Please give me ideas for a language learning game

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I created something that is basically just a glorified quiz. I think it’s pretty bad and don’t really want to work on it anymore.
I now want to create a real game with a controllable character, that relies on learning by immersion, rather than a ‘select the right answer’ type quiz game.

Maybe it would be top down, like the old GTA games, and the player is just dropped onto a street in France/Germany/wherever and somehow learns the language, and as he does the language gets progressively harder.

I’d like to see a language learning game in Flash because I haven’t really seen anything other than quiz games.

Before I start I would need some fundamental design ideas to go off, because I really don’t know what direction to go in, so it would be helpful if some other members could just throw some ideas around?

Thanks!

If you’re interested in this, here are some links/things I have recently looked at:
New Ajax based language learning website: http://www.gamesforlanguage.com/
Two Kanji games:
Slime forest: http://lrnj.com/
Knuckles in China Land: http://www.tbns.net/knuckles/

http://knol.google.com/k/10-key-principles-for-designing-video-games-for-foreign-language-learning
http://www.reddit.com/r/languagelearning/comments/hy6xu/what_is_your_dream_language_learning_video_game/
http://www.reddit.com/r/languagelearning/comments/ib8it/is_this_a_good_idea_for_a_language_learning_game/

Something from an old paper I thought was interesting. 9 different types of one-on-one dialogues:


INTERACTION TYPES FOR DIALOG SCHEMAS: The simplest interaction types consist of one linguistic or spatial move by the student or tutor and then one by the other of them.
We have identified nine pedagogically useful types for language learning, listed below, each involving language use in one or both of its two moves. The names, initially a convenient shorthand for the tutor’s role, evoke motivationally useful tutor personality traits (Murray, 1987; 1992);

1. Tourguide
Tutor acts and comments; Student acknowledges
2. Commander
Tutor makes a command; Student executes it
3. Narrator
Tutor says something; Student enacts it
4. Celebrity
Tutor acts; Student tells about it
5. Quizmaster
Tutor asks a question; Student answers it
6. Movecaster
Student acts; Tutor describes it
7. Oracle
Student asks a question; Tutor answers it
8. Servant
Student makes a command; Tutor executes it
9. Interpreter
Student says something; Tutor enacts it

http://acl.ldc.upenn.edu/W/W93/W93-0208.pdf

Some comments critical of the quiz/flashcard type of language learning game:

I sort of harp on this all the time, but the significant issue I see is that you’re training translation, rather than the language. That’s fine for memorizing a few useful phrases to get by in a foreign country, but if you’re trying to teach the language for speaking, eventually you’ll need to teach the language on it’s own terms (the flashcards need to be in French: “quelle heure est-il?” (Prompt: 12:00) Answer: “Il est midi”)

While I doubt that phrase memorization is a good way to learn a language- it is indeed a start. But I do think that sheer vocab and grammar are without a doubt needed in order to better learn the language as once you learn rules you might be able to not only say “Do you have the time?” but “Do you have any…” or something along those lines. But from a programming perspective, I can totally see why it’d be easier just to match phrases. If anything, this would make as a good “exam” part of the game to see if someone is ready for the next lesson or something like that.
…For some of the interactions at higher levels of knowledge, dynamic conversations would be beneficial. So instead of leading the player down a conversational path and prompting the desired answers, the conversation flows naturally. for example
the player encounters a game character and is prompted to initiate conversation.
PL:Good morning
NPC: Good morning!
PL: nice weather today isnt it? / do you know what time it is/ could you tell me how to get to the train station…
NPC: responds in a natural way, continuing the conversation if appropriate.

I think these interactions would help more advanced players master the language, as they wouldn’t be parroting a list of phrases they recently learned, but relying on a larger bank of learned vocabulary.
 
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Try multiplayer chat

 
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Originally posted by qwerber:

Try multiplayer chat

Don’t think that’s a good idea.


Anyways, I think what you’re trying to do is very interesting, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything remotely similar before. I have no idea how you would go about making this really work without putting anything in the player’s native language, but that would be a great challenge, and if it really works it’d be quite an amazing game.

One thing that I think will be very important here would be animation to show body language and such. Even though I say animation, really if you just have some static pictures and you change between them that would be good enough. I think that when you try to explain something to someone who doesn’t really understand the language, most people end up trying to resort to signs and comparisons and such.

Another idea is that you could introduce another character alongside the main character, say the main character and his/her friend both were somehow dropped into that foreign land. But the main character’s friend is not all that smart, so the main character has to teach what he learned in english to his friend. This is because I usually find that if you try to teach someone something, you end up remembering that thing much better. It also allows the friend to interject in dialogues and such with english, which could help for reminding/reviewing previous vocabulary in the later tests.

 
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Depending on the language you want to teach, have certain important and easily recognizable signs written in another language.

 
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Originally posted by jonathanasdf:
Originally posted by qwerber:

Try multiplayer chat

Don’t think that’s a good idea.

Anyways, I think what you’re trying to do is very interesting, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything remotely similar before. I have no idea how you would go about making this really work without putting anything in the player’s native language, but that would be a great challenge, and if it really works it’d be quite an amazing game.

Sure. There’s no point just giving the player lots of text in the foreign language, it’s too hard to learn that way unless you’re actually around the language many hours every day (real immersion.)

I thought of putting menu screens partly in the native language and partly in the foreign language. Here’s an example of a menu screen where the player would choose his gender and then write his name. Partly in English and partly in Hebrew.

(There’s a few steps to this graphic)

  • Choose gender page appears [important for learning heavily gendered languages like Hebrew]
  • Player chooses gender male, and the audio plays “mah shimcha?”
  • Player enters his name. A note then appears saying *Why don’t you try changing the gender to female to see how the audio and text changes. Hopefully you realized that “mah” means ‘what’ and “shmech” means ‘your name’ when said to a male, and “shimcha” means ‘your name’ when said to a female. Also, when not talking about a person, ‘name’ on its own is just ‘shem’
  • Player then chooses the female gender, and 2. mah shimcha? turns to 2. mah shmech?. The audio then plays the new phrase, “mah shmech?”.

  • Vocabulary learned:
    what? | mah?
    name | shem
    -your name (masculine) | shimcha
    -your name (feminine) | shmech
  • Grammar learned:
    words change form based on gender and possession

Hopefully the player would learn all those things just by messing with the choose gender & write name page, rather than by using flashcards. All of them could go into an in-game flashcard app for later learning, though.

When the game starts the player the very first task would be for the player to have to reinforce it all by going up to characters and asking for their names in the new language.

One thing that I think will be very important here would be animation to show body language and such. Even though I say animation, really if you just have some static pictures and you change between them that would be good enough. I think that when you try to explain something to someone who doesn’t really understand the language, most people end up trying to resort to signs and comparisons and such.

Animation would be the best, but if it’s not good enough then it could end up being confusing to the player, making pictures a better choice.

Another idea is that you could introduce another character alongside the main character, say the main character and his/her friend both were somehow dropped into that foreign land. But the main character’s friend is not all that smart, so the main character has to teach what he learned in english to his friend. This is because I usually find that if you try to teach someone something, you end up remembering that thing much better. It also allows the friend to interject in dialogues and such with english, which could help for reminding/reviewing previous vocabulary in the later tests.

Yeah. Teaching something to someone requires that you completely understand it first, which helps to further retain it. How do you think that would go, though? Could you give a small example dialog between 3 characters (an NPC, the player and the player’s friend)?

Originally posted by EndlessSporadic:

Depending on the language you want to teach, have certain important and easily recognizable signs written in another language.

You mean like street signs and building signs etc?

 
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You mean like street signs and building signs etc?

Exactly. I was in Mexico last week and in the boats there were signs in Spanish, but I could understand them since they included universally recognized symbols. I now know that Salida means Exit.

 
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You can visit http://www.englishlearninggames.com to have some ideas

 
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Great idea! If you have loads of nice animated objects (supermarket, swimming pool, police station, train station) with the appropriate language specific text, you could do some map based ‘Where is the {object} game’:

  • The player could be introduced to the simple sentence ‘Where is the {object]?’ in the language at beginning of game
  • Player shown a number of locations with appropriate language text
  • Player asked where ‘train station’ is in language
  • Player selects correct object on map

Might be a little simple, but you could introduce more sentences. More of a tourists guide…