I’ve seen Minecraft used for all sorts of different purposes. Recreating Westeros from Game of Thrones. Taking a tour through Apple’s Infinite Loop headquarters. Teaching Japanese? That’s a new one.

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.


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.

Kotoba Miners (via GameSpot | Tofugu)