Join the virtual education class on dedicated Minecraft servers and learn a new language whilst playing a game
Kotoba Miners is an online class where you can learn Japanese by playing Minecraft. The project is run by James York a PhD student researching learning languages in virtual environments.
Using a series of structures that contain different learning activities students are encouraged to read and speak Japanese and to communicate cooperatively to overcome challenges. One such example of this is the “Ice Palace” level where players are required to talk to each other in Japanese to survive a series of pressure-plate traps that will kill the player if navigated incorrectly.
In response to the question of how Kotoba Miners has an advantage over the traditional classroom York notes, “games offer feedback loops that show/punish you when you do something wrong. And people are more likely to take risks and get things wrong when playing a game than they are in a classroom.”
“However, the biggest advantage for Kotoba Miners is the fact that people can log in from all around the world at the same time and connect with other Japanese learners and actually practice SPEAKING the language.” adding that “The majority of students that come to Kotoba Miners that have been studying Japanese in the past invariably say something along the lines of: “I’ve been studying Japanese for a while, but I’ve never actually spoken it…”
Talking to Tofugu York said he originally gained the idea of teaching languages in virtual worlds after joining a Japanese World of Warcraft guild and started the Minecraft server initially to teach English to Japanese students though soon discovered English speaking miners were sticking around after class to speak Japanese.
York tried different online games eventually plumping for Minecraft due to its easy accessibility, as he explains,“I rejected MMOs for lack of control over content and their often extremely specialized discourse (e.g. ‘Prot Warrior LFG SFK pst’). I also rejected a lot of social worlds (i.e. Second Life) for their painful aesthetics, controls and distance between user and content-creator. Minecraft is simple. Controls, aesthetics, and gameplay. This means that you spend less time learning how to navigate the game and more time learning and focusing on language.”