My story about the Elder Scrolls games

The Elder Scrolls games are very close to my heart. I’ve played every one of them that has come out since I was 13 years old. That was back in 2001. At that time I got the Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind. It was epic and it completely blew my mind. Such a massive fantasy world for me to explore, with so many characters to meet and get to know, and so many stories to read. It was like living inside my favorite fantasy novel and being one of the characters in the story.

I’ve probably spent several thousand hours of my life playing Elder Scrolls games. When I was learning Japanese in my 20’s, I aspired to play Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim in Japanese because it was my favorite game and since it was (and still is) such a popular and successful game, it has full Japanese translation with audio and everything. Unfortunately, I never reached a high enough level to be able to enjoy the wonderful advanced-level language content that this game has to offer.

In the last few years since my Spanish has improved beyond the intermediate level, I began to re-explore some of these video game worlds in Spanish. Of course, I was very curious to come back to the Elder Scrolls games. I decided to go with their latest installment which is called Elder Scrolls Online. It takes all the worlds from the previous Elder Scrolls games and puts them together into one big world that you can play online with your friends. Only recently has this game been translated into Spanish. Since I bought the game about a year ago. I’ve put about 150 hours into it. I play it for a few hours a week. It’s great fun and it helps maintain my level of Spanish. I think this game is one of the best games to play for input-based learning and could even be used for some very interesting co-op language exchange as well.

This game is good for many of the same reasons that Dragon Quest XI is good:

  • There are hundreds of interesting stories to read and listen to as you explore the massive world. The story is non-linear so you can choose to explore or ignore any of the characters and their stories.
  • You spend at least 50% of the game reading/listening. If you read all of the books and text content in the game you could spend like 60-70% of your time listening and reading.
  • You can play all of the game’s content with a friend or group of friends.

How I’ve been studying Spanish with this game

This game is rather overwhelming in terms of the amount of content it has to offer. This is what also makes it such a great game for learning languages. When I play this game, I try my best to consume most of the language content. This consists mostly of dialogs with NPC’s (non-playable characters) and books and notes that I encounter as I complete quests and explore new areas. Here are some screenshots of this content.

The level of this content is quite advanced. When I first started playing it was difficult for me to get used to the style, especially the historical books that mimic a more academic style of writing. There was a lot of new vocabulary to get used to. Sometimes “playing” the video game consisted of just reading books or talking to NPC’s, which is also just reading text on the screen.

Within a few weeks, I began to acclimate to the style of writing and new vocabulary. Now I feel like a teenager again playing my favorite games, diving into interesting stories about orcs, elves and lizard people. I really think those years I spent playing video games as a teenager were some of the most developmental years of my life in terms of my proficiency with the English language. As you can see from the screenshots above, this content is not just a kids’ book. This is full-on narrative writing. The content of the dialogs with the NPC’s is easier to understand than the content of the in-game books.

No flashcards?

I feel guilty admitting this, but I have not made any flashcards from this content. Normally I would re-read all of the content, collect new vocabulary, and make flashcards using examples from the context of the game. I was so overwhelmed with the amount of new vocabulary that I had to ignore making flashcards and just play the game. After a while, I realized that I had at least passively acquired the most common vocabulary in the game by periodically looking up new words but trying my best to understand through context only.

Librarian Add-on

If you want to use this game to help you learn English or Spanish, I highly recommend the Librarian add-on. It allows you to easily re-read any books you find as you explore the world. You can also mark the books as you finish them so you know which ones you have read and which ones you haven’t.

The Librarian add-on book menu
Option to mark books as read or not read

This is awesome because you will find a lot of books as you are out exploring the world but may not want to read them right at that moment. Whenever you are finished with your adventure, you can open the Librarian add-on and review any of the books that you found. If you are playing with friends, you could also use this to avoid wasting time reading and spend more time exploring the world with your friends. You can read the books later as a way to follow up and review what you’ve learned.

What about NPC dialogs?

Unfortunately, you cannot save NPC dialogs. Those will disappear, probably forever, after you finish any dialog. The only way to save this content would be the old-fashioned screenshot method.

Summary

This game offers an immersive language-learning environment that combines the thrill of exploration with the rewards of improved language skills. I highly recommend this game for upper-intermediate and advanced-level students looking to enrich their vocabulary by reading all kinds of interesting stories. Elder Scrolls Online is an MMO (Massively Multiplayer Online) so enjoy it with some friends who also want to improve their language skills!

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