Posted on by Ulrike & Peter Rettig

Learning Languages Online With a Mystery Story...

http://www.minnjil.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/sherlockholmes110914000424.jpgAs lifelong language learners - by necessity and passion - we have used many different methods for learning a new language:

  • English and French classes during our school years in Germany, Austria, the Netherlands, and Canada

  • Assimil records, tapes, and books

  • Berlitz and other classroom courses to learn/improve French

  • Immersion French courses in France

  • Pimsleur CDs to learn Italian and Chinese

  • Various CD and online courses, including Babbel, Rosetta Stone, Duolingo, our Gamesforlanguage, etc. to learn Swedish, Spanish, Portuguese, etc.

  • Books and dictionaries for the above and other languages

Classroom courses also involved reading novels and newspaper articles (activities that online add-ons such as Lingua.ly can now also make more accessible for more advanced learners.) And for us, a story or interesting text made language learning both relevant and effective. 

Overcoming Boring and Frustrating Beginnings

But beginning to learn a new language with CDs or online was often boring and frustrating: Many courses start out by teaching vocabulary and word combinations that seem useless and nonsensical. (Even Duolingo, a program we like a lot ourselves, started out with strange sentences, but is now constantly improving!) While various grammar points, word order, etc. can obviously be practiced with out-of-context sentences, it's been our experience, that we recall vocabulary much better, if (a) we learn vocabulary in context and (b) we learn useful, everyday language.

With our Gamesforlanguage courses we are using a travel story right from the start: The vocabulary grows from a few simple words in an airplane to phrases and sentences that describe a young man's experiences as he travels through various European cities.

A Mystery Story for Non-Beginners

For our German 2 course, ( the full 76-lesson course is online and can be played for Free with simple registration), we are using a mystery story. Michael, the young traveler from our German 1 course, returns to Berlin. The young woman who sits beside him in the airplane gives him a book, “Berlin Alexanderplatz,” which she does not want to finish. Without giving away too much, let's just say that this book plays a key role in the story.

Each lesson is built around 4-8 dialog or story sentences, which are broken up into words and phrases - then heard, read, practiced and, re-assembled again, and finally recorded by the learner. German 2 will add another 700 NEW words to the 700 words of German 1, many of which will be recalled in various games of German 2.

Learners will again have to exceed certain point thresholds with each lesson, before they can unlock the next one. We believe that getting “to the end of the story” will not only be a worthwhile incentive to learn, but will also make learning more fun AND effective. We are planning to add French 2, Italian 2, and Spanish 2 courses with a similar mystery story in 2016.