Can Gamification Really Teach You A Language?

You may not be familiar with the word “gamification”, yet. My text editor isn’t! It refers to the use of games to teach something. In marketing, it is considered to be a highly effective way to teach and train people, and it is being touted as the next best thing.

If you explore the language learning products that are out there, you will see that companies are experimenting with gamifaction. This may include word games, like multiple choice, matching, or fill-in-the-blank games. Some sites have taken it up a notch and offer incentives for completing lessons as well as ways to compete against other learners. These incentives are usually little icon badges, or some other digital representation, which is not a physical item that has real value in the real world.

If you looked at LiveMocha.com, you can earn points by helping review the work of English language learners. Then you can use these points to buy new lessons in the language you are learning.

All of these ideas can make learning fun, and depending on the type of learner you are, they may appeal to you more or less.

The $100,000 question though is this: Does gamification really teach you a language? At this time in the development of gamification applied to language learning, I would say the answer is a resounding NO!

All of the language games I have seen focus on only one thing: memorizing vocabulary words. As I have harped upon already, memorizing vocabulary words is an important component of language learning, but after learning the basic pronunciation of the language, and a few useful words, putting emphasis on vocabulary memorization is a big waste of time. And it seems these games are designed for beginners anyway. So if you are serious about learning a language, but you really enjoy these types of games, be sure to use them sparingly, in conjunction with more effective language learning methods.

Another thing to consider is the quality of the audios that you may be working with. I recently reviewed the popular language site duolingo.com, which looks great, and is lots of fun from a gaming perspective. But the audios sound horrible! They sound computerized and all garbled. If you are at the stage where you are learning the pronunciation of a language, and that language has some subtle sounds to pick up, duolingo.com is practically useless.

Further more, they don’t put emphasis on the audios. The audios are more of an afterthought, as far as when you can hear them. Compare that to Byki, and it makes me appreciate Byki even more! The audios are clear and crisp sounding, and they are used in a way that you hear them at the appropriate time, and often, which builds your ear training, and pronunciation skills.

Maybe, and hopefully, gamification in regards to language learning will evolve and become more sophisticated. I bet there is a designer out there working on something right now. Or maybe you are a designer and you will revolutionize language learning gamification. I think though, the person to do this will be someone who has taught themselves a language, and knows intimately what works and doesn’t work.

If you have used a game to learn a language, please leave a comment below and explain how it helped you. Or if you know of any good language learning games, please share them in the comment box.

This article is taken from my video course Teach Yourself A Foreign Language. CLICK HERE for more details about the course.

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