Growing up, I always wanted to learn another language. But coming from a low-income family in the UK, this was not an easy task.
Neither of my parents graduated from high school, let alone college, and speaking other languages was off their to-do list.
We didn’t have the money for great vacations abroad, and there wasn’t enough to invest in language lessons.
Before free apps like Duolingo and Memrise became a thing, and the internet was just becoming popular, there wasn’t much in the way of self-study.
Today, I speak four Languages Fluently. Apart from my native English, I can speak and read German, Japanese and French.
Video games have been a major factor in my success with languages. This is how they can help you, too.
There is a myth that learning languages at a young age is the only way to go, or that some people are innately gifted.
I began to learn my first foreign language, German, in high school, like most British children, and found it very difficult.
Words just wouldn’t stick, and the rules were definitely outside of me.
My grades at school weren’t impressive, and German was usually my lowest.
However, I loved video games from a young age and always tried to play as much as possible, whenever possible.
Germany has been and remains a gaming hot spot, with thousands of people investing heavily in gaming.
On school trips I would buy games and even though it was in German I would do my best to play it.
Many detailed guides for online games were written by passionate German gamers, and I struggled with them because of my desire to play.
The turning point for the German came when I met a young German who played online games and later became my friend.
The relationship didn’t last, but the six months I spent speaking, reading and writing German on a daily basis was definitely a boost to my skills.
She studied German at university, after which she decided to go abroad to learn another language.
In the end I decided to live in Japan. I’ve never traveled to Asia before, and Japan is the largest producer of video games in the world.
Nintendo and Sony both come from Japan, and many of the games there never make their way to the West.
While I was learning how to speak Japanese during my daily life, reading and writing thousands of Japanese characters, called “kanji,” seemed impossible.
I love Pokemon, and children’s games in Japan are written in simple Japanese using easy words and sentences.
I learned to read Japanese, started playing Pokemon games that I knew and loved, and I understood the story mostly because I had played it many times before.
As my confidence grew, I decided to play more challenging games and eventually signed up to take the Japanese Fluency Exam.
Looking at the paper, I realized I would need a lot of work on my reading skills, and I started playing a visual novel, Digimon Cyber Sleuth Hacker Memory, in my spare time.
Although I didn’t understand all the words, the most common ones started to stick, and I passed the reading section of the notoriously difficult exam with excellent marks.
Even while in Japan, I was heavily involved in the gaming community, and used to create fan subtitles for games that were released for my friends back home.
Eventually, I came back to the UK, and started working on games.
My German and Japanese skills were highly regarded in the industry, as I can get news stories from these countries and translate them myself.
Since not many people in the UK are bilingual, I often get gaming news from the two popular gaming industries first.
However, there was still another language that I felt was essential for those who wanted to know everything about gaming: French.
Canada – specifically its French region of Quebec – is home to a number of major game developers.
Companies like Ubisoft come from here, and many of the exclusive interviews are conducted entirely in French.
Not only that, but France also has its own growing industry, including companies like Quantic Dream.
As a fan of games like Heavy Rain and Detroit: Become Human, I started reading about their director David Cage in French.
I wanted to practice my skills and ended up writing an autobiography of him entirely in French using quotes he had given in interviews.
Over time, I read a lot of game articles in the language, and I slowed down my fluency in the language by translating information from it.
Language learning is all about repetition and practice.
You are more likely to continue to use a language if you use it when participating in something you love. For me, these are video games.
Whether you are a gamer, a movie buff, or even a celebrity lover, if you keep up with this hobby on a global scale, you will find yourself immersed in other languages.
If you’ve never been successful in trying to learn a language before, try researching things related to your favorite hobby.
You could end up fluent before you know it.
Written by Georgina Young on behalf of GLHF.
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