I Speak Four Languages - Here’s How Video Games Helped Me Do It
Growing up, I always wanted to learn another language. But coming from a low-income household in the UK, it was no easy task.
Neither of my parents graduated from high school, let alone went to college, and speaking other languages was low on their to-do list.
We didn’t have the money for fancy vacations abroad, and there wasn’t enough to invest in language lessons.
Before free apps like Duolingo and Memrise existed, and the internet barely became popular, there wasn’t much in the way of self-study.
Today, I speak four languages fluently. Besides my native English, I can speak and read German, Japanese and French.
One of the key factors in my success with languages has been video games. This is how they could help you too.
There is a myth that learning languages young is the only way to go, or that some people are just naturally talented.
I started learning my first foreign language, German, in high school, like most British children, and found it extremely difficult.
The words just didn’t fit, and the grammar was definitely beyond me.
My grades at school weren’t impressive and German was usually my lowest grade.
However, I loved video games from an early age and always tried to play as much as possible, whenever possible.
Germany was and still is a gaming hotspot, with thousands of people heavily invested in gaming.
On school trips, I bought games, and even if they were in German, I tried my best to play them.
Many online walkthroughs for games had been written by avid German gamers, and I found it hard to go through them, fueled by my desire to play.
The turning point for German came when I met a German who was playing online games and who would later become my boyfriend.
The relationship didn’t last, but the six months of daily practice talking to him, reading, writing in German was definitely a boost for my skills.
I studied German at university, then I decided to go abroad to learn another language.
Finally, I decided to live in Japan. I had never even traveled to Asia before, and Japan is the biggest producer of video games in the world.
Nintendo and Sony both hail from Japan, and many games made there never make it to the West.
As I learned to speak Japanese on a daily basis, literally reading and writing the thousands of Japanese characters, called “kanji,” seemed impossible.
I love Pokémon, and games for children in Japan are written in simple Japanese with simple words and sentences.
As I learned to read Japanese, I started playing the Pokémon games I knew and loved, understanding the story mostly because I had played them so many times before.
As my confidence grew, I decided to play more difficult games and eventually signed up to take the Japanese proficiency exam.
Looking at the paper, I knew I would need a lot of work on my reading skills, and started playing a visual novel, Digimon Cyber Sleuth Hacker’s Memory, in my spare time.
Although I didn’t understand all the words, the most common ones started to stick, and I passed the notoriously difficult reading section of the exam with perfect marks.
Even in Japan, I was very involved in the gaming community and used to create fan translations of games that came out for my friends back home.
Eventually I moved back to the UK and started working in games.
My German and Japanese skills were highly valued in the industry, as I could capture and translate news from these countries myself.
As few people in the UK are bilingual, I was often able to get game information from these two popular game industries first.
However, there was still one language that seemed essential to those who wanted to know everything about the game: French.
Canada – and more specifically its French region, Quebec – is home to a number of key game developers.
Companies like Ubisoft come from here, and many of their 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 a biography about him entirely in French using quotes he had given in interviews.
Over time, I read many articles about games in the language and slowly developed my fluency in translating the information in them.
Language learning is all about repetition and practice.
You are much more likely to continue using a language if you use it when participating in something you enjoy. For me, it’s video games.
Whether you’re a gamer, movie buff, or even a celebrity fanatic, if you follow this hobby globally, you’ll find yourself immersed in other languages.
If you’ve never had success learning a language before, try researching things related to your favorite hobby.
You might end up fluent before you know it.
Written by Georgina Young on behalf of GL HF.
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