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Games Can Enhance Language Learning

A new study out of the University of Freiburg suggests that children who are exposed to different accents have an advantage when it comes to language acquisition.

For the study, the researchers used a version of the game “Spot It!” to study the impact of accents on language learning.

“In contrast to previous studies, it is not bilingual children who necessarily perform better in vocabulary acquisition, but children who are exposed to diverse accents most frequently,” Adriana Hanuliková, Ph.D., an assistant professor from the German Department at the University of Freiburg and co-author of the study, said in a press release.

Keep reading to learn more about the implications of this study and how to use games for language learning.

How Games Can Support Language Learning

The researchers were interested in investigating how hearing regional and foreign accents can influence language learning for children. They developed a computer version of the game “Spot It!” where the study participants played against a virtual player speaking in German either with a standard accent, a Hebrew accent, or a Swiss accent.

During the game, two cards with random pictures are shown. To win the match, you have to be the first person to say the image that can be spotted on both cards. Some of the images were considered to be items that would be unknown to elementary school students.

The study participants who had previously been exposed to different accents seemed to have an easier time learning new words from the other players with accents. However, bilingualism did not have the same effect. More studies are needed to understand the relationship between accents and language learning and how this can be incorporated into future foreign language lessons.

But, the study also showed that natural learning techniques, like playing card games, can be a useful way to improve language skills.

“The children learn from other children while playing, not from adults, the latter being the focus of almost all studies to date,” Hanulíková said in the press release.

The Best Language Learning Games

While the study aimed to understand how accents influence language learning, using games may also help you learn a new language.

“Children are required to say and use these words in interaction, not to just passively recognize them. In this way, the experimental design resembles natural learning in everyday life,” Hanulíková said in the press release.

In this study, the participants said the words out loud in addition to matching the word with an image. This combination may have aided in language learning.

Other studies have focused on using games to help students learn a new language. A 2021 study published in Frontiers in Psychology found that games can help English as a Foreign Language (EFL) learners feel more comfortable communicating and also enhance their language learning.

The 2021 study found that the specific game you use doesn’t matter as long as the students “have fun and feel happy and free.” That being said, certain games may be more easily incorporated into a classroom setting.

Scrabble and Bananagrams are two good options for learning English vocabulary and spelling. KLOO is a unique card game that was specifically designed for language learners and works for French, Italian, Spanish, and EFL learners. Spot It!, as the study showed, can also be used for language learning and this card game also comes in Spanish, French, and German decks.

Almost any type of game, including board games and card games, can be used if the players agree to speak the language they are trying to learn while playing.

Ultimately, games can be a fun way to build language skills and practice learning a new language. This tool can help students feel more willing to communicate and can mimic natural learning.

Want to read about other language learning tips? Check out the ALTA Beyond Words Blog for more.

Stephanie Brown is a New York City-based travel blogger and freelance content creator.
You can find her at The Adventuring Millennial.

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