How Language Learning And Video Games Are Similar

In 2005, I bought my first iPod. It was the first to use the new click wheel. I didn't know that, though, and the iPod didn't come with any instructions. I had used it for two days before finally, by some random chance, I dragged my finger along that wheel and heard the click, and I realized this device does more than I thought.

It worked fine without me knowing everything, but it worked even better when I discovered the additional feature. And I was never confused by a bunch of difficult instructions. This is an excellent example of a concept known as video game mechanics.

For decades, the most popular video games have been sold with few or no instructions. You have a basic story line and a stated goal, but you have to figure out all of the details to reach that goal on your own. And perhaps you've noticed that the video game industry is one of the fastest growing industries of all.

This same concept applies to language learning. In fact, it's one of those things about language learning that most people seem to get wrong.

When you pick up a video game, you understand how games and game systems work. You have an idea that the direction pad or joystick will control movement, and the buttons will initiate actions. You don't know exactly how these things will work until you try, and often they don't do what you expected, but you do have a general idea and the confidence to try.

Likewise, each language has nouns and verbs, adjectives and adverbs. Numbers, prepositions, etc. You may not know the exact grammar, but you have an idea of what's involved. So just like the video game, you should have the confidence to try. Yet many people don't.

Sure, a video game is for fun — it even has the word game built into it — whereas a language is a tool, used for serious things. But there's no reason why learning a language can't also be fun!

When you first play a new game, you shoot walls looking for secret prizes, and you punch and kick in different order looking for combos. At first you try everything. Later, you have an idea of which things seem to work, and which don't.

We can, and should, do that with language, too. Put down the books and the CDs. Quit with the software. Stop trying so hard with the instructions. You'll be just fine with some game mechanics.

That is, in summary, exactly the point of my experiment this year in Turkish. I am confident that I will learn this language fluently, in one year, by discovery. And in the process, I hope that I will turn the whole idea of language learning upside-down for all of you.


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Author: Yearlyglot
I'll lead you through a 12 month journey from knowing absolutely nothing about a language to having professional fluency.

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  • Yup, kids manage to learn a language just fine without any sort of instructions or system, as do adults who end up fully immersed in a new country, and it usually only takes 6 months or a year or so (for an adult, kids take longer actually).Cheers,
    Andrew

  • BTW good observation, used this one myself before in relation to developing web applications and attended a conference a while back where there were some similar themes. The best game I have found that demonstrates this is Little Big Planet for the PS3 on that one users can learn to develop new levels and share them (there are tutorials but when me and my kids were having a go doing it it was almost all trial and error and lots of fun).That is exactly the point I am trying to demonstrate with my Thai blogging, apart from the crazy posts etc. I make posts like the latest https://chris-thai-student.b... that I hope will make it clear in hindsight to someone who understands Thai that I am learning many of the more technical language issues, the nature of the sounds of the language, grammar etc. mainly from experience.I don't have a year mission though, I think I will take two years or so to get where I want, the process is reasonably relaxed as I am still pretty intense on Chinese and started learning German and Japanese, also learning programming stuff seems to draw from a similar reserve as learning languages (don't know if you find that, I think you said you were a programmer somewhere) I started on a language app. for the Android platform (not the type of programming I do at work).

  • Came across this blog post by accident. Interesting analogy that puts a fresh spin on language learning -- I've never thought about it in this way before. Looking forward to keeping up with your adventures/insight on language learning.

  • bune aq helal ya beatiful

  • Thanks!

  • Yeah, I think of programming in a similar way as I do communication, and computer languages as similar to spoken languages.

  • It's easier for an adult because they already have some understanding of how communication works, and only need to acquire new tools for doing it.

  • artismisin la

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