Such aspects could be the education and the learning of new things. The contemporary technologies could be, or rather, are proven to be a pretty stable basis for learning new skills and abilities. For the purpose of this article, let’s discuss one of the more interesting ways to learn in an interactive environment and namely some of the benefits to learn a new language, simply, by playing video games.
We have made some research to find, what kinds of ideas there are, on the internet, on this topic, and summarized the things up a little bit, to get the broad perspective of things, and present it to the fellow young reader. Here is what we found out, and what some of the suggestions are, made by people who have already looked into this matter.
An early conclusion that comes in view is that the games are voluntary, you can prevent the people from playing, but you cannot make them play against their will.
On top of this playing is nature’s way of getting us to learn. This is why it is so great for learning, because it’s something we as humans, and pretty much every other species of animals on this planet are hard wired, to love to do. Whether it is a lion cub on the Serengeti wrestling its brothers, in order to learn how to better fight in the wild, or a human child in the 21st century, learning about our world of electronics by poking on a tablet screen, the instincts to play is the most basic innate natural way for us to learn. But a big part of that it’s something that we think we choose to do what we desire and want to do for ourselves, and so we put more effort into it. Unfortunately this isn’t fully part of the collective thinking on games and education in the EU, US or any other country in the world for that matter. The approach seems to be a very top- down approach. The general idea seems to be that we will build games, we will put them in schools, we will make kids play them in class and things will be better. And the truth is it might be. If well done. It’s probably better than some, of what we’re doing today, but it doesn’t really harness the full power of games. It doesn’t deliver on the magic to play that’s so powerful that promises so much for education.
You cannot just make somebody play a game.
I mean any of us who have been play testers, know that even the best game when played over and over again, because someone’s making you do it, is not fun or engaging. Play has to be an act of volition. It has to be something that you engage in voluntarily. And fostering that desire to play games that are worth and games that educate is really how we’re going to bolster our ailing educational systems, because any of us who have sunk deep into that desire to play know how much of brain space it takes. When you’re driving somewhere or you’re in the public transportation, or you’re stuck in a boring lecture, you’re secretly planning strategies or writing down builds for your gaming characters in your notebook. Planning on how exactly to take on the boss of the next level, that you want to beat, when you get home. You know how you love making research on the game and find out more and more details about how you can play, you memorize geography or do the math in your brain about how exactly to reach your goals in the most optimal way. It just gives our brains so much to think on, if otherwise we’d simply be zoning out or not tuning in. Speaking about goals, this is also one skill that playing video games can teach us, setting short- term and long- term goals is part of almost every game, even if we don’t mention strategies here.
Video games provide constant electronic stimulation on a level that mankind has never seen before.
Immersing yourself in an action-packed, digital world has been shown to boost brain power and memory strength, increase connectivity between regions of your brain and improve mental dexterity, hand-eye coordination and problem solving power.
They can even be highly cathartic and therapeutic. Had a difficult day at work? Stressed out after trying to master a complex grammatical structure in a foreign language? Go blow up some bad guys – in a single or even in multiplayer!
Meanwhile, some people will have you believe that video games make you dumb, lazy, desensitized or, at worst, a serial killer. (Let’s face it here, all the advancements (in this case in technology), that give liberty to the people, might not be for the ones that are weak in mind, because before making good use of what we are free to do, we should always consider what the “do-not’s” are, and think also of our responsibilities.) So it would be very wise to monitor our kids for example, when they are spending time playing, talk with them about their gaming experiences, so we could maybe explain some unclear aspects. We must make sure, that some of the things that are possible to the gaming environment like stealing or running from police are unacceptable in real life, and are exclusive and alright to do only in the fictional world of gaming. And only in the digital gaming environment we can blow off some steam if needed and perform some of these malevolent actions. But we could also show compassion, care of selflessness by healing or protecting our allies, who play with us. We can show bravery in the magical world of gaming, without actually having to run upside a hill with a sword in our hands! Without the fear of causing any real harm to anyone, except to our A.I. enemies, or the characters or even entire kingdoms of our opposing players. Amazing.
We can probably chalk that up to people being afraid of change.
Video games are the most modern way to explore, learn, connect, converse and unwind.
So, it’s only natural that video games are starting to gain a reputation for being powerful learning tools, and of course, this can be applied to language learning.
You no longer have to limit yourself to interactive tools made specifically for language learners, either—you can play anything from “Call of Duty: Ghosts” to “Left 4 Dead 2” and “The Sims 4.
First, let’s explore the why and how of learning languages with video games. Then we’ll jump into the popular game titles available in foreign languages!
Why Learning by Playing Is Super Effective
Positive associations. Let’s play a little word association game. When I say “language learning,” what pops into your brain? If your answer is textbooks, flashcards, vocabulary lists, quizzes, exams or all-nighters, then, for the love of God, shake things up. Videos games are for you. If your study methods feel stale (or if you simply can’t motivate yourself to get started), then you need to create more positive associations with language learning in your brain.
In-context learning. You’ll learn vocabulary and grammar while you’re embroiled in the action. You’ll be immersed in your virtual world, interacting with virtual people, traveling to virtual places and earning virtual money. Listening, reading and understanding the language of the virtual world (read: your target language, after you get around to switching your game’s language settings) will be rewarded with points, digital bucks or progress in your game’s storyline. This is how immersion works when you’re studying abroad: You learn by doing, you get immediate feedback and you need to keep guessing, trying and thinking creatively if you don’t quite understand something.
Repetition. Even in games with complex stories or ones that give you tons of freedom to choose your fate, you’ll still hear the same words over and over as you play. That’s because every game has some core themes, key characters, big events and repeated actions that will keep popping up as you go. This will help to strongly solidify a good chunk of vocabulary. The more familiar with the game you are, the more familiar you’ll become with the language used.
You’ll never put off study time. When study time is game time, will you really dread it or procrastinate it?
Learn or die! If you don’t follow what’s happening, you’ll die. Plain and simple. Do you really want to lose another life?
You can make real-world friends. Many games offer you the ability to connect with people online while you’re playing. Others will just give you a common interest to talk about with friends or Internet strangers on forums and websites. (People from the gaming communities are widely considered to be one of the most well-mannered and intelligent in the young modern society.)
Games are easily accessible. Even if you don’t have an Xbox at home, many games are easily accessible through Steam and app stores.
Let the kids have some fun! Kids adore games, obviously, so this is a great way to go if you’re raising bilingual kids or if you’re learning together with your whole family.
How to Learn Any Language by Playing Video Games
Start with games made for children.
If you’re skeptical about playing children’s games, know that you’re in good company. I was too. But then I tapped into my inner ’90s kid and remembered all the amazing click-like-a-madman flash games I was addicted to on the Nickelodeon website and elsewhere.
You’re bound to learn something from these options because games for early childhood education, and even a bit beyond, are always designed to teach language fundamentals on some level.
They don’t have to be targeting vocabulary and grammar specifically—given the age group they’re appealing to (think ages 3-10), any game developers worth their salt will make sure the gameplay is friendly to young players who are still absorbing the basics of their native language. For example, Japanese children’s games rely more heavily on hiragana and omit more advanced kanji, which is great for learners who are still trying to get into the flow of reading.
Having played a couple to test them out, we could say that many (or perhaps most) are designed to include some more subtly mature elements to entertain parents and older siblings who have to play along with the little ones.
Play games made for adult learners.
This is the next step up. We haven’t yet arrived at games for adult native speakers, but we’ve found a comfortable middle ground to get you started.
The games here can take the place of your dull study materials that are overdue for retirement.
Remember, There’s an App for That
The game apps we’ll discuss here are ones that native speakers of the language twiddle with on their phones instead of spending time with their loved ones, not apps designed for learners. You already know what that means: You’ll be thrown in the deep end.
App games are great because anyone with a smartphone can download them instantly. Sometimes you’ve got to pay a little, or you have to pay to unlock certain game features, but the ease of access and portability arguably make up for that.
Do you have an Xbox, PlayStation or Wii? Any game is great in a foreign language, but they can be hard to come by. Usually, you’ll need to have bought your console and/or games in a region that speaks your target language. Most games aren’t automatically available in multiple languages.
Most games, however, are offered in a variety of languages, so you can download the one that you want to learn! When you choose a game, be sure to check the “Languages” section before getting too excited. Here, you’ll see if the game supports your target language as subtitles only. Most commonly, you’ll be able to download a version of the game that offers subtitles and complete game interface in your target language. For many games, which don’t have characters that speak a made-up language or which don’t involve any dialogue, this will be more than enough to work with.
Even if the characters are all speaking English, having some Chinese subtitles and having to navigate maps and menus in Chinese will be a good boost for your learning—especially if that’s a game you were dying to play anyway.
Here is a list of pretty modern games that support full audio and interface in more than language, and a list of their supported languages.
“Call of Duty: Black Ops III”
Shoot. Kill. Don’t die. Curse like a rabid teenager when you do die. Accuse everyone else of hacking, modding and cheating. All the necessary ingredients for an infuriatingly fun time. This is perhaps the epitome of the addictive video game model, and one that you’ve likely played if you’re into video games at all. Full Audio: English, French, German, Italian, Spanish, Russian
Subtitles and Interface: English, Chinese (Simplified and Traditional), French, German, Italian, Japanese, Polish, Russian, Spanish
“Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain”
This installment of “Metal Gear Solid” allows you to play more freely than ever before. Sure, you can roam around and cross wide distances with vehicles in this game, but don’t get to thinking that you’re done sneaking around forever—you’re not! You’ll still need to get Snake safely from point A to point B without him being caught and killed.
Full Audio: English, Japanese
Subtitles and Interface: English, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Portuguese, Spanish, Russian
This radioactive, mutant-infested, post-apocalyptic wasteland needs your help. But you’ll probably be too busy customizing your characters and building your own little settlement to bother with doing good deeds. Or perhaps you’ll decide to go on an explosive rampage instead. No matter which direction you choose, do it in your target language and explore this vast world while you learn.
Full Audio: English, French, Italian, German, Spanish
Subtitles and Interface: English, French, Italian, German, Spanish, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Chinese (Traditional)
Explore mystical (and valuable) alien ruins on a faraway planet in another one of those shoot-em-up adventure games, complete with quests and little side missions you can opt to complete.
Full Audio: English, French, Italian, Japanese, German, Spanish
Subtitles and Interface: English, French, Italian, Japanese, German, Spanish, Korean, Chinese (Traditional)
“The Lord of the Rings Online”
Love “The Lord of the Rings”? So do I. (My chihuahua is named Frodo. True story.)
That’s why it’s so fantastic that French and German learners have the opportunity to explore the beautiful regions of Middle Earth, meeting familiar faces and strangers along the way. You’ll learn some very unique language from your adventures in this sprawling online arena, and you’ll learn how to talk about your favorite trilogy in a foreign language.
Full Audio: English, French, German
Interface: English, French, German
“The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt”
This might be one of the coolest, darkest and more artfully innovative video games out there these days. Play your way through a spellbound tale of prophecies, legends, elves, dwarves and wild monsters. Your choices really matter in this world—you can’t just passively ride the rails of the predetermined storyline as you can in most other games—so you’ll need to pay close attention to the language being used so you know what to do at every new juncture.
Full Audio: English, French, German, Japanese, Polish, Portuguese, Russian
Subtitles and Interface: English, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, Arabic, Czech, Hungarian, Korean, Chinese (Traditional)
“The Sims 3”
This game has no audio to speak of—the Sims themselves speak Simlish, obviously—so you’ll just want to make sure you have the interface in your target language. Then click your way around the various text options. If you’re not familiar with “The Sims,” to play you’ll need to control virtual humans and help them navigate their way through day-to-day life. Every action is performed by clicking on a text command. That means you’ll see the words for every single human activity, from mundane daily tasks to major life events and exciting escapades, in your target language.
Prepare to learn how to live life in your new foreign language.
Interface: English, Czech, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, French, German, Hungarian, Italian, Korean, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, Swedish, Chinese (Traditional)
“Left 4 Dead 2”
Well, the zombies in this game speak the same language that they do in the English version—they just moan, groan, scream and splutter—but by downloading a version in your target language, you can learn while hearing the intrepid apocalypse survivors hash out their game plans and scream for help.
I haven’t listed the interface and subtitles languages, because this game is much better played with the full audio in your foreign language.
Full Audio: English, French, German, Russian, Spanish
This game has the power to capture your heart, I promise. Unless you decide to become an evil villain and inspire fear in the hearts of everyone around you. Your choices define whether your character becomes a beloved hero (a saint, really) or a vicious madman. So, pay close attention to what’s going on at every step and make your choices accordingly. Your understanding of the language will determine your virtual fate.
Full Audio: English, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Spanish
Subtitles and Interface: English, Chinese (Simplified and Traditional), French, German, Italian, Japanese, Spanish
Many of the games listed above, could be bought from platforms like Steam and are multiplayer online. Be sure to get yourself a headset to plug into your computer so you can hear and speak clearly! Interact with other players, get to know them, make cooperative teams and become friends.
Soon, you may find that you have a regular group of foreign gamer friends to play with!
In the end, I think we have to comment on how easy and convenient it has really become for us to be able to learn, or at least, start or push the process of learning something as amazing as, some new and unknown language, from the comfort of our own homes.
Here is also to mention that some successful people from the IT sector strongly advise us, not only to try and learn from home, but if possible, to work from there as well, the comfort of being home of course only being one of the reasons, the next probably being the financial aspect of things, imagine on how much we would be able to save, if we are to find a way to earn or learn from home. No transportation costs, no brawling with crowds of unknown people in the morning rush hours. And maybe the most important thing, the more time we will be able to spend with our close ones and relatives, and of course the lesser amounts of stress in our everyday lives.
On the other hand, think are video games implemented in our education to the extent that we would like?! It’s actually territory that we only start to discover and explore. And let’s hope that in the very near future, the people that are into strategizing education in the real world will figure out the best methods, which we can use, to benefit from the huge potential there is in the educational value of video games to use in the public educational institutions. Maybe it’s up to us to give a pioneering spark in this direction.
So here it is, the next time you install a new videogame, take your moment before jumping into action, and maybe, set it up to be in the language that you’re interested in learning, and as a lot of people in the competitive gaming communities say: “Good luck! And have fun!”
Written by: Velin Nedkov