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Gaming system offers new way to improve foreign language skills

March 29, 2013
students using Wii system in Language Lab

UW-Eau Claire students use the new Wii gaming system
in the university's Language Lab.

EAU CLAIRE — Beginning in April, students at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire will have a new option for improving their foreign language skills during "Wii open labs" from 4-6 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays in the university's Language Lab, Hibbard Hall Room 311.

UW-Eau Claire's Foreign Language Technology Committee researched the educational benefits of playing games, including advantages for second language learning. The committee received a Learning Technology Grant from UW-Eau Claire's Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning to purchase a Nintendo Wii for the Language Lab.

Playing video games can facilitate language learning by providing an authentic context for students in which the language is useful and meaningful, said Dr. Anne Hlas, associate professor of Spanish.

"Students need to follow instructions in the target language and to understand what other players are saying or doing in order to win a game," Hlas said.

The relaxed, fun context in which video games are played also facilitates language learning.

"Playing a video game will take the focus away from the educational setting, leading to more spontaneity and risk-taking, two skills necessary to become proficient in a second language," said Dr. Jessica Miller, associate professor of French.

A list of Wii games available is posted on the foreign languages department website. Any student can use the Wii during the open lab times. A current Blugold card must be presented to check out the equipment. Groups of students also can reserve the lab at different times by contacting Dr. Jessica Miller at millerjs@uwec.edu or 715-836-4267.

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