When we talk about language teaching, most people will think of the “classical” approach, with textbooks, worksheets, and maybe audio tapes, as being the most effective way, both in terms of the students’ learning discipline and keeping up with notions. However, here at Talk@Work, we prefer to follow a variety of language teaching approaches and a more recent method integrates play and games into learning process – for children and grown-ups alike.
Research shows already how play and games increase children’s abilities in many fields, from general knowledge to numeracy and literacy, and also in the development of interpersonal relationships and soft skills. It is important to observe though, that play is often already a great part of young children’s learning journey, while teenagers, young adults, and adults, as a matter of fact, are rarely involved in any task of this kind, even though there are so many benefits as well. As long as games are carefully selected and prepared by a teacher, there is only to gain knowledge and fun.
Play in language teaching has many benefits
One of the main reasons why this approach is so effective in language teaching, both when teaching children and adults, is that the student is not seen as a mere object to be filled with notions, but becomes an active subject of their own learning. They must be able to reach for what they have learned and use it in a very practical way. Consequently, it is not only sculped in their minds through an experience, but they also have to develop transversal skills, such as quick thinking and jumping from one task to another.
Furthermore, there are soft skills that play can bring on a personal level as much as on a professional level: board games will help with strategic thinking, group activities will help with team relationships and cooperation in order to achieve a goal, and role-playing is a safe environment to experience different situations that one may have to face in real life. So learners are ready to come up with effective solutions to solve problems.
Role-playing from medical training to expat life
Regarding the last point, there is a particular example that recently caught my eye: to train future doctors, the Humanitas University of Milan has created an entire exam based on role-playing. Students are put in a fake hospital, and the teacher – through a speaker – guides them through dealing with an emergency, from the arrival of the patient (a mannequin) to the diagnosis to surgery in the operation theatre. During the simulation, students must deal with many unforeseen medical and psychological challenges. Their ability to recognize symptoms and to act quickly under stress makes the final evaluation.
This is a great example of how efficient learning through play can be, and why we at Talk@Work like to use many different games and role-plays when teaching languages. Through play, we sharpen our expats competencies so that they can face the many challenges when living and working abroad.