Learning a foreign language is interesting and fun. Mixing it with a relaxing activity like playing video games makes it an interactive, unique experience. Many experts say spending too much time playing video games is bad.
No one would disagree with this hypothesis for gamers who spend hours at a time playing and cannot be torn away from the screen. There are some benefits for people with healthy gaming habits including improving foreign language skills.
Here are some ways gaming will improve foreign language skills:
Check the options before engaging in a video game for improving foreign language skills. Ensure the game offers the necessary language options. A lot of games offer only one or two languages. There are others which allow the player to choose from a multitude of languages.
Do some investigation first. Does the game offer audio in the language being learned and subtitles in the home language? This is an important component of the early language acquisition skills required to improve the ability to communicate in a foreign language.
Go and look for games designed by speakers of the foreign language being learned. The vocabulary and language usage will be more accurate than the translated games. A lot of the subtle nuances of language are lost in translation. Gaining a full grasp of a language is easier if the game’s creators are native speakers.
Using video games to improve foreign language skills is a useful tool because the player sees words being used in context. This helps to improve vocabulary skills.
At the same time, the player is seeing the objects of vocabulary during learning. This allows for the association of words with pictures. Such associations make language learning easier.
Early language learning is done using associations between pictures and words. As a building block of language learning, vocabulary is easily acquired using visuals. Children’s first books contain pictures for this very reason.
Pictures allow the child to establish the word in a sentence in the context of the picture seen. Video games can do the same thing when learning a new language.
Listening to a video game’s audio in a foreign language hones pronunciation. An essential component of language learning, pronunciation should be a focus when improving language skills.
“For many language learners, pronunciation is a challenge,” says Amy Barret from EssayOnTime. “The temptation to stick to the phonics of the home language is strong. This is a habit that can be broken with regular pronunciation reinforcement.”
A learner should compare how letters and phonics are pronounced in the home language to the foreign language. A conscious decision to move away from the familiar pronunciation to a different approach is the first step in improving pronunciation.
The subtitles in a video game are a translation back into the home language of what is being said in the foreign language. At the beginning of the language learning process, this is helpful.
The translations aid in acquiring vocabulary. For foreign language learning, the word in context with a visual and a translation into the home language are important.
Using this technique is helpful at first. Further on in the language learning process, it may present a hindrance. The reason for this is simple. Referring to the subtitles in the home language allows the learner to keep thinking in the home language.
A key skill in foreign language acquisition is being able to depart from thinking in the home language. Learning to think in the foreign language means the speaker is not constantly translating into the home language.
A lot of video games are interactive. Players engage with one another. Hearing and speaking a language frequently is another building block of foreign language acquisition. Engaging with other gamers is a great way to practice language skills thus far acquired. Finding friends who will correct pronunciation and grammar is ideal.
The home language was learnt as a child through hearing the language every day. In the same way, a foreign language can be learnt through large amounts of interaction with other speakers. The best way to learn the nuances of a language is to communicate with native speakers.
Learning a foreign language is not only about speaking. Reading is an important skill too. Playing video games that require reading instructions can be helpful in improving foreign language skills. Reading encourages word recognition and improves pronunciation.
Through reading, the grammatical structure of a language is conveyed. Sentence construction becomes apparent when reading. The learning of the home language is reinforced by reading. Experts say that the more children read, the more likely they are to grasp the mechanics of the language easily.
The same principle can be applied to foreign language learning. Languages that have a different alphabet will be hard to read at first. They require a return to the drawing board where the alphabet must be learnt before reading can commence.
No one learns a language on the first attempt. Words need to be heard again and again to be imprinted in the memory. Using video games to listen to words and gain vocabulary while reinforcing pronunciation hones foreign language skills. Repeat the words during the game and read aloud. This reinforces language learning.
Players can keep a notebook to write down words, meanings, translations, and phonetic pronunciations. Referring to the notes during non-gaming time allows the player to prepare for the next gaming session.
Having mastered what has already been learned, the player is ready to move on to other challenges. These include recognising different dialects and speech patterns in the spoken and written word.
Don’t expect to learn a language from video games alone. Video games are useful tools to augment language learning. Acquired language skills can be honed by playing video games. The games help with pronunciation, reading, grammatic structures, and sentence construction. The additional bonus is the fact that gaming is a fun way to improve language skills.
Serena Dorf is a social media savvy Los Angeles-based content writer. She is passionate about writing, personal development, languages, and marketing. In her free time, she is reading classic American literature and learning Swedish. Feel free to connect with her on Twitter.