*This article was written by Erolf, a gamer (and much more!) who has made a lot of progress with her English thanks to video games. Because of this, she would like to share with us some of the best video games for learning languages.
There is a lot of talk about practicing a language in order to improve it. Many times, movies, series and books are put forward as good ways for learning. But, until now, we had never spoken about the best video games for practicing languages. Despite their somewhat bad reputation, they are an excellent tool for practicing a language, as long as we choose the right games. They are effective because they require active participation from the user, which is not the case with TV or the radio.
The Best Video Games For Learning Languages
A video game, as its very name suggests, is entertaining. There are games for all likes. If you think that video games are only for children and teenagers, you’d be surprised to find out that the average gamer is 31. Nowadays, there is a wide variety of games to choose from, and the video game industry is constantly growing. It’s been years since the video game industry has been bigger than the film industry! In this article, I’ll present you the best video games for learning languages.
Why Should You Play?
When I ask my friends why they don’t play video games, many times, I’m told it’s because they don’t have time. However, nowadays, there are many short games which only require as much time as it would take reading a chapter of a book or watching an episode of your favorite TV series.
Language learning is a good reason for starting to play. Not only this, but you get to improve your reflexes, better your sangfroid, develop logical skills, reinforce your spirit of team work, perfect your creativity, strengthen your observational skills, become more patient, etc. You’ll soon become a master of the game controllers and another character in the game. And that’s why a video game is much more interactive than simply watching TV or listening to the radio.
The interest from an artistic point of view is much stronger also, as you are transported into another universe with a different history than the one you live in. You might not like the first game you choose that much, but, remember, video games are like novels, you won’t like all of them. There are so many types of games that nobody can truly say they don’t like any of them.
You can play video games on different devices: phones, tablets, computers and consoles.
However, I always advise others to play on the computer or a console, as they are better for improving in a language simply because games developed for these two platform are better designed. They have dialogues and written texts which are created for bigger screens and more powerful devices. Additionally, the length of these types of games and their plot tend to be more interesting than those designed for phones and tablets.
Games for Beginners and Intermediate Learners
Most of the games with stories and dialogues are difficult for beginners. So I recommend games with dialogues and various scenes, with audio and texts which don’t have a time frame for answering. Games from Telltale (Game of Throne, The walking dead…), for example, have a time frame for answering in order to cause stress and limit the time available to properly observe.
In games from Elder Scrolls (Skyrim, Oblivion, Morrowind…), however, there are many dialogues and you can take your time to answer. The dialogues are a bit advanced, but you’ll have all the time you need to understand them. So it’s better to choose games that don’t have a lot of speaking, or turn the subtitles on. If you play one with them on, I recommend then playing the same game again without subtitles. I use this very technique with Skyrim, and I am learning new words at a surprisingly fast pace.
Types of Video Games For Learning Languages
Games for people who don’t have much time to play:
Like I said, we don’t all have the time or desire to play video games for hours on end. In this case, I recommend single player games. You can decide when to stop playing because you have control over your game. However, some games do not allow you to stop whenever you want, or take some time to save the changes.
On the downside, online video games are harder to stop playing due to their highly addictive nature. Plus, if you’re playing with other people, you can’t just leave the game whenever you feel like it, because you’d be ruining the whole game for everyone else. For example, you should avoid playing League of Legends if you only want to play for a few minutes at a time. The other players won’t take it too well, seeing that it’s the most popular game worldwide.
Speaking of not having much time, if you don’t want to read the whole article, we made a video with some highlights. Watch it below or on our YouTube channel (we publish new videos every Tuesday!).
Generally, this type of games are the best ones if you want to acquire more colloquial vocabulary. Interactive movies are up-to-date with the series and are dialogue based. If you like the TV series Games of Thrones or The Walking Dead for example, there are games in which you get to play with their characters; you have to answer the dialogues or take decisions which will influence the story. The advantage of this type of games is that they come out every season. Each episode lasts around 2 hours.
Professionals create games to teach a subject in an entertaining way. Some of them can even help you learn languages or improve your skills. This is a sector which is in full expansion and with huge potential. For the moment, though, the graphics and entertainment side of it isn’t as good as with other games, but they are great for beginners. Most of the times, the best games for learning languages are those that aren’t that much fun. For example, I recommend a game for learning French called Les Éonautes.
Horror and survival games:
Do you like horror and survival movies? Then you’ll love Amnesia the dark descent. There isn’t a lot of talking going on in it, so it is better for beginners. A good survival game is Don’t Starve, it has very little vocabulary but is great for learning basic words.
If you like fantasy games, you could play Mass effect (1, 2 and 3) or Star wars: Knight of the old republic (1 and 2). They can only be played by one player, but the plot will hook you. It’s better for beginners to put the subtitles on.
You could also play Elder Scrolls (Morrowind, Oblivion, Skyrim), The Lord of The Ring online or The witcher. You will love these games as they are really well developed. You’ll meet rare characters with superpowers and play out fantastic scenarios, among other things. The best thing about this type of games are their dialogues with rich vocabulary.
If you prefer strategy games that require you to think before you act, you’ll like Command & Conquer and Supreme Commander. They have elaborate dialogues and are usually well made. There are also puzzle-like games you might like, but dialogues there aren’t so rich.
Do you have a passion for thinking and precision? Then Arma 2 and Call of Duty are the games for you! You could join an online team and play with and against real players all while practicing languages. Also, you could communicate with other players by speaking with a mic, as some games include a software for spoken communication. It features rather limited vocabulary, but it is still a good place to start for a beginner or to improve your speaking skills.
If you like to be the heart and soul of your character and want to live what it lives, you’ll like role-playing games. I don’t really play that kind of games, but they do make it possible to deepen the story a lot more. You should know beforehand that this type of game can create a bit of addiction. This sort of game started off as board games and evolved into role-playing games; two examples are Dungeons & Dragons and Star Wars. One of my favorite is Never Winter Night 2, but you could also play World of Warcraft, Elder Scrolls Online or Arma 2.
Unfortunately, servers for role-playing games are getting increasingly more rare, which is a shame as they are great games for learning languages. You have to write everything your characters does and says, so it can be a bit too hard for beginners. You’ll improve really quickly, although at first, it might seem a tad bit overwhelming.
If you like meeting new people online, you might like this kind of game. However, bear in mind that you can easily become addicted because they are very well made. That’s the reason why I recommend setting a time limit, and sticking to it.
The most popular one is World of Warcraft. Although, lately, a war game that lasts only 20-60 minutes has become very popular. It’s called League of Legends, but it doesn’t have any dialogues. Although it doesn’t have written dialogues, beginners can still get value from it since you can talk to others in the chat (although, many times the chat fills up with insults due to the many teenagers playing). There are many online games that are completely free, you just need to find them!
All games mentioned above are for adults. Many times, they are violent and can be hard for the fainthearted. If that’s you, here are some great games for learning languages that are not violent.
Adults could like The Stanley parable, which has a lot of dialogues and is very entertaining. Dear Esther is also a good game with poetic and difficult texts. Deponia is another fun game of German origin, which does offer the possibility to change language. And, last but not least, I recommend The Raven – Legacy of a Master Thief.
It would be impossible to mention every game ever created that could be good for learning languages, but here are a couple more worth trying. GTA5 is an adventure game where you get to play in an open world and have to accomplish missions. You’re a thief who commits crime in (invented) U.S. cities. There is a lot of violence and the language can be very vulgar. There’s also Bioshock, which is an adventure game, and the story happens in a Steampunk universe; it’s very fun and has a lot of dialogues.
I hope you liked this selection of the best video games for learning languages and that it has made you want to try some of them to test their efficiency.
Do you know any other games that should be on this list of the best video games for learning languages? If you do, tell us in the comment section!
About the author: My name is Flore, or Erolf in video games! I write my name the other way around when I play games because I become a different person! I’m 27 years old. I could be considered a geek, but I’m very much in touch with reality! I’ve always loved video games, which is why I know each type of video game very well. And I don’t discriminate against any of them because I’ve tried all types of games! Traveling to different universes and immersing into surprising situations is one of my passions. I hope you like my selection of the best video games for learning languages.
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