Have you ever thought about playing video games to help you learn a language? This was a dream of mine when I use to study Japanese. Of course in Japanese, there is a very rich world of fantasy in video games, anime, and comic books. Unfortunately, I never reached a level high enough in Japanese to enjoy playing video games. You need to be very intermediate or even advanced to fully take advantage and enjoy the experience.
In the last few months, I’ve been returning to my dream of learning languages through playing video games. The good news is in 2022 there are TONS of options in many different languages, including Spanish. However, you must choose carefully if you really want to improve your language skills. Many video games don’t have a lot of language content. You’re not going to improve your language skills playing shooter games or Mario Kart. These games simply don’t have enough content to read or listen to.
If you want to improve your language skills by playing games, you need a game that provides a lot of input (reading and listening). I’m going to show you a great example with the game Dragon Quest XI, which I think may be one the BEST games for learning languages.
About the game
Dragon Quest XI is a classic JRPG (Japanese role-playing game). You play as a character with a team of friends in an open world. As you explore the massive open-world you learn the story of the characters and the world they live in.
There are several reasons this game is an excellent choice to improve your language skills
- The story is super fun and engaging
- You spend at least 50% of the game reading/listening
- You can read as slow as you need to. The game pauses after each character speaks with a text dialog box.
- The characters have very clear facial expressions and body language to help you understand.
- The game takes more than 50 hours to finish!
How I study
Of course, I study with AnkiMaster flashcards. AnkiMaster flashcards allow me to maximize my learning. The process is quite simple. There are three parts to my workflow:
- Playing the game and sentence mining by collecting i+1 sentences using screenshots
- Making flashcards from my collected screenshots
- Studying the flashcards
Let’s take a look at how I do this.
Step 1: Sentence Mining
While I explore the world of Dragon Quest and talk to all the different characters, I look for i+1 sentences. This is very easy to do because the game pauses after each time a character speaks. Check it out:
I usually have my dictionary app open on my phone while I’m playing to quickly look up some words to determine if it’s actually worth learning. Sometimes these characters use very strange words that I don’t need to study, but for the purpose of following the story it’s nice to look up some of these strange words so I don’t get confused. When I find an i+1 sentence I take a screenshot with the keyboard shortcut Windows key + prt sc. The Windows key is next to alt and prt sc means the “print screen” button, which may be located in different places depending on your keyboard.
Step 2: Making flashcards
After I finish a session of playing, I have a folder of screenshots on my computer:
These are my i+1 sentences. All I have to do now is create AnkiMaster flashcards with these pictures. Here’s what the finished flashcards look like.
As you can see, I dressed the flashcards with pictures definitions and audio recordings for the word and sentence.
Step 3: Study Flashcards
The last step is to study the flashcards (see The AnkiMaster System – How to study your cards).
This is an infinitely repeatable routine that you can follow every week to improve your language skills. The best part, you get to play video games and learn at the same time! You can be like a naughty kid and play as much as you want but you’re actually being productive. This is without a doubt my favorite way to improve my Spanish. However, there are a few things that you need to keep in mind.
Depending on the video game, you will need a very high level in your target language to be able to follow the story and play the game without getting lost. They say Dragon Quest XI is for ages 13+ but it’s actually a very high level of reading. I can get lost sometimes without using my dictionary. My vocabulary in Spanish is really good, but I still have trouble understanding a video game for teenagers!
You must make the flashcards after you play. This part is less fun than actually playing the video game so you might try to avoid it and just keep playing without making the flashcards. If you do this, you won’t acquire much new vocabulary and the video game will always feel difficult to understand. Thankfully, the characters in the game tend to use the same words over and over again so it becomes easier to understand as you acquire the most frequent vocabulary that the different character use.
AnkiMaster flashcards are the best tool to maximize your learning from this experience. It allows you to study the content of the video game directly in your flashcard system. There isn’t any other tool that can do this.
So, if you like playing video games and are trying to learn a new language, you should definitely try this method. Your desire to advance in the video game is a great incentive to study and you can easily get lost playing for hours and hours, completely immersed in the language.