So, today’s post is a little different, as I had the chance to interview an English language game creator! Vita Kogan, a linguist and language games creator tells us about the inspiration behind her English language game, and how you can use it in the classroom.
By the way, I’m not an affiliate for this product – I just think it’s really cool and had to share it with all of you. Actually, when I met Vita and played a trial version of the game, I was SO excited to use it in my English class. It’s actually a Kickstarter project, so you can check it out here. First, read all the great info below, though.
Linguapolis: New York: An English Language Game
Tell us a little about yourself and the creators of Linguapolis. What inspired you to create this game?
I am a linguist and a language educator. I have been teaching languages for more than 10 years now and I was always painfully aware of the gap between the language we teach in the classroom and the real thing. Linguapolis became an attempt to bridge this gap by focusing on day-to-day speaking tasks and procedural learning (acquisition of a skill through repeated performance), rather than declarative (knowledge about a linguistic form) – something you would normally observe during first language acquisition. The idea to create a game came to me a while ago, but it was only when I met a wonderful artist, Stas Kapustin, that it finally took the right shape. He created unique witty art for the game and populated the streets of Linguapolis with charismatic characters.
How does the game work (what is included in its contents)? How many players can play at once, and how long does it take? Is there a winner?
The game mimics the language immersion environment: you in a target country speaking a local language in naturalistic-like settings. Except that you don’t have to travel anywhere. There are two sets of cards: the locations that make up the field and the events that are drawn out occasionally. Players arrive at the airport and travel through the whole city experiencing all kinds of everyday situations: shopping, renting a car, going out, hailing a taxi, etc. The event cards provide a bit of adventure. For example, your wallet might get stolen or a stranger suddenly invites you on a date. You never know – this is New York after all.
Because the game focuses on speaking, it’s recommended that a minimum of two players take part. The winner is the one who communicates effectively and makes it to the hotel first, without going broke (yes, you get to spend some money).
Why is Linguapolis a tool that every English teacher should have? How do you envision teachers using it for different levels of English students in the classroom, or in private tutoring sessions?
Thanks to the advances in neuroscience, nowadays we understand language learning much better than just a decade ago. We now know language learning is not item-based learning. In this regard, it rather resembles acquiring a skill, rather than memorizing a set of rules. At the same time, the teaching materials that are currently available on the market haven’t caught up with the research yet. That is why so many language teachers end up developing their own materials, but we all know how much time and effort it takes.
Here is where Linguapolis comes handy. It represents a learning environment, where a great variety of meaningful and authentic tasks can take place, across numerous topics and formats. The game is flexible and highly customizable. You can create a small town or a giant city, focus on specific locations (food facilities, cultural life, nature) or pragmatic functions (asking a question, negotiating, requesting clarification), combine students of different levels, or play it one-on-one during your private tutoring sessions.
How is Linguapolis different to using regular board games in your English or ESL class? What preparation do teachers need to do to use this game effectively?
Linguapolis transports learners to a real city – New York, where they can visit places that actually exist and learn about the local history and culture. The game also promotes a range of skills: from purely linguistic in nature (speaking, listening, and reading) to language-related practical skills – problem-solving, metalinguistic awareness, coping with speaking anxiety, etc. We worked hard to make it as self-exploratory and intuitive as possible, so neither teacher nor learners have to spend precious time figuring out how it works. Just roll the dice and there you go!
Is there any way teachers could use this game as part of a speaking assessment (formal or informal)?
Linguapolis has many situations that are similar to the speaking tasks in the Oral Proficiency Interview, a standardized assessment of functional speaking ability, developed by the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages. However, using an actual game as an assessment tool has an advantage over a standard interview – it helps students cope with the test anxiety and elicit a larger sample of spontaneous speech.
What is your opinion of error correction in the classroom? When playing your speaking game, how often should teachers correct students’ errors?
Every teacher has her own opinion on error correction and we are respectful of that. When I use Linguapolis with my students, I focus on fluency rather than accuracy and correct only pattern errors. But, of course, it depends on a teacher and her learning objectives for the lesson.
What are three main features and benefits to playing your game in an English class?
Linguapolis is an opportunity to practice speaking about things that actually happen in everyday life. It’s also a gentle way to overcome speaking anxiety that often accompanies foreign language learning. Lastly, you get to explore New York City!
Unfortunately, in the English teaching world there is still a bias against non-native speaker teachers of English. What advice would you give non-native speaker teachers in the ESL field? How can Linguapolis help?
If you share a native language with your students, it’s a great opportunity for cross-linguistic analysis. Playing languages against each other is a powerful pedagogical technique, especially when looking at idiomatic language. Linguapolis has plenty opportunities for exploring cultural meanings and collocations.
What themes and topics are covered in Linguapolis: New York? Will other cities and themes be covered in future versions of the board game?
We have about 24 different locations around New York: the city’s most glorious landmarks, as well as common public places (a hospital, a library, a police station, etc.). The locations can be combined with the event cards to add a desirable level of complexity or not – if your students are total beginners. Currently, we are preparing two thematic sets of locations in addition to the main layout: “New York at Night” and “Business New York”.
The future games will be dedicated to other languages. Right now we are considering “Linguapolis: Barcelona” for Spanish and “Linguapolis: Paris” for French.
Where can people buy this unique board game? How much is the sales price? When will it be available?
Support us on Kickstarter during the month of May.
The project comes out on the 2nd of May and will be running for 30 days. The price of the game is $29. The extended version that includes 36 cards and the game’s tailored phrasebook costs $42.
Some people suggest that there is too much emphasis on grammar, reading and writing in ESL classes today, whereas the speaking and pronunciation aspects of the language lack focus. Do you agree? Why or why not? (How can Linguapolis help)?
The era of the input-oriented learning is somewhat over. Recent research emphasizes more and more the role of the output as a road to learning. Linguapolis’ philosophy is based on the notion of the experiential learning that includes interaction and learning by doing. Dr. Herbert H. Clark, a wonderful psycholinguist and a professor at Stanford University, once said that language use is a joint action. We endorse that idea and believe that the best way of acquiring a language is through speaking and dialogue.
Well, I’d like to say thanks to Vita Kogan at Linguapolis for joining us today. I definitely had fun playing the game. I’ve ordered a board game set and I can’t wait to use it in my English class! If you’re interested in supporting the Kickstarter campaign so the board game can be released in October, head here and check them out.
P.S. Photo fans, I can’t take credit for these ones! They are from Linguapolis 🙂
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