Inhibition is a common obstacle for foreign-language learners. You can memorize vocabulary and grammar, but when it comes to understanding cues and speaking in real-life situations, nerves can get in the way. A game offers a playful, low-key atmosphere for practice.
“Rather than pay attention to the correctness of linguistic forms, most participants will do all they can to win. This eases the fear of negative evaluation, the concern of being negatively judged in public… In a game-oriented context, anxiety is reduced and speech fluency is generated,” writes I-Jung Chen in the Internet TESL Journal.
The skills you can fine-tune via gameplay will depend on the game, though most involve language production, as well as reading and listening comprehension. For example, Deutsche Welle’s game Jojo sucht das Glück, which was created with German language learners in mind, asks one player to pantomime a German word or phrase while the others try to guess the word. This helps players expand and cement their German vocabulary while—hopefully—having fun with friends. (Enter to win a copy of Jojo sucht das Glück here.)
Language experts have listed the benefits of game-based language learning as multifold. Games promote communicative competence, create meaningful context for language use, increase motivation while reducing anxiety, require the use of multiple linguistic skill simultaneously, and encourage creative and spontaneous language use and participation.
If you find yourself bored of rote learning, pick up a game. Once you start having fun, you’ll be improving your German without even noticing. As Albert Einstein once said, “Play is the highest form of research.”