Turning language into a game
So you’ve decided to learn a second (or third!) language, and you’re thinking about how to improve your skills. Like anyone learning a foreign language, you want to get better as quickly as possible. Does this mean you’ll have to cancel your weekend plans with your friends because you’ll be paging through textbooks all night until the library closes? Does this mean you’re doomed to lonely nights locked in your room studying lists of vocabulary?
Nope. Not only does this not have to be your life, but it actually shouldn’t be. Yes, language learning involves some gritty work, but you’ll learn faster — and better — if you make it fun. Luckily for you, there are plenty of language-learning games out there that will help you jumpstart your language skills, all while having a great time.
Why are games so great for picking up a new language? Read on to find out!
When you’re studying alone from a textbook, distractions abound. Sometimes, after reading about the subjunctive mood for the twelfth time, your mind wanders, and suddenly you find yourself browsing Instagram. But when you’re competing against the clock in a Spanish verbs race, there’s no room for distractions. You’re actively involved in the moment, and all of your attention is focused on the game (and, therefore, the language).
Games are an active and involved activity; they don’t allow you to tune out. As a result, you put your brain into high gear, and you can devote all your faculties to improving your foreign language skills.
When you’re playing a game, you want to succeed — you want to win! But in order to do this, you must get better at playing the game. And with language-oriented games like Kloo’s French language card packs, getting better at the game means getting better at your language of study. This gives you two great reasons to be motivated: first, to win the game; and second, to improve your foreign language abilities.
One of the biggest fears of the everyday language learner is embarrassment. Indeed, it’s hard to muster up the courage and use the foreign language in public (or with native speakers), as you don’t want to look silly by messing up the pronunciation of a word or botching a conjugation. Unfortunately, making mistakes is a reality of learning a new language.
But if you make a mistake while playing a game? No big deal! After all, it’s only a game. Thus, games create an ideal low-pressure environment where you can practice your skills with real people, minus the fear of being embarrassed or ridiculed.
Even if you mess up, remember — it’s only a game! Image via Wikipedia
Language is an inherently social activity: we use it to communicate with each other. It makes sense, then, that we learn language best when we’re using it for its intended purpose: communication! Indeed, as anyone who has lived in a foreign language-speaking country can confirm, just a couple weeks interacting with native speakers will teach you more than months studying vocabulary.
Games are ideal in that they allow you to be social with your foreign language without travelling to a different country. When playing foreign-language games, you’ll be interacting with others in your language of study, effectively creating a mini-immersion environment in the comfort of your own home.
Perhaps most important of all: games are fun! As obvious as it sounds, the best way to learn anything is to actually enjoy yourself while doing so. Playing language games will make you want to learn the language, even on those days when you feel frustrated or tired (even the most seasoned language learners have their days). When you’re having fun with your language of study, you’ll learn a great deal without even realizing it.
Yes, you can breathe a sigh of relief — let your friends know that your weekend plans are back on. Learning a new language doesn’t have to be a time-consuming and boring activity — au contraire! It should be engaging, social, and fun. And language learning games make this not only possible, but also easy. So start playing, and watch your foreign language skills take off.
Readers: What are your favourite foreign-language games? Let us know in a comment below!
Paul writes on behalf of Listen & Learn, a language tutoring service that offers French courses in Manchester, as well as other language classes all over the world. You can check out their free foreign-language level tests and other language-learning resources on their website. Visit their Facebook page or contact firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions or if you’d like more information.