Do you have the same problems in language education?
In COMMENTARY: YOU’RE NOT STUDYING, YOU’RE JUST…, Ravi Purushotma puts forward an idea that educators should embrace and modify entertainment-focused media forms in language education. In order to illustrate and support his opinion, the author takes his own language learning experience, in which he took great advantages of video games in learning German, as an example. Ravi said he was reluctant to learn German in school at the very beginning, because the assignments and textbooks were frustrating and boring, and he found little connection between the assignments and everyday life. These traditional old-school ways of learning languages only brought him a sense of helplessness when he was confronted with lists of isolated vocabulary to memorize. Do you have the same language learning experience as the writer?
What is The Sims?
In this article, the author first introduces the best selling video game The Sims, which is a game designed to simulate normal everyday life (you can download the game here). Players control the daily routines of a virtual family, guiding them through tasks, like managing personal hygiene, finding jobs, and entertaining guests. In the game, players should read the instructions shown on the screen in order to control the characters and make them act just like what we do in the real world.
Characteristics and advantages: This game can be used to gain “learner involvement”, and it serves as a content platform which has both the entertainment value and the educational extensions due to its customizability (this means the game can be modified and changed according to the needs of the educators and learners), interactivity and flexibility.
- Players can change the language version of the gameinto their target languages easily.
- By using macros, or scripts, educators can rapidly extract the parts of the first language (L1) game data they feel necessary for scaffolding learners and then integrate them as available translations within the second language (L2) version of the game. In this way, students can receive a pop-up explanation which includes an L1 translation if they do not know a word and leave the cursor over the word.
- Sometimes there are some polysemic words, so the players have to choose theappropriate meaning according to the context, which can improve the vocabulary retention (Hulstijn, 1992).
- Compared to a traditional reading environment, the wrong choices or assumptions will be pointed out and recovered in this video game through interaction.
- The materials are personally relevant and useful to the learner so as to attract learners to learn more about that variable.
Besides this kind of video games, the language learning/teaching principle is then developed to other applications, like web page, typing tutors, music, and voice-navigated games. For example, the author replaced his throbber with a randomized German word and its English translation from his German textbook, so that he can learn vocabulary phrases in fragmented time. To some extent, this kind of fragmented vocabulary exposure system might even aid the long-term word retention. In order to engage students, educators also apply music in language class. With 3D spatialized sound technology, educators can add instructional content directly into an audio file, which still maintains a clearly audible distinction. However, challenges like personal musical tastes and intangible song lyrics are still exist in the course of applying music in language education.
Some of our thoughts on the application of Video games, simulations and virtual worlds in language education
Actually, we did not have much experience of using video games in our English class or learning English before. But when we were in primary school, there was a game that aimed at practicing the students’ typing skill. Students should type the English words shown in the lotus leaves in the limited time in order to help the frogs to jump to the leaves. We think this kind of game can also be modified to be more suitable for language teaching and learning.
Based on the article and information we mentioned above, we can find that video games, simulations and virtual worlds are viable and effective ways to learn foreign languages, but there are still some problems or challenges when instructors/learners make use of this kind of approach.
- Learners can have fun when they are involves in the activities.
- Simulated language immersion. In thesekinds of games, we can get exposed to the target language by interacting with other people in an authentic context. Additionally, we might gain more practical information instead of limited knowledge in textbooks.
- Repeated and long-term exposure improvesvocabulary retention.
- The difficulty of choosing the right games
- The insufficient guidance from teachers (learners may feel lost and waste their time)
- The limitation of facilities (usually in a classroom, there is only one computer)
- The limitation of language points and contents in a video game
- Do you have any language learning/teaching experience inapplying video games, simulations and virtual worlds in language learning/teaching? If you have, could you please share it with us?
- Could you please evaluatethis kind of approach(video games, simulations and virtual worlds)in language education?(Benefits and Drawbacks) And if you have some methods to conquer the drawbacks, could you share them with us?
- As an English teacher, what skills would you use video games, simulations and virtual worlds for (e.g. grammar, listening, speaking, writing, reading, vocabulary learning)? What is the appropriate stage/time period in language education? Do you think this approach is more suitable forin-class teaching or out-of-class teaching?
Recommended videos on Youtube, about video games, simulations and virtual worlds for language study
Edited by Michelle and Una. Thanks for reading!