Why playing video games can help you learn a language

If there is anything we know about learning languages, it’s that the best way to learn is to make it fun. For some that might be perfecting grammar through binge-watching shows on Netflix. For others it could be learning the vocabulary that lets them watch international hockey matches. And for others still, it’s playing video games. Not convinced? Here is why playing video games can help you learn a language.


Photo via Pixabay


Immersion and exposure


The moment you start playing a video game in another language, you are in that language. There is little time to think about perfect sentence structure or worry over pronunciation when you have quests to take and shots to avoid. You have to learn to think on your feet, and quickly; you can’t be pausing every time you need to look up a new word! Language immersion is cited time and time again as the best way to learn a language quickly; if you can’t do that by moving overseas, you can do it playing a MMORPG from the comfort of your couch!


All the accents


As well as on-your-feet instant exposure, an MMORPG in particular is a great way to get familiar with a lot of different accents and dialects. Other players aren’t going to prioritise speaking slowly and clearly to help you understand if you’re in the middle of some tense battle or swordfight, so you’re going to hear the language how it is spoken every day by people who it is a native language for. And yes; you’ll learn a little cursing. Who doesn’t want to learn a bit of that?


Photo via Ybierling


Learn by repetition


Some language learners do best when they can repeat words and phrases over and over until they’re firmly wedged in their memories. With video games you are going to be hearing the same things continually as you play; there are only so many variations they can plan! So whether it’s NHL yelling about high-sticking, or FIFA complaining about a goal being offside, you are going to hear those words and phrases until you can repeat them without having to think.


Practise anytime, anywhere


If you don’t have enough free time available just to study a language, yet still need to let off some steam doing something that’s enjoyable for you, video games can help with that too. It won’t feel like studying if it’s three in the morning and you’re yelling at your character to do what your brain wants it to do and not what your sleepy thumbs are actually guiding it to! You certainly won’t think it’s a chore to ‘learn languages’ if you’re playing a game on your lunch break. Sometimes the best way to learn anything is in bite-sized chunks; video games make it possible to do that with minimal effort.


A stepping stone


Learning a language through playing video games can pave the way for other types of easy learning. You’ll make friends (and enemies) along the way as you play, which might lead to conversations outside of the game; how many Discord servers are you on currently? Discord is particularly helpful if you are both a gamer and a language learner, because again, you’ll get to talk to people from all over the world who both speak your target language and are learning it alongside you. How better to learn a language than by doing it through talking about something you are passionate about?


Photo via Flickr


Learning to play


Finally, if you want to play a video game that is predominantly in your target language, you are going to need to do a little research before you even start. Firstly, with the language in the game itself, but secondly with everything else surrounding the game. Want to know the release date, see sneak peeks, interviews, find out who is voicing certain characters and so on? Chances are, you will have to go hunting for these details on social media. So a video game can expose you to language learning even before you start to play it!


What about other types of games?


Learning from playing games is not just restricted to video games. Some organisations use interactive board games to support the communication of complex messages and concepts to employees and delegates. Although not necessarily used for learning languages, the same principles of immersion and exposure apply when helping to translate complex business ideas and concepts to people unfamiliar with them.

Games are beneficial for language learners in a variety of ways. They are great not only for helping you learn the language itself, but also as a way to de-stress if your verb conjugation isn’t going quite right, and even gain useful life skills. Yes, breaks are important! If you’d like some guidance from a tutor who will help tailor learning to your specific needs however you are learning a language, drop us a quick enquiry. We are here to help!