By Dr. Karolina Kopczynski
Faculty Member, School of Arts, Humanities and Education
Using games when you’re learning foreign languages can provide you with meaningful context presented and practiced in a fun way. Many students already use foreign language apps such as Duolingo and Mango. Both apps are user-friendly and allow you to learn any foreign language on the go.
Also, both of these apps provide you with endless ways to practice your language skills. For instance, you learn new vocabulary and specific grammatical structures of the language you’re studying.
In addition, you can practice pronunciation and form simple sentences. None of the apps cover an academic curriculum in the same way as a foreign language class, but they offer a chance for extra practice.
You can never understand one language until you understand at least two. ― Geoffrey Willans
Duolingo and Mango
Duolingo is a free app offering over 21 different languages, and Mango is a paid app that offers over 70 foreign languages. Both have a game where you can monitor your progress and move at your own pace, completing as many levels as you want.
The games offer listening, writing, reading and pronunciation activities. Both can be excellent introductory tools alongside the curriculum for both beginning or more experienced foreign language students.
Learners who have a more advanced knowledge of a foreign language can challenge their skills with conversational bots in Duolingo. The programs also offer incentives such as badges and extra vocabulary. They also send reminders regarding being inactive and encourage users to meet weekly goals.
There is also Babbel, a paid app that offers 14 languages, including Spanish, Italian, French, English and German. Other languages provided by Babbel are Danish, Dutch, Indonesian, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Swedish and Turkish.
Babbel’s content was created by educators and linguists. It also provides offers listening, speaking, flashcards, and writing activities.
Just like Duolingo, it enables users to practice their skills through much repetition. The app itself is very user-friendly and makes learning fun.
Quizlet offers endless lists of vocabulary in any language. You can learn vocabulary as well as grammar and cultural content.
Quizlet also has flashcards and matching games. You can practice listening and spelling, then take a test to assess your skills.
You can even create your own lists or use the ones created by other educators or students. However, I urge you to check the spelling of words in Quizlet, because there are errors at times.
There is also the Digital Dialects website, which offers 50 languages and multiple vocabulary games. In trying out this website, I selected Polish, since it is my native language.
The Digital Dialects games focus on phrases, colors, numbers, animals, food, days and months. To help foreign language learners, the games offered listening, pronunciation, spelling activities and spelling quizzes. It’s a very engaging and fun website!
Language Games Are Fun, But Remember That They Cannot Replace an Instructor
Language games are an excellent way to start learning a foreign language. However, it’s important to remember that they do not compare to an actual class and cannot replace an instructor.
For instance, an instructor can explain the placement of indirect object pronouns in a sentence containing one or two verbs. Such concepts are not defined in great detail in traditional language games.
The games do offer a chance for users to increase the mastery of a foreign language through numerous repetitions of vocabulary. Such games are excellent supplementary components when you’re learning a language, or they can be used as tools to start learning a foreign language.
At the university, we use Rosetta Stone (RS), which was rated number 1 of 10 Best Language Learning Software of 2021. In addition to RS, learners have the opportunity to interact with and obtain assistance from our instructors to improve their skills. They can practice their newly acquired skills in discussion forums and individual assignments. The assignments require learners to practice their writing and speaking proficiency.
In addition, students have an opportunity to take advantage of other resources shared by instructors. These resources include video clips, poetry, podcasts, soap operas and cultural videos focusing on geography, economics, art, and education.
Learning another language is not only learning different words for the same things, but learning another way to think about things. ― Flora Lewis
Learning a foreign language can be a fun and meaningful experience. Taking the time to practice your foreign language skills regularly is very helpful in become a more fluent speaker of that language, and language games are an entertaining way to practice your skills.
About the Author
Dr. Karolina Kopczynski is a native of Poland and moved to the USA as a high school student. Her passion is learning foreign languages and being able to travel and communicate with others to broaden and deepen her perspectives as a global learner.
She earned her B.A in Spanish from UMASS, Amherst, where she also studied, French, German, Italian and Russian. She completed her study abroad program in Oviedo, Spain. Dr. Kopczynski obtained her M.A.T. in Spanish and ESOL from the School for International Training, VT in 2000. She also taught herself Greek and lived in Greece.
In 2010, Dr. Kopczynski completed her Ed.D. from the University of Phoenix in Curriculum and Instruction. Her dissertation topic was “Student Proficiency in Spanish Taught by Native and Non-native Spanish instructors.” In 2015, she completed two additional master’s degrees from the University of Jaén in Spain and the University Iberoamericana in Puerto Rico in Applied Linguistics in Teaching Spanish as a Foreign Language and Formation of Professors of Spanish as a Foreign Language. Dr. Kopczynski has experience instructing Spanish at all levels and designing online Spanish courses.
Recently, Dr. Kopczynski presented at the Mass Foreign Language (MaFla) regarding “Reading & Listening Comprehension and Writing & Speaking Proficiency = Online Applications”; at a Canvas Network international webinar on the “Use of Technology in a Foreign Language Classroom” and at the Wyoming Innovations in Learning Conference on “Boost Engagement and Empower Struggling Learners via Digital Tools.”