According to the New York Times, the video game developer behind the popular Age of Empires game has just released a new video game in China aimed at teaching children a second language.
The fantasy role-playing game is called Wiz World Online, and it incorporates many of the elements that make role-playing games so exciting for children. For example, they get to choose their own avatars and solve challenges in a fantasy world. However, instead of testing how well they can combine spells or how fast they can press buttons, these challenges test their English skills.
The important thing about Wiz World Online is that it allows kids to practice everyday words and phrases in the language they are learning. Also, it allows them to pick up new skills as needed, by sending their character to a “wizard’s library” for English lessons.
By giving kids an incentive to practice, Wiz World Online helps them overcome the shortcomings of traditional, school-based language learning programs.
Alex Wang, the chief executive and co-founder of 8D world, the company responsible for the game, says that the seeds for the idea that later became Wiz World Online were planted during his first visit to America from China. Although he had studied English, he found that he had a hard time communicating in day-to-day conversations with English speakers. His classes simply hadn’t adequately prepared him to be alone in an English-speaking country.
Honestly, no matter how much you study a language in a classroom, visiting a country full of native speakers is likely to be a trial by fire. People use languages differently in real life than they are taught in class, and the only way to truly prepare for that would be to spend a lot of time talking to native speakers from the country and region that you are visiting before you go. Still, games like Wiz World Online have a place in language learning classrooms, especially if children like them enough to play them on their own time. Knowing the fundamentals makes it easier to catch on when you do travel to a foreign country, and too many language classes don’t even leave children with a fundamental grasp of the language.