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4 Ways to Gamify Foreign Language Learning


You may have seen one of the many TED talks about how gaming is either a modern devil or the modern savior of humanity.

Speakers commonly quote how humanity spends 3 billion hours per week playing games; along with a ringing cry to change the situation (though they do not mention how many hours people spend watching TV).

People are always going to find ways to busy themselves, and if gaming is your thing, then try the methods listed below in order to learn a language while you play.

1 – Try Tools That Offer Badges and Achievements

Let’s face it, we are living in the generation of nerds. The nerds of the 90s now dominate the movie and gaming world, which is why Marvel, Microsoft and Sony are some of the most profitable companies in the world.

With that in mind, we have all been trained to love online achievements, and that is where tools such as Duolingo come into play.

It allows you to achieve online badges and unlock achievements as you go. You may also track your progress, which encourages you by showing your language-learning progress.

Badges and micro-credentialing have lots of potential according to Etale. Especially when it comes to learning analytics and personalized learning.

Achievements and badges have a fair amount of motivational value if a student becomes emotionally invested in said badges and achievements, and they offer a series of milestones a student may pass, which will help a learner understand his or her progress and potential.

  • Play classroom games with achievement mechanics
    Points systems are still commonly seen in classrooms, and team points allow learners to unlock achievements collaboratively. Use achievement mechanics such as points and prizes in the offline world as much as you use them in the online world.
  • Points are another way of showing progression and/or experience
    Gamifying and grading don’t work well together. Grades remind people of work, where points remind people of games. Show what level students have achieved once they reach X amount of points in the same way that Karate learners earn different belt colors as they progress.
  • Loss aversion is part of gamification
    Some people are going to have to lose, and they are going to feel bad, but that is part of life. Loss aversion is a good motivator because the students that try the least will have to suffer the disappointment of losing.

2 – Get Social And Chat With Other Language Learners

Nerds are not the only entity that dominates the online world at the moment, social media is now more widespread than Malaria and the English language combined.

Tools such as HelloTalk and Hinative allow people to converse with others that already know a foreign language, and people that are still learning a foreign language. It is surprising how helpful it is having other language-learners on your side.

Students may use other people to gain a certain level of social verification for their learning efforts. It is also widely understood that a support network helps people learn and grow, which is why the classroom environment has worked so well for hundreds of years.

Humans are naturally social animals, which means we generally find solitary tasks less fulfilling. Learning with other people helps to fulfill your social need while you become acquainted with a new language.

  • Teaming up with your classmates is all you need
    You do not have to resort to apps and websites to find other people learning your language. Team up with your classmates and create your own games. Develop ways to introduce timers and levels to the game.
  • Do not overlook your herd mentality
    If you work in a group, you will find it harder to quit and/or become demotivated. If a group has as single aim, then it is harder to oppose the aim if you are part of the group. Introducing games into the group may help solidify the bonds between the group, which makes it even harder for members to become contrarians.

3 – Try Mobile Games Such As MindSnacks

Since we are discussing popular entities, mobile phones and mobile devices are more popular than ever. The Connected UK group claims there are more mobile devices on the planet than people (8.6 billion phones vs. 7.3 billion people).

There are games such as MindSnacks to help you learn languages, and there are new language-learning apps hitting the online app stores all the time.

There are more than 50,000 education apps on Apple’s iOS App store alone, so consider why some apps “don’t” work before you commit to a language-learning and/or revision app.

TeachThought claims that most learning apps do not work because the tutorials are bad, because the apps have no entertainment value, because progress tracking is poor, and because there is too little systematic repetition.

In addition, many language-learning apps are of a very poor quality because they are free, and yet most learners will not pay for language-learning apps because they feel that educational apps should be free.

  • Start with flashcard apps
    Learning a new language means memorizing a lot of new words, and flashcards will help you do that. Many flashcard apps have pre-programmed flashcards that you may use right away, otherwise, you may make your own.
  • You can learn by creating
    A powerful learning tool is to create. When you create your own games, your own flashcards, or even your own notes, you make what you create easier to remember. Learning has such value, that the Willamette university set up a program for just that.

4 – Can You Learn With Music Videos?

Learning with music is very effective for auditory learners.

Games such as LyricsTraining are very effective for some people. After all, think about how many songs you know the lyrics to. You have accidentally/passively learned hundreds of lyrics in your time, so it doesn’t take a big stretch to go from lyric learning to foreign-language lyric learning.

If you already know the English version of a song, you may be more easily able to translate what is being said when the song is sung in another language.

The Essayontime team contributed to a study with the Stanford University that showed there are even certain music varieties to suit different types of learners, such as people with wandering attention problems.

The study also comments on how often the music should contain silent periods in order to allow the brain to process what it has learned.

  • Learning with song lyrics offers a level of passive learning
    You are passively learning song lyrics when you listen to music, and the same is true if you watch music videos in a foreign language. If you already know the song in your language, you will understand what is being said in a foreign language. Learning lyrics doesn’t feel like hard work or homework
  • Put the language subtitles on games, movies and online music videos
    Addictive RPGs are usually text heavy, which means you may put the subtitles on and read what is happening in a foreign language. If you come across words you do not understand, you may look them up.

Conclusion – Unlearn the Attitude You Gained In School and College

The sad fact is that schools and especially colleges are so focused on grades/points and levels that they teach students how to hate learning.

They create an environment where all forms of learning feel like work, and that is an attitude you need to shed.

Use the methods listed above to wean yourself away from your learning-averse attitude, and try to re-ignite the passion for learning you had before you were indoctrinated by school.

Learning a language shouldn’t feel like hard work, it should be enriching and fun (honestly!).

Brenda Savoie is a grammar tutor at Uk- dissertation. Former ESL teacher and desperate dreamer. Writing her first romantic novel. Seeking contentment through mindfulness. Find her on Twitter and Facebook.


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