Posted on by Ulrike & Peter Rettig

Language Learning Games with Gamesforlanguage

Games & Stories Facebook imageDuring the Covid-19 Pandemic we experienced an increased interest in GamesforLanguage travel-story courses and quick language learning games. As our free Quick Language Games and Podcasts can be played without registering, we don't know the countries of origin of those players.

Our free 36-lesson courses of the four European languages, French, German, Italian and Spanish, however, require users to register, so they can continue their course(s) where they left off when returning.

From the addresses (e.g. the “.edu” e-mail part) we know that many of these courses are played by school classes, just recently the Italian course by 46 students in Australia.

Whether teachers like our games and courses because they are completely free, without any upsell emails and Google ads, or simply because they are a fun language learning break, we often don't know. We've heard all those reasons and encourage more teachers to try our courses and games with their language classes.

Although we don't know the countries from where the Quick Language Games are accessed, we can tell which games have become favorites. Here are the favorite Quick Language Games for our four main languages:

Quick Spanish Games

Screenshot of Spanish Quick Language Game: "ir" The clear winner for Spanish is the irregular verb "to go": "Ir - Present Tense". I agree, it's a fun game. Since beginning of April, it was played well over 1200 times.

The first part is a Shootout game to learn/review the present tense forms of "ir". In the second part, you play the Memory game to learn 4 common nouns. The third and last part is a Word Invader game with which you put together 8 short sentences using different forms of "ir" plus one of the four nouns. (For example, the Spanish equivalent of : "She's going to the park." "We're going to the café." "I'm going to the station.")

Other popular Quick Spanish Games are: "8 Question Words"; "Tener - Present Tense"; "Hello Goodbye".

Quick French Games

screenshot of French Language Game: 8 French Question words"8 Question Words" is the hands-down winner for French. That has been true for quite some time, maybe also because of the particular French way of asking a question.

The first part consists of Memory and Snap Cloud games, to learn/review 7 question words and the question phrase: "est-ce que ?" These are followed by a Balloon Word (listening) game. To finish up, you hear and then reconstruct 3 common questions with the Word Invader game.

Other popular Quick French Games are: "Days of the week"; "Modal Verbs"; "The Verb faire".

Quick German Games

screenshot of Quick German Language Game "zu Hause"In recent weeks, the surprising favorite German game has been "At home": "Zu Hause". This game is based on a 7-sentence conversation between two people who sit next to each other on an airplane to Germany.

You'll learn and practice the individual words as well as each of the full sentences using various games such as Snap Clouds, Say It, and Word Hero. At the end you'll hear the conversation again and you'll very likely manage to listen without translating in your head.

Other popular Quick German Games are: "Present Perfect Tense 1"; "The Modal Verb können"; "Wie komme ich...?"

Italian Quick Games

Screenshot of Italian Language Game "Avere" The irregular verb: "Avere - Present Tense" is the champion game for Italian. No surprise there, the verb is super useful and needs practice.

You first see the present tense forms and then test yourself with the Shootout game. You'll then learn 4 basic nouns with the Memory and Flash Card games. Finally, with the Word Invader game, you put together 6 simple sentences using the words you learned. (For example, the Italian equivalent of "I have the key." "He has the photos." "They don't have the address".

Other popular Quick Italian Games are: "Days of the Week"; "Numbers 1-20"; "mi chiamo".

Quick Language Games are a great way to take a quick time out and listen to and practice a few morsels of the new language you are learning. You will be surprised how well they will “stick”.

Note: On our German Facebook page: Learn German - A Game a Day, you'll find a different Quick German Game every day. We have close to 100 of them at this time, and continue to create more of them.

Posted on by Ulrike & Peter Rettig

What Makes Language Learning Engaging & Less Boring For Us?

Four boys playing ballIt's been about a year now that daily life has been upended by the pandemic. Like most people, we at GamesforLanguage have gone through various kinds of moods and emotions. As you can expect, the pandemic blues have included periods of heightened boredom and lowered motivation for language learning.
We are looking forward to more moments like these four boys are enjoying. (Photo by Robert Collins on Unsplash)

It's been particularly hard to be separated from family and friends. At times Zoom fatigue has set in, and texting doesn't do the trick all the time either.

We also sorely miss traveling. We have siblings, cousins, nieces, nephews, as well as long-term friends all who live in Canada and Europe.

Besides, over the years travel had become an important impetus for our language learning. We've enjoyed travel and one-month or longer stays in several different countries, as you can read in our European Travel series on our Blog.

This past year has been tough. But here we are, still using our languages and striving to improve our fluency. The months grounded at home have made us think a lot about what motivates us to keep on learning languages.

What Has Helped Us to Keep Going?

1. Having a routine

For better or for worse, we've hung on to some kind of a language learning routine, even though we've sometimes struggled to stay motivated. Our routine may have thinned out, but it's still the backbone or our language learning and has kept us going.

2. No rote learning

We've scrapped memorizing lists of random words or phrases. Learning a language in context is so much easier and more interesting. Indeed, we find it essential.

3. Short and focused language practice

We continue to use online language programs, but only for short periods. At the moment, I'm playing Spanish GamesforLanguage course lessons every day, and am just about to finish Level 3 of Duolingo's Dutch. Ulrike has started Finnish on Duolingo and also does daily Swedish lessons. (Once travel is back, we're planning to visit those two countries.)

4. Grammar in baby steps only

For now, grammar is to be enjoyed only in sweet little bites. Only when a phrase or sentence just doesn't make sense, do we resort to some grammar sleuthing. We treat grammar like fun little puzzles to be solved.

5. Lots of passive learning

A large part of engaging in our languages has been watching news programs, listening to interesting podcasts, and watching foreign TV series and films (with or without subtitles). We watched the entire Italian Inspector Montalbano series, as well as various French, Spanish and German series on Amazon Prime's MHz channel.

6. Reading and listening to interesting stories

To practice my Dutch, I recently purchased Olly Richard's Dutch Stories for Beginners. They are a little wacky, but made great bedtime reading. (Maybe I even improved my Dutch while sleeping.)

Both Ulrike and I regularly read or listen to French stories and novels. The latest: Michel Bussi: "T'en souviens-tu, mon Anaïs"; Guillaume Musso: "Un appartement à Paris", "La fille de Brooklyn"; Dominique Manotti: "Racket", "Marseille 1973".

7. Exercise, sports, walking

This has been really important for us. Lots of walks, tennis outside in the summer, at least 20 minutes of exercise every morning. We both work at a "walking desk". Exercise may not seem immediately relevant to language learning. But it's been well documented that it can sharpen memory and thinking skills.

All these above activities have helped us stay with our various languages. It's been clearly a question of how to make language learning fun and to avoid getting bored. Is there a "secret ingredient"?

Young Children

When we watch young children, we marvel at the ease they seem to learn their native language. Children acquiring their first language will focus on learning how to use it. It's like a full time job for them. It takes their full attention. Boredom is not an issue.

It's the same for young children who live in an environment that totally immerses them in another language. And even older children seem to be able to pick up a new language quite easily when there's lots of interaction with friends and family who speak the language. It's the social component that's crucial, while more structured learning (drills, exercises, practice) helps to build vocabulary, and improve pronunciation and grammar skills. (See also how our 10-year old grandson learns French with GamesforLanguage.)

Several of our grandchildren are taking regular French lessons online, which has them talk with a tutor and requires them to listen and speak. They seem to enjoy this a lot, especially because of the live interaction.

Challenges for Adult Learners

What makes learning a new foreign language as an adult so challenging are many factors, among them:
• Our increasing difficulty with time (starting in late childhood) to accurately hear sounds that are different from our native language, as well as producing those new sounds when speaking.

• A busy life that leaves little time and energy for extensive daily focused language learning.

• Language programs that are not engaging enough to sustain our frequent and regular use.

What Makes Online Language Learning Courses and Apps  Engaging?

There are several elements that can make language learning more engaging.

1. Social contact when learning a language

Children learn languages through their social contacts with parents, caretakers, siblings, playmates, etc. Adults can replicate such contacts to some degree in live or online language language classes. But clearly such interactions cannot compare with the time that children spend speaking and listening.

Many of the apps and programs also include user forums where learners can ask questions, and interact with others, etc. With italki and similar platforms you can book private tutors, which does provide social contact and more customized learning with emphasis on listening and speaking.

Immersive language programs, such as offered at Middlebury College, VT, rely heavily on the social contact aspect of only communicating in the target language.

We've just learned about a new option: Pangea Chat. This platform has just become available online, in the App Store and on Google Play. On Pangea Chat, friends text each other in their native language. These exchanges are then automatically translated into the chosen target language and put into gamified “activities” for practice.

Pangea Chat would seem to check off the "social contact" and "relevant, comprehensible input" boxes that we discuss below. We are planning to review the app once we have used it for a while.

2. Interesting topics and relevant input

This is what many language programs are lacking. Especially for beginners, language lessons are often limited to what the teachers or developers consider essential first words and phrases.

Steve Kaufman of LingQ is a great proponent of “meaningful input that matters to you”.  He expands on what the well-known linguist Stephen Krashen thought of as the essential requirement for language learning: “comprehensible input”.

LingQ's approach certainly applies the idea of "comprehensible input". Subscribers to the program can read and listen to content that they are interested in. Translations are available as needed.

This is different from the Rosetta Stone method, which uses pictures that the user has to match to a foreign word. That quickly became boring for us.

Most apps and language programs rely on some form of translation to provide “comprehensible input” for the learner. However, the lesson topics include mostly the words and phrases of categories such as “Basics”, “Greetings”, “People”, “Travel”, “Family”, "Activity”, “Restaurant”, “City”, etc. (as in the early lessons of Duolingo's French course).

For learners who are really serious about learning a new language, Gabe Wiener's Fluent Forever app, starts with the sounds of the foreign language. The app uses images and flashcards to teach you vocabulary and lets you also customize your learning. This is followed by stories with which you learn grammar. Finally, you can practice with native tutors. A motivated learner who uses Fluent Forever regularly, will certainly progress quickly.

3. Games for language learning

When Duolingo appeared 2011, just about the time when we launched Gamesforlanguage.com, gamified learning suddenly became the craze of the day. Many of the programs and apps we have tried also include some form of games.

Games are clearly a compelling technique for learning: They provide a challenge, they let you know when you're right or make a mistake. As language learning also relies on memorization and repetition, you can repeat the games until you “get it”.

However, after a while even games can become a little tedious, if they don't involve “meaningful input that matters to you”. That was the reason why the GamesforLanguage courses use a travel story rather than unrelated words and phrases. (Admittedly, even travel stories of a young traveler can become boring when you repeat them several times.)

4. Success feedback and voice recognition

Most language learning apps and programs today use some form of feedback.

Over time, Duolingo has evolved a number of such feedback parameters, including a daily goal and point counter. These show up in a chart, achievement levels, a streak counter, etc.
LingQ tracks the number of known words and now also has a streak counter, and so do Mosalingua and Fluent Forever. Including a “streak”, that shows how many days a learner has been learning in a row, seems to become ever more popular.

When we tried Babbel the last time, we did not like the voice recognition feature. Duolingo on it's AppStore app also uses voice recognition, but the feature is easily fooled. We suspect that it will only be a matter of time until voice recognition will be smart enough to be incorporated into many language programs to provide real-time feed-back to the user's pronunciation.

Until then, speaking aloud and recording yourself is still the best way to practice new sounds and comparing yourself to native speakers. (Unfortunately, and different from a live dialogue with a friend, this is both time consuming and quickly becomes boring as well.)


So, we have found that the best language language learning "package" for self learners would consist of a combination of meaningful social interactions and resources that provide interesting and relevant input.
If you like music and singing, learning the lyrics of a song in your target language could work well. (Here are our suggestions for French, German, Italian and Spanish songs.)
To add some fun to pronunciation practice, and vocabulary and grammar building, I would add some features that include gamification and feedback.

Let us know which language learning programs and apps are engaging for you, and in particular, which elements keep you practicing regularly.

Posted on by Ulrike Rettig

A Ten-Year-Old Learns French With GamesforLanguage

Gamesforlanguage French 1 Course Home PagePublic schools in the US traditionally have a week of school vacation in mid-February, that didn't change even during the pandemic. Since spending time with our grand-kids was out of the question, Peter had came up with a suggestion for an activity they could do.

After all, their parents had to work, and the kids needed some projects. The children are learning other languages, so we thought we'd give them the challenge to go through the French 1 and the German 1 course. At the end of the week, we would interview them.

Our ten-year-old grandson Will chose French. His family has traveled a few times to France, and he's been getting regular French lessons on Zoom. By the end of the week, he had finished three lessons of French with GamesforLanguage.

We're encouraging Will to continue playing the French course and the Quick French Language Games. We "interviewed" him on the front lawn of his home where he was building a snow fort. It was obviously not a school-like setting for him, and he was pretty relaxed.

Did any answers surprise us? Yes, a couple of them did.

Here are the Questions about learning French with GamesforLanguage:

Question 1: You've been learning French for a little while now, what do you like about French?
• I like the sounds, French has cool sounds.

His answer was quick and spontaneous and surprised me at first. I did not expect it to be "sounds". But then why not? Hearing sounds, imitating them, and producing sounds to get things, that's how children actually learn their first language. Reading and writing doesn't come until later and takes several years of schooling.

Question 2: What's the first French word that comes to your mind right now? Dialogue Page, Lesson 1, French 1- Gamesforlanguage
• I want to say "juice" but I can't remember the French word. But I do remember "pomme".

Okay, now we know kids can't remember everything either. In our French 1 course, "jus", "pomme" and "jus de pomme" come up early and several times. Looks like it was "pomme" that stuck.

Question 3: Do you remember your visit in France? Did you actually have the chance to say things in French? Order food? Do you remember any words?
• Oh yes, a lot. I said things in French when we were in restaurants. I always ordered what I liked. What I said many times: "De la glace. Je veux de la glace, s'il vous plaît."

Clearly, even kids learn to say things that they "need" to say, much better than stuff they just have to learn by rote. That's as true for them as it is for us, and includes saying things in another language.

Question 4: What is your favorite French word?
• The word I really like is "fromage", and also because it tastes to good.

A good example here of associating a word with one of the senses. For language learning, it's well known that "sensory input" boosts your memory.

Question 5: What French sound do you find a little hard to pronounce?
• The sort of harsh sounds are hard. I'm thinking of, like, "cr", "croissant" or "crème".

I was expecting him to say that he found the "nasal" sounds hard, as in "moi", "non"; or the French "u", as in "tu". But he had no problems with those. Just shows: mastery of new sounds is an individual thing, not everyone has the same difficulties.

Question 6: How do you practice a sound that's hard?
• Oh, I say it over and over and over again, "croissant", "croissant", "croissant au chocolat" ...

For anyone - children or adults - learning new sounds takes practice. To produce a sound that's not in your own native language, you have to move your mouth (tongue and lips) in a different way. And that takes practice until it becomes automatic.

Gamsforlanguage French 1.1 Memory Game screenshotQuestion 7: When you're playing GamesforLanguage - What is the easiest game for you?
• The easiest? It's the Memory Game. That's the game where you see 4 cards for a word. I had no problem picking the right one.

The Memory Game is multiple choice and a good way to introduce 4 new words or phrases. You first see the right match for each word (French and English equivalent). Then the English cards are mixed up and you need to pick the one that's the translation.

Right in the first lesson, you have the 4 phrases: "un jus de pomme" (an apple juice), "si'il vous plaît" (please), "mon premier voyage" (my first trip), "en France").

Question 8: On GamesforLanguage - When playing a game, do you repeat out loud or just in your head?
• I definitely repeat out loud. Sometimes again.

He's got that right! An online game doesn't make you fluent, but saying what you hear out loud is good practice for improving you pronunciation and listening skills. To be able to say a word right, you have to hear it correctly and to check whether your pronunciation matches. Just silently thinking what about the French is not good enough.

Question 9: What game do you find a little hard?
• The Clouds Game, it's harder to pick the right one.

Snap Clouds is a recall game, which makes it a little harder to pick the correct answer. Plus, the choices are not as obvious as in the Memory Game. For example, you'd be asked to choose the correct pronoun and form of the verb: For "I speak", you have the choices: "tu parles", "je parle", "elle parle", "il parle".

Question 10: What game is the most fun to do? GamesforLanguage French Wordinvaders screenshot
• I like the Space Invaders. I don't find that hard, I can shoot the right word.

Actually, we call that game "Word Invaders". With it you build phrases and sentences, word by word. For each word you get two or three choices. For example, you're asked to build the phrase in French: "An apple juice, please (formal)". The answer will be: "Un jus de pomme, s'il vous plaît".

These are the choices that you have for each of the words:
1. un une 
2. jus eau vin 
3. à de
4. poire pomme raisin
5. s'il mais
6. vous tu
7. plaît parle passe

Question 11: What do you think you learned most with GamesforLanguage: words, pronunciation? Or has it improved your understanding of what the speakers say?
• I learned reading French the most. I didn't know how to read much French before.

This answer surprised me because I hadn't thought about it. In his Zoom lessons, he hears his French tutor and answers in French, but he doesn't see the words. So, seeing how the French words he hears are written was a novelty and probably the most challenging for him.

Question 12: Do you like getting points at the end of a lesson?
• Yes, I like it. It feels like you earned something.

"Earning" something seems to matter to some learners. At the end of each lesson, we've set a minimum percentage of correct answers a player must reach in order to continue with the next lesson. That number goes up gradually, from 50% in the first 6 lessons, to 90% in the last 6 lessons.
He also told us that he had not listened yet to the lesson audios or downloaded each lesson's PDF file.  (You can access the audio for each level (six lessons) via the Podcast link and the PDF file via the link under each course lesson.)

It was fun to talk with our ten-year-old grandson about his tryout of learning French with our GamesforLanguage course. He's one of our younger users.
We have several school classes located in the US, UK, and Australia playing French, German, and Spanish. What appeals are the Quick Games and the game structure of the courses.
Besides, our games, courses, and podcasts are completely FREE, there are no Google advertisements.
Only our courses require a simple registration and a password - which is only needed so you can continue your course where you left off.
Quick Games, Podcasts and Blog can all be accessed by just clicking on the link

Posted on by Louise Taylor

Why games are the best way to learn a language

Scrabble tiles on Game BoardLearning a new language can often feel like a daunting task, particularly for young people. That’s why an increasing number of educators and students are turning to games as a way of making the challenging and often laborious task of learning a foreign language through textbook and translation exercises feel more enjoyable.

Learning a second language has multiple benefits. Not only does it provide the learner with the means of communicating with people of different nationalities, it also includes the potential for learning about another culture and for inspiring an interest in travel.

Learning another language also impacts positively on cognitive function. Requiring the brain to undertake regular translation from one language to another can improve attentional control, inhibitory control, working memory, cognitive flexibility, reasoning, problem solving and planning – and who doesn’t want their child to excel in all of these?

You can read more here about the benefits of being bilingual and how it impacts on cognitive function and development.

And here are the reasons why learning with games is such a great way for acquiring languages.

Technology as an educational tool – turning translation into a game

Today’s children are more technologically aware than ever before. Although this may seem concerning to some, the value of technology as a vital tool for education cannot be understated – particularly as portable devices are so widely accessible and are almost all capable of ‘on the fly’ media translation.

As distracting as devices such as laptops, smartphones and tablets may be, technology can provide avenues for education that are vastly more engaging to modern audiences than traditional learning methods, which often focus on repetitive translation and list learning. Through just a few clicks and keystrokes, an internet-connected device can offer us access to the entire world’s collective knowledge, including a wide range of methods for absorbing that knowledge.

Many studies have shown positive associations between gaming and cognition. Brain training games are widely accepted as a means of improving mental functioning, as we come to appreciate more and more the value of exercising the mind, as well as the body. When it comes to language learning, games are also valuable, turning repetitive translation tasks into something fun – and thus more likely to be remembered!

Learning to translate through gaming

Games can offer a means of engaging with language studies in a way that goes beyond traditional textbooks and translation exercises. They can help students not only to learn but also to improve their general cognition. Games can even have ancillary benefits such as enhancing self-esteem, thanks to the pleasure and pride associated with doing well at something.

Multiple studies have shown that exposure to technology and immersive media such as games improves memory, multitasking and problem-solving abilities, hand-eye coordination and even connectivity between different brain regions. All of these cognitive improvements contribute to more generally effective language and translation study.

Nor are dedicated language learning games the only way that students can benefit from gaming. From language students to translation professionals, the value of immersion in a language is well known. The audience for video games consists of more than a billion people worldwide and, due to their interactive nature, video games offer students a legitimately entertaining means of immersing themselves both into the spoken and written language of their study. Students playing foreign-language video games can therefore continue their studies even during their downtime.

Not only are games vastly more enjoyable to many students than traditional learning methods, but on average, students who learn with the assistance of immersive media are more successful in their language and translation studies than those who don’t. Rather than a tool for procrastination, the right games can allow a student to enjoy their studies more at the same time as learning faster.

Features of a good language/translation learning game

According to the fundamentals of good game design, the most engaging games – and thus the most educational – will offer a few key features:

1. An incremental challenge

Offering a continuous challenge to the player will help keep them engaged with the content. This can be achieved by designing a game with a number of clear, incremental goals, with each goal satisfying a specific learning objective. An example of this would be to challenge the student to a set of translation tasks increasing incrementally in difficulty.

2. An engaging and realistic story line

An interesting story line will help the student stay engaged with the content. Providing a setting allows the student to see the language they’re learning used in a real-life context and can help to motivate them to succeed in their translation. Realism also helps to ensure the content is taken seriously and can be viewed as useful in real terms.

3. Flexibility

Allowing some degree of flexibility to the way in which a student can approach their learning objectives can help to break up the generic step-by-step monotony of conventional language learning methods like repetitive translation exercises.

4. Regular rewards

Rewarding a student at regular intervals provides them with a constant sense of satisfaction and achievement as a result of their language and translation studies. Much like “levelling up” in video games, emphasis on progression helps students to feel like they’re getting somewhere throughout the learning process, rather than focusing solely on an end goal of fluency that may at times seem insurmountable.

Through playing games, the often dull task of learning and expanding vocabulary through repetitive translation comes naturally and with a sense of fun.

If you’re looking for an entertaining and immersive way to learn a new language in 2019, try picking up a game and reap all of the additional cognitive benefits that learning through technology and immersive media can provide.

Author Bio: Louise Taylor writes for Tomedes, a translation company specializing in game translation and other translation and localization services. When not writing about languages, Louise is usually doing her best to learn to speak more of them.  

Posted on by Peter Rettig

Games for Language Learning and “Senior” Adults?

Excited about learning with gamesHaving reached the age when younger people kindly refer to us as “seniors”, we sometimes get remarks like this from friends and acquaintances:

“I was never good at learning a foreign language.”

“I'm too old for learning another language.”

“I don't think you can learn a language with games!” or

“I think playing games is a waste of time!”

Overcoming beliefs like that is often hard and we rarely try to convince those who have a set opinion.

But such negative remarks also point to perceptions that make it harder for older adults to learn a new language more rapidly.

To learn a language, you have to be enthusiastic, persistent and confident that you can do it.

Language learning should also be fun and interesting.

That's why listening to stories, watching movies and videos, engaging in one-on-one conversations are great ways to grow your vocabulary and fluency.

But how to get started and why not throw a few language games into the mix?

Simple, interactive games are not only a fun way to learn some language basics but also an easy way to get into a practice habit.

(A recent article of The University Network: Video Games: Not Just Fun And Games, According to SLU Professor describes how video games can be successfully used  in class settings.)

Language Games for Kids

We all know that kids love to play. In fact, most, if not all of their learning in their early years occurs during play.

So it's not surprising that educational games – especially those on kids' tablets, smart phones, etc. are pouring into the market place.

These games combine playing with targeted learning. children playing games for language learningThey include educational topics from geography, math, spelling, science, to native and foreign languages.

There are numerous audio, video, and other “toy based” games and apps, which children play in their native language.

With these, they enhance word recognition, pronunciation, spelling, and writing.

And, games don't have to be on a laptop or tablet. There are blocks with numbers or letters; there are playing cards and board games like KLOO; and there are more and more battery operated toys that combine colors, movements, music, and language sounds into interactive learning centers for young children.

Kids play native and foreign language games - not because it helps them to better communicate with their parents, siblings, and peers - but because they provide interactive fun.

Language games teach them basic vocabulary, often with funny pictures, cute sound effects, and “rewards” for getting it right.

Language Benefits for Younger and Older Adults

In contrast to children, adults typically have a specific plan or need for the particular foreign language they are learning.

Younger adults will learn another language to enhance their career options, or because of friends, family connections, etc. They have to develop the discipline and learning habits to keep going in the midst of work and family commitments and time constraints.

The reasons older adults learn a new language often relate to family, new partners or travels. Many are also becoming aware of new research findings, which show the benefits of language learning for the older brain.

silhouette head with "welcome" in different languagesThe strongest evidence of such benefits comes from a decades-long study of 853 Scottish people, first tested in 1947 at age 11, and then retested in 2008-2010.

Published in the Annals of Neurology in 2014, the study, titled Does Bilingualism Influence Cognitive Aging, the authors discuss the “protective effect of bilingualism against age-related cognitive decline.”

While the study does not make for easy reading, a number of key findings caught my attention:

  • The protective effects are not explained by other variables such as gender, socioeconomic status, or immigration.
  • The benefits appear to be independent of childhood intelligence (CI).
  • Knowing 3 or more languages produced stronger effects than knowing 2.
  • Little difference was found between active and passive bilinguals.

What I found especially interesting was the discussion of the study's limitations at the end of the article:

"Our study has limitations. The knowledge of language was defined by a questionnaire, not proficiency. Only few participants acquired their second language before age 11 years, so we could not study the classical cases of parallel, perfect, early acquisition of both languages. However, this limitation is also a strength. Millions of people across the world acquire their second language later in life: in school, university, or work, or through migration or marriage to a member of another linguistic community. Many never reach native-like perfection. For this population, our results are particularly relevant; bilingualism in its broad definition, even if acquired in adulthood, might have beneficial effects on cognition independent of CI (childhood Intelligence)."

Think about it. You don't even have to speak another language perfectly to acquire the benefits later in life.

This is good news for the many immigrants who have to flee their home countries.

But it's also good news for anybody who is learning another language but may never speak it fluently.

Your brain benefits from your learning effort anyway.

Adults Learning With Language Games

When we started learning Italian in our early sixties and Spanish a few years later, language learning games and gamified language courses or apps were not yet available. This was January 2011. 

We found the The Rosetta Stone courses boring.

Duolingo didn't launch until November 2011 (see some of our Duolingo and Rosetta Stone Reviews) and we felt that Language Games could make learning and practicing a foreign language more fun.

We know from personal experience (and many other language enthusiasts agree) that the key to learning another language is regular - even daily - exposure to the new language.

Short, daily stints are fine. In fact, practicing each day for 20 minutes is much more effective than once a week for 2 hours or more.

But daily practice with boring lessons is hardly a very motivating proposition for a busy adult.

On the other hand, listening to a story sequel in another language appealed to us.

We've always used “easy readers” with accompanying vocabulary or translations. (For example, we love Olly Richard's Short Stories, which are also available as audio books.)

However, for anyone with no or little background in Gamesforlanguage: Learning with games... the new language, we felt that interactive “comprehensible input” was needed. What better way than learning and practicing new vocabulary with language games?

That was our original idea for GamesforLanguage: Learning and practicing a new language “playfully”, or learning with games! Our site went live in September 2011.

Later we added Podcasts of the stories as well as Quick Language Games – over 200 by now – which only take 2-3 minutes to play,

Do we think that one can become fluent in a new language with our Gamesforlanguage courses?

No, we do not.

Becoming fluent requires much more listening and speaking practice than our courses - and most other online programs and apps – provide.

But, if our free courses can engage adults to play just one 15-20 minute travel-story lesson a day for 30 days and more - that may be the start of a learning habit.

The next steps would be to continue with reading and listening to other stories and to start speaking in the language you're learning.

More and more new “senior” adults, the “baby boomers”, are computer- and tablet-literate.

They are beginning to realize that learning a second or third language opens up social opportunities. Plus, they are becoming aware of the benefits another language has for the aging brain.

As the above quoted study shows:

You don't have to speak another language perfectly to acquire the benefits at any time in your life.

So why not start today and give your brain a good workout!

Bio: Peter Rettig is the co-founder of Gamesforlanguage.com. He is a lifelong language learner, growing up in Austria, Germany, and Switzerland. You can follow him on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and leave any comments with contact.

Posted on by Maile Proctor

7 Ways to Reinforce Language Learning During Summer Months

summer beach fun for kids When Summer’s here, kids should be having fun. But as a parent, you don’t want your child to lose all the (foreign or native) language skills he or she learned during the school year.

Whether they’re studying in school or taking lessons, without consistent practice, children can experience learning loss during the summer.

While they may dread actual academic assignments, it's easy to find some creative ways to help them practice. Here are seven ideas to reinforce your child's language learning during the summer.

Keep a Summer Journal

Journaling is a great way for kids, especially teenagers, to write down their thoughts and feelings, remember things and develop their language and writing skills.

 summer journal for language practiceA journal is also a great tool to help them practice their foreign language skills.

Challenge your son or daughter to journal. He or she can do so in their native language, or in Spanish, French or another language they’re studying. This gives them an opportunity to work on grammar, vocabulary and sentence structure.

“Writing practice is the ultimate way to really learn new vocabulary and practice verb construction,” according to Jane Smith from Omniglot. “Practicing new words in writing is a perfect way to ingrain them in your mind and remember how to use them again. You will also understand how to integrate them into full sentences.”

Remind your kids to write in their language journal every day and look up any words they need that they don’t know. It doesn’t have to be a long entry. Just a little bit of daily practice can make a big difference.

If your child is a older, you may want to consider finding an online pen pal. Sites like Global Penfriends pair kids from around the world to communicate via email. Regular correspondence can be a great way to develop language-writing skills.

Plan a Day Trip

It's very likely that there's a cultural center or community of Spanish, French, German or Japanese speakers near your home. This provides a good opportunity for foreign-language practice.

Take your son or daughter there to interact with people in their native language. With your supervision, allow him or her to speak and listen to others.

Grab a bite to eat in the neighborhood and encourage your child to practice his or her language skills while ordering.

If there’s a cultural center, you can find shows and events to go to during the summer. Your child will have an opportunity to hear the language and learn a little more about the culture.

Read

Mother reading to daughter on beach Hopefully, your child’s school has some sort of reading program to encourage reading during the summer.

To reinforce a child's foreign language studies, encourage him or her to pick up an age-appropriate book in the language they’re learning. Reading is one of the most underrated tools when it comes to learning a language.

“Like reading in one’s native language, reading in a foreign language helps us become more comfortable with the words and grammatical rules that enable us to express our own thoughts,” according to BrainScape.

“Seeing the text of new words and concepts visually helps to reinforce our memory of them, while having the ability to stop, think, or look up words in a dictionary allows for more individualized pace of mental absorption.”

Best of all, urge them to read books for pleasure. For kids it’s a great activity to cool down after playing outside in the summer heat. Or, read to them. No surprise: 83 percent of children across all age groups say they love it when their parents read aloud to them.

Cultural Cuisine

Many children love to help with cooking. Make it a special project to prepare a foreign dish together with your son or daughter. Your child can research the recipe and culture and share fun facts, traditions and vocabulary with the rest of the family.

Not only will your child get to practice his or her language (and cooking) skills, your family will get to try and enjoy a new dish.

Apps and Games

If your child is learning a foreign language, he or she may already have some language-learning apps or playing GamesforLanguage's online Quick Games. 

boy andgirl playing video gameGames and apps are great to make sure your child gets consistent language practice.

Even if you want to limit the amount of time your child spends on electronic devices, you can let him or her have a limited time to practice with language apps or games.

Games and apps are a low-pressure way for your child to avoid learning loss.

Music and Podcasts

Download foreign-language songs your child likes, and stream stories or podcasts. Your child may not be able to understand everything, but hearing the language will help to reinforce the skills and vocabulary he or she has already learned.

Write down words your child doesn’t recognize so you can look them up later. Summer drives are perfect for listening. Keep music or story CDs handy whenever you head out.

Watch a Movie

Pick an age-appropriate foreign language movie. You can leave the subtitles on to follow along, or turn them off for an added challenge.

Just like listening to music, watching movies can help to reinforce your child’s language skills. It's especially good for picking up on sentence structure and other language patterns. Again, write down unfamiliar words to look up.

Some of these ideas may work better for your child than others. The key is finding the activities your child enjoys. How do you help your kids practice a language during the summer months ? Let us know in the comments below.

Maile Proctor is a professional blogger and content editor. She writes articles on lifestyle and family, health and fitness, education, how-to and more. Maile earned her Bachelor’s in Broadcast Journalism from Chapman University. When she’s not writing, she enjoys hiking in San Diego, California.

Disclosure: Gamesforlanguage has no business relationship with any of the linked sites (except Gamesforlanguage.com) and Maile Proctor, other than publishing Maile's article.

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.children playing games for language learning

Typical ingredients of second-language games are:
• 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 Learning Our 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 has been published on the British website Lingotastic.

Junilearning recently contacted us and suggested that their post, 6 Ways Coding is Teaching Kids Problem Solving, might also be of interest to our readers. Indeed, language learning and coding require very similar challenges and teach children valuable problem solving skills.

Posted on by Ulrike & Peter Rettig

Is GamesforLanguage a “Serious” Language Learning Program?

Gamesforlanguage shoot-out game At 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 the country of his parents' family. Young Friends having funny conversation
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 environment We 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 play only a game or two. Nibbled apples 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 and 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 Homepage It'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 best German 2 Podcast - Gamesforlanguagewhen 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 using 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 INTERNALIZE 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 to 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!

The best tool for learning to speak may be finding a way to record your voice. Then playing back what you've said. You can do this with the words and sentences of the travel-story, then play back each 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 start connecting sound to spelling. Laptop reading cartoon

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.In many programs, vocabulary is taught in groups of topics: Greetings, food animals, Story Dialogue - Gamesforlanguage.com body parts, professions, etc. Some of our Quick Games do that as well.

But GamesforLanguage introduces words and phrases mostly in context by using a STORY. It's a different way and interesting 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.com To augment GamesforLanguage's short writing games, we recommend that you keep a notebook on the side or create your own written flashcards with phrases and sentences.

The short writing game we have in each lesson is a fun and easy way to get started with spelling.

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. An algorithm keeps track of the words you learn and the mistakes you make.

Word Hero Italian - Gamesforlanguage.comYou're 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 sometimes 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 ad-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 how adults learn languages 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 bi-monthly 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. And, we'll continue to add new content.

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.com Play 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 at least 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 or even twice 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 a start,  Italian snapcloud - Gamesforlanguage.comespecially 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.com Quick 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 mostly 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 with daily Italian number 21+ - Gamesforlanguage.comtasks 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 Italia. With its 36 fifteen-minute lessons you'll learn close to 750 new words in the context of useful situations and as part of sentences.

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 the lyrics with their 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.

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