talktotheclouds comments

Posted in: Video games -- the best Japanese teacher money can buy See in context

Not all Western teachers refuse to endorse game-playing! I am a professional English teacher who mostly works with Japanese students. I play Japanese games myself, and I recommend that my Nintendo DS-owning students pick up English games, or even buy an inexpensive American PS2 if they're serious gamers. For me, it's a great way to get exposure to authentic Japanese in context. The dialogue is sometimes unrealistic, but the last time a Japanese friend looked at the dialogues in my Japanese textbook, she laughed herself silly at the outdated, awkward, and unnatural-sounding sentences...so just be sensible about what you do with language you pick up from games and compare it against real-world Japanese, same as with textbook Japanese.

There is a technique of second-language acquisition/teaching called "extensive reading" that this kind of game-playing can be a part of. Multiple studies have shown that reading a lot in the target language, particularly reading high-interest (that is, FUN) material frequently at a level that's appropriate for you can result in acquiring vocabulary and grammar relatively painlessly and quickly--particularly compared to the common methods of rote memorization with flashcards and dictionaries. Those methods tend to be extremely slow, and retention is poor. Learning words in context is better, so using video games--as one of many tools--is an excellent idea. A good RPG has text on the measure of a novella, I suspect, although I don't have any scripts to do a word count. The key is to find games at the right language level for you so that you don't have to interrupt your reading flow by hitting the dictionary or gamefaqs.com all the time (I recommended "Rhapsody" to one Japanese student, for example).

The notion that anyone who suggests that using a particular medium as a study tool must be a shill for that industry is quite ridiculous. I'm sure no one who thinks about it would seriously entertain this notion; however, the fact that anyone has suggested it does reflect the deep-seated hostility toward video games as anything besides light entertainment. It probably also reflects a belief that learning foreign languages should be painful. Both of these ideas are misguided. Another misguided notion is the idea that because some people learn a language without using a certain technique, that technique is useless for everyone. That clearly makes no sense at all. Dismissing them as silly and anti-creative-thinking? Well, I suppose if you think that reading a book is uncreative, then so is playing a game. To each their own. I also don't think it says anything at ALL about human teachers--a huge part of language learning, or really all learning, is in the students' heads and is the students' responsibility. The more you do on your own like this, the more you learn. That said, many foreign language teachers do not have any language-teaching training, and if you've struggled to learn a language before, it's not always your fault...so the more tools you have at hand for self-study, the better!

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