Posted on by Ulrike Rettig

6 Key Elements for Learning a Language With Games

key elements - Gamesforlanguage.comThere's no totally right way to learn a language. You may learn a new language out of necessity or by choice, but you have to do it yourself and find a way that works. No-one can learn a language for you. 

Surf the net and you'll find hundreds of "tips" on how to best learn a language. The bottom line is that you've got to practice often, and have fun doing it.

Children vs Adult Language Learning

A lot of attention has been focused on how easily children assimilate one, two, or more languages. See a review of Welcome to your Child's Brain.

But adults learning a language actually have some advantages, as argued in this blog post. Or look at Agustina Pringganti 's blog: "Children VS Adults Second Language Learning."

For example: "Adults are able to digest abstract or formal  thinking cognitively," and are able to make abstractions based on their first-language's patterns. These are skills that children do not yet have.

Why Games?

Learning a language as an adult requires a disciplined effort and a commitment to practice on a regular basis. This is not always easy when your daily schedule is full. Adding another "chore" just doesn't cut it.

This is where learning with games comes in. Games put the player into a different frame of mind. When you are more relaxed, your brain is more receptive to absorbing what you are practicing.

Games can get you into a state of flow, where you can shut out the world (and your critical self) for a time. It's a great little break. So, for learning a language with games, what should you look for?

1) Structure: The key is to have structured lessons that have been put into a series of enjoyable games. (Games that are isolated drill snippets don't get you very far.)

2) Context: It's best to learn a language in a context that lends meaning and teaches communication. (Learning a series of unrelated words and phrases is not that useful.)

3) Pronunciation Practice: There should be lots of opportunities to practice your pronunciation. For an adult, pronunciation may be the hardest part of learning a language. If there's a way to record your own voice and play back, all the better.

4) Writing: Brief writing games train an important skill and allow you communicate using social networks on the Web.

5) Grammar: What you want, especially as a beginner, are short grammar explanations, plus opportunities to figure out some of the grammar rules for yourself. You'll remember them and will apply them even better.

6) Progress Scoring: There's no way around having to memorize new foreign words and phrases. Scores are a way to measure your progress. Getting positive feedback when you improve your scores encourages you to continue.

Web-based foreign language games can be played for 10-15 minutes daily, even during a lunch break. They may be more effective for learning a foreign language than the 30-60 minutes (or longer) modules of many self-teaching programs that you end up doing only once or twice a week.