Video games can help learn new language

LONDON: Popular video games can be used to teach a new language, say scientists who have used the ''Assassin''s Creed II'' to teach the Italian language to a class of students.

Video games can help learn new language

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London

Popular video games can be used to teach a new language, say scientists who have used the 'Assassin's Creed II' to teach the Italian language to a class of students.

Simone Bregni, associate professor at Saint Louis University in Spain, started playing video games in 1975 when he was 12. By the mid-1980s, he was playing textual adventures, and soon realised his English was improving rapidly as he played.

Bregni began incorporating video games in the classroom in language labs in 1997. It was the introduction of a new generation of animated, interactive adventure games in 2009, however, that brought striking results to his students. Set in fully inhabitable environments, they enriched both language and culture.

“Games have now evolved. They are interactive movies,” Bregni said.

Though Bregni has used Final Fantasy, Trivial Pursuit, Who Wants to be a Millionaire, Heavy Rain and Rise of the Tomb Raider in his classrooms, one of the most useful games to teach Italian is Assassin's Creed II.

“In my Italian Renaissance literature course, for example, students explore Florence as it flourished under the Medici by playing Assassin's Creed II,” Bregni wrote in the study published in the journal Profession.

“My 21st-century American students partake in the life of Ezio Auditore, a 20-something man from an affluent family, by wandering around a cultural and historical re-creation of 1476 Florence,” Bregni said.

Bregni used games to reinforce vocabulary and grammar, introduce cultural data and teach students to problem solve in Italian.

He links specific game chapters to pedagogical goals, preparing students with vocabulary and grammar worksheets, applying them in the relevant game, and discussing and reflecting on them afterwards in a written exercise, a process he calls Identify, Acquire, Create (IAC).

In a class called Intensive Italian for Gamers, all students made progress equal to two semesters of Italian over the course of a single fall semester. By the final, students were 3 to 5 points ahead of students in a traditional Italian course.

The class format was a hybrid with a flipped classroom and online instruction. On a typical day, Bregni led 30 minutes of traditional instruction, such as exercises to practice past tenses, for example, followed by 20 minutes of gaming.

“Studies indicate that a strong shared interest within a learning group will foster language acquisition. We start with things that students know and can figure out, which is reassuring, and we build from there,” Bregni said.

"I firmly believe that learning should be fun. The fact that it is fun doesn't take away from the seriousness—it's just more effective," he said. PTI

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