Learning a second language can be pretty tricky. There are plenty of different theories on the best way to learn, but playing games proves to be one of the most effective. It doesn’t matter what age you are; games in another language, whether you are 5 or 55, can help your brain process a new tongue. From snakes and ladders to poker, Pictionary to Blackjack, it doesn’t matter what game you play; it is the fact that you’re playing it in a foreign language that gets the old grey matter working.
How Do We Learn?
As children, we learn the language of our native tongue by immersion. Babies get constantly bombarded with people talking, and at first, they don’t understand or have enough cognition to know what people around them are saying. But the fact they are constantly hearing the same language gives the brain a chance to start making the correct neural pathways required for remembering, repeating, and in time fully understanding what it is they are hearing. The easiest time to learn a new language is as a child, and babies brought up in bilingual homes have no problem learning both languages simultaneously. With that in mind, immersion can be used to help anyone of any age develop new language skills.
In years gone by, classroom learning for languages could be very boring. Words on a page with very little context are hard to comprehend and not easy to remember and generally make learning languages something of a fruitless chore. Over the years, experts have developed language-specific learning games that helped teach words and association through imagery. For example, imagine you are looking at a picture of a dog but do not speak English; you can hazard a pretty good guess that the word written below shown as ‘dog’ represents what you are seeing. Learning specific language games works much the same way, encouraging the players to progress around a board, undertaking tasks and challenges in the new language to move on. The slightly more 3D approach makes it easier to motivate and engage students, and language learning becomes a side effect of the immersion in the game.
Studies have proven that games not designed explicitly as teaching aids can still be valuable to someone trying to learn a new language. Again, it all comes down to context and immersion. If you are playing a game that you understand in your native language, it is relatively easy to guess how the words and sentences are related in the second language. It also moves the learner on from just being able to pick out the correct word for something to developing an understanding of sentence structure and conversation. There is a world of difference between conversational language learning and properly written examples of such. It is much easier to learn to speak and hold conversations in a second language than to write them down. If you think about the complex rules of sentence structure and grammar in English, you can understand how it can be equally challenging to learn a second language.
Talking, on the other hand, is a case of understanding context and repetition. So, if you’re playing a game with people who naturally speak the language you are learning, you will get caught up in that process and begin to speak and respond correctly. It is just a case of creating building blocks from fundamental interactions to more complicated sentences. For example, imagine meeting someone who does not speak English; if you say hello, they can easily repeat that back and understand that they have just greeted another person in English. All language learning stems from here, recognizing the words for ‘Would you like a drink?’ When someone is holding up an empty cup in your direction. When it helped teach words and when the games are in session, things like your turn, you won, and other sentences and phrases will occur throughout the game repeatedly. By paying attention to these, you can begin to make sense of the new language.
Language learning doesn’t have to be a daunting process. You can learn by playing games and immersing yourself in different experiences, like watching television or listening to audiobooks, and conversing with people. All of these activities will help your brain accept the words as something normal rather than strange and unusual. You don’t need to worry about how old you are either; if anything, it’s helpful that there’re many types of games for various age groups, so no matter what kind of game experience you prefer, find one that suits your level!
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