I am part of the Acquired English team. That means I have learned English throughout my life without studying it formally for most of my life. I have been formally instructed in English very briefly when I first learned how to read, being tutored by my sister, and little by little in English as Foreign Language in school, which was quite poor.
What I've actually learned in English language, I did by having fun.
I've always liked movies, and have always watched subtitled movies. Since I've learned how to read at age 3 and read quite fast for my age, I could keep up with no problems. I've always liked music, so I'd buy magazines and use CD booklets (remember we're talking about the 1990's here) and use a paper dictionary to translate the words I didn't understand. After 1999 I started reading a lot more content in English on dialup Internet, as well as chatting with foreign, worldwide teenagers via mIRC.
All that helped shape up my English proficiency, but the one means of mediatic English studying that I think helped me the most were (and still are) VIDEOGAMES.
This is my personal crusade. VIDEOGAMES TEACH YOU ENGLISH!
I've started gaming when I was 9. Back then, I'd play games with very little text, but I'd paid attention to it all, looked up a dictionary occasionally, and was really into the plot of games with very little text, like Super Mario World. So when I was in school I'd say stuff like
- I'm stuck at the Forest of Illusion
- Fifth world
- Ah. It's called Forest of Illusion?
- Yeah, it's written there
- You read what they say?
Ah, the disappointment. As a preteen I'd already feel sorry for my classmates who had this huge source of information in their hands, and all they did was push buttons really fast to put the boring words away so they could play. Plus, part of the gaming experience would be lost as you'd focus solely on the action without any plot immersion.
As my school life began taking more of my time, and I started focusing more on the Internet, new technologies entered the market, like the Playstation 2. There you could not only learn English by reading, but also by listening. As I said, I didn't play as much but I felt like this would make everybody learn English better because they'd be listening to it at the same time as they'd read the subtitles in English, and learn even more.
I have always said that videogames teach you English. You are not only using the language, but you have an objective in using it. And you're using it in communicating with the other characters, and with the game itself. This is very similar to the concept of task used in English Teaching & Learning theory, as opposed to very structural, grammatical, and decontextualized exercises. As a means of language learning, videogames are awfully overlooked by teachers.
Now, technology has given me one more argument to this quest. Watch this:
From now on, you will not only learn English by reading in games.
From now on, you will not only learn English by listening to games.
From now on, you will actually have to SPEAK ENGLISH to augment your gaming experience.
Not to mention Mass Effect is currently my favorite game series, with a vast story (told in 3 game installments, 4 comicbook series, and 3 novels already published so far, and with projects of movies and other games to be produced in the near future) and the magic of not only gaming to achieve something, but also with a knack of influence. The decisions you make in a great deal of the Mass Effect 1 and 2 games are going to have actual effects on the third installment to be released in June 2012. I am currently working on not only one, but THREE save files so I can see how the plot develops, depending on how heroic or ruthless my heroes and heroins play out, depending on my decisions. You have up to six speech options in pretty much every interaction in the game, where you can acquire more information or posit your point on the discussed topic. You may even decide for the character's personality by choosing to be, like I just said, heroic or ruthless in your very speech.
Being able to actually say what you want to say will be the beginning of a new era in videogames. Speech options are here since forever but only now you will actually have to say it. You may be able to be understood by the machine depending on how well you pronounce it. This is going to be beautiful. I feel very privileged to be in this generation, and to have been able to go through every step of language learning through videogames.
Believe me: VIDEOGAMES TEACH YOU ENGLISH. Technology's here to prove me right.