A lot of people around the globe are now waking up and switching on their mobile phones to guess the day’s five-letter word quiz by NYT’s Wordle. While the obsession for the game has increased over the past couple of months, indianexpress.com set out to seek the answer to can such games help improve one’s English language skills.
From Indian freelance writer, Anjoo Sharon Navin, to researchers and language experts at the University of Hull in England’s Yorkshire, all agreed they can in fact help improve language skills.
“Vocabulary quiz games, crossword puzzles and the recent popularity of the word game has garnered success and made people belonging to different age groups develop a new penchant for learning new English vocabulary words. Quizzes and games can help the learners to improve their language skills. Even a beginner of English language will find it interesting to study English through games and quizzes,” Navin told indianexpress.com
‘Fun and interactive tool’
Experts also believe that instead of rote learning vocabulary, quiz-based games can be used as a fun, interactive and more convenient tool to learn or improve their English language skills, even from the basic level.
“Language learning can be ‘high stakes’ or pressurised and games can help with this. People can often feel stressed when learning languages, particularly if English is studied as an academic subject and their future progress depends on learning the language,” explained Syeda Nudrat, Dr. Martin Nickosn and Tasnim Zaman who are academic members of Talking Hull, an English language teaching and research project based at the University of Hull.
“People can also suffer from lack of confidence when they learn a second language. This is because although it is natural to make mistakes when learning English, it does not feel ‘good’ to make mistakes. Games can help if they lower the pressure or stress of learning,” they said in an email.
The experts at the University of Hull also claim research has shown that people who are very motivated about a language, learn more effectively than those just learning to clear their exams, or for the sake of ticking eligibility boxes. In such cases, games that promote friendly competition can help with motivation in classrooms. Quiz-based games such as Wordle and Scrabble can particularly help in such cases as vocabulary plays a huge part in these exams.
Worlde’s secret to success
By including motivating messages, no penalties and multiple tries, Wordle, in particular, has cracked one of the best ways of keeping players intrigued, motivated and curious. “Games can be effective if they include the opportunity to make mistakes (without losing anything) and then be rewarded for success. Wordle is quite good at this because the computer tells you – without penalty – if a word is not valid. So, you can guess again until you get it right and when you do, you are rewarded with the letters turning green,” members of Talking Hull told indianexpress.com.
Wordle has also managed to charm users with its unique yet simple design. “Like the Wordle game, a quiz can be designed in a tech-savvy way to capture the attention of the mobile phone users. Instead of confining the words in a square-shaped box, a word game can be designed using visuals like computer games,” Navin said.
Helping South Asian students
These games can also play a huge role in introducing and brushing up English language skills for children in South Asian countries, where it is not their first language but is deemed to be very important and popular.
“Children who are initially intimidated to learn English shed their fears and gain confidence when they are introduced to quiz and games. Even children who have been passive listeners will begin to communicate without any inhibitions when quiz and games make the learning process an interactive session,” writer Navin explained.
A class 9 student from Bihar told Indianexpress.com over the phone that she has been playing an online English language quiz on her parents’ mobile phones for a couple of years now, and it has helped her correct her pronunciation, learn new words and gain confidence about the language.
“I used to live in a small village earlier, before shifting to Patna, and my English teacher in the village school was not that great. My parents used to allow me to use their mobile phone for 30 minutes every day and even in that time, I could only play educational games. So, I started downloading English language quiz games. There are lots of quiz and interactive games on the Google Play store and I love playing them,” said Shareen Singh.
“I have played games where I can win virtual candies, upgrade my virtual house or pet only if I match letters to form a word, guess words and more. These games inspired me to start solving Sudoku in newspapers. I went from shying away from talking in English to now being the most confident in English, apart from my mother tongue,” she added.
Another class 11 student from Chandigarh said he would have preferred to have such games in his English classes, rather than “boring vocabulary textbooks which made me hate English vocabulary, because I had to learn it without ever understanding their usage or pronunciation. It was simply rote-learning.”
Navin agreed. “Instead of the rote learning method, introducing quiz-based games will surely delight the students. Making these games interactive in classrooms will help the students to stay attentive. They will even develop the habit of keeping a notebook to learn new vocabulary words. An activity where children are asked to read a book and learn 5 new words will be their reading and vocabulary skills,” she added.
Use with care
However, experts said people should not completely rely on these quizzes and games. “Quiz based games may help us develop a large vocabulary but unless we fully know what a word means and how to communicate using the word, the large vocabulary may not be helpful,” explained language experts at the University of Hull.
“Because of this, we suggest educators should be cautious when introducing language quiz games and maybe do a bit of work if they want to introduce quizzes to a language class. Educators should probably not just take a language quiz game ‘off the shelf’ and introduce it to the class and expect results from their students. Instead, games should be adopted for classroom use if they are going to be effective learning tools.”
Experts also suggest giving proper and relatable hints to children, rather than just letting them guess the word. This can help students not only know the word but also remember it through the concept of familiarity, and will also help them know the correct usage and pronunciation. “This approach also would allow learners to make connections that mean something to them, which in turn makes it more likely they would use the words they learn. Language learning is about communication and meaning, after all, not just memory,” members of Talking Hull explained.