Who says language learning can’t be fun?
Games can be an incredible language learning tool, so why not implement a little more play into your learning?
Language Learning Isn’t Just Boring Study
Language learning is often thought of as ‘hard’ or ‘boring’, but I’ve learnt that there’s an easy fix for this misconception. By converting some of your favourite activities into your target language rather than doing them in your native language, you not only give your learning context, but you make the process more enjoyable.
Are you into gaming? Play games in the language you’re learning.
Why use games to learn languages?
Language learning is challenging. There’s no getting around that. But that doesn’t mean that all of your study needs to be spent huddled over course books or plugged in to the device you use to listen to podcasts.
Games, especially now with the options of playing online or changing your language settings, can serve as great way to add a bit more excitement into your lackluster learning routine.
Here are just a few reasons you should use games to learn a language:
1. You make your study time more enjoyable. Which then leads to you being more likely to do it.
2. Context. When playing games, what you learn is given context. You aren’t just memorizing a random vocabulary list or completing grammar exercises. The dialogue boxes are in reference to certain missions you need to accomplish, to describe something completed by you in the game, or to prompt you perform an activity. When chat is an element of the game, most of the conversation centers around the game itself, so again, context.
3. Repetition. Games have recurring themes so you’ll likely see certain words or phrases pop up regularly. For example, in the Nintendo games I play, I’ve learnt the words for princess, pots, bow and arrow, crawl, climb, jump, save, and cancel in Chinese. Some are more useful than others, but for me, a lover of gaming as well as sci-fi/fantasy, they’re *all* useful.
4. Community. Even if you don’t play a game online that has a built in community, there’s a good chance that a community related to the game still exists. Or at the very least, that there are vloggers, Twitch users, walkthroughs or FAQs about the game that are available in your target language.
5. Time management. If you decide to use games to work on your language skills, there’s a good chance that gaming is already something that you were doing. You’re not adding something into your schedule, rather, you’re combining what were two separate activities (language learning and gaming) into one single activity, thus making better use of your time.
6. Motivation. What better motivation could you have for learning new words than not being able to get to the next step in a game without understanding what’s being asked of you? Games can be a great motivator for learners.
Here are ways you can play games and learn languages at the same time:
1. Play games that are intended to teach you languages. There are several language learning games available for devices such as the Nintendo DS or through platforms such as Steam.
2. Play games with online communities in your target language. Games like Lord of the Rings online feature both audio and interface options in multiple languages.
3. Switch the settings on your gaming devices. You can manually go into your different devices (Playstation, Xbox, Wii, DS, Computer) and change the settings so that they’re in you’re target language. This will often also change the language of the games that you install or use with them (but sometimes it doesn’t and you’ll need to select this setting within the game itself).
4. Play with friends. Have a friend who enjoys board games or word games and speaks your target language? Why not work on the language together by playing games together?
5. Use language learning software with gamified elements. These are platforms that give you badges or points and maybe even rank you amongst your friends. An example of this game style is Clozemaster.
Clozemaster is a gamified language learning tool that offers context for new vocabulary to learners of all levels. It is available in more than 150 language combinations and it utilizes Cloze tests (basically fill in the blank).
Cloze tests allow learners to develop an understanding of a language through context and Clozemaster specifically focuses on words that appear on word frequency lists for the languages they currently have available so that you can be certain you’re learning useful vocabulary.
The languages available range from Breton to Spanish, Welsh to Hindi, and more. Clozemaster is free to use indefinitely, but they do have Pro account options so that you can save your stats and favorite different phrases.
To Sum Things Up
Games are an excellent way to up your language learning by making it more engaging and entertaining. They also provide you the opportunity to give the language a bit of context, making it more memorable.
If you already enjoy playing games, converting them over to your target language is a great way to have your cake and eat it too.
What about you?
Do you enjoy games? Have you ever ‘played’ in your target language?
If you have, I’d love to hear about your experience in the comments below!
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My name is Shannon Kennedy and I'm the language lover, traveler, and foodie behind Eurolinguiste. I'm also the Resident Polyglot at Drops and the Head Coach of the Fluent in 3 Months Challenge.