Many of us spent our childhoods being chewed out by parents, relatives and teachers for playing too many video games. They tell us that video games are a waste of time, that they’re bad for us, that they rot our brains, and so on and so forth. It turns out that there’s quite a lot more positives to be said for video games than the adults in our lives were letting on, especially when it comes to language learning.
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Video games have spent a long time evolving in the past few decades and now offer language learners more than ever.
1. Reading, Listening, Speaking --- It’s All There
Back in the day, it may have been the case that video games didn’t exactly help language learners with speaking, but all that has changed thanks to added voiceover applications like TeamSpeak. Now, while you’re playing your favorite video games at home on your Playstation, XBox, another console or even your PC, you can be simultaneously having conversations with others in your target language.
On top of the later addition of speaking practice, video games have always been a good way for people to practice their reading and listening skills. In particular, role-playing games (RPGs) like Diablo, Baldur’s Gate, and Grim Dawn all offer a huge amount of spoken dialog, written lore and other materials to read and enjoy.
Of the above, Grim Dawn in particular was lauded for the richness of vocabulary used. Chinese players of the game often say that if you can play and understand Grim Dawn in English, you’re ready for the IELTS or TOEFL test.
2. Learn while Playing - No Affective Filter
Language experts have long held that using video games as a medium for language learning is highly effective because of the way it helps to eliminate the so-called affective filter for learners. This refers to certain negative feelings that language learners often have such as a lack of motivation brought on by lack of confidence.
The affective filter is particularly pernicious when it comes to language learning, because the process of learning another language requires students to exit their comfort zone, make mistakes, sometimes perhaps feel embarrassed or make a fool of themselves a little. It seems that in a gaming environment, learners are more willing to let that happen.
3. Learners Can Participate Together
If video games are used in a classroom setting, the teacher acts as a kind of facilitator but the learning process essentially becomes controlled and operated in a cooperative manner by the students themselves. They essentially take charge of their own learning using the great tools that you have placed before them. The cooperative nature of the gaming experience allows students to work together, complement each other's strengths and support each other when weak spots show.
If we understand that working collaboratively helps students to become part of the teaching process, then gaming is an ideal engine to drive that principle forward.
4. They’re Fun!
One more important point is how fun and varied video games are. You can adapt video games as a language learning tool for all ages and levels, and what’s even better is that you can create a fun and interactive experience to which students will return over and over.
One trouble language teachers often have is getting students to keep up their studies. It’s like a gym membership for the mind. Students attend a few classes, perhaps encounter some difficulty, and then give up. It’s a common cycle that can be broken when content is more unique and engaging. Video games can help massively in that regard.
Load Up the Game and Watch the High Scores Come In
Gaming is already a big part of life for many people. Unlike in the 1990s where gaming was very much something treasured in the kids’ generation but loathed by adults, the new generations of parents were those 1990s gamers and so we have a society of game-heads. Put those passions to good use by making gaming an integral part of a language learning journey.
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