Instructional Design

Say “Bonjour” to the Gamification of Language Learning

There’s a reason that 80 percent of the human population sticks to just one language: The time it takes to learn a new language is long, the process is hard, and the maintenance can be tricky. In the past, brushing up on your French meant anything from listening to long audio lessons or taking a course at your local community college – either way, it was a major commitment.

But today’s language learning might have more in common with Xbox than it does a traditional blackboard, thanks to the complete gamification of education. When language lessons team up with gaming, goals, and gadgets, the result is something truly magnifique.

From Rosetta Stone to Duolingo

Blame it on the Stone: Back in the days when AOL ruled the Internet and dial-up was the name of the game, Rosetta Stone software offered a revolutionary way to learn a new language. Instead of the more common method of repetition, the idea behind the wildly-popular language software was to use instant feedback, voice recognition, and yes, even games as a way to build language intuition.

Fast-forward about 20 years and now, language games are everywhere: From free online programs to mobile apps, the idea that learning a language can be organic and fun means more and more people can identify themselves as bilingual.

Why It Works

Here’s the thing: Previous incarnations of language learning meant you mastered a few phrases. What’s more, the monotony of repeating “elle” and “il” meant that language courses began with gusto and then fizzled with the realization that being monolingual wasn’t so bad after all.

Gamification learning essentially turns the idea of repetition on its head by teaching users to challenge themselves past just a few phrases. By hijacking your phone’s microphone, for example, you can get instant feedback on pronunciation and conversation. When you nail a chapter test, you score badges and unlock achievements that engage you to keep playing. And of course, the sheer convenience of logging in and playing a five-minute game session means you’re more likely to stick with it.

Getting Personal

Perhaps the best argument for game-based language learning is the idea that interactive eLearning should be highly personal. By offering each learner a completely individual experience, language learning games actually track performance and offer lessons based on mastery. If a learner were to take a face-to-face course, he’s automatically subject to the speed and understanding of the general population. Stuck on a topic? Unfortunately, it’s time to move on.

Game-based learning effectively respects the learner as a complete individual. If there are topics of weakness, a chapter or level can be played and replayed to mastery. Personalization can go even further by allowing the learner to set a level of understanding and pace: Know a little French already? Go straight to conversation. Starting from scratch? Here are some basics.

Game-based language learning is especially exciting because it makes learning a new language hyper-accessible. Anyone with a computer, tablet, or smartphone has access to award-winning eLearning methods, engaging graphics, and games that teach and entertain simultaneously.