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Learning a Foreign Language with The Sims

CmdrTaco posted more than 9 years ago | from the no-habla-espaniol dept.

Education 310

JavaTHut writes "The Journal Language Learning and Technology has a new article describing how The Sims can be modified to teach a foreign language. With this and other efforts at U.S.C. and M.I.T., could simulated immersion within video games become an effective way of acquiring a foreign language? Also of interest in the article are suggestions for using spatialized translation layers in foreign language songs and a Firefox extension for learning foreign vocabulary words."

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310 comments

first post? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11253060)

first post?

Lazy (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11253063)

How lazy have we become that if it doesn't come from the TV or from a video game it just isn't worth doing?

Hold on a minute.... (3, Insightful)

StressGuy (472374) | more than 9 years ago | (#11253247)

I've always wanted to learn a second language and I've tried when I was younger. However, growing up in a small town in the mid-west, I'd have to travel hundreds of miles to find someone who spoke the language natively. So sure, I could memorize words, syntax, etc., but, without the ability to use that knowledge on a regular basis, the memory fades.
.
To me, this sounds like a way to make it possible for people that don't have regular opportunities to use the language they are trying to learn a new way to get there from here.

The only caveat I can think of is that relative anonymity seems to bring out the a-hole in a lot of us. That is to say, there might be a lot of jerks entering the sim that would try to ruin it for the rest of us just for the amusement of doing so. I guess the sim-world will probably need a cover charge to keep out the riff-raff.

Re:Hold on a minute.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11253319)

and I wanted to be a fireman.

Re:Hold on a minute.... (1)

SoTuA (683507) | more than 9 years ago | (#11253416)

I've always wanted to learn a second language and I've tried when I was younger. However, growing up in a small town in the mid-west, I'd have to travel hundreds of miles to find someone who spoke the language natively. So sure, I could memorize words, syntax, etc., but, without the ability to use that knowledge on a regular basis, the memory fades.

It's called reading. Or listening to music as an aid.

I learned english that way when I was a kid. Reading D&D manuals and listening to the radio.

Re:Lazy (3, Interesting)

RazzleFrog (537054) | more than 9 years ago | (#11253256)

It has nothing to do with lazy. TV and video games happen to be a very effective means of educating. My nephew knows a lot more Spanish than I do because of Dora the Explorer. I am not suggesting that TV and games replace school but if used properly it can be a great enhancement to education.

Re:Lazy (1)

ziggamon2.0 (796017) | more than 9 years ago | (#11253290)

Learning while having fun is much more effective than learning because it's "important".
I myself am an example of that - I learned English from TV (here in Sweden, they don't dub English-speaking programs, but use subtitles).
Video games can also be a great source for learning foreign words - I'm sure I'm not the only one in Europe that has learned a huge part of the political and historical words I know from playing Civilisation.

Gentoo?? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11253067)

I use Gentoo; how does this affect me?

Two words... (1)

freeze128 (544774) | more than 9 years ago | (#11253074)

dig dig.

Stupid Simspeak (4, Funny)

shamowfski (808477) | more than 9 years ago | (#11253075)

I re-installed the original Sims probably 5 times before I realized that they were speaking their own language and not some german/spanish mix. I kept turning it up real loud trying to figure out what the fork they were saying.

Re:Stupid Simspeak (1)

Gentlewhisper (759800) | more than 9 years ago | (#11253081)

I re-installed the original Sims probably 5 times before I realized that they were speaking their own language and not some german/spanish mix. I kept turning it up real loud trying to figure out what the fork they were saying.

Yeap. They speak Simlish and deal in Simoleans.. Cool eh? :)

Re:Stupid Simspeak (1)

Shadow_139 (707786) | more than 9 years ago | (#11253204)

Crap...,
I got 2 copies of it.., and thought both are spain versions. So got pissed out and uninstalled it
Brrr...,

"Could simulated immersion..." (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11253078)

..within video games become an effective way of acquiring a foreign language?

No.

Re:"Could simulated immersion..." (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11253133)

Agreed.

The amount of Japanese videos and games I've watched and played, yet still haven't even picked up the basic constructs of the language indicate to me that I am both lazy and should probably turn off the dubbing.

for the new generation (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11253080)

My kids spend way too much time on games. They have a difficult time with languages. This could be the answer.


How about foreign language sites on the Internet as well? Any recommendations?


There are also some excellent travel language sites that can get you started like travellang.com (I think).

Re:for the new generation (2, Informative)

JavaTHut (9877) | more than 9 years ago | (#11253144)

> How about foreign language sites on the Internet
> as well? Any recommendations?

Another article in the same Journal deals with that:

http://llt.msu.edu/vol9num1/emerging/default.htm l

Re:for the new generation (2, Informative)

Walrus99 (543380) | more than 9 years ago | (#11253167)

Here are some German Language sites from a site I set up for a German class at my university. Most of the sites have other languages also. (Would link to it, but don't want to get slashdotted, so I just copied the code over.)

German Language Web Sites

leo.org [leo.org] German-English dictionary. Just enter a German or English word in the Search Term box. Note the 3 symbols following the word entered:Press the1stfor grammar information, the 2nd for definition and sample uses, the 3rd for spoken pronunciation.

german.about.com [about.com] Everything you ever wanted to know about the German language. Includes grammar and vocabulary guides.

travlang.com [travlang.com] Click on the German Flag for German words for travel, shopping, dining, directions, etc. Click on a word for pronunciation.

webgerman.com [webgerman.com] A collection of links on the German language as well as comics, music, and games in German.

freetranslantion.com [freetranslation.com] Type or paste a word or phrase into the box for a free translation between languages by a computer. The computer translations are somewhat crude, but you can also pay for a human translation.

Re:for the new generation (3, Informative)

stupid_is (716292) | more than 9 years ago | (#11253262)

The BBC [bbc.co.uk] are hosting a series of language courses that look quite good. French [bbc.co.uk] , Spanish [bbc.co.uk] , German [bbc.co.uk] and Italian [bbc.co.uk] feature, as well as some basics in other [bbc.co.uk] world languages

Re:for the new generation (1)

Gallowsgod (766508) | more than 9 years ago | (#11253366)

Well, whoever modded parent as flaimbait could probably use some language training...

Audio narration availible (3, Informative)

JavaTHut (9877) | more than 9 years ago | (#11253082)

For anyone who would prefer to listen to the article, there's an audio version availible at:

http://www.langwidge.com/llt/not_studying.mp3

Re:Audio narration availible (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11253307)

Do you have one in German? ;-P

Re:Audio narration availible (1)

Jugalator (259273) | more than 9 years ago | (#11253446)

Do you have one in German? ;-P

I guess you need to play The Sims (english version) some more. :-)

That's español. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11253088)

The story is from the "no-habla-espaniol" department. That should be the "No-hablo-español" departamento.

Please fix.

Re:That's español. (0)

wo1verin3 (473094) | more than 9 years ago | (#11253097)

It's actually funnier wrong.... so deal with it ;0

Sesame Street (5, Funny)

Slider451 (514881) | more than 9 years ago | (#11253102)

Today's Sim gaming experience brought to you by the number ocho.

Re:Sesame Street (1)

magefile (776388) | more than 9 years ago | (#11253121)

It's on ESPN 8: The Ocho? Next thing you know, it'll be featured in OSQ!

Re:Sesame Street (1)

weeboo0104 (644849) | more than 9 years ago | (#11253327)

And that's number "huit" for those of you who watch Sesame Street north of the US.

This is actually an interesting idea... (4, Insightful)

agraupe (769778) | more than 9 years ago | (#11253109)

I'll admit that I am intrigued. This problem does suffer the flaw that, if it is played like normal, the player doesn't really need to know what is said, and will therefore probably ignore it. I believe the whole point of immersion is to make the person *need* to know it, and to provide an environment in which they can do so. If they can make it work, I'll pay for it. I'm going to wait and see how this develops.

Re:This is actually an interesting idea... (2, Insightful)

underpar (792569) | more than 9 years ago | (#11253195)

This problem does suffer the flaw that, if it is played like normal, the player doesn't really need to know what is said, and will therefore probably ignore it. I believe the whole point of immersion is to make the person *need* to know it, and to provide an environment in which they can do so.

I agree. The reason immersion motivates is that you have to communicate and you can't use the language you have. Are there games that are more dependant on actually being able to communicate? Fun games, that is.

Re:This is actually an interesting idea... (2, Funny)

OECD (639690) | more than 9 years ago | (#11253289)

Are there games that are more dependant on actually being able to communicate?

What's arabic for "You are in a maze of twisty passages, all alike?"

Re:This is actually an interesting idea... (2, Interesting)

PedanticSpellingTrol (746300) | more than 9 years ago | (#11253402)

I don't know, but running it to japanese and back through babelfish returned
"In perplexity of the small road where bending it has wound, it is in the same way to everything"
Deep man. Deep.

Re:This is actually an interesting idea... (1)

JavaTHut (9877) | more than 9 years ago | (#11253378)

> Are there games that are more dependant on
> actually being able to communicate? Fun games,
> that is.

I was originally considering using The Curse of Monkey Island, but figured the Sims would more be at the level and content needed for a first or second year high school class.

Re:This is actually an interesting idea... (3, Insightful)

necrisque (679824) | more than 9 years ago | (#11253212)

I also think it's a good idea because languages are learned best at an early age, to make children get a natural understanding of the language and culture behind it. And putting it in a game like The Sims will also put more focus on something like learning how to speak the language, which is actually being neglected at some schools. Reading and writing is another matter.

It would really be intriguing to be able to actually hear what the sims are saying and understand it, but I think it'll become boring listening to the same thing in even a thousand languages. Maxis would need to change what they say per language, maybe add some local remarks/sayings in it so it'll be worth going through the game.

Re:This is actually an interesting idea... (1)

Council (514577) | more than 9 years ago | (#11253253)

This problem does suffer the flaw that, if it is played like normal, the player doesn't really need to know what is said, and will therefore probably ignore it.

Did you not read the article? Maybe you assumed, like I did, that the foriegn language replaces the nonsense language used by the sims, which you don't need to understand. But german/whatever actually replaces the language in dialogues and menus, which the player does need to understand.

Grammar? (2, Insightful)

OECD (639690) | more than 9 years ago | (#11253111)

Have computers gotten better at analyzing grammar? I remember this being a bit of a sticking point, but that was ten years ago. If so, this sounds like an excellent idea.

Re:Grammar? (1)

pommiekiwifruit (570416) | more than 9 years ago | (#11253230)

"The vodka is good but the meat is rotten"...

Re:Grammar? (1)

magefile (776388) | more than 9 years ago | (#11253293)

Not limited to computers: "I am a jelly doughnut".

when I was a kid (4, Interesting)

WormholeFiend (674934) | more than 9 years ago | (#11253117)

I unknowingly prepared myself to learn English by watching American cartoons.

When they started teaching us English as a second language in primary school, I was way ahead of every other kid, and the English teacher got me to help out the other kids.

Re:when I was a kid (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11253139)

Whoa, you must be superintellagent.

Traditional method: (5, Funny)

pommiekiwifruit (570416) | more than 9 years ago | (#11253179)


Learn English from Beatles songs.
Learn French from Asterix comics.
Learn Italian from music scores.
Learn Japanese from Arcade games.
Learn German from pr0n videos.

Re:Traditional method: (2, Funny)

superpulpsicle (533373) | more than 9 years ago | (#11253393)

I learned all my German from Wolfenstein.

Shneil. Shneil.

Danke.

Re:when I was a kid (4, Informative)

pe1rxq (141710) | more than 9 years ago | (#11253228)

I learned a lot from subtitled TV....
Pretty much anything aimed not at children is subtitled in the Netherlands.
Its great to have the original audio together with the translation.

Another great way once you know the basics is watching the BBC with teletext page 888 on. (subtitles for the deaf) You also learn some spelling and sometimes its actually clearer than some guy talking with a terrible accent.

Although re-synched can also be great if it is not your own language... I learned to understand german pretty well by watching an our of StarTrek each day.

Jeroen

Re:when I was a kid (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11253417)

May I ask how you receive the BBC? Do you have to pay for it, or do you get adverts with it?

Re:when I was a kid (1)

PastaLover (704500) | more than 9 years ago | (#11253440)

I don't know about grandparent, but we receive it as part of our cable package. So yeah we basically do pay for it. We get the original broadcast too so if there are adverts, it's the original ones. There are not any added adverts or anything like that.

Re:when I was a kid (1)

Chatsubo (807023) | more than 9 years ago | (#11253341)

When I was a kid I learned english by using my computer, so I'm not surprised by this article. And the cool part is, I wasn't even trying, all I wanted to do was play the games.

The Sierra games at the time (Space/Kings/Police Quests, etc) really helped me along and forced me to learn correct spelling, and to read a lot too.

Likewise, I was also ahead of my class when it came to english.

BUT, When trying to learn a third language via a class in school, I totally failed to remember even the most basic grammar and vocabulary.

Whats wrong with the old fashioned way (0, Troll)

Timesprout (579035) | more than 9 years ago | (#11253119)

Actual immersion within a foreign babe? (or within a foreign culture if your tastes does not run to babes). Most enjoyable learning experience you could ever have.

Re:Whats wrong with the old fashioned way (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11253194)

I agree that this is probably the fastest way to learn a language. Just make sure you go beyond just your babe or babes, and hang out with dudes too. There's an American guy I know who lived in Japan, and learned Japanese by hanging out with babes. His Japanese was actually pretty good, considering he only lived there for a little over a year. However, there was one flaw; he talked exactly like the young babes he hung out with... which had the effect of making him sound stereotypically gay. (He was/is straight.)

Another way to do it... (3, Interesting)

FreshMeat-BWG (541411) | more than 9 years ago | (#11253131)

Change your operating system's language to the language you are interested in learning. I did this on my Windows XP machine and changed it to Spanish. Since I knew just about what all of the buttons and messages normally say, I had enough context to begin figuring out what everything else meant.

This probably wouldn't work too well with languages with different character sets where you couldn't even begin to guess how to pronounce the words, but English -> Spanish worked quite well.

Re:Another way to do it... (1)

BaseLineNL (822690) | more than 9 years ago | (#11253226)

I didn't know it was possible to change the language in Windows XP. Unless you would use reshacker and translate the strings one by one ofcourse.

Re:Another way to do it... (2, Informative)

FreshMeat-BWG (541411) | more than 9 years ago | (#11253443)

You have to install a MUI [microsoft.com] ...

Re:Another way to do it... (1)

neglige (641101) | more than 9 years ago | (#11253263)

Change your operating system's language to the language you are interested in learning.

Also works with mobile phones. My phone offers german, english, french, turkish, isizulu (?) and sesotho (???). You should remember how to reach this menu, however, or you should know the code how to reset this setting :)

Re:Another way to do it... (1)

goneutt (694223) | more than 9 years ago | (#11253335)

Ughh, flashback to the time I was called out to work on a computer and it was Win 98-Hebrew edition. I had to work off the icons alone. Fortunatly all the settings I had to tweak were 0-9 numbers and in the same places.

Re:Another way to do it... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11253486)

Change your operating system's language to the language you are interested in learning. I did this on my Windows XP machine and changed it to Spanish. Since I knew just about what all of the buttons and messages normally say, I had enough context to begin figuring out what everything else meant.

Yeah...right....knowing how to say COPY-PASTE in Mexico will surely help you get anywhere you want.

It could work... (3, Interesting)

jmcmunn (307798) | more than 9 years ago | (#11253132)


But they would have to change the content of the Sims to make it useful. There's only so much I can do in a foreign country when all I can say is "take out the garbage", "Go to work", and "Eat some food". The game play would have to be changed to allow me to actually do something aside from mundane chores over, and over and over again.

In theory, I think this could work. Remember the Speak and Spell from back in the 80's? I had one, and loved playing with it and making it say bad words (when my mom wasn't watching) while I was doing the exercises that came with the thing. Foreign language video games seems a logical progression from the days of old.

Re:It could work... (1)

JavaTHut (9877) | more than 9 years ago | (#11253163)

> can do in a foreign country when all I can say is
> "take out the garbage", "Go to work", and "Eat
> some food". The game play would have to be changed
> to allow me to actually do something

Unfortunately, that's more than most first year high school students are able to say anyway :(

Being able to read the popup menus describing things like careers and such is a little more advanced though.

Frammit (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11253137)

OK, how many folks initially thought this article was about learning Simlish?

Halo 2 in French? (4, Funny)

jcostantino (585892) | more than 9 years ago | (#11253138)

So were all of the people who downloaded early release copies of Halo 2 in French actually learning instead of just stealing? Sacre blu!!

Re:Halo 2 in French? (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11253308)

that'd be "sacre bleu" while we're learning.

(and I dunno how you do those accute accent things on the e of sacre. pointless foreign pretension anyway, all those little bits of crap around their letters).

The Sims (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11253157)

Tulema!!!!

Children learn English this way now (5, Interesting)

nekosej (302666) | more than 9 years ago | (#11253164)

In small European countries which don't benefit from having games translated into the local language, the children play them in English, and as a result, pick up quite a bit of written language. I've seen this in the Czech Republic, and found it amazing that a ten year old could understand so much. That said, it does little for spoken language.

Re:Children learn English this way now (4, Interesting)

NardofDoom (821951) | more than 9 years ago | (#11253202)

I spent a week living with a family in Denmark. All three of their kids knew enough english to have a conversation with me. Even the five year-old who was taught english in pre-school and exposed to English-language movies, TV shows and books.

The 10 and 13 year-olds could also speak German and French. Needless to say I felt like a stupid/ethnocentric American the whole week.

Re:Children learn English this way now (2, Interesting)

Dot.Com.CEO (624226) | more than 9 years ago | (#11253261)

Basically, middle-class Europeans speak at least English and, depending on the country, one more language. It is definitely a new phenomenon, I remember being amazed as a kid at people speaking English AND French, nowadays no eyebrow is raised at, for example, my speaking fluent Greek, English, Portuguese and French...

Re:Children learn English this way now (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11253372)

what I find perverse are these people giving up on their native language to speak English instead. English seems to have become the primary language in Scandinavia. I see Scandinavians speaking to each other in English, or speaking their own language in an American accent with half the words being from English.

Re:Children learn English this way now (2, Funny)

kutuz_off (159540) | more than 9 years ago | (#11253333)

When I was growing up, most of my English vocabulary came from Civilopedia.

Re:Children learn English this way now (1)

spellraiser (764337) | more than 9 years ago | (#11253424)

My native language is not English. I have fond memories of being around 10 years old, playing King's Quest, picking up the needed phrases slowly and having a lot of fun along the way. Then along came a host of other Sierra games, which were also bundles of fun. The magic kind of went away for me, though, when they abandoned the venerable graphics/text-adventure hybrid interface in favor of a point-and-click one.

I like to think that being hooked on these games at such an early age provided a good starting point for learning English. Sometimes I worry about kids today, stuck with first person shooters and other brainless drivel. Where has the magic of the written word gone? What will become of a youth that is raised on Counter Strike and Tekken and ...

Bah, I'll shut up now. Watch out for me in 40 years or so; if you think this was a rant, you ain't seen nothing yet.

Re:Children learn English this way now (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11253467)

Yeah, and I learned who Spiro Agnew was from the quiz at the beginning of Leisure Suit Larry (One of the choices was "A social disease.")

Portugese (1)

suso (153703) | more than 9 years ago | (#11253166)

I've heard a lot of people say that the pseudo language in The Sims sounds a lot like Portugese. Is that right in any respect?

Re:Portugese (1)

BaldGhoti (265981) | more than 9 years ago | (#11253199)

Supposedly it's based on Esperanto, which is similar to Portuguese.

Re:Portugese (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11253394)

Esperanto has a very strong Latin base, but I think it's inaccurate to say that it's similar to Portuguese. You can also say it's just as similar to Spanish and Italian but maybe not as much to French, Romanian and other Latin based languages.

PG13? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11253172)

Can't wait for "Grand Theft Auto" in German....

GTA according to Babelfish (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11253229)

Großartiges Diebstahl-Automobil

Well, finally :-) (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11253175)

How do you think most people from countries with a "small language" can speak multiple languages (read northern European countries). Because you had to read either German or English magazines on computers (or for watching tv aswell, as dubbing was too expensive, so everything needed to be subtitled). And it was the earlier games as pizza tycoon, civilization that made me grab for the dictionary constantly and could speak English before it was taught at school.
But this language-mod is great, it looks like a more fun learning tool than an expensive (but excellent) official learning tool like rosetta stone (though that was a fun as I know of them)

Great! (2, Funny)

krunchyfrog (786414) | more than 9 years ago | (#11253198)

Now I can learn Klignon! The weaks will pee on themselves like weak little kittens while *I* will show my AUTHORITAY!

Seriously though, I think people will get bored because of all the repetition it will say. Imagine hearing "KT-UTLAH' SHO'K!!" every two minutes... I would get crazy after a few hours! Not to mention everyone living in the house hearing that.

No thanks... (2, Funny)

Progman3K (515744) | more than 9 years ago | (#11253200)

I already know all the 'leet-speak I'm interested in.

I've done that for 20+ years (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11253214)

not being a native English speaker various computer games and other applications have been a big help in learning English, already as a kid. At that time there were no interesting applications in my native language (Finnish)

I got an incredible boost of interesting words by playing Hobbit etc on Sinclair Spectrum in the early 1980's. How else would I have learnt such useful words as "goblin", "bulbous" etc. Learning those in an English class would have been so much more boring.

Rely on computer too much (2, Interesting)

terrygao (811237) | more than 9 years ago | (#11253225)

IMHO, currently people are relying on computer technology for their learnings and entertainment too much. As for learning a foreign language, isn't going to that country and talking to the 3-dimentional people the best way to learn? I know some people would maintain that not everyone has the opportunity to travel, but my point is that people shouldn't automatically resort to computers when it comes to learning and entertainment. There are other better options.

Re:Rely on computer too much (1)

Matt1313 (165628) | more than 9 years ago | (#11253489)

"...isn't going to that country and talking to the 3-dimentional people the best way to learn?"

While full immersion might make for quicker learning, it is also cost and time prohibitive.

While you are living in Spain or France, who is paying your bills back home, walking your dog (if you have a dog), feeding your cat (if you have a cat), spending time with your girlfriend/spouse (if you have either of those)?

"There are other better options."
Full immersion, in foreign country.
Language school/college course (in your own country).
Language course (using audio tapes).
Language course (using books).
Language course (using computer).

IMO, using the computer allows for you to both see the word(s) as well as hear them, on your own schedule for usually not a whole lot of money. While using only audio tapes or a book, you are limited to one form of learning (verbal or visual). While language school uses both forms of learning, it is also cost prohibitive. Although I have seen courses at my local community college, for under a hundred dollars for entry level foreign language courses, it still requires you to pony up and pay (at least $75 in this case) plus actually attend the classes, two hours twice a week.

Using the computer allows you to learn around your schedule.
While using the computer to learn a language is not always the BEST option I think it is probably the most feasible.

Firefox extension!?! (0, Offtopic)

myukew (823565) | more than 9 years ago | (#11253241)

Come on! I don't want my browser to do stupid things like teaching me some words. Not everything has to run in your browser. If you need a vocabtrainer make it a full program not just an extension to something else.
Heck imagine an extension for these M$ Office clients that let's them pop up on occasion and nag you until you give the correct translation

How about some cons? (4, Insightful)

Anarrin (834398) | more than 9 years ago | (#11253244)

I don't think the Sims could provide a sufficient language portion that would allow anyone to get by. Most Sims events occur within the house, when any foreign language use would be required mostly outside of it in public places, which the Sims wouldn't cover.

In addition to that, the Sims would not really provide any kind of advancement since the progression in the storyline does not imply progression in the complexity of the language. As a result the gamer would dive right into the same language level as he will be playing from that point on. Language is difficult to learn when there is no sense of accomplishment and progression which can't exist in a paceless learning.

Lastly, the Sims is quite an addictive game (speaking from experience) and encouraging that from an educational standpoint is kind of like encouraging smoking because its cool while disregarding its health implications (a slight exageration but you get the point).

Re:How about some cons? (1)

saintp (595331) | more than 9 years ago | (#11253431)

What you (and everyone else who posted the same thing) don't seem to grasp is that the author doesn't claim that The Sims is a magic bullet for language learning. Rather, he explictly states that he used it in conjunction with several other fun ways to integrate language learning into everyday life -- things like his random vocabulary browser "throbber," and loading a Pimsleur course onto his cell phone.

And all of this was to supplement -- not replace -- classroom learning. The Sims was intended to reinforce the vocabulary learned in class, plus introduce some new vocabulary and grammatical constructions that might not otherwise be learned. It is uniquely suited to this given the necessity of communication within the game and the exigency of deciphering the in-game messages. (Cf. Doom III, where you shoot things.)

Furthermore, as you progress, you can start turning off or ignoring the glosses, much as a fluent speaker can ignore subtitles. It provides a feeling of accomplishment when you can fly through parts of the game that were previously possible only with constant reference to a dictionary. The vocabulary doesn't get more advanced, but the reinforcement remains constant. Remember: The Sims is not proposed as the language teacher, but as a language teacher.

Finally, I fail to see how it could be bad to be addicted to something that is teaching you a life skill that you want to learn. The health implications of smoking include lung cancer. The health implications of an addiction to The Sims in German include learning German. Heavens, no.

learning a language (1)

snap-hiss (800713) | more than 9 years ago | (#11253259)

Get the Rosetta Stone program... it works. !snap

The hardest thing is hearing the sounds correctly (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11253278)

If a particular sound does not exist in an adult's native language, then that person probably can't even recognize the sound let alone reproduce it correctly. This is why speakers of Chinese languages have such a dreadful time with English. I remember one engineer who sounded illiterate. I wondered why we hired him until I saw his written work. The guy was obviously a genius and had zero problem with written English (just don't try to talk to him.)

Apparently, the best native language to have is Russian because it has most of the sounds of most of the other languages.

I suspect that teaching some languages might be better handled using some of the techniques used to teach the deaf to talk. If anyone knows of work being done to deal with learning the sounds of a language, I'm all ears.

Re:The hardest thing is hearing the sounds correct (1)

JavaTHut (9877) | more than 9 years ago | (#11253315)

> If anyone knows of work being done to deal with
> learning the sounds of a language, I'm all ears.

Read down near the end of the article where it discusses problems with trying to learn a language out of a textbook and discusses audio solutions like the Pimsleur series.

Learn German the Fun and Fast Way (1)

Shadow_139 (707786) | more than 9 years ago | (#11253296)

The best was to learn German is from good old fashion PORN and Metal music..,
Go download some Ramstein for German., http://www.rammstein.com/ [rammstein.com] or BoneDust for Swiss-German...,
I have a Swiss friend and that's how she though me. A fun and easy way to learn any language.., I'm learning Japanese now from Hellsing http://www.witch-hunter.net/arucard/ [witch-hunter.net]

----------
"Clutch my testes, bloody squirrel humpers!!" -Happy Noodle Boy

I don't know.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11253302)

I had a bootleg Japanese version of Gran Turismo for the PSX long before the US release and I got nothing out of that.

Learning Japanese by Gaming (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11253303)

There is a game in old style RPG out there which will teach you to read japanese. It's actually very effective.

Slimeforest: http://lrnj.com/ [lrnj.com]

Oh and it's free while in developement.

Not exactly news... (1)

Rune Berge (663292) | more than 9 years ago | (#11253305)

For us living in countries where games (or movies) are not translated from english, this is how it has been for ages. Here in Norway almost all games are in english, and lots of small children play them. (Though I guess you could find a better english teacher for your ten year old than GTA)

Re:Not exactly news... (1)

snap-hiss (800713) | more than 9 years ago | (#11253328)

Not to mention the internet.

Re:Not exactly news... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11253407)

is it really a good thing when your youngsters speak (and therefore think in like) English with a CNN accent as their primary tongue over Norske tunga?

Learning by Tech Immersion (4, Interesting)

justinstreufert (459931) | more than 9 years ago | (#11253318)

I'm trying to learn Japanese, and I'm doing something similar to what this guy describes in the second half of the article. After learning the kana (Japan's phonetic "alphabets"), I switched my iPod into Japanese.

Of course I can get around most menus without reading at all, since I knew where everything was by heart. However if I go into Browse or Settings, I have to translate. :) Unfortunately it doesn't give me much more than phonetic reading practice, since most of the words used on the iPod are actually on loan from English. Example: "purei-risuto" (Japanese fudges out the U's, making it sort of "pray-rist"). HMM, I wonder what that could possibly be....

Setting my computer's main language to Japanese could be next... but I think that will be a way bigger challenge.

Indicentally, I am also using the Pimsleur course this guy recommends. I'm on level 1 lesson 21, and so far it has been great. My friends' eyes bug out when I start speaking Japanese to them. Now if only I had some Japanese friends to practice on...:P

Justin

Re:Learning by Tech Immersion (1)

MadMorf (118601) | more than 9 years ago | (#11253419)

Indicentally, I am also using the Pimsleur course this guy recommends. I'm on level 1 lesson 21, and so far it has been great.

Pimsleur is the best!

I studied conversational Russian 5 years ago before making 2 trips to the Former Soviet Union (Moscow-1999, Kiev-2000).

I was by no means fluent, but was able to function for weeks on my own, with the help of a good English/Russian dictionary...

Computer Games (1)

sofist (556213) | more than 9 years ago | (#11253322)

Dhat iz hov I lernd to spek English!

Re:Computer Games (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11253385)

All your English is belong to us!

Two problems (1)

kongjie (639414) | more than 9 years ago | (#11253348)

First, and most important, the only way to learn to speak a foreign language is by speaking it with a speaker who is more proficient than you are. So really if a Sims game were used in this fashion, it is teaching reading and nothing else; that's a good goal in itself, but don't pretend it's the same as "learning a foreign language." The authors themselves discuss using the game primarily as vocabulary acquisition. It's really just a tool in language learning. They mention speech recognition but in the end that will be no more effective than repeating cassette tapes. It's language use in a conversation setting that teaches you how to speak.

Second, and related to reading, have you ever noticed in games like the Sims that you really don't read the whole thing...you skim over it to find out what you are supposed to do. If the game itself were good, you're not going to be paying enough attention to the language; and if the game were bad, well, you're not going to play it.

anyone notice (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11253426)

lately game technology is being used for other uses. for example, on discover channel or is it TLC, they are using game engines to illustrate historic wars. It's effective and much cheaper than paying 100K extras to march around. seems like a natural progression to me.

Re:anyone notice (2, Informative)

snap-hiss (800713) | more than 9 years ago | (#11253470)

The same type of thing WETA used in the LOTR films. On a grander scale of course.

Maybe new for Americans (4, Interesting)

ZeroExistenZ (721849) | more than 9 years ago | (#11253427)

While this "concept" might be new to alot of Americans, alot of Europeans, Asians and whoever have used this to aqcuire English and maybe another language.

For instance, every child in Belgium is accostumed to read subtitles with some cartoons. (lately it seems they started dubbing cartoons for the younger children though. I remember being 8 watching He-man or Ji-Joe with subs.) Cause we don't "dub" (I personally find it really annoying in German dubbed movies, it just doesn't feel right.) And think about all the "imported" series, games, movies, and what not. They are all subtitled or even aren't (games and such). So teens overhere have a very good understanding about English (unless they are just into RAP and R&B music :P) cause they pick it up while being entertained.

My German knowledge mostly came from watching German childrens programs, and later German books or even comics as well.

I think it's super to be educated while playing, without ruining the fun of the game; Pick something up while you're entertaining yourself, it's not like you were going to pick up a book and study a language instead. But it seems supercool to go into a foreign country, and notice you actually understand some things and eventually will be able to communicate in a language not your own, as a result of playing a game you like which was going to be "dead time" anyhow.

They could expand this further, beyond just "language".

Re:Maybe new for Americans (2, Insightful)

JavaTHut (9877) | more than 9 years ago | (#11253480)

> For instance, every child in Belgium is
> accostumed to read subtitles with some cartoons.

What's proposed in the article is a little different in that it's not just playing the game in the other language, but creating a hybrid of both languages with each chosen for specific areas of the game (following incidental learning guidelines created for annotating reading passages). That being said, the success of foreign language learning via popular culture in Europe versus the horrible failiure of U.S. foreign language classrooms was certianly the inspiration for the article (I started thinking about it when I was living in Sweden).

> They could expand this further, beyond just
> "language".

See http://www.educationarcade.org

Chinese (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11253441)

I tried to learn chinese. Took some classes, but gave up. There needs to be romanized ( pinyin ) books to practice with so that westerners can learn the language BEFORE they learn to write it. Chinese children know how to speak chinese before they know characters - westerners would benefit from this too. And for those westerners without the budget to fly to/spend time in a foreign speaking area books are the only way to practice. If I'd spent the effort i spent trying to learn chinese trying to learn any other language that has an alphabet, I'd be able to speak/read/function in that language. Oh well. I can only pick out a word or two here and there when I hear chinese nowadays.

I actually do something like this (1)

NateKid (44775) | more than 9 years ago | (#11253472)

Whenever installing a game I try to install it in a foreign language that I've studied (if I have the option). That way I am completely immersed in the gaming environment.

Of course Neverwinter Nights in German was very annoying but it was worth a shot (I didn't know what the hell was going on and the baddies were A LOT more intimidating). I even use ATMs in foreign languages when the opportunity presents itself. Don't think I'm a snob though, because I actually don't have the self-discipline to study languages on a consistent basis anymore. In fact when I go to a foreign country I wind up clinging to the english-speakers over there (basically I don't leave my hotel).
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