Posted on by Ulrike & Peter Rettig

Children And Adults Use Games For Language Learning!

Extended Family playing chessWe all know that children use games to learn how things work. They don't need to be taught how to play. They just do it.

For them games are a way to explore the world around them.

Adults see games less as a means for learning, but rather as way to relax and being entertained or - as in this picture - as a family activity.

By combining a travel story with games for language learning our courses both teach and entertain.

DIGITAL GAMES FOR LANGUAGE LEARNING

For digital language games, the rules are often simple. The player gains points or advances for making the right match, and loses points or has to replay for getting it wrong. Graphics, sound, and gamification features add fun and excitement.

When Duolingo launched in 2011, the “gamification” of language learning started in earnest.

Now there are hundreds of language learning apps available for iOS and Android mobile devices. Most online language learning programs now use games or game-like features.

Games for very young children often match a picture or sound, with a letter or word. Games for preschoolers teach them to recognize words, how to spell them, and how to sound them out.

For school children, games can get more complicated. These often involve sentence building, spelling races, and grammar searches.

SECOND LANGUAGE GAMES FOR CHILDREN AND ADULTS

More and more language games for children are being developed, both as web apps or as native apps, available from App stores.

Typical ingredients of second-language games are:children playing games for language learning

  • Flashcards
  • Fun graphics and sound
  • Simple rules, involving hit and miss
  • Rewards, in the form of advancement, points, trophies
  • Lots of repetition
  • Interactive play

Figuring out how a game works is all part of the learning.

Maybe adults are not as enthusiastic when they get the correct answer as the children in the picture above - but gamification features also help adults to stay motivated.

An early feedback from an adult learner was: "I didn't even notice that I was learning. But I was!"

And maybe that's one reason, children also like Gamesforlanguage.

GAMES FOR LANGUAGE LEARNING ONLINE

French family & relatives Games for Language LearningOur Gamesforlanguage courses and Quick Language Games were originally developed for adult learners. Banking on the wider use of WiFi, we decided against developing a mobile app.

We are actually surprised by the number of children in school classes playing our courses and games.

This French Quick Language Game, for example, shows some of the games included with our free courses. (Click on the link above or the picture to play it!)

Through feedback, we have learned what works for all players:

  • The courses and games are interactive
  • The travel story appeals to older children (4th grade and up) who travel with their parents
  • The story sequel format with 36 (or 72) Scenes works well for children and adults
  • Text-based games practice individual foreign words, phrases, and sentences, as well as English reading and spelling
  • Foreign spelling is practiced with simple words
  • Travel-story podcasts advance listening skills

MANY DIFFERENT ACTIVITIES FOR LEARNING NEW LANGUAGES

It's clearly a good idea for children and adults to engage in all kinds of different activities to learn and practice languages. Digital games are just ONE tool.

Our 3-year-old granddaughter, for example, is taking French Skype lessons with a tutor several times a week. She loves to sing "un deux trois" and is very proud when she can surprise us with a new French word from time to time.

Adults have access to a large array of resources. They can learn AND entertain themselves with foreign movies, YouTube videos, etc. Or read books, foreign newspaper articles online about topics that really interest them – once they have mastered the basics of a foreign language.

Bio: Ulrike & Peter Rettig are co-founders of Gamesforlanguage.com. They are lifelong language learners, growing up in several European countries before moving to Canada and the United States. You can follow them on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

An expanded version of this post is scheduled to be published on the British website Lingotastic.

Posted on by Sophia Sanchez

10 Free and Fun Language Learning Apps for Quick Progress

young people looking at phoneThere are several benefits to being a polyglot and language learning can be fun and engaging.

Knowing multiple languages not only boosts your employability, but it also makes you more open minded and appreciative of other cultures.

Also, being able to communicate with a broader network of people betters your chance of discovering new things and making new friends. Multilingualism broadens your horizons and opens the door to rich experiences no matter who you are and where you come from.

Whether you’re a student who is learning a new language at school or a professional whose career demands learning different languages, or simply a traveler who wants to talk to the locals in their language, learning a new language can be both exciting and exacting.

Although learning a foreign language isn’t always a cakewalk, it doesn’t have to be an uphill climb either.

Thanks to the evolution of technology, we have access to multiple platforms and tools that make learning an appealing and a fun experience.

What’s more, a lot of these tools are free to use. You don’t have to shell out a single penny!And remember what Benjamin Franklin had to say about pennies: A penny saved is twopence clear.

Keeping that in mind, I’ve put together a list of some free language learning tools that are totally fun to use. For more more comprehensive content and in-depth learning they all offer in-app purchase options.

Language Learning Apps for Android and iOS

Lingbe

Lingbee app screenshotImagine being able to practice the language of your choice with its native speakers...Well, don’t just stop at imaging.

Go right ahead and practice Spanish, Portuguese, French, Italian, etc., with native speakers through voice chat on Lingbe app.

It’s easy to use and comes with a call button that instantly connects you with a native speaker who can help you practice the language of your choice. The best part: you get real-time feedback about your progress from collaborators who guide you and help you become more fluent.

And if you’d like to help other learners learn your mother tongue, you can collaborate with them for which you’ll receive not just brownie points, but some actual credit points in the form of lingos (practice exercises). More lingos you earn, better will be your chance at practicing.

HiNative

English (US), Japanese, Korean, Spanish, French, Simplified Chinese, Russian, Arabic, Spanish (Mexico), Portuguese (Brazil), Portuguese (Portugal) - the list goes on and on to include over a 100 languages!

No matter which language you choose, HiNative helps you learn it in style. You can either upload audio files to get feedback on pronunciation or you can share pictures of those complex Chinese characters to know their meaning, or you can simply stick to the plain old Q&A format.

No matter which format your queries come in, HiNative’s learning community readily helps address them by providing pronunciation support, example sentences, grammar tips, and what not!

Not just that, you can also ask the community about different countries and their cultures. Whether you’re traveling to someplace or moving permanently, you can learn about the dos, the don’ts, and everything else by simply asking the people who are already there. If that isn’t convenient, then what is?

Available also for Windows

Mango Languages

Mango Languages gives you access to 70 different foreign language courses and 17 different types of English language courses that are designed keeping in mind native speakers and their requirements.

All courses focus on four key components of communication: vocabulary, pronunciation, grammar, and culture. From Yiddish, Tagalog, Pashto, to Haitian Creole, Cherokee, Mango Languages has courses that make language learning an enjoyable process.

Besides the regular courses, there are some specialty courses that focus on specific learner requirements. If you don’t have time for an entire course and are simply looking for a short-term course to help you with a short trip abroad, then you can choose from a list of specialty courses available to suit varying needs.

Lingo Vocabulary Trainer

Whether you’re a native speaker or a newbie learner who wants to improve vocabulary by learning new words, Lingo Vocabulary Trainer is what you need.

Lingo Vocabulary Trainer includes more than 100 different topics (business, education, nature, science, sports, tourism, etc.), different levels of learning, and statistics that help you gauge progress.

Lingo Vocabulary Trainer consists of more than 5000 words and helps you learn and pronounce words through images that help you memorize better.

What makes Lingo Vocabulary Trainer fun is that it allows you to collaborate with other app users through online games where you can earn some cool points!

Another noteworthy thing is the listen-and-type feature where you get to listen to an audio piece following which you’ll have to type what you heard to help better your listening skills

SpanishDict

SpanishDict boasts of 10 million plus user base each month, making it one of the most popular Spanish language apps available today.

It offers Spanish-English dictionary which provides examples, insights into regional usage, and contextual information.

SpanishDict helps you by providing audio pronunciation support and also comes with an autosuggestion feature that helps save time and effort.

If you don’t have access to the internet, you don’t have to worry because with SpanishDict, you can look up words offline as well. Also, you get to use three separate in-app translators to translate words and phrases.

What makes SpanishDict appealing is that it provides conjugation tables for all tenses for thousands of verbs and highlights irregular verb conjugations in red for ease of understanding.

Besides, if you want to learn on-the-go, you can enable the push notifications to conveniently receive new words on your phone everyday.

Available also for Windows

Andy - English Speaking Bot

If you’re the shy type and are apprehensive about approaching people to help you with learning English or bettering your English conversational skills, you would consider Andy a blessing.

Andy is an English speaking bot that converses with you and helps you learn new words, study grammar, and play language-learning games - all without being judgemental.

From casual day-to-day interactions: greeting, chatting about your day, weather, etc., to daily lessons and tests, Andy comes in handy by catering to your English learning needs.

You can discuss about topics like travel, movies, hobbies, art, jokes, and curious facts with Andy and can also expect a detailed explanation on what is right and what is not when it comes to language usage.

And if at any point in time you’re tired of rigorous learning or are simply bored, you can take a break and play fun games available on Andy.

Cram

Cram app screenshotIf you have trouble memorizing words and are working on building your vocabulary, Cram flashcards can help address your issues.

Known to be one of the most tried and tested learning tools, flashcards aid active recall - a mental technique that helps remember and recall answer to any given question through spaced repetition learning technique.

Cram puts to use the same technique to help you memorize better through effective learning and recalling of new words and their meaning. There are two modes - Card mode and Memorize mode.

The Card mode enables you to view and use the entire set of flashcards in a sequential manner. In case you want to focus on a few cards and hide the ones you don’t need, you can switch to the Memorize mode.

Cram gives you access to a whooping 176 million (and counting) flashcards across various subjects, in different languages, which are free and easy to use.

Idyoma

Based on which language you want to learn and which language you already know, Idyoma connects you to other language learners nearby.

By using Idyoma, you not only meet new language partners but also get to build a network online by following your favorite partners. Idyoma focuses on language exchange between people.

Besides practicing the language of your choice, you get a chance to teach your native language to other learners.

Idyoma enables you to check the location of your language partner and see if you have common people in your network, depending on which you can schedule real-life meetups.

Idyoma is all about social learning and helps not just better your language skills, but also meet new people and make new friends.

Language Learning Apps for Android

Quazzel - Language Exchange

If you want to connect with native speakers to learn a new language or practice a language which you recently learned, Quazzel can help.

Quazzel has an effective way of connecting you with native speakers based on your preferences. You can choose who you want to connect with by using the language settings, which in turn helps you find a dynamic match.

The calendar feature shows the availability and preferred time of contact of your language partner. An indication of free spot helps you better plan and schedule your sessions.

You can also pre-schedule your video chats to efficiently manage multiple language partners. If you want instant chat support, you can connect with native speakers available online.

Add-ons: Free

Beelinguapp

With Beelinguapp, you can read texts Beelinguapp screenshotin two languages side by side.

By doing so, you can compare the text of the language you’re learning with the text of your native language or the language you already know. This helps you understand the new language better by means of referencing.

What sets Beelinguapp apart is that it you can listen to text in any language using its high-quality audio, even when your phone is in the sleep mode.

The app lets you pay attention to what the audio voice is saying by highlighting the text in karaoke-styled animation. What’s more, you can use the audiobook feature to listen to stories in any language of your choice.

Soon to be available on iOS

So no matter who you are and what your language learning requirement is, there is an app out there to help you achieve your learning goals.

Thanks to technology, learning a new language is not as complicated as it used to be. Just a click here and a click there and you’re all set!

Bio: Sophia Sanchez is a passionate educator, a lifelong learner, a freelance writer, an avid reader, and an adrenalin junkie all rolled into one. When not working, she spends time networking and can be found on Facebook, Twitter, and Wordpress.

Disclosure: Gamesforlanguage has no business relationship with Sophia Sanchez or any of the learning app companies reviewed above, except for publishing Sophia's post on it's site.

Posted on by Ulrike & Peter Rettig

Is GamesforLanguage a “Serious” Language Learning Program?

Gamesforlanguage shoot-out gameAt times we think that the “GamesforLanguage” name has two drawbacks, as some language learners could assume that:

(1)  Language learning games are more for children, or that

(2) Gamesforlanguage.com is not a serious and well-thought-out self-teaching language program.

They could not be more wrong.  

And then we also remember: Adults can't learn a new language as easily as young children do - but at least they can have a little fun playing games while learning and practicing - as children do.

GamesforLanguage's Key Language Learning Features

Our courses are based on our own extensive experience in foreign language learning, as well as a 20-year stint in writing and editing self-teaching language programs.

Each of our courses integrates several key features into one unique comprehensive language learning program:

  • A travel-story sequel of a young traveler visiting Young Friends having funny conversationthe country of his parent's family.
  • Fun games that practice reading, listening, speaking, and writing.
  • Everyday vocabulary, which is introduced, practiced, and then repeated in later lessons.
  • New words and structures introduced in every lesson, and familiar words and structures repeated from previous lessons.
  • Travel-related and culturally relevant vocabulary, dialogues, and expressions that are immediately useful on a foreign trip.
  • Grammar and structures that the learner can discover gradually. Brief comments and tips that clarify aspects of the target language and culture.

Language Learning Patterns

student in new learning environmentWe know that learning a foreign language as an adult takes motivation, engagement, and commitment.

We also know that self-teaching online language programs are not for everyone.

Recently, a post on another language-learning site analyzed the learning patterns of its users.

It prompted us to look at the learning patterns of our registered users.

We can distinguish a few characteristics, and we are not always "serious"! Some fun also helps learning!

The “0” Points Player

Now and then we see visitors who register and start a course, but then decide on the next screen not to continue.

Maybe they expected another type of course or game, or thought they had to register for the Quick Games. (You don't.)

We are planning a survey of those players to better understand their reasons for registering, but not continuing with a course.

The Nibbler

About 15% of those that started a language course playNibbled apples only a game or two.

As each lesson starts with a story dialogue, they may have listened to the dialogue, but then stopped after the first game screens.

Maybe they expected a different game, pictures, or a video game.

Or they just wanted to see what “GamesforLanguage” was about, without any real interest in learning a language.

We have also noticed that some “Nibblers” come back later to practice or try out another language.

The Voracious Player

Sometimes we see players who - in one stretch, after registering – play an entire level, or six lessons, often just beating the minimum score to move on to the next lesson.

Maybe these players are motivated by the fun aspect of the games to test their knowledge.

However, we also noticed that they are unlikely to come back, to either improve their scores or continue.

The Finisher or Focused Learner

Marathon finish lineThe Finisher plays through all or most of the games of the first lesson, though he or she may skip the Recording (as it requires the Flash Player which is not supported on smart phones or tablets).

Then, having met the score requirement, this learner moves on to lesson #2. These players seem to be interested in one language only.

They may also “nibble” sometimes by trying out another language, but then return to the language of their choice.

These are the learners who are most likely to continue with their course.

Language learning is not a short sprint but more like long-distance running. After you cross the finish line, the feeling of accomplishment is sweet and will stay with you for a long time.

The Polyglot Player

Polyglot players go for at least one scene of two or more languages right away. From his or her scores we can speculate that this player may already know one or more of the languages.

Sometimes Nibblers also try out different languages. When their scores are high enough to let them move on to further Scenes, we can't distinguish them from Polyglots.

The Quick Language Game Player

Since our start, we have added over 200 Quick Language Games, which can be played without registering.

These Quick Games are quite popular. But we don't see the names of individual players, we can only note which games are played and how many times.

How to Play, Learn & Practice

The “serious” learners are more likely to click on “How to Play and Learn” under “New Here?” on the Course Page.

Below are a few key suggestions for effective learning and practice. These apply not only to GamesforLanguage, but also to many other online language learning sites:

  • Play only one (1) NEW lesson per day, and - if you have 20-30 minutes - start by reviewing the PREVIOUS lesson, or at least the Dialogue of the previous lesson.
  • Re-play any of the games of a previous lesson, for which you scored less than 100%.
  • To get into the learning habit, PLAY SOME GAMES EVERY DAY. (Also note that the Quick Language Games can be played without logging in.)
  • Don’t worry, if you don’t know the meaning in the “Balloon Words,” or “Say It” games. Just concentrate on the sounds and the melody of the language, while you repeat what you hear.
  • Repeat the native speaker's words and phrases in any game whenever you can - BEFORE the native speaker, if you can, and AFTERWARDS to correct yourself.
  • Practice your pronunciation with “Record It.” Keep recording and re-recording your voice until you feel that you're getting close to the native speaker's pronunciation.
  • In the games, pay attention to the occasional abbreviations that appear directly behind the English word. They will tell you which form of the foreign word you should use.
  • After completing a Level (six or twelve lessons) listen to the Podcast. If you don't understand a lesson perfectly, replay it.
  • Listen to the Podcast of the next Level and find out how much you can understand or guess, before you start a new lesson.

How About Fluency?

Few, if any, online language programs can make you fluent. The only way to become fluent is to TALK, to engage in as many conversations as you can join.

But online programs can be an excellent preparation. That's why we emphasize REPEATING ALOUD, and making use of the recording feature whenever possible.

Fluency not only requires sufficient vocabulary, but also the ability to combine words into phrases and sentences when talking with others.

Until online programs can truly generate interactive one-on-one conversations, teachers, tutors, language exchange or conversation partners (in-person or on-line) are the best way to become fluent in a new language.

Bio: Ulrike & Peter Rettig are co-founders of Gamesforlanguage.com. They are lifelong language learners, growing up in several European countries before moving to Canada and the United States. You can follow them on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Posted on by Peter & Ulrike Rettig

Games for Language Learning – 5 Years later

Gamesforlanguage. com HomepageIt's been five years since we went live with our GamesforLanguage site. It's time to step back a little and have a look at how "fun and effective" our games for language learning really are.

GamesforLanguage started out as an experiment and family project: A college language teacher and language course writer/editor, a retired engineer/consultant, a computer programmer (our son) and his graphic designer wife put an idea into action:

Listen, read and repeat story dialogues, learn and practice vocabulary with simple interactive games

We get feed-back that our games are "fun." But how effective are they for learning the 4 language skills: Listening, Speaking, Reading, and Writing? And how much new vocabulary does a player learn and remember? We'll take a stab at some answers below.

WHO CAN BEST LEARN WITH GAMESFORLANGUAGE?

Language learners are a varied group of people. Players that come to our site (and have told us) range from 14 to 80 years old and come from diverse backgrounds. Some already know other languages, others are learning their first foreign language. And, some are not native speakers of English, but seek to improve their knowledge of English while learning French, Italian, German, or Spanish.

We have players of our courses that come back again and again, schools that have their classes practice with us, and learners that systematically go through all our Quick Games. We also have users that try us a for a bit and then move on.

True Novices may find the entry into and progression through GamesforLanguage a bit hard.

woman with HeadsetLearners who've had some contact with the language before (in school or college, on travels, through self-study) seem to do well.

They want to pick up the language again, practice vocabulary in an engaging way, and improve their listening and speaking skills. (The general range of our users is from beginner to low intermediate; in the Common European European Framework of Reference for Languages that means: A1, A2, B1.)

For adults, learning a language is more about persistence than cramming. We generally recommend that a learner do only ONE NEW lesson (Scene) per day and redo earlier Scenes or Games that have less than a 100% score.

Each of the Story-Courses teaches over 700 new words. Learners that practice fairly regularly and like the game aspect appear to make good progress.

But what kind of learning goes on, and progress in what?

LISTENING COMPREHENSION

man listening GamesforLanguage provides useful tools for building listening comprehension. This may indeed be our strongest feature. We have audio for everything, from individual words, to phrases, to the initial conversations at the beginning and end of the lessons (Scenes).

When training to listen, our brains go into gear to find sound patterns. The more you listen, the better you start noticing the patterns.

You begin to hear what clusters of sound are typical for the language you're learning. You start to notice what sounds go together to make words, where words start and end, where sentences begin and finish.

It's important to hear individual words in isolation, as well as hearing them in the stream of phrases and sentences. When people speak rapidly, the sounds of individual words get "swallowed up", sounds change or simply get lost.

A goal is to understand the meaning of the sounds you hear, which happens German 2 Podcast - Gamesforlanguagebest when you get comprehensible input. Part of that is becoming aware of meaningful grammatical patterns. Are things happening now, or did they happen some time in the past? Is the statement a negation? A question, a request, an opinion?

There are various ways to practice listening with GamesforLanguage. Once you've gone through a Level (6 lessons), you can listen to the Podcast. You'll understand most of it as you've already practiced all the words and sentences. So now you can close your eyes and just listen. This is a powerful way to build listening skills.

Or if you also want to read what is being said, go back and play just the conversations, one after the other. You don't automatically get translations, but you can check, if necessary.

SPEAKING

You won't become fluent just by usingpractice speaking GamesforLanguage. Well, no online program can make you talk like a native. To become a fluent conversationalist, you have to SPEAK with live partners, often, and about a variety of topics.

But GamesforLanguage does give you the tools to get started, to help you work on your pronunciation by having you SAY and MEMORIZE phrases and sentences you can use in daily life.

You're encouraged to repeat everything OUT LOUD, every word, phrase, and sentence. By imitating the pronunciation of the speakers, you begin to attune your ear and work your mouth to make the right sounds.

The clue really is to speak out loud, to repeat, and to repeat again. Sure, there are many ways to learn vocabulary - from using flashcard apps to writing out your own flashcards. These are good ways to review new words on the go, whenever you have a few minutes.

But to practice speaking, you have to schedule some quiet time for yourself and to use that to really focus on the sounds you're making!

Record It - Gamesforlanguage.comOur best tool for learning to speak may be our Recording feature. Each lesson has a "Record It" section that you can access at any time. You hear the conversation of the lesson sentence by sentence. At each sentence you're asked to "press 'Record' and repeat after the speaker." Then, when you press "Replay," you'll hear the speaker and yourself right after. You can do this as often as you want, before going on to the next sentence.

One of our young users learning Italian complained that she "hated to hear" her own voice. We agree, it does take getting used to hearing one's own voice, especially in another language.

It's worth overcoming your reluctance. You can improve your spoken language noticeably, just by spending 20 minutes, recording your own voice and playing it back. For example, do a sentence five, six times, and try to capture the melody of what's being said rather than saying each word distinctly, etc. To boot, close your eyes while you listen and talk. It really helps.

READING

Since everything is in written form, GamesforLanguage gives learners a way to Laptop reading cartoonstart connecting sound to spelling. With time, you'll start noticing patterns in how words are spelled in relation to their sound. That's just a start, though. Next, you'll need to find a way to continue to read texts that are increasingly challenging.

Learning to read in a foreign language is a wonderful achievement. It's a way to learn a ton of vocabulary. Once you know the written language, you have access to many resources in the form of books, stories, articles, comments, letters/emails etc. printed or online.

Most importantly, you can now chose, what really interests you, a key for staying engaged and motivated.

Vocabulary is often taught in groups of topics: Greetings, food, animals,Story Dialogue - Gamesforlanguage.com body parts, professions, etc. GamesforLanguage introduces words and phrases in context by using a STORY. It's a different way of getting into a language.

While it's important to learn specific vocabulary, we've always found that we remember words, phrases, and sentences better when we hear them in the context of a conversation or a story. That's why our lessons are, in fact, Scenes of an ongoing travel story. (Our German 2 course "Blüten in Berlin?" is a mystery-story sequel to the German 1 travel-story.)

WRITING

Shootout Game - Gamesforlanguage.comUnless you keep a notebook on the side or create your own written flashcards with phrases and sentences, you won't learn much writing with GamesforLanguage.

We do have a short writing game in each lesson, but it's mostly just spelling practice for words.

Two of our games - Word Invader and Shootout - ask the learner to build sentences word by word.

These require the player to choose the correct grammatical form for each word, such as feminine vs. masculine, the verb with the right personal ending, a present or past tense form, subject or object form, etc. 

When playing, you also practice word order. Some sentences in other languages follow the English, many do not. German is a case in point, but Romance languages also have their word-order idiosyncrasies.

MEMORIZATION

Programs with Spaced Repetition Systems (SRSs) have become very popular. Word Hero Italian - Gamesforlanguage.comAn algorithm keeps track of what words you learn and what mistakes you make. You're are asked to recall the words at a specific time. The goal is to get the words into your long-term memory.

GamesforLanguage does not (yet) have an SRS. We do have several memorization and built-in recall games, but the spacing is not personalized.

To really memorize new words, you have to do more than just play through a game once or twice. You have to make new words your own and start using them actively.

The vocabulary of our early lessons is on Quizlet, for those who like to practice vocabulary more intensively.

Another good method for remembering new words is to write them out (either in a notebook or on small flashcards). 

In "Fluent Forever," Gabriel Wyner suggests that by writing out your own flashcards, you'll have a much easier time remembering words. He also says that he reviews his flashcards, in increasing intervals, for a full year before he stops completely. Even Polyglots need to review multiple times.

PARTNER SITES

We know that no program can be everything to everyone. We also use other sites to learn and practice our languages. With some sites we have established partnership arrangements.

With other free sites like Lingohut we share blog posts and tips. Our revenue-share arrangements with selected fee-for-service sites or apps, which we mention in our Dictionary and Quick Games, give us a (small) benefit. They help keep our site otherwise add-free and provide our users with learning options that we use and like ourselves.

PAST AND FUTURE GAMES FOR LANGUAGE LEARNING

GamesforLanguage is a labor of love and totally free. For us, working on the site is a way to learn, discover, and do what we enjoy. It keeps us in touch with new insights about language learning for grown ups that we can share with others. 

Right from the beginning, we've been working with a wonderful team of native-speaker collaborators.

Since our early days, we've added a language-learning Blog that now has weekly posts, as well as Podcasts of the stories, and over 200 Quick Language Games.

We've also continuously tweaked our Travel-Story Courses following input from users.

We decided early on to forgo the development of a GamesforLanguage app. Instead, we're relying on the increasing availability of free WiFi and the mobile-friendly design of our web-based program.

Still to be solved is making the recording feature work on mobile devices and replacing the Flash-Player that is currently necessary.

Much remains to be done: Our French 2 course has to be recorded, the Spanish 2 and Italian 2 courses have to be written and recorded.

Other ideas for improvement and new content are waiting in the pipeline.

And while we're always thinking about ways to enhance language learning, we also believe that Gabriel Wyner is correct when he notes in "Fluent Forever":

"No one can give you a language; you have to take it yourself. You are rewiring your brain. To succeed, you need to actively participate. Each word in your language needs to become your word, each grammar rule your grammar rule."

We hope that our GamesforLanguage site is a fun and useful resource for anyone who wants to learn and practice French, German, Italian, and Spanish for free. We always welcome feedback and suggestions for improving and expanding our site, so leave a comment right here!

Bio: Ulrike & Peter Rettig are co-founders of Gamesforlanguage.com. They are lifelong language learners, growing up in several European countries before moving to Canada and the United States. You can follow them on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Posted on by Ulrike Rettig

4 Fun Italian Language Games Before You Travel

Pisa leaning Tower - Gamesforlanguage.comPlay these 4 fun Italian Language Games a few times before you travel to Italy or to a region where Italian is widely spoken.

The four games in this post are just a taste of Italian, of course. It takes more to become fluent in Italian, but they're a start. And we hope that they'll inspire you to learn more.

For us, knowing some everyday vocabulary, essential travel phrases, and the numbers 1-100 has been a must for our travels in countries where we don't speak the language.

Some Simple Tips

Always say the words and phrases aloud. The more you do this, the better you'll remember them. It will also greatly improve your pronunciation over time.

Focus on practicing any expressions as "chunks" and try not to think about them as individual words. Like that, you'll directly link sound to meaning.

Whenever you can, associate words and expressions with an image in your mind. That way you'll remember them better.

It's essential to repeat words and phrases many times. Hearing or saying something just once doesn't cut it.

Speaking involves using various mouth muscles to produce the right sounds. The term "muscle memory" well describes how we learn to produce sounds that are not in our native language. And ultimately, our brain has to attach the correct meaning to a particular sound sequence.

Whatever your preferred method for learning may be - saying the Italian out loud and writing words and phrases out by hand helps you to internalize the language.

1. Basic Everyday Italian Phrases

Learning greetings and pleasantries in a language is aItalian snapcloud - Gamesforlanguage.com start, especially if you practice them so you can say them spontaneously and with good pronunciation.

There are lots of situations you can use them throughout the day - when getting your morning coffee in a café; visiting the local market; browsing in a store; having lunch or dinner; hanging out in a bar; socializing with new friends, etc.

Click on Basic Phrases or the screenshot right to play this Italian Quick Language Game. "What is it?" may be a question you can ask the waiter when a menu item is unfamiliar to you.

2. Italian Question Words

Question words game - Gamesforlanguage.comQuick questions help you to orient yourself in a city; to get information about when shops and museums are open; to ask for the price at markets; to start conversations with people you've just met, etc.

Common English questions words - with the exception of "how" - begin with a "wh-" sound (which, where, when, why, what, who, whom).

Italian interrogatives have greater variety of sound and form. There are contractions, such as: dov'è (of dove + è = where is). Chi (who/whom) combines with the prepositions a, di, con, and per - which go before. There are three ways to ask "what?": che cosa?, che?, cosa? - which are interchangeable.

Here is a Game to practice the 8 Italian question words. ( Or click on the "Memory game" screen shot, above left.)

3. Practice Numbers with these Italian Language Games

Mastering the numbers gives you a great tool for dealing Italian number 21+ - Gamesforlanguage.comwith daily tasks in another language. But you need to practice them enough to understand them easily and to say them automatically.

Numbers come in handy for setting appointments, paying in stores or restaurants, making reservations, purchasing tickets, etc.

The Italian numbers from 1 to 20 can be easily memorized. And, once you know the round numbers 20, 30, 40, to 90, you won't have any trouble with the numbers from 21 to 100.

One thing to remember is that from 21 on, you contract the compound number slightly when the second number starts with a vowel, which is the case with "uno" (one) and "otto" (eight). So you say "ventuno" and "ventotto" in contrast to "ventitré" or "ventinove." This is consistent right through 99: "novantuno" and "novantotto" versus "novantatré" or "novantanove."

Here's a game to practice the numbers 21 and beyond in a fun way. (Or click on the "Word Invaders" screen shot, above right.)

4. Making a Phone Call in Italian

Balloon Listening game - Gamesforlanguage.comIt's quite a challenge to make a call in a foreign language. But hey, if you do it often, it'll become routine and give you quite a boost in confidence.

When we were staying in Rome, I was the one who regularly called in to make a tennis court reservation at a local club where we played. At first I was nervous and read off what I was going to say. Even then I made mistakes.

After a couple of weeks, though, it became automatic and I actually enjoyed doing the call. It also prepared me for making other and more difficult calls later. 

Every call you make is going to be a little different. But with a little practice, you learn how to prepare and how to deliver what you want to say. 

Here's a Game to learn and practice how to ask for someone on the phone, and possible responses. "Non c'è" is a common phrase meaning that someone isn't there. Click on Pronto or the screen shot of the listening game above left.

Free Italian with Gamesforlanguage

If you enjoy our approach and these games, look for more Quick Games for French, Italian, Spanish, and Inglés on our site.

Or why not try our FREE Italian 1 travel-story course: Marco in ItaliaWith its 36 fifteen-minute lessons you'll learn close to 750 new words.

But, even more importantly, you'll practice the phrases and sentences of a travel story – useful, real life language that you'll be able to put to use when visiting Italy, or a country or region where Italian is widely spoken.

These include the canton of Ticino (Switzerland), the peninsula of Istria (Croatia), the island of Malta, the state of Monaco, and the micro-state of San Marino.

Any of these would make fascinating travels, by the way!

And, just maybe, you'll also get enchanted by Italian songs such as by one of our Italian favorites: “Dimmi Quando...”. This early 60s song, first performed by Tony Renis – who also wrote the music – was translated into many languages and later sung by Pat Boone, Connie Francis , and others. You can learn more about this song and its lyrics with the typical Italian constructions, by clicking on the above blog post link.

Bio: Ulrike Rettig is the co-founder of Gamesforlanguage.com. She is a lifelong language learner, growing up in Austria, the Netherlands, and Canada. You can follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and leave any comments with contact.

 

Posted on by Ulrike Rettig

4 Fun German Language Games Before You Travel

Schloss Neuschwanstein, Bavaria, Germany Are you planning to travel to Germany, Austria, Switzerland, or another country where you can use German? (Image left: Neuschwanstein castle, Bavaria, Germany)

Then practicing your German with these German language games may be for you!

In our travels we have found that knowing question words, some basic vocabulary, common travel phrases, and the numbers 1-100 has been very useful in countries where we don't speak the language.

You won't speak German fluently, of course, after reading this post and playing the four games. But you're sure to remember some of the words and phrases, and how to pronounce and use them correctly.

A Few Simple Tips

Always say the words and phrases aloud, or if you're on a bus Speaking aloud with German Language Gamesor standing in line, mouth them silently to yourself. Then when you're on your own, say them OUT LOUD from memory.

A good way to learn phrases and expressions is to practice them as "chunks" not as a series of individual words.

Idiomatic phrases often have a meaning that's quite different from the sum of the individual words in it. Once you know them, practice them as whole phrases and attach a mental image to them.

Repetition is essential. We rarely learn something just by hearing and saying it once or twice. 

To pronounce foreign words, we have to learn which mouth muscles to use for the right sounds. Each particular combination of sounds has to get lodged in our brain. And, our brain has to connect sound to meaning.

No matter how you like to learn German, speaking words and phrases out loud and writing them out by hand will help you remember them.

1. Question Words

German Question words - Gamesforlanguage.comInterrogatives are a basic tool for giving and getting information, either in casual conversations or when you're shopping, asking for directions, or inquiring about opening and closing times, train schedules, local events, etc.

In English, common question words - with the exception of "how" - tend start with "wh-" (when, where, why, who, what, which).

Common German question words begin with a "v" sound, which is how you pronounce a German "w."

English and German have look-alikes that have different meanings. For example, English "who" is German "wer"; English "where" is German "wo." Also, German has individual words for "where," "where to," and "where from."

Here is a Game to practice German question words. (Click also on "Snap Cloud" screen, above left.)

2. Basic Everyday Phrases

The basic phrases in our game include greetings and pleasantries that you German Basic phrases - Deal no Dealwould use often and in many situations - in a café, at a bar, at a party, in a store, online, on Skype, etc. (Click on "Deal no Deal" screen shot, right)

When you learn conversational phrases and expressions in context, you're focusing on communication. You don't have to think about grammar.

Learn and practice German Basic Phrases with this fun German game.

3. Buying a Train Ticket

Buying a train ticket - dialogue screenGoing by train in Germany, Austria, or Switzerland is one of the pleasures of traveling there. (Click on "Dialogue" screen shot, left)

The network of train and bus connections is huge and with it you can reach many towns and villages that are off the beaten track.

Knowing a few specific terms is very helpful because outside of the cities not everyone is fluent in English. You'll definitely want to understand and say the German for such terms as "ticket," "one-way," "return trip," "change," and other terms involved with buying a ticket.

This Buy a Train Ticket game will give you a good start.

4. Practice Numbers with German Language Games

When you travel to another country, knowing the numbers is a good skill German Numbers Word Invaders Gameto have. But you need to be able to understand them as well as to say them.

Numbers come in handy for talking about schedules, shopping, paying in a café, buying tickets, making hotel reservations, etc.

Knowing the numbers 1-100 is a good start. German numbers up to twenty are easy for English speakers. Then, you have to remember that the numbers from 21 to 99 are turned around. In German you say "one and twenty," "two and twenty," right through to "nine and ninety." It's a matter of saying them enough so they become automatic.

Here's the Numbers 1-20 game to practice the numbers in a fun way.  (Click on "Word Invaders" screen shot, above left)

Even if you don't have the time or motivation to learn a language to fluency before traveling, knowing some key vocabulary and phrases will go a long way to making your trip more enjoyable. It will also be quite helpful in many circumstances, and who knows, perhaps get you out of some tricky situations.

You want to learn more German?

If you're having fun with our approach and these games, you'll find additional Quick Language Games for French, German, Italian, Spanish, and Inglés on our site.

Or why not try our FREE German 1 travel-story course: Michael in Deutschland. With its 36 fifteen-minute lessons you'll learn over 600 new words.

But, even more importantly, you'll practice the phrases and sentences of a travel story – useful, real-life language that you'll be able to put to use when visiting Germany, Austria, Switzerland, or one of the other countries or regions where German is widely spoken, such as, South Tyrol (Italy) Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Belgium.

And, just maybe, you like German songs, such as the one my husband often hums in the morning: Guten Morgen liebe Sorgen .... This song was an earworm in Germany in the 90s. You can learn more about it and its funny lyrics by clicking on the song title link above.

Bio: Ulrike Rettig is the co-founder of Gamesforlanguage.com. She's been a lifelong language learner, growing up in Austria, the Netherlands, and Canada. You can follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and leave any comments on our site on contact.

 

Posted on by Ulrike Rettig

Games for German Language Learning: “Blüten in Berlin?”

Blüten in Berlin - Gamesforlanguage.comIn 2014, we added a German 2 course: “Blüten in Berlin?” (Picture left: Blüten in front of Berlin's TV Tower)

It is a continuation of our German 1 course “Michael in Deutschland.”

Readers of our 2014 post “Learning German with a Story: Blüten in Berlin?” will remember that Blüten” in German means “blossoms,” but in colloquial language the word also means “funny money.”

Language Magazine 

Since adding German 2 in 2014, we made quite a few changes. But the summary, which appeared on page 44 of Language Magazine's October 2014 edition,  describes the course so well that we are citing it in full again below:

Due to popular demand, GamesforLanguage.com is adding a German 2 course.

In this sequel to the German 1 course, Michael Mueller, a young traveler, returns to Berlin, where he is faced with a baffling mystery.

After he is caught paying with a counterfeit Euro 20 Euro note - Gamesforlanguage.com(“Blüte” in German jargon), he sets out to find the young woman who has slipped him the note on the plane from Boston to Berlin.

By playing dynamic games while following a mystery narrative, users are motivated to learn by the fun of it. To solve the mystery of the “Blüte,” they must collect enough points to move on to the next scene. They hereby learn and practice useful German phrases and sentences, which – because of the engaging story context – they'll remember.

All lessons begin with a short story dialogue. The sentences are then broken down into their component words and phrases, which layers practice in various games. Finally, players are prompted to reassemble the sentences from the dialogue.

A “Say It” sequence emphasizes the importance of repeating and speaking words and phrases.

With games like “Word Invaders” or “Shootout,” players practice translations and word order.

Word Hero” and “Shooting Gallery” games help recall the vocabulary of previous lessons.

Record it” then lets learners record the story lines themselves and practice their pronunciation.

GamesforLanguage's courses (German, French, Italian, and Spanish) are all online and free. Courses and Quick Games are accessible on most tablets.

72 instead 36 Lessons

New adventures - Gamesforlanguage.comGerman 2 builds your mastery of idiomatic language, helps you understand and use those hard-to-pin-down filler words (ja, schon, noch, doch, denn, eigentlich, mal, etc.), and has you practicing conversational past and simple past verb forms. 

Returning players will notice a change in our lesson format:

Each of the six levels of German 2 now has 12 lessons or Scenes, for a total of 72. Based on user comments, we've made various changes from the German 1 course:

We're introducing only 8 new words or phrases per Scene and are combining various games to make learning and practicing even more fun and effective.

Many of the German words and expressions used in both courses can also be practiced with the more than 70 German Language Games (Quick Games), which can be played without even registering.

Is German 1 a prerequisite for German 2?

German 1 is NOT a prerequisite for German 2. The course format allows anyone with basic knowledge of German to jump right in.

Our Recording Feature

We believe that the best way to practice speaking and Record It - Gamesforlanguage.compronunciation is still recording one's own voice and comparing it to that of the native speaker. (Voice recognition programs that some sites are using are still mostly frustrating, especially for beginners.)

By repeated listening and comparing, we are both training our ear and improving our pronunciation.

The recording feature, which is used in the final game of each Scene, requires the Flash Player. Recording therefore works with PC and laptop browsers, but not with most phones and tablets. So, when playing on a phone or tablet, you can just skip the Record It game at the end of each lesson.

Bio: Ulrike Rettig is the co-founder of Gamesforlanguage.com. She is a lifelong language learner, growing up in Austria, the Netherlands, and Canada. You can follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and leave any comments with contact.

Posted on by Ulrike Rettig

4 Fun Spanish Language Games Before You Travel

Plaza Major, Madrid - Gamesforlanguage.comAre you planning to travel to Spain or to one of the other Spanish-speaking countries? (Picture left: Plaza Mayor, Madrid, Spain)

Then practicing your Spanish with these Spanish language games may be for you!

You'll also know from our previous blogposts that learning, at the very least, basic numbers, some essential vocabulary, and common phrases has been very useful to us in travels to countries whose languages we don't speak.

We won't promise that you'll speak Spanish fluently after reading this post and playing the four games. We're convinced, however, that you'll remember some of the words and phrases and will be able to use and pronounce them.

Some Simple Tips

Always say the words and phrases aloud,Speaking aloud with Spanish Language Games or if you're on a bus or standing in line, mouth them to yourself, silently. Then when the coast is clear, say them OUT LOUD from memory.

A good way to learn phrases and expressions is to practice them as "chunks," not as a series of individual words.

Some phrases are idiomatic and have a meaning that's quite different from the meaning of the words in it. Learn them as a whole.

Lots of repetition is essential. We rarely learn something just by hearing and saying it once. 

Our mouth has to learn what muscles to use to make the right sounds. The particular combination of sounds that makes up a phrase has to get lodged in our brain. And, our brain has to connect sound to meaning.
No matter what your approach is to learning Spanish, speaking words and phrases out loud and writing them out by hand will help you remember them.

1. Practice Numbers with these Spanish Language Games

When you travel to a foreign country, knowing the numbers Word Invaders - Gamesforlanguage.comis a good skill to have. But you need to be able to understand them as well as to say them.

Numbers come in handy for exchanging phone numbers, giving your address, arranging a time to meet someone, buying at a market, paying the bill in a restaurant, buying tickets, making reservations, etc.

In general, knowing the numbers 1-100 will suffice. Spanish numbers are not difficult, all you need is say them enough so they become automatic.

Here's a game to practice the Spanish Numbers in a fun way. ("Word Invaders" screen, above left)

2. Question Words

Spanish Question words Game - Gamesforlanguage.comYou can do a lot with question words to give and get information, either on the personal level or when asking for directions, about opening and closing times, train or bus schedules, etc.

In English, common interrogatives - with the exception of "how" - tend start with "wh-" (when, where, why, who, what, which)

With the exception of "¿dónde?" (where), common Spanish interrogatives have a "k-" sound, which is spelled either as a "q," or a "c-." That's something you have to learn extra.

Also, as question words, these all have an accent: ¿qué?, ¿por qué?, ¿quién?, ¿cuándo?, ¿cuánto?, ¿cuál?, ¿cómo?, ¿dónde?

Here is another Game to practice the most common Spanish question words. ("Snap Cloud" screen, above right)

3. Common Adverbs

Spanish adverbs Game - Gamesforlanguage.comBasic adverbs in Spanish are easy to learn, but they're also easy to confuse. So, it's worth practicing them and hearing them in context.

With adverbs you can add important and precise information to what you're saying, for example, when, why, how, or where something is happening.

To learn or refresh your knowledge of adverbs, play Spanish: 10 Handy Adverbs and/or Spanish: 8 More Adverbs. (See "Word Hero" screen, left)

Note that some of the adverbs in this game can also function as adjectives. But in the sentences that give you the context, we are just using them as adverbs.

4. Everyday Phrases

Learn and practice 8 conversational phrasesSpanish phrase game - Gamesforlanguage.com with this fun and quick game.

You'll be using these phrases often when talking in Spanish - with someone at a party, in a café, at a store, online, on Skype, etc. ("Deal no Deal" screen, right)

Make this your start to remembering phrases and expressions: This way you don't even have to think about grammar.

If you're having fun with our approach and these games, you'll find additional Quick Games for French, German, Italian, Spanish, and Inglés on our site.

Or why not try our FREE Spanish 1 course: David en España. With its 36 fifteen-minute lessons you'll learn over 600 new words. But, even more importantly, you'll practice the phrases and sentences of a travel story – useful, real life language that you'll be able to put to use when visiting Spain, Mexico, or one of the many other Spanish-speaking countries or regions .

And just maybe you'll also get enchanted by Spanish songs such as “La Paloma”. If “La Paloma's” history interests you, or if you want to learn it's original (Spanish) lyrics, click on La Paloma Lyrics- Learning Spanish With a Song.

You may not have the time or motivation to learn a language to fluency before traveling.

However, knowing some key vocabulary and phrases will go a long way to making your trip more enjoyable. It will also be quite helpful in many circumstances, and who knows, perhaps get you out of tricky situations.

Bio: Ulrike Rettig is the co-founder of Gamesforlanguage.com. She is a lifelong language learner, growing up in Austria, the Netherlands, and Canada. You can follow her on FacebookTwitter and Instagram, and leave any comments with contact.

Posted on by Ulrike Rettig

4 Fun French Language Games Before You Travel

Place de Vosges - Gamesforlanguage.comAre you thinking “I love Paris in the springtime...” as in  one of Frank Sinatra's wonderful songs? Maybe you are traveling to France or even to Paris soon? (Picture left: Place de Vosges in spring 2008)

Then you should also know some French phrases and try theses French language games.

We won't promise you that you'll speak French fluently after reading this post and playing the four games. We are convinced, however, that you'll remember some of the phrases and will be able to use and pronounce them.

A good way to learn phrases and expressions is to practice them as "chunks," not as a series of individual words.

As we know, some phrases are idiomatic and have a meaning that's quite different from the meaning of the words in it.

Always say phrases aloud, or if you're on a bus or in a line, mouth them to yourself, silently. Then when the coast is clear, say them OUT LOUD from memory.

Lots of repetition is essential. We rarely learn something just by hearing and saying it once.

Our mouth has to learn what muscles to use to make the right sounds. The particular combination of sounds that makes up a phrase has to get lodged in our brain. And, our brain has to connect sound to meaning.

1. Everyday phrasesSacre Coeur - with Gamesforlanguage.com' French language games

No matter what your approach is to learning French, knowing a few conversational phrases is always useful.

Here's a French Language Game (or, just click on the picture!) to playfully learn and practice 8 conversational phrases that you're guaranteed to use often when talking in French - online, on Skype, or directly with someone at a party, at a store, on a ski-lift, in a café, etc.

2. The Verb "être" (to be)Reading woman in Paris - Gamesforlanguage.com

The verb "être" is useful in many contexts. Whether you're talking about yourself, asking for information or directions, sharing stories, etc., some form of "to be" is bound to come up.

With this game you'll do a quick review of "être" as a full verb in the present, future, and conditional tenses.

(In a future game, you'll learn and review "être" as an "auxiliary" or, "helping" verb. As such, "être" is used to make compound tenses for certain verbs.)

3. Numbers make great French Language GamesFrench numbers above 21 - Gamesforlanguage.com

Mastering the numbers in a language can be quite empowering, especially when you travel to a foreign country. But you need to be able to understand them as well as say them.

Numbers come in handy for buying at a market, paying the bill in a restaurant, buying tickets, making reservations, arranging a time to meet someone, exchanging phone numbers, giving your address, etc.

In general, knowing the numbers 1-100 will suffice. Still, French numbers from 70 to 99 are tricky and need extra attention. 

Here's a game to practice French numbers 21 and beyond in a fun way (with a link to numbers 1-20)

4. French soundsGolden "r" - Gamesforlanguage.com

When speaking English, you move your lips or tongue a certain way, for example to say "the," "he," or "rob." These are hard to pronounce for French speaker because the words contain sounds that French does not have: "th" "h" or our "r."

Similarly, French has sounds that are hard for English speakers. To produce them, you need to move your lips or tongue differently. In other words, you need to use different "mouth mechanics."

One difficulty may be that you can't really hear sounds that are not in the English language, because, like most people, you've gradually lost that ability in the course of growing into an adult.

However, with practice and application, you can recapture your ability to hearFrench vowels - Gamesforlanguage.com and say non-English sounds, such as the French "u," French nasal vowels, and the French "r." And even if your French pronunciation won't get to perfection, it will get much better in time.

So play our French language games to practice the French "r" or  "vowels and accents." You'll be amazed how a little practice will let you get the hang of it and become more comfortable in speaking.

Also, check our previous post "5 Quick French Pronunciation Steps: Mouth Mechanics 101.

And if you're having fun with our approach and these games, you'll find additional Quick Games for French, German, Italian, Spanish, and Inglés on our site.

Or why not try our FREE French Story: “Daniel en France”. With its 36 fifteen-minute Scenes you'll learn over 600 new words. But, even more importantly, you'll practice the phrases and sentences of a travel story – useful, real life language that you'll be able to put to use when visiting Paris or traveling around France.

And just maybe you'll also get enchanted by French songs such as Edith Piaf's  “No, je ne regrette rien” or Joe Dassin's “Si tu n'existais pas...”. Both songs are topics of earlier posts for “learning French with a song”...

Bio: Ulrike Rettig is the co-founder of Gamesforlanguage.com. She has been a life-long language learner, growing up in Austria, the Netherlands, and Canada. You can follow her on FacebookTwitter and Instagram, and leave any comments with contact.

Posted on by Paul Mains

7 Reasons why Language Learners Love Games

Languages signpost - Gamesforlanguage.comThough the rewards of mastering multiple tongues are immeasurable, nobody says that learning a foreign language is easy. From memorizing new vocabulary to making sense of unfamiliar grammatical structures, the language-learning process is fraught with challenges.

And the difficulties that language learners face go beyond the language itself. From lack of time to lack of money to lack of motivation, the realities of everyday life often prove to be a more significant roadblock on the path to fluency than the complexities of vocabulary and grammar.

Luckily for the modern language learner, there’s a simple and effective way to overcome these common obstacles that life throws at us: playing games. No, language games can’t simplify the grammar of a foreign language: they can’t take away the subjunctive in Spanish, or reduce the number of cases in Russian from six to two. But they can and do provide a host of other benefits for learners – even those of us who are busy, shy, or unmotivated.

Here’s how language games address common problems that learners face.

1. Games are fun.

The problem: It’s undeniably chic to be able to switch your language at the drop of a hat, Boy and girl having fun but the process of getting there isn’t always so glamorous. Indeed, there are some aspects of foreign-language grammar that will prove dense or even outright boring.

How language games help: There comes a point in time when we simply can’t look at lists of irregular verbs anymore without falling asleep. But when we turn these lists into a game, we’re suddenly awake, involved, and perhaps even enjoying ourselves. Free games like this Spanish verbs race maintain our interest and attention when we’re reviewing topics that can often induce boredom. (Image via NIH / Wikipedia)

2. Games are low-pressure.

The problem: Nobody likes making mistakes, and this goes double for language learners. There are few experiences as uniquely frustrating as making grammatical errors when trying your hardest to communicate well in a foreign language. When interacting with native speakers, this can be a highly anxiety-inducing experience. Our fear of making mistakes can prove debilitating when it discourages us from conversing – and thus improving – in our language of study.

How language games help: Games constitute a perfect casual setting where we can make mistakes freely and without judgment. In conversations with native speakers, a forgotten article or misused verb tense can be embarrassing, but when we’re playing a game like Kloo, we can more easily just laugh it off – after all, it’s only a game!

Gamer at work - Gamesforlanguage.com3. Games aren’t work.

The problem: You’ve just finished a long day at work or school (or both!), and the last thing you want to do is MORE work. Although every language learner dreams of being able to devote their entire day to learning new words and phrases, the realities of school and work get in the way of this. We already have jobs, classes, and responsibilities, and learning a new language can seem like yet another item on our endless to-do list.

How language games help: If you’ve already spent all day in class, you’re not going to want to study even more at home. But what about playing a game? That doesn’t sound so bad! Language games help us view language learning not as work, but as something fun and relaxing. This way, we can look forward to the time we spend learning a language, even after a long day in the office.

4. Games are motivating.

The problem: Even the most diligent language learner will experience a dip in their motivation at some point. Indeed, motivation ebbs and flows, and sometimes we simply just don’t have the drive to stare at the same verb conjugation tables for the hundredth time. Of course, staying motivated is a key aspect of the language-learning process, and it can be difficult to make progress when our motivation is low.

How language games help: Games are goal-based, and are designed to be motivating. Whether the purpose of the game is to solve a puzzle, beat out our competitors, or get a new high score, playing language games is fun and exciting. Even when we’re running out of steam, it’s much easier to muster up the energy to play some games than it is to forge through a new chapter of our coursebooks.

Family Playing Video Games5. Games are social.

Games are great for learners of all ages. (Image via Pixabay)

The problem: Especially if you live in an area where there aren’t many native speakers of the language you’re studying, it can be hard to find people to talk to. Indeed, language learning can be quite a solitary activity for many learners among us. But given that language is an inherently social thing – the purpose of learning a language is to communicate, after all – this lack of social interaction can be a hindrance in the language-learning process.

How language games help: Language learning is best done with friends, and a game is a perfect activity to share with others. If you can connect with native speakers, playing games with them will not only strengthen foreign language skills, but can also strengthen your friendships. And even if you don’t have any native speakers at your disposal, you can set up a friendly competition and challenge your fellow language-learners.

6. Games are quick.

The problem: You’re busy. Unfortunately, for most of us, learning a language is not our only responsibility. When we’re constantly on the move and running errands, it can be hard to squeeze in time for language practice – let alone find the time to devote to language classes every week.

How language games help: If you’ve got just five minutes to spare, it won’t do you much good to try hurriedly getting through half a page of your course book. But just a few minutes is all you need to play quick a quick game like these ones, which help you practice various aspects of French pronunciation and grammar. Games are a great way to fill those scarce moments of downtime in our hectic day-to-day lives.

Free Online Games - Gamesforlanguage.com7. Games are (quite often) free.

The problem: Between classes, course books, audio CDs, and other supplementary materials, learning a language can take a toll on our wallets. Nobody likes spending money, and for many of us, buying expensive courses and materials is simply not feasible.

How language games help: With the ever-growing prevalence of the internet, there are more and more opportunities to play language games – completely free of charge! All of the offerings from Games for Language are totally free, giving anyone with an internet connection the chance to improve their language skills and have fun while doing so.

Indeed, from being nervous to being exhausted to simply being bored, there are plenty of things in our daily lives that can prevent us from studying a foreign language and advancing our skills. But fortunately, taking advantage of language-learning games can help us combat these challenges – despite our social, monetary, and schedule restrictions. Games are a great way for us to stay regularly connected with our foreign language, and can help solidify language learning as a part of our daily routine we look forward to.

Readers: what are your favorite language-learning games? What other benefits does playing games offer us? Let us know in a comment on GamesforLanguage's contact or its Facebook Page!

Bio: The above post is from Paul Mains, an English teacher who lives in Argentina. Paul writes on behalf of Listen & Learn, a language teaching service which offers foreign-language level tests as well as other free language-learning resources on their website. Check out their Facebook page or send an email to paul@listenandlearn.org for more information

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