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Four Ways to Learn a Language With “Game Of Thrones”

There were very few TV shows which, in recent years, would make me wish I had TV at home. “Game Of Thrones” is one of them.

Now, with its second season kicking off, the temptation returns. So here I am, doing the next best thing: I’m going to write about it! More specifically, I’m going to share four ideas in which following a saga such as “Game Of Thrones” can boost your language learning. For obvious reasons, this works best if you’re learning English – but none of these solutions are, to my knowledge, limited to one language only. See if you like them, try them out – and tell us how it went!


1. Read Up

Harry Potter messed me up.

The new tomes would come up in summer, just in time for the uni exam sessions. Studying was hard enough already, with the long, bright evenings and warm summer air, and cold beer – and then this?! Inevitably, I would queue up and get my hands on the book, and spend a day and a night reading tirelessly – until it was over and I emerged back into reality.

Think of the last time you read your foreign language textbook with that intensity…see what I mean?

Some stories make you care an awful lot. They make you care enough to ignore the complexity, the demands, the difficult language. The foreign language, even. I didn’t read Harry Potter in my first language – but it didn’t feel like work or study.

“Game Of Thrones” has a cult following – and George R. R. Martin’s books have been published and translated all around the world. The curious thing is this: many people have seen the TV show, but haven’t read the books yet!

This is a golden opportunity. If you’ve seen the show in your first language, go and get the books in the language you’re learning. You already know the context, and you know how fascinating the story is. The language barrier seems like The Wall when you’re doing actual work – but this time, I promise it will be different.


2. Talk It Through

If you’re on Twitter, you will notice that the trending topics are very often connected with shows that the people are watching at the moment. Apparently, TV is more fun when you’re tweeting about it!

It makes perfect sense: the conversation about last night’s TV or game used to have to wait until you saw your folks again – at work, at school, at the pub. Not any more. You can debate what’s going on almost in real-time – and guess what? In any language.

There are fans for your TV series, your fantasy or sci-fi titles, your music band – in most countries of the world. And they love to talk. Their debates are heated, their support for fans is astounding, and their enthusiasm is contagious.

So find your German “Lord Of The Rings” community, or your Swedish “Battlestar Galactica” clan. Sign up to their forums, join them on Facebook. Say hello and watch what happens.


3. Play On

Yes, I’m suggesting you learn a language by playing a computer game. And I’ve got evidence.

Computer games have gotten more complicated, demanding and more fun – pretty quickly. The multiplayer aspect means that you’re able to communicate with players around the world, in a pretty task-based context – think about “talking it through” from above, but this time it’s to get things done. And the complexity of the game means that whichever language you’re playing in, you will be picking up the linguistic and contextual clues very quickly – in fact, you will have little time realising that you’re actually learning!

This is not just speculation. Serious scientific research has been done on learning and languages in games. This 60-minute talk by Steven L. Thorne is just the fascinating tip of an impressive iceberg.

“Game Of Thrones” has got not one, but two computer games in production. “Lord Of The Rings?” Check. “Harry Potter”? Check. “World Of Warcraft?” Don’t even get me started, kid.

If this is your kind of fun, make sure you get that game with the right language pack.


4. Write Up

The amazing thing about these stories is that they leave you hungry for more. There are things lest unsaid, stories unfinished, characters in need of a separate chapter – or plots begging for a rewrite.

For many folks, the end of a saga is the beginning of real fun. Fan-fiction – the art of writing follow-ups, remixes or spin-off stories based on a published and established series – had been around for long, but came into its own with the advent of Internet and blogging sites.

And sure enough, you don’t need to publish your “Star Trek” stories in your first language. There are fans out there in most languages – who will gladly read, comment and support your writing as you go along. In fact, that’s the most exciting thing about Steven L. Thorne’s talk for me: the fact that with each saga, there’s a community of writers in many languages. People who would take time to read your work and comment. Readers who would point out the shaky use of articles, and whose comments you would feel less stressed about. Writers who would share their stories with you, and be happy to discuss the details afterwards.

If this doesn’t cure your writer’s block, what will?


What say you, readers? Got a favourite sci-fi or fantasy saga? If so, how would you make it work for the language you’re learning?

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3 Responsesso far.

  1. The reality is that the best way to learn a language is doing things you enjoy. Coz, that way you will keep wanting to do more of it! :-). I once knew this girl who watched a movie 100 times because she really loved it. That is the way she refined her language.

    However there are people ho do that and still they get stuck …so there is more to it of course. There are 7 strategies many people use that I believe will lead to results below your expectations..sometimes far less. So sometimes people get stuck for these reasons.
    check out http://languagelearningunlocked.com if you are interested to know what the 7 are!
    In return I want a few easy questions answered to help me with a book I am writing on language learning.

  2. Mike says:

    It’s what I did and what I advised my friend to do – despite the awful quality of language teaching here, I managed to pass for an American, a Brit and an Australian a lot of times, mostly because of what I learnt out of school – playing video games, watching movies, reading books and generally “interacting online”.

  3. Wiktor K. says:

    Mike: I hear you. If it were not for the westerns, half of my hopeless redneck impressions would be even more hopeless!