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Research Roundup: Game-Based Language Learning

Filament Games | Educational Game Developer

Language immersion programs, Rosetta Stone, face-to-face classroom instruction, and more – all tried and true methods of acquiring the skills necessary to speak a new language. But what happens when game-based learning enters the fray? A number of recent studies have attempted to determine the efficacy of digital game-based language learning programs, providing evidence that points to improved learning outcomes and increased motivation among learners. But you don’t have to take my word for it – see for yourself by checking out the key findings of these evidence-based studies:

A 2013 study published in Computers & Education set out to determine how learning in 3-D game-like environments effects motivation and learning outcomes among students studying the German language. Study participants completed several tests both before and after playing the game, in addition to a bonus post-test questionnaire designed to collect feedback on each player’s experiences using the learning environment. Researchers found that players who successfully completed all 4 of the game’s levels achieved much improved learning outcomes, namely increased acquisition of new vocabulary and drastically improved listening comprehension. Additionally, in their post-examination surveys students most commonly reported two key takeaways from their experience:

  • Game-based language learning felt quick and easy due to improved contextualization and real-time feedback provided by the game environment.
  • Game-based language learning felt engaging and enjoyable thanks to a high number of opportunities for interaction, similar to face-to-face instruction, but with a reduced fear of failure commonly associated with in-person language learning.

Another research study commissioned by the United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) aimed to evaluate the effectiveness of a digital game-based system (dubbed “Tactical Iraqi”) used to train Arabic speaking and listening skills to Special Operations Forces and other U.S. military personnel. As a result of the digital training, all studied groups demonstrated a strong increase in their Arabic language and culture knowledge, in addition to to dramatically improved confidence in their ability to speak and similarly understand the language. While the authors recommend that most new learners use Tactical Iraqi in conjunction with a structured language training program, they note that the game-based tool may serve as a highly effective self-paced instructional tool for intrinsically motivated learners or those with an existing level of familiarity with Arabic.


Ready to dive head first into the wild world of game-based language learning? Check out Ruby Rei EDU on the Filament Learning storefront – a 3D language learning adventure where players build relationships, solve puzzles, and practice their reading, typing, speaking and listening skills by interacting with wacky in-game characters!