James York is an English teacher at a Japanese university, as well as a PhD student researching language learning across virtual worlds. In his Minecraft class, called Kotoba Miners, students join a private server and then learn the language through custom-designed buildings. Each structure has an activity and lesson content, following the progression of the Genki Japanese textbooks.
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Students speak and interact with one another for most of the class – York doesn’t do too much lecturing – and occasionally there are assignments to ensure players practise their skills. Kotoba Miners even uses the Minecraft survival mode to test players over 48 hours of in-game time. Once the objectives have been completed – all of the missions are in Japanese, of course – players reconvene, pair up and then describe their experiences.
Learning a new language can be awfully tricky, so it makes sense to weave the experience and learning resources through a fun, approachable video game such as Minecraft. If you want to know more, head to the Kotoba Miners site and read this in-depth interview with Tofugu.
Oh, and the first class is free. Thereafter, York offers a couple of different ‘VIP’ subscription options; $20 per month, or $149 for the full course.