Can You Learn Languages Through Video Games?

Can Video Games be used to help teach languages? It appears they can.
Christopher McFadden

Any gamer knows, that playing certain types of games can improve some real-life skills. It appears learning or improving language skills is also one of them.

Whilst most teaching aid games in classrooms will be language instructional focussed at their heart, you can also improve through more entertaining games, like Skyrim.


This is because these kinds of role-playing games tend to have immersive storylines often with extended dialogues in audio and text form. 

You can even practice your newly forged foreign language skills in online games with other foreign players! Having a real need to dissect some unknown words or phrases will really push you to master a new language. 

games and languages control pad
Source: MaxPixel

What skills can video games improve?

Video games have been shown to improve a number of skills for players — these range from hand-eye coordination to actual improvement in cognition (especially for rapid decision making).


For games, this should come as no surprise, but did you know you can also improve your language skills too?

In fact, teachers and academics have been musing over the possibility of using video games for many years for this very purpose. Research studies like Wright et al (1984), Lee Su Kim (1995), Ubermann (1998), Ersoz (2000), Yong Mei and Yu-Jin (2000) all agree this to be the case.

They have shown that games can be used to provide a useful and meaningful context for languages. It was also clear that games encouraged students to interact and communicate effectively with their peers.

It also appears that video games also provide a challenge and reduce anxiety, and help students to make and sustain the significant effort involved in learning a language.


Whilst these studies were primarily focussed on more traditional games, rather than video games per se, but they have been found to also apply to video games.

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Of course, for online gamers who interact with other foreign language players, direct immersion in a non-native tongue can also help them practice or learn a language almost out of necessity. 

Win, win it seems.

Are video games good for learning languages?

Various studies seem to think so. But it must be borne in mind that the video games in question were more educationally focussed as oppose to, say, shoot-em-ups.

games and language classroom
Source: WANG Hongying/P2PU

Teachers who utilize games in their language lessons also tend to notice that students are a lot more interested in the process than traditional teaching methods.

For example, games seem to help make language lessons a lot less imposing to students. This is especially beneficial for less-confident students who tend to fear openly making mistakes in front of their peers.

It not only the basic structure of languages that are improved by playing computer games, according to observations from teachers. Technical or instructional language through discussion or rules are improved, as well as, negotiation skills.

But teachers and academics alike, are united in their opinion that games should only be used as a teaching aid. They should not be relied on in totality to replace some elements of traditional language learning.

But they would say that, wouldn't they? 

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