As I’m sure you all know, I’m a bit of an Xbox junkie. I communicate all day for my job, so it’s nice to go home and switch my brain off and explore a new (if fake) world. I love games with in-depth complicated stories that rely on your choices in dialogue, like Fall Out 3, Dragon Age, Mass Effect, and so on. My native language is English, but living in Germany, the really in-depth games are only available in German. I used to think this was a Very Bad Thing.
My German is good, but Science Fiction and Fantasy terms are not really something you learn living in a country, so very often I’d choose a dialogue option which I thought to be nice, and the other character tried to shoot me in the face. This was, in the beginning, Very Frustrating.
However. After a while, I started getting used to it. Then I started LEARNING. It was the first time I realized the language teaching potential of video games. In retrospect, it’s really freaking obvious. With games like these, you rely on dialogue and consequences, placed in context, in a foreign language. Basically, you’re playing a movie, and I tell my students to watch English movies to learn all the time.
Now, for the most part, I prefer my RPG’s in German. The voice overs are very often much better than the English ones (Venetica, I’m looking at YOU!), and, while it is often harder in the beginning (when I often need to learn new words to understand what’s happening but am too interested in the game to look them up), in the end I learn more and have just as much fun. I’ve finally reached the point where RPG’s in English just feel wrong somehow.
Now Mass Effect 2 is out, and after seeing the previews I was really, really tempted to get it in English (the voices are amazing!). I’m going to tough it out, though, and explore the Galaxy auf Deutsch. Also, I get to learn lots of cool, useful new words like Dechiffrierung, Biotische Fähigkeit, and Protonenladungen
If you have the option, try playing one of your favorite games in a language you’re learning…you’ll be surprised how quickly you adapt and how much you learn!