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For some reason, everyone always assumes you actually have to physically travel to experience the benefits of language immersion.
They’ll actually claim it’s not even possible to learn a language without visiting a region where it’s spoken. And then students are lead to believe that fluency isn’t attainable unless they save up for some grand foreign trip.
But that couldn’t be farther from the truth. Things are much too digital now for physical location to put up any kind of language barrier.
That’s right, in 2020 you can bring language immersion to you. Right from your couch, you can simulate your very own foreign environment.
And I’m talking about for free. A fun environment that no classroom can rival.
So what is this “magical alternative” to traveling for language immersion?
Games. More specifically, life simulation games. Not big into gaming? Then check out this post on 100 FUN ways to learn another language AT HOME.
How can games replace traveling?
Don’t worry, I’ll explain myself. If you’ve ever played any life simulation game before, then you know how closely they mimic real life.
Just the Sims alone basically serves as a whole alternate life for the player.
Games pre-programmed with missions, tasks, dialogues, and people, offer the life simulations for newer language learners.
They give you time to think and translate as necessary. You’re given visuals and motion cues that help you progress along the plot.
Tons of apps like these exist for mobile devices through installation from Google Play or the Apple Store. Seriously, just search “life simulation” and find an app offered in your target language.
Certain languages will be significantly harder to find than others, but you’re bound to find at least 1 app in one of the top 30 most spoken languages. Trust me, I’m learning Vietnamese (#23) and I was still able to find quite a few.
One great life simulation game line is “the Sims.” The newest release, Sims 4, is available in English, German, French, Russian, Polish, Swedish, Spanish, Italian, Dutch, Norwegian, Danish, Finnish, Brazilian Portuguese, Czech, Chinese (Traditional), Japanese, and Korean.
But their 2 free applications, “Sims Freeplay” and “The Sims Mobile” also offered in several languages. English, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, Swedish, Traditional Chinese, and Turkish to be exact.
Plus the more popular a game, the more likely you’ll be able to find English walkthroughs online/YouTube that you can follow along with.
But any simulation game works. As long as you’ve got it set to your target language, you’ll be learning instant vocabulary and colloquial phrases.
Most of these apps are marketed as allowing users to “experience the rich and entertaining moments of your characters’ lives as they accomplish career goals, pursue hobbies, develop relationships, and improve their Lifestyle.” You’re able to “party with friends, socialize around town, and attend special events”
That’s basically a whole life right there. Just in a foreign language.
They’re are even apps that help you focus specifically on ventures like owning a shop, restaurant, farm, etc. Which could be really useful for students looking to learn “business” terms in the language.
And for those wanting a true immersion experience?
The next step up from pre-programmed games would be actually virtual worlds. They’re “games” but also VR environments that literally allow you to communicate with global users.
So imagine what it’d feel like being thrown into a physical foreign environment…. and then subtract like 80% of the anxiety. You get to hide behind a scene and try your hand at making comprehensive sentences.
And these offer a more ‘challenging’ yet efficient learning opportunity since you should be responding relatively quickly. So understandably, don’t delve into one of these worlds until you actually know a decent amount of the language.
There are virtual worlds for speakers of just about any language. Personally I use “Hotel Hideaway,” a virtual reality life simulator that puts me in direct contact with native speakers.
And that app in particular is offered in 13 different languages. Pretty impressive for any app.
But there’s also other apps designed specifically for 17+ users like IMVU and Avakin, and 13+ users like Club Cooee.
As a little pro gamer hack, to find out if an app is even available in your target language, as an android user:
- Click the game you’re interested in on Google Play in a search browser
- Change the “hl=en” part of the URL to “hl=[the first letters of your target language.” For example “hl=es” shows Spanish results, “hl=fr” shows French, “hl=vi” shows Vietnamese, and “hl=it” shows Italian.
- Look at the app’s pictures & description. The google play platform will change to that language regardless of if the app is actually available in it. So you’ll have to see if the photos display captions in the language and/or if the description is written in the language.
So for Hotel Hideaway, by changing the link from https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.piispanen.hotelhideaway&hl=en to https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.piispanen.hotelhideaway&hl=vi I’m immediately able to view the Vietnamese results for the same game.
But if you type in the link for your target language, and the app’s information is still written in English then it’s not offered in the language.
Even though Google play itself is displayed in the language, the app’s description and photos are written in English. Therefore the app is clearly not available in Urdu. (“hl=ur”)
In Apple’s App Store, languages should always be listed right under the description for the app.
Most of these games can founded under the “role playing” category. So search role playing and you’ll be good to go.
Now communication through these games is 100% interpersonal interactions, so have translation tools ready.
As you would in an actual foreign environment, take notes as you go and make it a learning experience.
I’d strongly suggest the Google Translate or Microsoft Translate apps as they both have instant camera translation. Just screenshot and everything will be translated.
That way you’ll actually enjoy these games and truly be able to learn about communication norms in the culture.
But how can I learn when I’m not playing games?
Don’t worry. I’ve made a list of 100 fun and unconventional different ways to learn a language, just for you.
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You’ll also receive some other foreign language goodies, including a 4-week self-quarantine language acquisition plan. And the password to my article on what a naturally simple approach to language learning even looks like.
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All my tips are made for atypical learners looking to make the learning process as enjoyable as possible; much like yourself!
So don’t miss out on these immediate freebies and put all this time at home to good use!
Thanks so much for checking out my site and I hope to see you back here very soon!