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Learn a New Language With Diablo 3: Tips, Strategies and Resources

Tomorrow, many of my friends will become much less sociable, and I’m about to hear a lot more rumours about problems in relationships. Diablo 3 is coming out!

If you’re wondering what I’m on about, the trailer below might help. Basically, it’s one of the most anticipated role-playing computer games of the decade. Having played the previous two parts, I’m terribly excited. And being a language geek as well, I couldn’t help myself: I had to try to find some way to combine this newly-spawned enthusiasm with a firm belief that this actually helps people learn languages. Some of this may have been simply a poor attempt to rationalise buying the game, and the new computer that would let me play it…

Anyway, here goes: a handful of simple tricks and strategies that should help you learn a foreign language whilst playing Diablo 3. The strategies and procedures actually work for other, similar games as well…enjoy!

1. Buy a localized version

Diablo 3 is a game about killing lots of monsters. Okay, it’s a bit more complicated than that, but even with the characters, skills and in-game dialogue, ultimately it comes down to battling hordes of nasty stuff.

When I first played these games, I could not speak English very well – but that didn’t stop me from getting the hang of most of them pretty quickly. And once I did, I discovered a curious thing: the English words and phrases I picked up through the game tended to stay with me for longer. When I pay attention to the context (and I do – I’m trying to keep my character alive), the words are much more memorable. It’s not just English, either: French, Spanish and German games tended to have the same effect (and I even picked up some Orcish language from Warcraft!).

If it worked for me, it will work for you. Diablo 3 will be available in several localized versions. Download or order the one you want to benefit from. You’ll be surprised how much that helps your language!

2. Play with your foreign mates

All parts of Diablo had a profound effect on the gaming universe – and so did many other multiplayer games. People joined together to play, formed clans, alliances, competed in tournaments…This is one of the most amazing developments in the gaming industry in the last 15 years – what was once a solitary, marginal pastime has now become a massively popular, social activity.

There is a really good chance that you’ll find gamers in the country whose language you’re learning. And if so, there’s a strong potential there. The gaming itself can be tricky (because of bandwidth speeds and demands), but you can always chat, discuss and trade items with them on the Battle.net – and that will help your language immensely. Just don’t consider their language to be the epitome of perfection – get ready for slang, jargon and cursewords!

3. Create and share

The best thing about a game as vast and intriguing as Diablo 3 is that it generates a lot of fan-made materials. People write stories and strategy guides, exchange tricks and comment on forums. They do this in all parts of the gaming world – and, predictably, in all languages.

Trust the gamer here: the otaku factor is strong whenever there’s computer gaming involved. People are willing to talk, write and gossip about whichever game they’re into. The most respected websites about Diablo are not the ones created by the game developers – they’re wikis, which means that anyone can edit, comment and develop them!

Once you’ve got your game in the foreign language of your choice – once you’ve played a while with your mates and developed a liking for it – why not head over to a wiki like that and contribute? Don’t be shy. You’ve just hacked your way through a maze of zombies – and you’re afraid to speak to living geeks?

If you want more info on how to learn a language through games, this video may be a perfect starting point. Enjoy!

(image credit: diablowiki.net)


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5 Responsesso far.

  1. Marcelo says:

    Hello, Wiktor, interesting article! I’m an addicted player, mostly hooked on Mmos and FPS games. My first real contact with English was through games, at that time and like you, I didn’t know how to speak English, least of all writing a single English word hehe. Although my English is not that bad, I’m still shy to speak with a lot of native speakers when I go on line on Ventrilo : ) peace!

  2. Wiktor K. says:

    Marcelo –
    Thanks for this comment! The thing about shyness in these contexts is that positive signals can get rid of shyness pretty quickly – but negative ones can only make you more shy. So I would say – choose times, games or tournaments which have that “good vibe” – no use speaking to folks who would hate on you for being a non-native. Good luck!

  3. Marcelo says:

    Thanks for the heads-up Wiktor, I do agree with you!

  4. Marco says:

    Thank God Blizzard made the game to automatically download the language packs when you switch languages. I spent about 10 months as a foreign exchange student between 2009 and 2010, and what really helped me a lot one time was playing WarCraft 3 in German 😀 Since I played the campaign numerous times before, I already knew what all the dialogue was about, and it was all just a matter of “syncing” what I remember from the dialogue in English with the new German translations. It worked REALLY well for me. I’m now learning French, and that’s just what I’m gonna be doing with Diablo 3. Of course, I’m gonna play through it at least once in English before I proceed with switching to French 😛

  5. Wiktor K. says:

    This sounds like a good plan – passing the game in your first language so you can play and learn easily later…good luck!