How to learn a new language by playing your favorite games
Slay demons, learn Spanish. (Or German, Portuguese, French, English…)
Learning a new language—especially as you get older—is not easy. Factor in the time constraints of a job, various responsibilities, and life in general, and it’s no wonder you don’t want to sit down at the end of a long day and try to remember what indefinite articles are again.
Rosetta Stone? Babbel? Duolingo? Too much like homework. You’d rather be slaying demons, leveling up, or…doing literally anything else.
So what if we told you you could learn a language while playing games? Not games designed to teach you a language, but actual strafe, jump, shoot the enemy, collect the prize kind of games—the ones you want to be (and already are) playing.
Here is the way…
Find games with language support
First you need to find a game that supports the language you’re trying to learn. Games in general have gotten much better about language support in recent years, all the way from indie titles to large studio efforts.
Your first stop should be the game’s digital storefront. These will often—but not always—list the game’s supported languages, as well as which ones are supported as spoken audio versus subtitles. For some titles, an additional download is required for the desired language. Try delving into your currently owned games first; you might be surprised at what you find.
The more dialogue, the better
Sure, platformers are a great genre, but there’s not typically a whole lot of conversation going on in a level. Your language abilities won’t improve much if you’re not hearing the language. Look for RPGs, adventure games, or anything with a narrative focus and a lot of dialogue. It’s all about immersion here.
Test different language combinations
Just starting out in the language? You’ll likely want to activate the subtitles in your native language with audio in your target language. Vice versa can work as well to practice your reading comprehension. Multilingual players might even try mixing it up with their third language in audio and second as subtitles. The more, the merrier!
If you’re already advanced in the language, switch both the audio and subtitles to the target language. Now you’re really getting it.
Play something you’re familiar with
It can feel like a high wire act trying to listen in one language while reading in another, so it helps if you’re playing a game that you’re already familiar with. By not needing to focus so much on absorbing new character names and plot points, you can instead concentrate on the word-by-word language aspects.
Interactive dramas like As Dusk Falls or The Quarry are great for this approach, too; play first in your native language and then switch to your target language on the next playthrough where you explore different outcomes.
The more replayable, the better
Speaking of familiarity, why not choose a game with high replayability? If you’ll pardon the plug, the new Diablo IV makes for a strong choice here. With 14 supported languages and a lengthy campaign (plus plentiful, fully voiced sidequests), there’s a lot of opportunity to hear the language while wading through the demon hordes.
With five classes on offer, there’s reason to replay the content again and again. The increased familiarity you’ll gain with each new playthrough helps you work over the more difficult passages once again while solidifying the content you understood the last time.
Besides, whatever language you pick, Lilith still sounds great.
Don’t take our word for it:
Plug in your headphones
Take out ambient noise distractions (and the neighbor’s barking dog) and use headphones. This lets you really focus on the game itself. You might even consider adjusting the in-game sound settings to, for example, ramp up the voice volume while turning down sound effects.
Celebrate the wins, shrug off the rest
Learning a language doesn’t have to be a painful process. By combining your learning goals with something you love, you’ll end up getting more exposure to the language in a context that you care about. Acquire the language first, analyze it later, just like we learned as kids.
Besides, if you’re going to rack your brain anyway, would you rather learn how to say, “I take my cat to the store to buy groceries” or perhaps Lilith’s own “Break the chains…and discover who you were meant to be.”
Danke fürs Lesen, y hasta luego.
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