Posted on by Ulrike Rettig

5 Tips to Boost Your Language Listening Skills



GamesforLanguage: Listening SkillsAre you looking for ways to boost your listening comprehension in the foreign language you're learning? Here are 5 ways to try out. They've been part of my language learning routine for quite a while now.

When learning a language, listening comprehension may be the most challenging skill to master. Why not add a little fun and variety to your practice? We all know, if you enjoy something you'll get better at it more easily.

A new language, especially when it's spoken fast, is just a series of incomprehensible sounds, nothing more than gibberish (as we experienced ourselves when we arrived in Rome with little Italian a few years ago).

With time, though, you'll notice that the stream of sounds seems to slow down. You'll start distinguishing individual words, or what the words are that run into each other.

Your goal is to listen and understand without translating. Reaching that moment feels great.

However, getting to that stage takes some practice. And there are clearly steps you can take to help you along.

When I learn a new language, or practice one I want to improve, I first listen and then say out loud what I hear. It's a good way to focus on sound combinations and on the way words blend into each other in a language. The result: I'm more likely to recognize the sound combinations of words when I hear them spoken fast.

1. Use Backward Buildup

As you're starting out: listen and repeat words and phrases until you're familiar with the sound of typical letter clusters and fast word combinations.

I first came across the technique of Backward Buildup while doing a Pimsleur course. It was Russian, a language that has lots of sounds that are different from languages that I know.

In a Pimsleur course you are continually reminded to "repeat aloud" what you hear. This is essential for improving your pronunciation. It's also a great way to become familiar with new sounds.

You can add Backward Buildup when saying any word, phrase, or sentence you find challenging. It's something you can do on your own, with any audio, no matter what program, etc. you are using.

For example, take the French word: lendemain:

• Say the full word "lendemain", even if you just mumble it.
• Say the ending: "-main"
• Add the middle part: "-demain"
• Say the first part: "len-"
• Put it together: "lendemain".

If you're more advanced, you can even do this with a couple of sentences together, breaking them into longer chunks.

2. Write What you Hear

Gamesforlanguage: Listening and writingListen to a phrase or sentence spoken in your target language. (If needed, close your eyes so you don't see the words.) Try to think of the meaning without doing a word-by-word translation. Say the phrase or sentence aloud. Then write it down and check if it's right. At first it may be hard to get it all. But with practice, your listening comprehension will clearly improve.

You can do this kind of dictation practice on your own, using all kinds of different programs.

A good program for dictation practice is Duolingo, which I've been using for Swedish and Portuguese. You're asked to "Write what you hear". When you're done, you can check the answer.

A program like Glossika, which I'm using to improve my spoken French and Spanish, gives you the translation and answer right away. But I close my eyes when listening, and then I say and write down the sentence from memory.

3. Try a Listening Game

time to play clockInteractive games are a fun way to boost your language skills. It's popular to use listening games in the classroom: Tell me what you see; Build on the Story; I see what you don't see; Quizzes about movies; etc.

But there are also numerous listening games online, using flashcards, matching games, fill the gap, etc. Many of these are for kids.

An online listening game that's fun for teens and adults is Quotey.  The game is particularly clever and versatile. The quotes come from pop culture.

You can set the speed and loudness of the voice, and you play any quote as many times as you want.  To check your understanding, you'll see the English equivalent for each.

There are lots of things you can do with it.
•  On the Quotes Tab: You set the language (one of eleven major languages). Customize the category (TV series, movies, songs). Choose the difficulty (easy or hard). Then guess the quote. To go on, you click on New Quote. If you want, you can also hear that same quote in any of the eleven languages.
• On the Languages Tab: You'll hear a quote, and guess the language it's in.
• On the Accents Tab: You'll hear a quote English, and guess what accent the person has.

(Please note that we have no relationship with Quotey (Quotey McQuoteface) other than having used their free games.
Also, there's no connection of the game Quotey McQuoteface with the Australian game show of the same name.)

4. Watch Films with Subtitles

Commisario MontalbanoTV series or films in your target language are an entertaining way to improve your listening comprehension. In many cases, you can watch a foreign film either on your computer or on TV, and often you'll have a choice which subtitle language to see.

Read the plot ahead of time. This will help you make sense of what's going on. Don't hesitate to replay any of the scenes as often as you want.

There are so many choices! But below are some of the detective series we've enjoyed watching, some of them on MHz, some of them just using a VPN.

• Italian: Il Commissario Montalbano. (An Italian series based on the detective novels of Sicilian author Andrea Camilieri, see image above)).

• French: Murder In ... (A French series of murder mysteries set in various picturesque regions of France).

• Spanish: La Casa del Papel. (A Spanish heist crime drama series mainly filmed in Madrid).

• German: Commissario Brunetti. (A German series based on the crime novels of Donna Leone, and set in Venice). 

5. Listen to Podcasts

Foreign language podcasts have become very popular. Many of them are free, or use the Patreon Membership Platform. Podcasts come is various levels of difficulty and lots of them cover interesting topics. I listen on my phone, often while preparing lunch, going for a walk, etc.

Below are three podcast series I've enjoyed.

Spanish Language Coach: Intermediate Spanish (available on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Play Music, plus more).

Inner French: Intermediate French Podcast (available on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, plus more).

NRC Vandaag: Podcast (Dutch, available on Apple Podcasts, Google Play, and NRC Audio App. Dutch is a language I learned as a preteen).

Unless you're a total beginner as an online language learner, you've probably discovered that many language-learning apps and online programs let you be quite creative in how you use them. With a little inventiveness, you can figure out all kinds of ways to make listening comprehension more efficient and fun.

We would be amiss if we didn't mention our Gamesforlanguage podcasts which complement our courses. Each podcast contains six lessons of the 36-lesson Travel Story.

If you are more advanced you can also listen to each podcast's Story first. And if you don't understand all of it, you can always brush up on your vocabulary by doing some of the lessons.

There are currently six (6) podcasts for French, Italian, and Spanish, twelve (12) for German, and one (1) for Inglés.

If you have trouble finding a podcast for the language you are learning, drop us a note at and we'll try to help.

Posted on by Ulrike Rettig

6 Easy German Language Games for Fun Learning

Gamesforlanguage Writing ClownsHave you started to learn some German?

Here are 6 Easy German Language Games for fun learning AND building your basic German vocabulary. (The image left shows our earlier Writing Clowns Game)

These German Language Games are set up as simple Quizzes.

Each one focuses on 4 to 8 vocabulary items and one related grammar point.

Recall and practice are part of each Quiz. As an added bonus, you'll sharpen your German pronunciation.

You'll hear the key words (nouns, verbs, etc) right at the beginning in the Car Race, without translation. Just focus on listening and repeating each word aloud.

Then you're asked to choose the correct translations.

Please note that you'll have to guess some words from context. Playing a game more than once will certainly help you remember any new vocabulary!

Gamesforlanguage: Car Chase Game8 Nouns

Click on Vocabulary Quiz #1 or on the left image.

In English all nouns have the (definite) article "the". But German has different words for "the", depending on the noun, and how you use it (eg. as subject, object, etc.)

The reason: in German, there are 3 grammatical genders: masculine, feminine, and neuter.

For example: masculine - der Apfel (the apple); feminine - die Schule (the school); neuter - das Haus (the house).

While the gender of persons, such as “die Mutter” (the mother) and “der Vater” (the father), etc. is obvious in German, the gender for most other nouns seems a little random.

However, don't despair, there are a few rules that can help. Check out 10 Easy Rules to Help Your German.

It's best to learn the article together with the noun, that's what native speakers do automatically when they learn their language.

Nouns that you hear, see or speak a lot, will become automatic for you too.

(You'll see the score when you click the “Continue” arrow.)

Gamesforlanguage Snap Clouds Game8 Regular Verbs

Click on Vocabulary Quiz #2 or on the left image.

For building sentences you need verbs, and in German, verbs have personal endings that you have to know.

In English you say: I do, you do, he does, we do, they do. Only the third person singular - he, she, it - deviates from the pattern.

In German you say: ich mache, du machst, er macht, wir machen, ihr macht, sie machen. That gives you four different verb endings. On top of that, you have three ways to say "you": du machst (familiar, singular), Sie machen (formal, singular and plural), ihr macht ("you-all"- familiar, plural).

Fortunately, many German verbs are regular in the present tense. The pattern is quite easy to learn.

Do you know the endings of present tense verbs?

Test yourself in this Quiz. If you miss a couple of answers the first time, play the game again until you get the hang of it. The verbs in Quiz #2 are all regular and the endings all follow the same pattern.

And while you're focusing on the endings, you'll probably learn a few new verbs as well.

Gamesforlanguage Shootout Game8 Easy Sentences with Direct Object Nouns

Click on Vocabulary Quiz #3 or on the left image.

Even as a beginner, it's not that hard to put together sentences to say what you want to express.

In a German sentences, it's important to put a noun into the right case.

The German language has 4 cases: Nominative (subject), Accusative (direct object), Dative (indirect object), Genitive (possessive).

For English speakers, this can sound complicated. But when you learn to use them step by step, they' don't seem quite as daunting.
This Quiz tests you on masculine, feminine, and neuter nouns as direct objects.

Starting out with 8 different Nouns and their articles, you'll put together simple sentences at the end of the Quiz.

Pay attention to the gender of the nouns when they come up. When you know the noun gender, the short sentences in the Word Invader game will be easy.

GamesforLanguage Word Invaders Games8 Verbs in Sentences

Click on Vocabulary Quiz #4 or on the left image.

Now it gets a little more challenging: Not only do you need to recall the correct gender of the nouns, but you have to apply the correct verb endings.

As in the previous games, you'll also have to pay attention to different verb endings with German “sie” or “Sie”, as in “sie begrüßt uns” (she greets us), “sie erklären” (they explain), and “Sie denken” (you [formal] think).

This Quiz tests you on 8 Verbs used in simple sentences with nouns and pronouns as directs objects.

Play it several times until you get a 90% score! (You'll see the score when you click the “Continue” arrow.)

Gamesforlanguage Deal-No Deal Game4 Separable Prefix Verbs

Click on Vocabulary Quiz #5 or on the left image.

Are you getting the hang of picking the correct regular verb endings? Now you can challenge yourself with separable prefix verbs, a typical feature of many German verbs.

What makes separable prefix verbs somewhat tricky, is that they require a very specific word order. In English, phrasal verbs are similar, but the word order there is more flexible.

For example: anrufen - to call, call up

You can say: I'm calling up my brother. Or: I'm calling my brother up.

In German, only one word order is possible for this sentence: “Ich rufe meinen Bruder an.” The separable prefix "an", goes to the end of the sentence.

This Quiz will test you on 4 different separable prefix verbs as part of short sentences.

And again, click the “Continue” arrow to see your correct answer percentage. Aim for at least 90%!

Gamesforlanguage Car Race Game4 Modal Verbs

Click on Vocabulary Quiz #6 or on left image.

Modal Verbs give you important tools for expressing yourself. You'll need them for almost any conversation, to express what you want, what you can or have to do, what you would like, etc.

Unfortunately, even in the present tense form German Modal Verbs follow a different pattern from regular verbs.

In this Quiz, you'll test yourself on the basic forms of 4 Modal Verbs: können (can), wollen (want), müssen (must), and the subjunctive form of "mögen", as in "ich möchte" (I would like).

As modal verbs come up frequently in everyday conversations, we recommend that you play this quiz several times, until you get the pattern down cold.

If you're learning German as an almost-beginner, these six Quizzes will test some basic German vocabulary and certain elementary points of grammar.

But they'll also encourage you to learn new words, try new sentences and to practice your pronunciation.

Learning a language does take effort and practice. If it's just a chore for you, you're not going to get very far.

Find ways to enjoy learning and practicing. These games will add a little fun and you'll feel good when you see the 100% after you finish the Shootout and Word Invader games!

More Than a German Language Game

Don't forget: You can practice German online for FREE with our 36-Scene German 1 Story: "Michael in Deutschland" and our 72-Scene German 2 Mystery Story Sequel: "Blüten in Berlin?".
(If you already know that "Blüten" means blossom in German - you'll learn that Blüten has still another meaning...).
Just login HERE.
And, if you have any language questions  - don't hesitate to contact us!

Posted on by Ulrike Rettig

5 Easy French Language Games

Merci - Thank you - Speech BubblesAre you just beginning to learn French?

Here are 5 Easy French Language Games that make practicing some essential French words fun.

The games also help you build some basic vocabulary and sharpen your pronunciation.

And if you learn to pronounce "Merci" correctly (hint: not like mercy!),  you might even get a smile from the French person who is helping or serving you!

French is an official language in 5 European countries: France, Belgium, Switzerland, Monaco, and Luxembourg. It is also spoken as an official language in 24 other countries worldwide.

For English learners, French pronunciation can be a little hard.

That's especially true for French nasal sounds and certain other sound combinations that don't exist in English. But practice will help.

French is a beautiful, melodious language and worth every effort.

Even just some basic French will make you feel more confident when traveling and engaging with French speakers.

To get you in the French language mood, you can start below with a game that reviews common greetings and polite expressions.

When you play, you need to say the French out loud. Just remembering the words silently won't do the job.

Focus on the sound of a word and let it soak in, then see if your own pronunciation gets close.

You can play these games as often as you like.

They are free – as are all our games and courses – and you'll not be bothered by Google ads either.

Just play, have fun and learn!

Hello-Goodbye Game screenshot1. Hello Goodbye

When in a French-speaking environment, using greetings and polite phrases is a friendly and respectful way to interact with others.

Throwing out "hi" or "hello" to a waiter who comes to your table, or when buying in a shop, getting tickets, etc, is really not the way to go.

Say "bonjour" in your best French. If you then have to switch to English, it's okay.

Click on the French Language Game: Hello Goodbye.

Play the game a couple of times, and then play it again a few days later to review what you've learned.

The words and phrases are short, but they contain typical French sounds that need practice.

French Question Words Language Game screenshot2. French Question Words

Question words are an efficient way to get information, ask about cost, set up appointments, ask for directions, etc.

It's empowering to be able to understand and say them. The words are short, but it takes a little practice to make them automatic.

Click on the French Language Game: 8 Question Words.

Below is a list you can check before you start:
• qui ? - who?
• que ? - what?
• quand ? - when?
• où ? - where?
• comment ? - how?
• pourquoi ? - why?
• combien ? - how much?
• est-ce que ? - question phrase [is it that?]

Family,Relatives French Quick Game screenshot3. Family and Relatives

The French words for mother, father, brother, sister, aunt, uncle, grandfather, cousin, are nice to know.

They also provide a good opportunity for pronunciation practice.

In the game you'll focus on the vowels "è" (père, mère); "oeu" (soeur); nasal "a + n" (tante, grand) and "o + n" (oncle); as well as be aware of silent "e" (père, mère, frère, tante).

And, with these words you can easily practice French noun gender.

In English, we have one definite article that goes with any noun: "the".

It's the same word for singular and plural nouns: the father, the mother; the fathers, the mothers.

In French, a noun is either masculine "le père" (the father); or feminine "la mère" (the mother).

If a noun starts with a vowel, then the article becomes "l' ": l'oncle.

The French word for "the" with plural nouns, masculine or feminine, is "les".

Click on French Language Game: Family and Relatives

The words for family members are easy to learn.

And with our Shootout game, it's fun to review and practice the French masculine and feminine articles for "the" and for the possessives "my" and "your".

Easy French Verbs Quick Game Screenshot4. Easy Verbs - Present Tense

Verbs are important building blocks for making sentences, even short and easy ones.

You need verbs to talk about actions, thoughts, feelings, states of being - yours and those of other people.

With French verbs, a good place to start is with regular "-er" verbs. More than 80% of French verbs belong to this group.

Using personal pronouns (I, you, he, she, etc.) with many English verbs is easy.

In the present tense you just have to remember that the 3rd person sing (he, she, it) takes an -s.

However, French verbs have more complicated conjugation rules.

Even regular -er" verbs have 5 different endings that go with the respective pronouns.

Click on French Language Game: 8 Easy Verbs

With this game you'll learn 8 common French "-er" verbs and their present tense endings.

Once you get the pattern down, you can apply pattern of endings to any regular "-er" verb.

Here's a list of the verbs you'll learn.
• chercher - to look for
• demander - to ask
• donner - to give
• habiter - to live (reside)
• montrer - to show
• parler - to speak
• penser - to think
• regarder - to look at

Easy French Adverbs Quick Game screenshot5. Easy Adverbs

Finally, with an adverb you can add more information, i.e. where, when, why, how, or how often something happens.

Click on French Language Game: 8 Easy Adverbs.

Here's a list of the adverbs you'll learn and practice.
• enfin - finally
• plus tard - later
• toujours - always
• tout de suite - right away
• très bien - very well
• souvent - often
• un peu - a little
• vraiment – really

Will these games alone make you become fluent in French? Not likely.

But play these and the many other games on our site regularly, especially when other courses become too tedious and boring.

And always say the French out loud.

This way you won't give up learning and practicing.

Remember: learning a new language takes time and persistence.

If you can find ways to make learning and practicing French a daily habit, you'll be on a good path to language fluency.

Posted on by Ulrike Rettig

5 Easy Italian Language Games

Woman writing: "Parli Italiano?"Here's a fun way to learn some Italian words and phrases with 5 easy Italian language games.
Italian is such a beautiful, melodious language, and learning some basic vocabulary and pronunciation is not that hard at all.
Try a couple of these easy Italian games. You'll become familiar with some typical Italian words and sounds, and you may well end up falling in love with the Italian language.

A good place to start are a few common greetings and expressions. Even if that's all you know, it's a great way to engage with Italian speakers, and locals if you're traveling in Italy.
When you play the game, imitate the pronunciation of the speaker - out loud. It's all about "mouth mechanics".
Just thinking the words in Italian won't make you them sound them out right in Italian.

Italian Hello/Good Bye: Ciao1. Hello, Goodbye, etc.

Greetings and polite phrases should definitely be in your language kit.
They signal respect and friendliness.
Click on Italian Language Game: Hello, Goodbye, etc., to learn and practice these essential words and phrases.
They'll become automatic in no time, you'll see.
Being able to say them "like a native" will definitely boost your confidence when in you're in an Italian setting.
Here's what you'll learn in Game 1:
• Ciao - Hi
• Buongiorno - Good morning
• Benvenuto - Welcome
• Per favore - Please
• Grazie - Thanks
• Prego - You're welcome
• Bene - Okay
• Mi scusi - Excuse me
• Arrivederci - Goodbye

Italian Numbers 1-202. Italian Numbers 1-20

Italian Numbers 1-20 are a good next step.
Not only do numbers contain typical Italian sounds, they are really easy to practice even when you're doing something else.
Count steps when you walk, count pushups or weight reps when you exercise, count when you're cutting your veggies, the list can go on.
Click on Uno-Due-Tre: Italian Numbers You can Learn, where you'll find Language Games for Italian Numbers 1-20, as well as another game for Italian Numbers 21 and beyond
This is what you'll learn in Game 2:
• 1 uno
• 2 due
• 3 tre
• etc.

Italian question word game screen3. Italian Question Words

Question Words are the language tools you need for getting information, even if your Italian is limited.
You'll use them for shopping, finding your way, getting together with others, learning what a word means, fixing the time when meeting someone, etc.

Click on Italian Language Game: 8 Question Words.
They are easy to pronounce, but to keep them apart you'll need a little practice. Give them a try!
Here's what you'll learn in Game 3:
• quando - when
• quale - which
• quanto - how much
• come - how
• dove - where
• chi - who
• perché - why
• che cosa - what
(With Italian 2 for Travel on our - also completely free - sister site, Lingo-Late.com,   you can learn and practice 12 questions with “Mi scusi, dov'è...? [Excuse me, where is...? ] - quite useful when traveling and looking for directions.)

Gamesforlanguage.com: Italian "essere" game screenshot 4. Present Tense of  "essere" - to be

As a next step, you may want to learn the present tense forms of the irregular verb "essere" - to be.
Note that in Italian, personal pronouns (I, you, he, she etc.) are often left out unless they are needed for context or clarity.
We include them at first in the game, then drop them in some of the easy practice sentences.
Click on the Italian Language Game: Essere - Present Tense.
Here's what you'll learn in Game 4:
• io sono - I am
• tu sei - you are (familiar)
• lui/lei è - he/she is
• noi siamo - we are
• siete - you are (plural)
• loro sono - they are

Passato prossimo with the present tense forms of "essere":

Note that the present tense forms of "essere" are also used to form the "passato prossimo", the Italian tense you use to talk about past events and actions that are finished.
"Essere" as an auxiliary verb is used mainly with verbs of motion, those expressing change, or verbs that are intransitive.
Examples: lui è arrivato (he arrived, he has arrived); noi siamo andati (we went).

Gamesforlanguage.com: Italian "avere" Quick Game5. Present Tense of  "avere" - to have

Finally, here's a game to learn and practice the present tense of "avere" - to have. Again, the personal pronouns are included at first and then dropped in a couple of the easy practice sentences.
Click on the Italian Language Game: Avere - Present Tense.
Here's what you'll learn in Game 5:
• io ho - I have
• tu hai - you have (familiar)
• lui/lei ha - he/she has
• noi abbiamo - we have
• voi avete - you(pl) have
• loro hanno - they have

Passato prossimo with the present tense forms of "avere":

Note that the present tense forms of "avere" are also used to form the "passato prossimo", the Italian tense you use to talk about completed past events and actions.
"Avere" as an auxiliary verb is used with most verbs (besides movement verbs, verbs expressing change, and intransitive verbs).
Examples: io ho mangiato. (I ate, I've eaten); noi abbiamo comprato (we bought, we've bought).

A few easy language games, even if they're fun, won't make you fluent. But they're a start.
And if they've put you on the language learning road, it's a good thing.
Learning new skills, discovering new places, making new, international friends, is an exciting part of being alive, right?

Posted on by Ulrike Rettig

5 Language Tips Before Traveling Abroad

Travel and ContinentsIf traveling abroad is on your horizon, these 5 language tips will make you more confident when you get there. Travel is slowly coming back. Now is the time to start getting ready.

No, these 5 language tips won't make you fluent or have you really SPEAK the foreign language. But just learning to UNDERSTAND and SAY some essential words and phrases will make your trip much more enjoyable.

Anticipating a new travel adventure can be very sweet. It's a lot of fun to figure out where to go, where to stay, and what to see. Plus, it's smart to learn a few expressions so that you can pronounce them well and use them easily.

The benefits of doing so are huge: not only will you feel more confident, you'll also find it much easier to make contact with people there locally.

5 Language Tips Before Traveling Abroad to Build Your Confidence

Colorful numbers1. Make a list of words and phrases

• Think about past travels and try to remember what kinds of words and phrases you had come across and wished you had learned.
• Make a list. It should certainly include greetings, polite phrases, and basic numbers.
• Put these on Flash Cards that you can glance at from time to time.
• If you're are already using a language program or app look for travel-related lessons.

2. Practice pronouncing them

Search online

You can google for help with pronunciation. For example, type in: "how to pronounce X in French" (using either the English or the French word or phrase you're looking for). Google has a surprising number of "translate audio" examples online.

Consult language learning sites

You can also go to various basic language learning sites, but they may teach vocabulary in specific sequences. Just think of Duolingo, Memrise, etc.
You might try, however, our free Partner Site LingoHut. Its lessons are organized by topic and you can access any lesson, any time.
Or, start out with our free sister site, Lingo-Late with its 12 European languages. Our lessons list essential words and phrases. These you can practice in any sequence, including recording yourself and playing back. You'll also find language tips there.

Practice Speech Cartoon3. Set up an easy practice routine



Set small goals

Set yourself goals you can easily meet, and learn your list of expressions in baby steps. No need to rush, you can give yourself all the time in the world.



Practice regularly

If you can find a way to practice 10-15 minutes every day, regularly, you'll make good progress. One way is to add your practice to something you do every day, like having your morning coffee.

4. Engage with the language

Hearing and seeing the language will help you internalize the sounds. You'll also acquire some new vocabulary without even trying.

Watch movies

Watch foreign TV series or movies with subtitles. They should be fun and interesting, something you genuinely enjoy. During the Covid time-out last year we discovered the MHz channel, which we subscribe to via Amazon Prime. It has movies and TV series in a number of languages with English subtitles. We enjoyed the entire Italian Commissario Montalbano series, as well as German, French and Spanish series and movies.

Listen to songs

Listen to songs as you're preparing a meal, or going on a walk. Songs are a great way to learn sounds and words of a language, especially if you sing along. (We suggest songs for German, French, Italian and Spanish on our site. They also include some language tips.)

Read easy texts

It's easy to find posts, texts, etc. online in a language you're focusing on. If you don't know a word or phrase, just google it for the translation, or consult an online dictionary such as Word Reference.
For paper reading, there are plenty of dual language texts available for total beginners.
 

Play language games

Play some language games. See links to a few of ours below.
Plus, a site with games in many languages is Digital Dialects.
We've also enjoyed the game-oriented app Mindsnacks.
Another interesting app that includes games is Mondly. It has a VR (virtual reality) program, and an AR (augmented reality) version.

Clock5. Learn about typical cultural norms

Read up a little on social behavior in the country or region you're visiting. Cultural norms are often reflected in a country's language. For example:
• Are there formal and familiar forms of address and when do you use these?
• What are the local attitudes to time (Are you expected to be punctual or not)?
• How would you politely strike up a conversation with a stranger?
• What are some typical interjections and which are okay to use?
• How do people regard personal space when you talk with them?
• What are the customs for tipping?
• Also: Are there right or wrong hand gestures?

How to Overcome Your Foreign Language Anxiety

It's very common to feel anxious about speaking another language, especially if you've only learned the basics. But there are ways to overcome this anxiety. These are some tips I like to use:

1. Keep your flash cards with you.

Do this before your travels and also when you're there. Know you can consult them any time.

2. Practice in front of a mirror.

You'll get used to seeing yourself speak in the language. Doing this often enough may well dispel any awkwardness you feel when jumping into a foreign language.

3. Record yourself and play back.

You'll get used to hearing your own voice speaking the words and phrases you're learning. Many people find it strange listening to their own voice, even when speaking in their native language. But doing it often enough will make it feel less weird.
(For twelve European Languages you'll find greetings, polite phrases, and more on our sister site Lingo-Late. There you can practice them with Quizlet flashcards and record yourself as well.)

Why make the Effort?

The reasons for making an effort to learn some language basics for traveling are both personal and practical.

You won't feel like an idiot.

When you arrive in a country where you don't speak the language, you won't feel like an fool. When people greet you, you'll know how to greet them back. You'll have a few polite phrases at your fingertips, including "excuse me", "yes", "no", and "I'm sorry".

You show respect.

Your language efforts are a sign of respect for the country and its language. Often this can open all kinds of wonderful opportunities you would otherwise not experience. You may find that people are eager to share tips on what to do or see locally. In any case, a few expressions will help you start a conversation, even if you then have to switch to English.
 

You'll benefit your brain.

A benefit you may not have thought about is that learning and speaking another language clearly benefits your brain. As Sanjay Gupta MD says in his book "Keep Sharp. Build a Better Brain at Any Age " (2021): "The complexity of a new skill is critical. You need to use your mind in a manner that gets you out of your comfort zone and demands more long-term memory."
Using a foreign language locally in a country where it is spoken is definitely a complex skill and surely will take you out of your comfort zone. Plus, the new experiences that your contacts with locals make possible, will help to "rewire" your brain and make it more resilient.

Additional Readings

5 Reasons for Learning a Language before you Travel 
How to Relearn a Dormant Language

Four Fun Language Games to Play Before You Travel

Spanish: Practice Numbers, Question Words, Common Adverbs, Everyday Phrases with 4 Fun Spanish Language Games
German: Practice Question words, Basic Phrases, Numbers, Buying a Train Ticket with 4 Fun German Language Games
French: Practice Everyday Phrases, The Verb "être", Numbers, Practice French Sounds with 4 Fun French Language Games
Italian: Practice Basic Phrases, Question Words, Numbers, Making a Phone Call with 4 Fun Italian Language Games

Bio: Ulrike Rettig is the co-founder of GamesforLanguage.com. She's 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 right here!

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.

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