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Subject: A Question for Non-native English-speaking Gamers rss

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Gianluca Casu
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You might want to concentrate on games in which the rules are partly wrtitten through the game, licke card games or Euro games with text on it (like Agricola).

the point is learning by doing and if the only foreign language is the rulebook, you might as well read something funny ( although Dungeon Lords is a perfectly acceptable option).

So text on cards, but not too much. good start point would be Dominion
 
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Wouter
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My English was already pretty good before I started with English board games so I can't really say what would or would not help in terms of board games. I got my English skills mostly from
- school;
- watching movies (no dubbed movies in the Netherlands);
- reading all kinds of stuff on the internet;
- actual conversations.

But to be honest, I couldn't say which of the 4 would have been most helpful. Playing board games could probably help but only if there's actualy quite some text to read and understand.

I think most Dutch gamers don't mind the English, I do have some non-gamers around who do not even want to look at English games just because of the language.

During gaming we always talk Dutch, no matter with who I game (unless of course I would be gaming with somebody who doesn't speak Dutch), we usually do stick to the English game terms though.
 
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Eddy Sterckx
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The funny thing is that this question popped up on gaming forums all the time 2 decades ago - but then it was about learning German through gaming - how times have changed

One game that immediately sprang to mind as really helpful for learning a language is the recent Codenames.

Also, in a class environment I can see games like Dixit working really well.

As most native-Dutch gamers we're pretty used to playing English language games and we usually use the English terminology of the game so as to avoid confusion (discard pile, upgrade, gold, ..) so the actual table-talk is a weird mix of Dutch and English.

One remark : it used to be that gamers over here didn't mind playing the German version of a game - usually because that was the only version anyway - but that has almost totally stopped.
 
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Alexandre P.
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DzemikC wrote:
I would really like to hear from some international gamers about how gaming has helped them improve their English.


I think all my non-scholar English improvement came from movies/TV-series: at a point I watched the episodes without subtitles on Wednesday night and the same with subtitles on Saturday night.
And the "slang" English came from internet website and from not-for-the-youngest series/movies.

I'm not sure about boardgaming: not handling well the language can slow the game, decrease the fun and without helping to learn a lot.
For example, when I play a German version of a game, I memorize the meaning of the texts or I notice some keywords and instead of learning the sentences I memorize "spend .... [number written]wood... gain [idem]stone" so I could learn a few word but I wouldn't learn to write in German.

 
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Copy Imitator
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Go for games with English on cards that are not hidden information. That way you can explain the text if someone doesn't understand something. Agricola was a good example, also King of Tokyo/New York. I play KoT/NY with my 11y old son and I just tell him what each cards does.
Then try games with easy(ish) text on hidden cards. Smash Up springs to mind. The cards are not too complex once you know the basic rules of the game.
Then throw them into Twilight Struggle.
 
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L S
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I would say that I've learnt English through playing pen-and-paper RPGs and video games. The first English games I played were probably point&click-style adventure games (Zak McCracken, Lucasarts adventures etc.) and video RPGs like Tunnels&Trolls and Bard's Tale. A little later came pen-and-paper RPGs like D&D, Harnmaster, MERS, and Shadowrun.

Our game material was mostly a mix of German and English, e.g. a core rulebook in German and some not-yet-translated supplements and modules in English. Our actual gameplay interactions weren't English, though pretty much everybody from our gaming group got to the point where we could perform simultaneous translation (aka 'read a description from an English module out loud in German'). By the time we reached senior classes, we had some funny discussions with our English teachers.

Teacher: 'Streetwise' isn't a word.
Three students in unison: Yes it is.
Teacher: It's not in the Oxford dictionary. What is it even supposed to mean?
Students: It means you're cool with the locals and know where to buy drugs and weapons and how to hire gang members for wetwork.
Teacher: I want to talk to your parents. Also, 'wetwork' isn't a word.
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Daniel Krauklis
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I mainly learned English from school, watching TV, and reading books. Pen-and-paper RPGs were hugely beneficial.

The single board game that taught me most, in a formative age, was Imperium Romanum II, though rather history than language. An interest in history has lead to searching out source material only available in English (or French, or German), and as a side effect developed my reading skills, knowledge in religion, mythology etc. Games often touch on history and/or popular culture, so are tied in to that kind of learning. All games - particularly old school wargames with hard to penetrate rules - have encouraged me to extend my vocabulary. Can't think of any games that weren't helpful in at least some regard.

Internet would've been nice to have had, back in the '80s. It's likely the only real tool you need nowadays, perhaps with some guidance to good thesaurus and encyclopedia sites.

I don't play board games in English at all, unless there's a native speaker present, other than throwing in technical and/or game terms. It sometimes happen that tabletop RPGs are played in English, though, to separate in character dialogue from player chat. Narrative and storytelling board games, like Once Upon a Time, would probably work best for learning language.
 
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Growing up I learnt alot of english through video games.
In my country, most games(or movies) dont get translated, so you kind of had to learn if you wanted to play adventure games or rpg's.

In regards to board games...

Maybe relative simple event or story driven games would be the way to go? It depends of course on the level of your students, but a game like Above & Below has somewhat simple mechanisms and a story/adventure book you read from.
There's also a game like Tales of Arabian nights, it's pretty random, but properly fun in a classroom setting.

Another option would be to play miro games(Welcome to the Dungeon or love letter ect), but only allow english banter during play.
 
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Riccardo Previdi
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I got my (pretty good, compared to my friends) English language skills honed by playing videogames in times of old, when localization was not the norm. I started playing with Amiga 500, so almost every single game was in English.
My love for RpG and point-and-click adventure was a driving force. Also, being interested in heavy-metal song boosted my interest in the language

I amo not here to brag, but my (written) English skills were FAR superior to those of my peers (italians don't do this better), even at the university... all thanks to games.

On the other hand, my speech skill is average at best.
 
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Karl
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My English skills (besides the mandatory education in school) come mostly from computer games and later from discussions one the internet as well as some play by e-mail role-playing games. Especially the latter two improved my English considerably.
As far as boardgames games go while maybe 1/3rd of games I own are in English we always play in German unless there is someone on the table who only knows English. So table talk is always German, cards (or story sniplets) that need to be red out loud are sometimes given in English but more often translated into German on the fly.
 
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Peter Thur
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Games may play a supportive role klearning another language at the most. Without an interest in games at all, playing them won't help your language skills. Also games in itself probably aren't enough motivation to learn a new language (I tried that with polish, because there were some good Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay supplements published by the polish fanbase. Didn't get far in learning the language). blush

If students already have some basic skills and are interested in games it will make a good combination. I started with traditional school english, got my hands on english books and movies (Red Dwarf hasn't been translated to german yet..). Then came roleplaying combined with my snobbish attitude to inferior german RPGs.

I really don't know what my first boardgame with english rules was. Popular ones like Battletech or Space Hulk had been translated to german in the early 90s. I guess Roborally was the first one I bought in english.

Our game groups usually play in german only. That's simply the easiest common language to the players involved.
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DzemikC wrote:
I'm an English teacher who is also a board game fan (or should that be the other way around?). I am really interested in how games can help people learn English. I also understand that language learning doesn't always happen in the classroom; in fact, it is probably happening much more at home, with friends.
I would really like to hear from some international gamers about how gaming has helped them improve their English. If this is you, please reply with your opinions and experiences:

- Which games were especially helpful?
- Were any games really not helpful?
- Is there anything that would have been really useful to have? (a glossary of words, useful phrases, etc.)
- How much do you actually play in English? (I know it's possible to have an English game, English materials, but do all the interactions in another language, for example)

I'm really looking forward to hearing your thoughts on this. What do you think?

TEFLGamer.com


Most of my games are in English and I'm a pretty good English speaker too. Actually, I tend to purchases my games in English, even though they have been translated. I like the original versions better.

That being said, the people I play with would rather play in French, and do not want to produce the efforts English requires. I used to host game nights in English, but I cannot do that anymore now that I've moved.

So, most of my game sessions are 100% in French with the games being in English.

- Which games were especially helpful?
None. I mastered English before playing games. My players understand the basics so I don't think the games I own helped them. But maybe Rory's Story Cubes helps when I center the game session around it.
- Were any games really not helpful? Games which use iconography.
- Is there anything that would have been really useful to have? (a glossary of words, useful phrases, etc.) That would be useful for any game with specific terms, be it in English or in French.
- How much do you actually play in English? (I know it's possible to have an English game, English materials, but do all the interactions in another language, for example) Never unless that's the main focus of the game night :/
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Thanee
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DzemikC wrote:
I would really like to hear from some international gamers about how gaming has helped them improve their English. If this is you, please reply with your opinions and experiences:

- Which games were especially helpful?
- Were any games really not helpful?
- Is there anything that would have been really useful to have? (a glossary of words, useful phrases, etc.)
- How much do you actually play in English? (I know it's possible to have an English game, English materials, but do all the interactions in another language, for example)


Back in school, when I started to learn english, it was RPGs mostly, which helped me out there. I think the important part here is that you build an interest, where the goal is not really to learn english, but to do something fun, which also happens to include learning english.

Reading english texts certainly has been good practice.

I'm not sure whether playing english games with just a few terms will help that much. You might learn a couple words, but nothing about actually using the language.

As for gaming in english... 90+% of my games are english and pretty much everything I read. I also watch movies in english most of the time (there's a nearby cinema that shows movies both in original and synchronized versions, which is awesome). So, plenty of practice there. I actually play some games in english, but again, not board games. RPGs and computer games, usually with people from all over europe, where english is the only common language. When playing board games in germany, we typically play in german, even if the game is english.

Bye
Thanee
 
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Wolfgang Kunz
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I learnt English thru playing AD&D.

Sure, we had English in school but the "Learn the language so you can order a drink when you are in Britain" was not very benefical.

When we started AD& D was only available in English, our GM came back from the States where his father had served and he brought a whole lot of stuff back.

Forward 20+ years: My son, now 10, learns English thru games. Since I love Fantasy Boardgames and SF and 90 % of them are in English he enjoys playing these games and sees a reason why he has to learn English. Also my big library filled with Fantasy, Horror and SF novels (not to forget comics like KODT, Nodwick, OOtS) are another incentive.

For him "English" was not a "forced upon" language but one he wanted to learn to understand the games, kept cards secret from his dad until playing and enjoying the games / times spent.

Find out what kind of games your students like an go for it. When kids find a reason "why" to learn a language they sure will.
 
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HenningK
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I do think that games, or basically any hobby, can be very useful for learning a new language if that hobby is dominated by a certain language (mostly English, but also Japanese for manga and anime, for example).

I always liked learning English and was good at it in school, but what really kickstarted my English skills was playing Ultima V (a computer role-playing game) at age 12. That game features massive text and lots of pseudo-medieval English, full of thee, thou dost and so on. I always had a dictionnary with me when playing, and while it was sometimes painful, I learned *a lot* playing that game. As I liked playing RPGs, I often had no choice but to play the English version in the early 90s, as most of these games weren't translated into German back then. Song texts of British and American bands were also a reason to learn new vocabulary.

Later, when I was 19, I started playing Magic, and though German cards exist, many players back then (and still today) preferred playing with and trading English cards, so I went with them, too. By this time, my English was already pretty good, so I felt comfortable watching movies in English and reading the occasional English book. Still, I learned a lot, also through English internet coverage of Magic tournaments.
Next step was D&D that was mostly played with the English rulesets. And of course, reading English websites and posting in English forums also helped me in further improving.


Now, as for boardgames, I rarely play English versions, mostly only when a German version doesn't exist (Lords of Waterdeep, Epic Card Game) or isn't readily available (Robo Rally). While me and my gaming partners would usually be fine with an English game, it would be more exhausting for most, so we usually avoid it.
Actually playing in English, meaning also doing the table-talk in English, only happens once in a blue moon when I play with non-German-speakers. And of course, playing an English game with other German persons often results in very weird "Denglish" phrases like "Am End of Turn sacrifice ich diese Unit, um dir zwei Damage zu dealen." which would probably make most linguists jump out of the nearest window...

I am not so sure which board games would really work for learning English. They would have to rely on text, but not so much as to become almost unplayable. Maybe deckbuilding games like Dominion or Star Realms with little, but very important card text could work.
What about a communication game like Black Stories? Association games like Dixit or Concept might also work, though the English sayings in Concept could be tough.
 
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Francis Helie
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Randombias wrote:
I would say that I've learnt English through playing pen-and-paper RPGs and video games. The first English games I played were probably point&click-style adventure games (Zak McCracken, Lucasarts adventures etc.) and video RPGs like Tunnels&Trolls and Bard's Tale. A little later came pen-and-paper RPGs like D&D, Harnmaster, MERS, and Shadowrun.

Our game material was mostly a mix of German and English, e.g. a core rulebook in German and some not-yet-translated supplements and modules in English. Our actual gameplay interactions weren't English, though pretty much everybody from our gaming group got to the point where we could perform simultaneous translation (aka 'read a description from an English module out loud in German'). By the time we reached senior classes, we had some funny discussions with our English teachers.

Teacher: 'Streetwise' isn't a word.
Three students in unison: Yes it is.
Teacher: It's not in the Oxford dictionary. What is it even supposed to mean?
Students: It means you're cool with the locals and know where to buy drugs and weapons and how to hire gang members for wetwork.
Teacher: I want to talk to your parents. Also, 'wetwork' isn't a word.


Then the teacher needs a better dictionary as both words are in the Merriam-Webster
 
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Jamie Cruse
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Thank you to all of you who took the time to respond to me post. Unfortunately, (mainly because of my ignorance) my post got booted, so I've only just made it back.

What I'm hearing is that for most of you English was something that sort of accidentally happened as a result of playing games. This was the passion and you mostly needed it to play what you wanted to play.

That's very interesting an helpful as it suggests that they (board games) can be both motivating and also aid what we linguists call language acquisition.

At risk of getting my post deleted again: if you are interested in using games as a tool for language learning, you can probably find my blog by Googling "TEFLGamer". Alternatively, just put TEFLGamer and add a "dot" and then a "com" in your address bar and it should magically appear. To prove I'm not being a blatant plugger, I also regularly upload language-oriented materials here to the geek. Please feel free to PM me if you are interested or would like to even get involved as a guest blogger.

Thanks again.

P.S. your written English is exceptional - all of you. Hearty congratulations! :-)
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Samo Oleami
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Gaming has seriously improved my English - especially conversational English (idioms!).

How: bgg forums.
(what? I wouldn't be here if it wasn't for gaming).

In comparison to involvement in forums or actually speaking English I don't consider games to offer any language related challenge worth noticing. Maybe wargames with their designer notes, but then you'd be better off reading books (which I would suggest over gaming - for the sake of extending vocabulary).

DzemikC wrote:
I also understand that language learning doesn't always happen in the classroom; in fact, it is probably happening much more at home, with friends.

Not my experience - we had a very good teacher of English in high-school. Most classes were discussions - about ecology, politics, various social issues - they were just all strictly in English. We all wanted to talk about these things, so we had to improve our spoken articulation.

Secondary level were reading assignments to extend vocabulary (I was in sci-fi then and we didn't have a lot of books translated).
 
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Boris Popov
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I have plenty of games in different languages as I speak 5 languages (with varying degrees of success ). I find it frustrating to have a game in a language, not all of my gaming group speaks.

For example I can play a game in:
- Bulgarian with my family and friends in Bulgaria and some of my friends here in Hamburg, but not my German friends and colleagues;
- Russian with one or two of these friends, but no one else here.
- English with some of my friends and colleagues here and in Bulgaria, but not my wife
- German with everyone here (HH), but nobody in Bulgaria.
- Spanish/Italian with... pretty much myself... and sometimes a dictionary.

As my gaming buddies come from different countries, I am a huge friends of language independent games and games using iconography.

Games like the above mentioned King of Tokyo/New York, where the text is not a lot, is not hidden information, are also fine. Then whoever speaks the language the game is published in, can translate for everyone else.
 
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