by guest blogger Ed Gould
There is plenty of choice when it comes to digital media that can help children learn English when it is not the first language of their home. These days, it is easy to download cartoons and children’s drama shows to a tablet or laptop PC, which can help kids focus on English without even really thinking about it. Digital media of all kinds can help to improve pronunciation, vocabulary and confidence in using English sentence construction, but what about video games?
Unlike other forms of digital media, video games and apps are sometimes designed with a worldwide market in mind, and therefore have little value for language skill acquisition. Games that center on the visuals tend to have little by way of spoken or written English that will help children at all. Nevertheless, there are plenty of games out there that can help children focus on their burgeoning language skills. Some are ideal for occupying children in a gaming environment that will allow them some good quality screen time and – crucially – be both entertaining and help to boost language skills at the same time. Many of these sorts of games focus on the ability of kids to read individual words and recognize them, but others provide the opportunity for more advanced skill acquisition, such as improving English grammar and spelling.
Of course, educational games will always have their place when it comes to learning English, but what about other sorts of video games that provide children with an experience that has more to do with entertainment than learning? As mentioned, there are plenty of games that provide little in this regard. However, there are some well known brands that provide good content within their games, which gets kids reading and contextualizing English from the ensuing game play. Ideally, learning English from such video games will be something that happens naturally, in tandem with the game, and not be the object of the game itself.
According to a Danish study, many children use video gaming as one of their primary tools in learning English. Led by Birgitte Holm Sørensen, a professor at Aalborg University’s Department of Education, Learning and Philosophy, the research found that the competitive nature of many games was beneficial to the learning process. She said that in traditional Nordic pedagogy, teachers tend to avoid the competitive element found in games for fear of exposing any vulnerabilities in kids. “But it turns out that the children really like the competition and challenges inherent in games,” she said.
This article was contributed by Ed Gould, who is a writer and father living in Hertfordshire, UK. He lists his interests as rugby, gaming and guitars, but not necessarily in that order.