Language-teaching with interactive fiction

Among the interesting things turned up by my investigation into IF for teaching is a German-teaching module (by Brett Shelton, David Neville, and Brian McInnis at Utah State University) designed for students who natively speak English.

I haven’t gotten very far into the game itself, but I was really intrigued to see this. It starts off with an English-language tutorial voice who steps the player through making commands in German, and I found this very successful (though, obviously, I am not a member of the target audience). In fact, I thought it was better than the average IF tutorial because of the two-language aspect: I had to type back the commands for looking, taking things, dropping things, and so on, but because this parroting was in German, it was more interesting and didn’t feel so zombie-like.

It’s intriguing stuff, I thought. It’s meant for students who have already had a little introductory German, but the first portion at least is playable even if you don’t know very much vocabulary.

10 thoughts on “Language-teaching with interactive fiction

  1. I would find it interesting for someone to make a list of IF-not-in-English for language beginners. (That is, not written as language tutorials, but written simply enough they could be used that way anyway.)

  2. Oh also, first person singular! I still find fascinating the decisions people make for conjugation in IF. (I have seen first, second, and third person all at various points. Second person still seems “wrong” to me, based on my early childhood training of Infocom manuals saying each statement had an implicit I WANT TO in front [even though as pointed out in a thread a couple years back that didn’t always work grammatically].)

  3. I think they’re using the German translation of the Inform 6 library here, and it wouldn’t surprise me if they’ve just adopted its conventions.

    But I could be wrong.

  4. That’s fascinating. I’m on the faculty at the University of Utah, but I hadn’t heard anything about any IF activities here or at any other Utah schools. In fact, the only other IF-related activity I had heard of here in Utah is Aaron Reed’s great work (he happens to live just a couple of minutes from me).

    Thanks for pointing that out…

  5. That’s fascinating. I’m on the faculty at the University of Utah, but I hadn’t heard anything about any IF activities here or at any other Utah schools.

    This is only one of several IF-related projects they’ve done, and they’re also investigating pedagogical uses of other game types. It looks like an extremely productive program.

  6. I can’t wait to try this game. I’m an adult trying to learn German, and I grew up playing Infocom games. I’m convinced that half of my skill at typing is from playing Infocom games for hours on end. On a whim I thought I’d try searching for any German IF since I know there are whole groups of people who write IF for fun (there’s even an annual competetion).

  7. I also downloaded Brett Shelton’s game and played it a little. I found it fun and potentially helpful but really want to be able to design my own material which contains only vocabulary and sentence complexity which I know my audience will be able to cope with. I looked at the source code and sighed: it’s too complex for me to adapt. How do I as a non-programmer write my own game in German? In my research on how to construct IF, I liked the Inform7 site because it used a natural language interface for the programmer, but have not yet come across anything similar in or for German. I have found several million games already written in German for native speakers, but again these are too difficult for my classes. Any ideas anyone?

      • Having posted that comment, I then came across the TAG/TAM system developed in German by Martin Oehm, which seems to answer what I want, despite (or because of) being a rather simplified writing environment.

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