Authentic L2 Communication via Mobile Games

I believe that students are more likely to be motivated to learn something when they have an authentic and immediate purpose for that learning.

As a teacher of the French language in a geographical area with relatively few francophones, I have often wrestled with ways to have my students interact with native French speakers. We can listen to a ton of content via YouTube or other sources, but interaction & conversation are a lot more powerful. Pen Pals or the like could work but it takes connections and advance coordination – and even with email pals, it’s not very immediate.

One solution? Mobile games. The very same ones my students are spending hours playing for fun. Some of my (and my students’) current favourites are Clash of Clans, Boom Beach and Hay Day. But these suggestions are by no means specific to these games.

Most games have a language option in their settings:

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Switching the language provides a lot of vocabulary building and reading opportunities (though the translations are not always 100% correct):

But the real “gold” of these apps are their community features. They allow you to join small groups of people (“clans”, “neighbourhoods”. or whatever they might be labelled in that particular game) who bond together to complete challenges and compete against other groups. When you change the language of your app, the next time you search for one of these groups to join, you’ll find yourself among groups of native speakers of that language. Since these games are quite social, you’ll need to interact and chat with these folks in your language of choice. It’s amazing practice!

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Depending on the age of your students, this may or may not be an appropriate activity since interacting online with others can be an unpredictable experience (keep in mind many students are using these games at home on their own time, whether or not you want to have it as an in-school activity). That said, I find these apps have a strong sense of digital citizenship with reminders of good online behaviour and built-in mechanisms for reporting those who might be inappropriate. Make sure to review with students good practices such as choosing an anonymous username and never sharing identifying information.

Tips:

  • Not all clans/neighbourhoods/etc are created equal – if you join one and it doesn’t suit you, leave it and join another until you find one that does!
  • Some groups will chat very informally with a lot of slang, while others will speak in a more “standard” form. It’s good to experience both!
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