Language is a crucial component of identity, and it can be difficult for children in multicultural families to balance the languages they speak at home and at school. Play is an essential part of children’s lives, and video games have the potential to help children improve their language skills while having fun.
Playing establishes a secure and nurturing emotional atmosphere. Children can express themselves freely without fear of judgment. It is a good chance for them to learn new words, phrases, and even slang through video games, which can be especially helpful if they do not have regular exposure to one of the languages.
Particularly in adolescence, kids form their self-identity. Sometimes they want to neglect minor language in day-to-day life. Video games provide an opportunity for them to experiment with different roles, activities, and languages. As a result, their language identity will be stronger.
The means of playing video games are flexible and can range from gaming consoles, Nintendo Switch, computers, to tablets. Parents can choose whatever device they are comfortable with and whatever suits their children’s needs.
One issue with video games is the lack of predictability in terms of screen time and other health-protecting restrictions. As for telemental health, there is a significant lack of standardization in everyday usage. However, with common sense and a supportive atmosphere in a multicultural family, where the kids’ interests matter, video games can be a healthy and beneficial activity for children.
There are special types of video games that can be used to improve languages in a multicultural family. Please note that it is important to check age restrictions and game values before offering them to children.
1. Language Learning Adventure Games: These types of games combine language learning with adventure and exploration, making it fun and engaging for learners. They often include dialogues, vocabulary, and grammar exercises, allowing players to practice their language skills while playing. Examples of these games include “Learn Japanese to Survive! Hiragana Battle,” “Learn French with Assassin’s Creed Unity,” and “Rosetta Stone: Learn Language with Bite-Sized Lessons.”
2. Language Learning Role-Playing Games (RPGs): RPGs are popular video games that involve players taking on the role of a character and navigating through a fictional world. Language-learning RPGs have players interact with characters in the game, complete quests and solve puzzles using the target language. These games often offer dialogue options in the target language and provide feedback on grammar and vocabulary. Examples of language-learning RPGs include “Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn,” “My Japanese Coach,” and “Learn Korean with BTS.”
3. Language Learning Simulations: Simulations games allow players to simulate real-life scenarios, allowing them to practice their language skills in a realistic context. For example, language learning simulations could involve a virtual cooking class, where players follow recipes and instructions in the target language. Examples of language learning simulations include “Virtual Traveler”, and “Language Coach”.
But there is no need to play special language games. There are different types of video games, and the kids’ interests are more important than the heroes’ talking time or the opportunity of texting between teammates. Parents may choose games that both they and their child enjoy playing and switch the language setting to the target language. This way, kids can both practice speaking and understanding the language while having fun together with the whole family. For example, they could play Super Mario Bros. in Spanish, or Animal Crossing in Chinese.
It is also a great chance to discuss cultural references in the game. Video games often include cultural references that can spark conversations about the heritage language and culture. Parents may use these moments to talk with their child about their cultural heritage, traditions, and beliefs. For example, they could discuss the significance of certain Japanese cultural elements in games like Pokémon or Legend of Zelda, or talk about how certain Latin American folklore is represented in games like Guacamelee.
If the parents want to organize joint play it will take some time to prepare. After researching the kids’ favorite genres, they can try to watch videos and streams of game play online (for example, on YouTube). If the parents ask their children to explain the game’s mechanics, it will have additional value in improving the language.
Parents sometimes do not have the time and inner resources to maintain digital co-playing. However, if they try, they will discover that participation in video games may provide uninterrupted quality time with their kids.
Finally, play-dates with native speakers of the heritage language can also be helpful in supporting communication, whether online or offline. Video games can provide a fun and interactive way for children to connect with others who speak the same language, allowing them to practice and improve their language skills in a natural and enjoyable way.
Video games can play a valuable role in helping children maintain their language skills in multicultural families. Playing together is a fundamental cornerstone of family life for children and parents alike. So, let’s play and learn together!