go ended up capturing a significant adult audience, and the new Swedish app is not designed for children. Instead, it is built to engage the students aged 19 and upwards taking SFI, and encourage them to spend more time learning Swedish outside of class.

“The goal is to speed up learning. We want to support learning outside of the classroom (SFI is around 15 hours a week). That way we can achieve a quicker process of learning,” Karlsson said.

Stats from number-crunchers Statistics Sweden show that the country’s foreign-born population grew by 72,713 in 2015. Over 138,000 people studied at tax-payer funded SFI courses that year, but only 37 percent of students finished their courses.

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