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.

image02 730x523 Kotoba Miners uses Minecraft to teach you Japanese

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)