Learning Languages with Video Games


Learning a language is hard work. There, I said it. But you can make it more fun for sure.

I have been learning Japanese on and off for 6-7 years now, and I did acquire the JLPT N2 certificate midway through. Surprisingly though, one of the main ways I put my Japanese to practice in real life, and how I maintain it nowadays, is through video gaming.

Of course, I don’t want to use this post just to talk about Japanese or Japanese games. I love Japanese the most, just because of how it sounds, the culture of Japan and the beautiful alphabet, but I also have dabbled in many other languages, as it was my pastime for a while (and because I’m also very indecisive).

I have looked into Italian, German, Chinese and even Thai before, and my go-to method for getting used to these languages was immersing myself in as much gaming content as I could. Even though these next tips might be obvious, I thought I’d share anyway. I like to feel as if I’m a wise human or something.

  1. Game Apps (and Apps in general!)

Games come in so many different languages, and it’s fairly easy to either change the country of your account (with a fake address) to access other countries free games or to change the language in the App itself. The two games I play the most are:

Animal Crossing Pocket Camp (An obvious choice. Offers: English, French, Spanish, German, Japanese.)
Disney Magical Kingdoms (If you’re a fan of Disney, then you’ll love this game. I’ve been playing it for over a year now, and you can also change the language in-game!)

Since I’m learning Japanese, I did browse through the Japanese store and I found a bunch of games I could try, and I’m sure you could do this for any language too. Why not give it a try and see what wacky games you can stumble upon?

2. Browser Games

You can find out the word for ‘games’ in your target language, and browse the web for some free flash games! I definitely found some in all the languages that I’ve dabbled in. If you try and figure out the word for ‘children’s browser games’ then you can probably find some educational fun too! Then you can double learn.

3. Steam/GOG.com etc.

Now, if you’re into games even a little bit, you probably know of Steamand if you haven’t heard of GOGwell, it’s similar to Steam

On Steam on games store pages, you can see on the righthand side the languages available to play the game in, and you can even search for games which have particular language support. Just select the language you want to play in while you’re searching, and also add the label ‘free games’ if you prefer, and then hey presto! A bunch of free games you can play in your language. (I know right, it feels like Christmas.)

There are lots of free Visual Novels that you can use to practice your Japanese, Chinese, German- you name it! These are great if you really want to build some vocabulary… and possibly fangirl over some characters… and get way too emotionally invested. *ahem* but if you prefer other genres, there are naturally plenty to choose from.


4. Physical/Import games

You can actually change the language of your system, that be the Wii or the PS3, and then quite a lot of games will load up in the systems language. For example, I put in MySims for the Wii after changing my Wii to German, and my game was in German! Perfect! It’s like magic. I’m not sure how many games will change on the PS3 or PS4, but I’m pretty sure it’s possible. It’s all about trial and error. A lot of games on the DS have language options within the game itself, so keep an eye out for that too!

Of course, if you like video games a lot and you’re willing to spend some money, why not actually buy the game in your target language? I know, crazy right?

It’s a lot easier nowadays to import games from abroad. There are so many options online! I have the Japanese version of Ni No Kuni for example. Websites such as YESASIA  and CDJAPAN are ones I can recommend, and sometimes you can even snag some from Amazon or eBay.

You could even ask your penpal to send you games (if you work something out money wise, don’t be a bully) or if you go on holiday to another country, see if you can find some random cheap games to buy.

5. YouTube/Videos

Of course, gaming culture is pretty big on YouTube now. So look up a game you like, and look up the word ‘gameplay’ in your target language. Then search these on YouTube, and if you’re lucky, you may find some gameplay videos! These are perfect, especially if they’ve included captions (even if they’re auto-generated, it can help!)

I personally found this girl, MoiravanCartier for Italian, and pretty much all the time she has auto-generated captions enabled. It can really help you work out what’s being said.

For German, there’s this girl Tyraphine, who I think has such a great voice and it didn’t take me long to get used to the nuance of the language.

For Japanese, there’s this website called NicoNico, which is basically Japan’s equivalent of YouTube. I believe you can keep the site in English if you want to, but honestly, what’s the point when you can immerse yourself in Japanese even more?! (To help you out if you are learning Japanese, put the word 実況プレイ in the search bar, either on YouTube or on NicoNico, and perhaps even a Japanese video game title. Then click search and you should find a bunch of videos. Just keep watching until you find people you like! The comments also scroll across the video so you can practice your reading too! No excuses!)


And so on and so forth.

Now that I’ve given you the way to study, how do you actually study?

Well, if you’re a beginner you may feel pretty overwhelmed, but it gets easier the more you immerse yourself. Don’t try to worry too much about understanding, that’ll come much later. For now, try and get a feel for the language. Perhaps repeat stuff that you hear or note down the odd simple word which you think could be important, whether that be from a game itself or from a video!

If you are more of an intermediate or advanced speaker of a language, then perhaps you can figure out some techniques that you like. For example, I personally like to go through a gameplay video, stopping at words I don’t know and writing them down. You may like to watch the video first before going through again, then pausing when you hear words don’t know. That goes for playing games too, why not play the game first and then go back through again and see what you can learn?

There are so many ways that you can incorporate things you enjoy into language learning. Some of these techniques can be changed and manipulated, and you could put them to practice even with music, movies and TV shows. There’s so much fun to be had, people! But I do wish you all the best of luck with your language learning.

Thank you for reading and Happy Gaming!


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