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Daniel Shabasson

Gamification in Foreign Language Learning

Gamification, in plain English, means turning learning into a game. Take the popular foreign language learning app Duolingo for example. Duolingo makes language learning fun, turning it into a sort of video game. When students do well, they win virtual prizes (gems). They compete against other users of the app and get ranked based on their performance. They can make it into the “obsidian league” if they rock the game, or even into the “diamond league” if they’re one of the best that day.

Should we teach English grammar in our schools?

Is it important to teach English grammar in our schools? Do kids need to know the difference between a noun and an adjective, or between the subject and the direct object of a sentence? Before the 1960s, educators generally believed that understanding grammar was crucial to becoming an articulate speaker and a good writer of English. But a sea change in thinking occurred in the late ’50s and early ’60s.

Can Studying Spanish Increase Your Empathy?

We feel more empathy towards people with whom we have something in common, and what more could you have in common with someone than a shared language?  Could learning a foreign language increase our empathy towards speakers of that language?  It’s certainly possible.  But I want to focus on a different question about language learning and empathy.  Can learning to use the indirect object—an important grammar structure in Spanish—increase our sensitivity to how our actions may affect others, thereby making us more empathetic? 

Culture and Foreign Language Learning

The idea of introducing culture to the foreign language classroom has gained in traction since I started teaching Spanish. Many language instructors agree that some culture should be incorporated into the instruction as long as it furthers the learning of the language. However, there is little agreement about how much culture should be taught and whether students should be tested on their knowledge of the culture or merely tested on their proficiency with speaking, reading, and writing the language.

Living in Spanish

Learning Spanish, or any foreign language, is great for many reasons. It develops the language center of your brain, which helps you speak, read, and write better in your own language. It teaches grammar. Studies show learning a foreign language can protect against mental deterioration as we age.  Some say that learning the melodious sounds and rhythms of another language develop your ear for music.  The benefits are many.

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