Tag Archives: Skype

Games for Language Learning? For Children and Adults!

This week we have a guest blog from Ulrike & Peter Rettig are co-founders of Games for language. Like us they are lifelong language learners, growing up in several European countries before moving to Canada and the United States. Over the them…

 

When you watch young children at play, you know: children love playing games. For them games are a way to explore the world around them and to try out how things work.

 

Indeed, many parents help their young children acquire their first language in a playful way. Who hasn’t imitated the sound of a cow or a dog for a child and matched it with the picture and/or word of the animal?

 

As young children learn to speak, they start to identify objects, learn letters and numbers, spell simple words, sing songs, etc.

 

Parents and caregivers often turn such a learning activity into a game they play with children.

 

Also, many children now play games on toy tablets or their parent’s tablet or phone. Some of the games are language based and improve a child’s native language skills.

DIGITAL GAMES

For digital language learning games, the rules are often simple. The player gains points or advances for making the right match, and loses points or has to replay for getting it wrong. Graphics, sound, and gamification features add fun and excitement.

 

Games for very young children often match a picture or sound with a letter or word. Games for preschoolers teach them to recognize words, how to spell them, and how to sound them out. For school children, games can get more complicated. These often involve sentence building, spelling races, and grammar searches.

CHILDREN LEARNING A SECOND LANGUAGE

It’s clearly not difficult to introduce children to different words for various objects. Whether a “dog” is labeled a “Hund” (German), “chien” (French), “perro” (Spanish) or “cane” (Italian) will not matter to a child. Children remember a new “label” easily and correlate it to its picture or sound, as long as they hear the foreign word often and consistently.

 

Children that grow up bilingually have no problem retaining both languages, as long as they continue to use them.

Research has demonstrated the benefits of learning more that one language as a child. One important benefit is that the foreign sounds children hear in their early years are retained by them, even if they stop using the language.

 

Thus, exposing children to the sounds of a foreign language as they grow up will make it easier for them to relearn that language later on.

SECOND LANGUAGE LEARNING GAMES FOR CHILDREN

More and more language games for children are being developed, both as web apps or as native apps, available from App stores.

 

Typical ingredients of second-language games are:

  • Flashcards
  • Fun graphics and sound
  • Simple rules, involving hit and miss
  • Rewards, in the form of advancement, points, trophies
  • Lots of repetition
  • Interactive play

 

Figuring out how a game works is all part of the learning.

 

Children as young as 2 1/2 or 3 can start with simple games, matching pictures with the audio of foreign words.

 

When children learn to read in their native language (ages 5-8), games can include simple words in their own language, plus audio of the foreign word.

 

Once children can read quite well (ages 9 and up), the games can be more challenging and include longer texts in the foreign language.

 

GAMESFORLANGUAGE

Although our Gamesforlanguage courses and Quick Language Games were originally developed for adult learners, we have found that many school-aged children have started playing them.

 

This French Quick Language Game, for example, shows some of the games included with our free courses. (Click on the link above or the picture to play it!)

 

Through feedback, we have learned what works for young players:

 

  • The courses and games are interactive
  • The travel story appeals to older children (4th grade and up) who travel with their parents
  • The story sequel format with 36 (or 72) Scenes also works well for children
  • Text-based games practice individual foreign words, phrases, and sentences, as well as English reading and spelling
  • Foreign spelling is practiced with simple words
  • Story podcasts advance listening skills

MANY DIFFERENT ACTVITIES FOR LANGUAGE LEARNING

It ‘s clearly a good idea for children to engage in all kinds of different activities to learn and practice languages. Digital games are just one tool.

Other favorites are songs, easy books, audio stories, board and card games, not to forget conversations with family and friends, at home or on FaceTime and Skype.

Our 3-year-old granddaughter, for example, is taking French Skype lessons with a tutor several times a week. She loves to sing “un deux trois” and is very proud when she can surprise us with a new French word from time to time.

 

Bio: Ulrike & Peter Rettig are co-founders of Gamesforlanguage.com. They are lifelong language learners, growing up in several European countries before moving to Canada and the United States. You can follow them on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

 

How do you do languages at home with your children?

Let us know in the comments below.

Speak Polish! How Kids Make Absolutely Awesome Motivation

I’m learning Polish at the moment with uTalk (blog comjng very soon). This week we are lucky to have a guest blog from Nathan at how to speak Polish. I hope it inspires you to learn Polish too.

Nathan from HowToSpeakPolish.com at Wawel Castle in Kraków, Poland“I don’t know where it is!”

Aged 23, that’s exactly what I would have told you if you’d have asked me about Poland. I hadn’t even met a Pole until 2013. Little did I know that I’d end up marrying the first one that I spoke to!

My name is Nathan and given my background, it’s quite surprising that I’m an ambassador of the Polish language. I was born in 1991 and raised in Swindon, England to a family of Jamaican and Barbadian heritage. Although I am from an English-speaking family, I encountered French at a young age. At school I had Spanish classes too, but after years of lessons in both I could never hold a conversation. Despite my lack of proficiency, exposure to foreign languages as a child taught me how much fun they were and I continued to dabble in them in adulthood.

My Polish language learning journey

Nathan from HowToSpeakPolish.com making friends with a Polish accordion playerI started learning Polish in 2013 after being invited to a wedding in Western Poland. I’d heard false rumours that Polish people were racist towards black people, so I decided to learn some phrases beforehand in order to say hello and get myself out of a sticky situation should it arise.

Nothing would stick! After failing to learn anything from my local library’s audio courses, I actually quit learning Polish – twice! For me, it was third time lucky when I started using my current method to learn the meanings of whole sentences. I bought a cheap phrasebook and went from there.

Following the wedding, I continued learning and started speaking to natives on Skype. After 14 months of struggling, I had finally achieved my goal to speak Polish with natives with ease!

Of course, I never would have achieved my goal without guidance. My language learning heroes are Khatzumoto, Luca Lampariello and Olly Richards. I have been influenced by many others, but these three are a cut above the rest. They inspire me not only with their language proficiency, but also with their willingness to help others to follow in their path. On my website, HowToSpeakPolish.com, I help other Polish learners in the same way that these titans have helped me.

Although I can speak Polish, I continue to study so that I can teach my children to speak Polish from birth. I plan to exclusively speak Polish to my kids. If I don’t, I’ll be robbing them of a suitable environment to learn. I want to give them every opportunity to get to know their mother’s family, friends and history.

My top tips

If I could give you one language learning tip knowing what I know now, it’s “Focus on learning the language that you need”. There are so many languages that you’ll never speak them all. There’s so much vocabulary that you’ll never learn it all. Concentrate on acquiring the words specific to you and your interests.

As for pronunciation, here are my top tips:

If you know someone who wants to speak Polish, tell them about HowToSpeakPolish.com. We can conquer Polish together!

Has this inspired you? Let us know in the comments below.