Digital Dialects Games
Arabic, Dutch, English, French, German, Greek, Hebrew, Hindi, Irish, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Mandarin, Persian, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, Swedish, Multimedia, Tests, Vocabulary, Websites, Kids
June 1, 2013
Skill Level Beginner, Intermediate
The Digital Dialects website is an unexpected online pleasure full of free language games for 60 languages, from popular ones such as French and German to less widely studied ones such as Zazaki (spoken primarily in eastern Turkey) and Oromo (which I know nothing about, but which I have read is the third most widely spoken language in Africa).
Says the copy on the Digital Dialects home page, “Language resources include games for learning phrases, numbers, useful words, spelling, verb conjugation and alphabets.” Not all of those things are available for all languages, but still, the breadth and depth are impressive! I tried nearly all the games for Irish and found them worthwhile. Many sites with free games aren’t actually that useful, but the construction of the ones here was just right for my Irish-learning brain at this beginning but not totally newcomerish level.
I checked out Dutch, too, and noticed there were substantially more materials for that language, including more advanced ones. In the Chinese, Japanese, and Russian sections, the games included romanization options as well as some actual Chinese and Japanese and Russian writing. I like that. Often basic games and quizzes on the web are offered only with romanizations.
As one might expect, the volume of games per language can vary significantly. More happens to be available for Mongolian and Tongan than for Hebrew. In fact, as of this writing, the Hebrew section is nearly empty; the site says that section is under development.
Digital Dialects was launched in 2007, “originally a by-product of a dissertation reviewing web resources for language learning.” Craig Gibson is the guy who did the animation and web design; he may also be the dissertation writer, but I’m not sure about that yet.
“The animated activities are intended to incorporate the interactivity of computer aided language learning software with the web-design principle of simplicity in use and access,” reads the website copy. “The games are intended to provide a relaxed way of acquiring basic language skills, a break from the books!”
That’s why I used them. And I did find them simple and smart and relaxing. The image at the very bottom of this review shows the game I liked best: minimalist and low-key, and really helpful.
Here’s what I think made a difference for me in comparison to some other websites: although the activities were fun and cute, every click was still worth it. Often I am clicking around cutesy language-learning apps and sites for no good reason. The amount of pedagogy you get per muscle twitch matters!
Although I myself didn’t come across audio, it has apparently been incorporated into animations for some languages, with more audio planned for the future.