Games Aren’t Just For Kids – They Help Us Learn Languages!

When you think of how to learn a new language, playing games might not be the first method that comes to mind. It’s a shame; as uTalk’s Language Guru, Brian, points out in this post, games are a great way to encourage learning and – spoiler alert – it’s not just because they’re fun!

Games are a lot of fun – not only are winners rewarded with prizes, bragging rights and the satisfaction of knowing that they’ve done a good job, they can also help us learn a new language.

Think about it, games give us context: we get rewarded for our efforts when we win; in the case of classroom games – we get to communicate and interact with our opponents (or rather, our fellow classmates); a little adrenaline and anxiety (but hopefully, not too much!) helps make the challenge of learning a lot more fun; and finally, games offer us a break from the usual learning routine.

When our brains associate learning with fun experiences, we actually maximise the retention of new information. The less stressed we are, the more we remember! And what better way to reduce stress than to have an impromptu session of fun and games after an intense language lesson?

Some of the potentials of classroom games are:

• Motivation – games promote the spontaneous use of language as well as encouraging communication

• Games reinforce learning – we learn to apply what we have learned. If you’ve just learned how to order a vin rouge in French, wouldn’t it be fun to have little make-believe game involving say, an imaginary trip to a fancy bistrot in Paris for a classic French déjeuner?

• Healthy competition – humans thrive on competition and what better way to remember new vocabulary than to have a fun memory game? Or perhaps a facilitated classroom role-playing game to help remember those complicated grammar rules?

• Stress-free learning – games are so much fun that we become less self-conscious about making mistakes. Learning becomes less threatening and students who are not as confident actually become less concerned about saying or spelling new words wrongly.

• Practice – games encourage students to practice the language without even knowing it! In the heat of the moment, we don’t worry about such things as “Did I conjugate that Spanish verb properly?” or “Goodness! Which Russian case do I use?” or “Which is the correct tone for that word in Mandarin?”

• Active versus passive learning – games encourage students to learn actively, often requiring the use of different senses (sound, hearing, kinaesthetic movement etc.) which are great for those who prefer learning in combination with other forms of stimulus.

Playing language games of all kinds is certainly not a waste of time! With so many benefits, the question is not “why?” but rather, “why not?”

The uTalk app incorporates games into language learning to encourage everyone to have fun as they learn! If you’re a teacher or parent/guardian and have pupils or children who like to learn languages, then make sure to check out the uTalk Language Games. The Games run from September – July every year and all participants have the chance to learn up to three languages, culminating in a competition that takes place in June. Want to take part? Registrations are open for 2022/23!

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