Playing video games is one of the best ways to learn a new language
Science often has a love-hate relationship with video games. On the one hand, studies have shown that playing action games can put you at risk of developing brain illnesses. But, contradictory studies have shown that playing video games can act as a stress buster, be a viable treatment for depression, improve your brain efficiency, and may even make you a better student.
A new study shows that popular video games can also be used to teach a new language. In the study done by Saint Louis University in Spain, scientists used the Assassin’s Creed II to teach Italian language to a class of students.
Simone Bregni, associate professor at the university, is also one of the many people who have benefited from video games. He started playing video games in 1975 when he was 12. By the mid-1980s, he was playing textual adventures, and realised his English was improving rapidly as he played.
He began incorporating video games in the classroom in language labs in 1997. It was the introduction of a new generation of animated, interactive adventure games in 2009, however, that brought striking results to his students. “Games have now evolved. They are interactive movies,” Bregni said.
Bregni has also used games like Final Fantasy, Trivial Pursuit, Who Wants to be a Millionaire, Heavy Rain and Rise of the Tomb Raider in his classrooms, though Assassin’s Creed II has proved to be the most useful. “In my Italian Renaissance literature course, for example, students explore Florence as it flourished under the Medici by playing Assassin’s Creed II,” Bregni wrote in the study published in the journal Profession.
“My 21st-century American students partake in the life of Ezio Auditore, a 20-something man from an affluent family, by wandering around a cultural and historical re-creation of 1476 Florence,” Bregni said. Bregni used games to reinforce vocabulary and grammar, introduce cultural data and teach students to problem solve in Italian.
In a class called Intensive Italian for Gamers, all students made progress equal to two semesters of Italian over the course of a single fall semester. By the final, students were 3 to 5 points ahead of students in a traditional Italian course. On a typical day, Bregni led 30 minutes of traditional instruction, such as exercises to practice past tenses, for example, followed by 20 minutes of gaming.
“Studies indicate that a strong shared interest within a learning group will foster language acquisition. We start with things that students know and can figure out, which is reassuring, and we build from there,” Bregni said. “I firmly believe that learning should be fun. The fact that it is fun doesn’t take away from the seriousness — it’s just more effective,” he said.
(With inputs from PTI)
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