The Pros and Cons of Gamification in Language Learning (feat. Hey! Lingo App)

Aug 7, 2021 03:19 · 5577 words · 27 minute read

Gamification can be considered a buzzword of sorts today, whether it’s learning, how video games work or studying the science of what makes them so addicting, today’s focus is going to be on gamification in language learning apps and the pros and cons of that gamification when it comes to learning a new language, Hey internet, my name is mark and I’m a senior at NYU studying computer science and linguistics.

00:20 - And about two years ago now I made a video called Duolingo versus Rosetta stone, where I compare to more gamified language learning platform to something I considered a bit more traditional.

00:31 - Today. I wanted. To talk about gamification on a more general scale and about a month and a half, two months ago, an app called Heyliger reached out to me to see if I wanted to do a review on it after looking at the free plan of their app for a little while, and decided that I wouldn’t have anything overly critical to say, I decided to give it a go to be clear, though, they’re not sponsoring this video, nor do they have any sort of say in it and I’ll have my reviews throughout the video as we go.

But the important thing is that you will see why Hey, lingo provides such a good example of, for some of these points.

01:00 - Also a little disclaimer about myself is that I am no expert or professional on any of these fields.

01:06 - I studied linguistics and I’m very fascinated in language learning and have been increasing that fascination for awhile now.

01:12 - And everything I know about gamification comes from a few books, I’ve read some articles I’ve learned and some of my game design studies.

01:19 - So all of this is based on my limited experience and limited research.

01:22 - And I have a little pet theory about language acquisition and how important linguistics is that being said, just take it all with a little grain of salt.

01:29 - All of my resources will of course be linked in the description down below in the resources section. A lot of my knowledge on gamification, which again is as an average person and an end-user comes from my studies on game design and my fascination in gamification, which I became a little curious about a while ago when I had a bit of an existential crisis, I wanted to try a game of fighting my life in some ways that aside gamification is to the best of my knowledge, a way to create reward and punishment that is centered around how we behave as human beings.

A very simple example of gamification is streaks, which makes use of a psychological fallacy called loss aversion. For example, in Snapchat, a streak is something that shows you how often you communicate with them, a friend or not how often you communicate, but whatever, or on an app like, Hey lingo, it shows you how consistent you have been with maintaining your language learning habit.

02:19 - A book that I came across a while ago by Ukiah Cho is presenting gamification as built off of eight or more foundational points, something called lock Telesis design.

02:29 - I’ll link an article about it in the description down below.

02:32 - But I say this because throughout this video, I’ll be building on oversimplifying these points in a way that I can understand them so that I can explain them slightly clearly throughout the video.

02:42 - So definitely check that article out, if not the book, if you’re curious, and additionally, if you have any knowledge expertise or whatever on gamification, I’d love to hear in the comments down below because the more, you know, the better, so interesting gamification aside, what are the pros and benefits that it brings to gamifying language learning? Well, let’s think about textbooks.

03:03 - Textbooks are pretty bland and dry most of the time. And in fact, textbooks aren’t even meant to be read, cover to cover.

03:10 - They’re just another tool in your tool belt. Nonetheless, they can be dry and repetitive. On the other hand, apps are meant to be fun and engaging.

03:17 - If you take hay lingo and you strip it of all, its wonderful aesthetics, a visual or sound, then it becomes kind of boring and not nearly as fun.

03:27 - The first pro of gamification is exactly that aesthetically pleasing mediums that allow a user to engage on multiple levels, fun, little characters, small worlds to travel, to advancing with experience through different levels, allow things to be more fun.

03:43 - It brings you into this world of language learning as opposed to things just being dry and repetitive and mundane.

03:49 - Another great thing about gamification and something that I would consider to be one of its strongest foundations is the ability to take what is arbitrary and turn it into something meaningful. For example, building off of the second point of octopuses Telesis design development and accomplishment, the introduction of things like experience levels and leaderboards allow a user to have some sense of being on a metaphorical journey.

04:12 - It turns in advanced material on chapter 13 into more challenges on level 13.

04:18 - One thing I’ve been most curious about over the years is how websites, applications, and games approach the problem of progress.

04:25 - Showing a progress bar allows a user to feel super driven, tuck get that last five to 10% and then when they complete it, there’s a whole new challenge of figuring out how to get that user to be determined to fill it up all over again. Well, gamification has so much more to it so much.

04:42 - So in fact that it’s impossible to get remotely close to talking about all of it. In one video, I did want to touch on three big points.

04:50 - And so the third point is simply the social aspect of games and thus applications.

04:56 - The clearest way to demonstrate this social aspect is by looking at hailing goes leaderboards a while ago, I found the social aspect of language learning apps to be super fascinating.

05:05 - And over time the multiplayer aspect of games has always been super important to me, even though I don’t know who any of these users are.

05:13 - It’s amazing to see the simple fact that other people are working on the same things. I am taking steps further along the journey.

05:19 - I am on finding a way to get on the leader board so that they can also see me on the same journey. All of these ideas, engaging mediums sense of progress, social engagement are purely aesthetic. What they impact, however, is how we as humans behave and function gamification itself might be arbitrary. But when we perceive and understand it, we give it a whole new sense of meaning.

05:43 - And when you’re doing something that can be as tedious as learning a language, giving something meaning is very important. However, it does have its dangers in traps, even if done properly.

05:54 - But before we get to that, I want to just take a minute or, and talk about my first impressions of Hey lingo and have a quick peruse around the app. Okay. Change of scene.

06:05 - Going to the past. I haven’t scripted the actual video yet, but I wanted to put in something to capture my first impression.

06:12 - It’s pretty much right away. We have a map of everything.

06:14 - You can come from many different languages, which is great.

06:17 - And tapping on Japanese, for example, will bring you to Japanese, very easy to get back and forth between languages. I love this split of topics.

06:25 - A Ling app does a pretty similar thing where all the topics are split and the lessons you’ve got rewards. You’ve got leaderboards, which I think are great.

06:32 - What’s nice. And I actually pointed this out in one of my, I think my second learning log. If you tap each word here, you can see what it translates to. So study is alone.

06:41 - No of chordoma is children. So alone of child, I liked that it breaks down each part is what I’m trying to get at.

06:50 - So really quickly I’m gonna exit that lesson.

06:52 - You can exit anytime you want six pretends or whatever, I kind of like that you don’t lose progress. Uh, exactly.

06:57 - And then so at the end of each lesson, you can review everything, which is very nice and flashcards are good, but I’ll get to those in a bit.

07:05 - I don’t know how exact again these connections are, but what does she, I don’t really know what the direct translation is, but this breakdown is super nice. So let’s go ahead and jump to front, which is the language I understand a lot better. So you understand me, I’m going to get it wrong. They understand us French is a lot more literal.

07:21 - So you understand. No, unfortunately it doesn’t really have an explanation as to this, but I’m curious if there is one I’m just missing it.

07:28 - And that’s my biggest critique of like all language learning apps, you know, Duolingo has those bubble things, but they’re good, but they’re not thorough, but this app does not appear to have anything like that.

07:42 - I really like how customizable these lessons can be. You know, there’s no instruction of, uh, I mean, no one wants to read about grammar.

07:50 - I really have no expectations of learning apps to really have a, here is how pronouns work. But I would love to see in each of these sections, if it just had like, um, an extra little lesson that taught you the grammar of things, I feel like this could be a lot more useful for adults, for children though.

08:06 - I think it’s fantastic. Or kids or whatever the is wonderful.

08:10 - The sound examples sound great for both Japanese and French.

08:15 - Yes. Yes, huh. Yeah. Okay. I ask him, I suppose, definitely a good tool to use alongside things, especially for Japanese.

08:25 - For example, to learn vocab. I love how the sections are split. I, in terms of using apps alongside everything else is a tool.

08:32 - I love this app because of a, it breaks things down and B it has everything going on.

08:36 - It’s got great voice or audio recording. The options are clear.

08:40 - They’re associated with images here. I can go ahead and practice here at Ghana, like an associate [inaudible] with each of these characters, which is great.

08:47 - And I’m going to assume this is husband and it’s not there.

08:52 - So I can go ahead and look at each part cheerful. Okay.

08:55 - So this is just the sound. Okay. Maybe these breakdowns. Aren’t so great, but it’s still nice to see the separation. Anyway, when you get done, you get little awards. You just saw like I did there. Oh, we have a listen and choose the, oh, hello? Did I miss these? Oh my God. I missed this.

09:13 - Find out which one has been replaced. That’s cool. Filling up.

09:16 - This is a very cool, hold on. Listen and choose the correct English and then listen.

09:20 - And she’s the cook Japanese sentence study. Oginski this guy. Oh, that’s actually awesome.

09:31 - Scott. I don’t know any of these mean specifically work on listening with that.

09:35 - Oh and the, I guess it’s not unlocked, but find out which word has been or missing word in the sentence.

09:41 - [inaudible] yeah, that’s awesome. I like that.

09:46 - It has this breakdown where you can do those specifically. That is very, very nice and leaderboards of timing. You’ve got community stuff here.

09:53 - Looks absolutely fantastic. I love it. Great way to acquire vocab and especially a great way to practice reading and writing. And as I just discovered at the end, they’re a fantastic way to do listening, especially when it’s something like Danish and the language is so different that Jags spoker Hom turns into [inaudible].

10:14 - All right. Then if gamification. Is so great, then why isn’t everybody doing it? Why isn’t it more prevalent in the things that we do if it’s so great for language learning, why doesn’t the us ask people to spend 30 hours a week in language learning apps? Well, I really don’t know on a gamification scale, but when it comes to language learning apps, I have a bit to say about this wonderful ability of turning the arbitrary into meaning.

A while ago, I made a video on how I think you can make the most of language learning apps, which you can find in this video here. So definitely check that out afterwards, but all in all, I don’t think that you should rely on language learning apps alone. However, they do make a great tool.

10:52 - It’s a great way to compete and make progress while having fun.

10:55 - But whether it’s my pet theory of learning underlying linguistics or the advocated method of full immersion, these things can not teach you a language in five minutes a day, as some adverts might have you believe. Additionally, all this stuff I’m talking about is for learning a language as an adult, the whole game changes for kids on one hand apps can be said to have many downfalls like providing you with a certain subset of sentences that overtime you might just learn to memorize.

However, these are merely implemented in gamification earlier.

11:25 - I mentioned that gamification has the wonderful ability to turn the arbitrary into something meaningful.

11:31 - This idea can be dangerous because our incentives can end up being those meaningless things. For example, let’s look at Snapchat.

11:38 - It made me realize that of the four or five streaks that I had with people.

11:42 - Only one of them. I really had consistent conversations with to spell it out.

11:46 - The streets were the only thing I sought to maintain.

11:49 - And when I realized that people would take random pictures and send it to 10 or 30 people just to maintain streaks, it started to really bug me if you want to do this by all means, go for it.

12:00 - But to me, it wasn’t intentional behavior. I would rather maintain a few really strong friendships than dozens of superficial streaks.

12:11 - Anyhow, back to language learning. We can see that a very similar thing happens with streaks iterating. Once again, that tools like Duolingo or hail lingo are just that tools you can easily get caught up in streaks and give yourself a false sense of progress.

12:27 - One of my big critiques about Duolingo is how it can quickly become a game of short-term memorization. And then once you complete a lesson, you get a big flashy notification saying, congratulations, you’ve maintained your streak. Quite frankly, I like that.

12:41 - This is less prevalent in hay lingo because if there’s less of a reliance on a streak and it’s more of just a nice reward, not a main focus, a gamified aspect, such as maintaining a streak should be presented as a secondary reward, not a primary one, like looking at all of the words and phrases you’ve learned and how much you’ve improved over some period of time. Hey, lingo does a great job at that.

13:04 - When it shows you what you went over and its relevance to past efforts.

13:08 - If you don’t engage in the language you are learning and conscientiously improve your mistakes.

13:13 - You can fall into these traps of doing things solely for the superficial reward.

13:17 - If you’re someone with a high streak, take a moment to think about what it might feel like when you lose that streak.

13:23 - I lost a one 90 day Danish streak on Duolingo a while back and with that went my Danish learning. When you lose this streak, you lose the thing that was tracking your progress.

13:34 - And suddenly it seems pointless to try again, certainly it’s not pointless, but just thinking about this in our minds can show us how easy it is to get caught up in these things. And it’s not just streets, it’s levels experience all of your account data. So on and so forth.

13:49 - All in all gamification is a strategy of engagement, but it becomes a dangerous trap when it’s encapsulated within itself.

13:57 - I don’t have the research or knowledge to dig into this more specifically.

14:00 - So feel free to combat me in the description down below, but it is this core idea that to me, in my experience can be one of the most dangerous things about gamification.

14:11 - The idea of giving the arbitrary meaning can be taken too far.

14:14 - So we have to self moderate a little bit. That idea itself kind of covers my main issue with gamification in language learning again as an end user, but it can also make the other things.

14:26 - What I think are also important in language learning, feel a little too boring.

14:30 - If you, again, don’t self moderate. If you get caught up in these aspects of gamification, what happens when you need to sit down and do the nitty-gritty stuff? If you’re so used to translating sentences about horses and ducks, then what happens when you need to try and produce a sentence to a native speaker, but nothing comes out or they don’t understand what you’ve said.

14:50 - What is your reaction when there’s no reward or punishment or feedback of any kind? My small pet theory is that as adults learning the underlying linguistics of a language from what drives the pattern of [inaudible] in French to the myth of the subject list sentence in the zero pronoun in Japanese can help speed up language learning.

15:10 - Now I have no proof for this. Of course, this is what I’m trying on my own adventure with Japanese, but even the most advocated improven immersion techniques discussed needing to learn some of the complex grammar while I’m not saying you have to go look at a textbook. In fact, I don’t think you should look at a textbook in today’s day and age, at least not heavily. I am saying that if you rely on language learning apps, the fun of them might take away the ability to sit down and do the dirty work.

15:36 - Sometimes this video is unavoidably long. So the TLDR is that gamified learning apps are scarily good at abstracting, a deeper level of meaning to a more surface level attention, do this thing to get a streak and not translate this to learn the underlying pattern of that language.

15:53 - All you have to do is self moderate balance your daily, Hey, lingo activities with some reading and writing pronunciation or grammar study.

16:00 - Again, that’s my opinion. And lastly, the third thing that I wanted to present is an idea of mine that I don’t even know if I fully agree with, but that is that gamification might be limiting.

16:11 - If I think that linguistics is super important to understand, especially the linguistics of your target language, then trying to game-ify that teaching someone the difference between transitive intransitive and dye transitive verbs through gamification seems like something that would be really hard to do. On one hand, I taught myself to pronounce hiragana and Katakana.

16:31 - Two of Japanese is writing systems in about three or so weeks, and now I can do it pretty comfortably without references. On the other hand, Duolingo is intro lessons allow you to do four or five content a day, and it will take awhile for you to memorize them. Then on the flip side of that, you have Hey lingo, which jumps right into full sentences.

16:51 - So being able to balance this idea of here are the full sentences, and then I will teach myself how to pronounce them on the side.

16:58 - I think you can find a very happy medium, but teaching you to pronounce things and teaching you the nuances of grammar is something that I think would be really hard to game-ify is gamification limiting. I have no idea.

17:11 - My only question is where is gamification is limit? When does gamifying something clash with the inherent difficulty of something in the case of languages? What happens when verbs becomes so complex? You have no choice, but to try and explain them again to an adult, or when sentences become so long that implicit memorization, something that someone might have gotten used to over the course of several levels can no longer work.

17:38 - I have spent. More time on this video talking about the traps of gamification, supposedly as a warning, maybe I’m biased, but gamification is something that really works at the end of the day.

17:48 - Board games and video games have brought something invaluable to the table.

17:52 - And it’s wonderful that people have brought that into the educational sphere.

17:56 - I have no argument against gamification simply how we use it because we do have to moderate ourselves.

18:02 - A game of vacation is built to take advantage of human behavior.

18:06 - So simply be mindful of that. It’s a wonderful engaging tool, and it’s great to keep kids learning when they are driven by behavior, more so than adults. And when you have an app like, Hey lingo with it’s fun characters, a great graphics, wonderfully friendly interface.

18:21 - It can be a fantastic thing to give to a kid to keep them learning when they don’t even realize it in language learning, gamification is great to get you involved, but without spending the time to learn, to read and write, to produce and interpret language on your own, what was I even say? Nevermind, someone just yelled. That’s fun. Love this. Great.

18:55 - This is wonderful. Honking will do nothing to change the situation.

19:02 - Gamification is wonderful to get you involved, but without doing the nitty gritty stuff, like learning how to speak and write how to produce language and interpret language respectively on your own, your language learning journey will be longer than you want it to be five minutes a day will not teach you a language, but it will be a great way to build a consistent habit. All right, this is where the final review it comes in because I was reached out in the context of Duolingo versus Rosetta stone.

19:37 - I want them to use this wonderful rubric, but on a very much less specific scale, because I don’t want to evaluate this against Duolingo or was that a stone? I haven’t been using it nearly as heavily. So using hay lingo, um, as much as I have, it’s been a great tool to use. I have changed quite a bit, uh, as a person over the last two years as a linguist and more specifically as someone who learns languages. So my emphasis on apps has become much less.

20:03 - So the lighter scale here, instead of using these, these arbitrary ish points that I have, which weren’t arbitrary once upon a time, we’re just going to say very poor.

20:13 - Okay. Pretty well. And very well, this little mini four point scale, I suppose I am learning Japanese.

20:19 - So most of my time spent these last two months or so has been learning content.

20:23 - If you want to check out my learning logs, you can in that playlist in the top right corner. So use of English.

20:27 - This is all about how reliant in app is on English.

20:30 - If I go ahead and I look at the SNO phrasebook or something, something I would consider very poor is if they showed the English and then said, translate this. So I’m going to say this was pretty mad.

20:44 - 2. 5, if you will, pretty average use of English.

20:46 - I don’t think this is a horrible use of it. It’s not very reliant on it, which is good.

20:51 - Especially the fact that there are little activities here where you can just listen to Japanese and it doesn’t always rely on English, which is the best thing, kind of hard for an app to not use English. But yeah, it’s, you know, it’s pretty good listening activities. I will give a four.

21:03 - I think the audio clips are really good from what I remember.

21:05 - Duolingo audio was not great. It’s probably improved in the last two years.

21:09 - I don’t know. The audio is very adaptive to your learning style.

21:12 - I think it’s very clear the fact that there’s a female voice and a male voice there is to me a big deal simply because it shows they put effort into it. It’s very clear.

21:22 - I can identify, Hey, that goes with this kind of all that fun stuff.

21:25 - So I think the listening easy for reading segments, um, I’m going to give it, I guess like a, a one there aren’t really any reading segments, so it’s kind of an [inaudible], but as far as I know, there are more features coming to the app. Again, it’s not really present in the app. So N a one, two freshness, another four here. I’m a really big fan of how they’ve organized. This.

21:47 - The problem that I noticed with Duolingo was that when you got a lesson wrong and I kind of touched upon this in the main body of the video, it would go to the end of your queue.

21:54 - And you could kind of just remember what it was.

21:57 - So you didn’t really learn anything. You just got a little memory test.

22:00 - You can specifically review that, which you were having trouble with and you can see what is especially difficult, which I think is fantastic. And additionally, to freshness, additionally, to the whole game of, I think there are so many ways you can learn and I love that you can really explicitly choose that. I haven’t really seen that.

22:19 - Duolingo is always a mish-mash Rosetta stone. Doesn’t have that at all.

22:23 - Really vocab recall. This is one of those things where I’m going to give it a four, but I’d also give other language learning apps a four simply because I think that’s one of the strongest things about language learning, app learning vocab.

22:34 - I think the way that they do vocab in this is very good. You’re taught words, you’re taught phrases. And most importantly, uh, so going into Japanese, you have some wonderful categories.

22:45 - And this was something I noticed in my first impressions was the spread of categories. I love it very easy to find various things. And lastly, language retained, uh, and they here, I haven’t noticed anything because I haven’t been using it that heavily.

22:57 - So I haven’t gotten too far into it. Plus my view on this would kind of be skewed because I’m not just using this app to learn Japanese.

23:05 - That’s my little compared to my Duolingo versus Rosetta stone, but not really because that was two years ago.

23:11 - And everything’s changed some quick notes. Is that all in all? I love it.

23:16 - Uh, I’m super lucky. They reached out to me at first. I was kind of like, oh, you know, this is really, it’s very kid-friendly, which is a very good thing, but it looks good. It sounds good. It’s easy to use.

23:27 - I think it’s much more beneficial now than when I first started using it because I can read, get a Ghana and got to kinda pretty well in terms of like, not read, sorry, pronounced.

23:37 - I can look at it and I’ll have to look it up again more on that in my learning logs, if you’re curious every other Saturday.

23:42 - So the fact that you don’t have to do Roman characters, very helpful.

23:45 - I like that it sets new goals along the way up here in the corner.

23:48 - My next goal is 50 words. Cause I’ve only learned 23.

23:51 - Most of my time has just been experimenting.

23:53 - And I’ve also looked at the French and Danish to poke around a lot.

23:55 - Their French is just as extensive as Japanese, just as extensive as Danish.

23:59 - And if you look on their website, there’s a whole team of people for each of the languages. So yeah, my final overall review is that, Hey, lingo does not seem to lose itself in being something that is an all-in-one encapsulated tool.

24:10 - This can be because my view is skewed or they’ve just done something very well that I haven’t noticed yet in other apps, based on this video, that’s kind of what my bias would be. But also this is the most gamey, not gamified, but DME platform.

24:24 - So it’s know something that’s super kid-friendly when you get to a lesson, like I still feel frustrated, but it’s more of a frustration of, oh, come on mark. Like, you know this rather than, oh, they showed this one at the beginning of the lesson, but I got it wrong. Uh, I don’t remember what it was.

24:38 - I would say that it’s format on a very objective level is very similar to Rosetta stone from the four options, for many things in the way that the lessons are ordered, but it’s much more aesthetically pleasing, but also I put a lot of importance on immersion and linguistic study.

24:55 - So using this as a tool has been absolutely fantastic because again, it’s, it’s a much more fun aspect of my general study. Again, not sponsored by Hey lingo to give me a free subscription though.

25:05 - So I’ll leave a link in the description down below.

25:07 - If you want to check it out for the free plan, you get five minutes a day, which I think is a great starter to get yourself warmed up.

25:13 - Especially if you’re looking to build a language running habit, whether it be Hey lingo or whatever, just start with five minutes a day.

25:19 - You definitely can’t learn a language in five minutes a day.

25:22 - That’s why I have such a big problem with some very big names that advertise that, but it’s a great way to build a habit. Anyway, let’s wrap up this whole video.

25:32 - So yeah. There it is with all the dangers of arbitrariness and how gamification can make that meaningful.

25:38 - One of the important things is that gamification can be hidden or it can be very, very apparent. The design and aesthetics of Hey lingo, don’t really hide it.

25:47 - And I think that’s a really strong thing because it feels like you’re playing a game the whole time, even though it’s a great tool, it feels like less of one.

25:55 - So therefore, you know, it’s a game and you know that at some point you do have to do the nitty gritty.

26:01 - It’s not trying to be a replacement for the nitty gritty. Anyway, thanks for sticking with me throughout this video. I do appreciate it.

26:08 - And I’d love to hear any and all thoughts, questions, comments, and concerns in the comments down below.

26:13 - If you’re curious about language learning and how my self-experiment with my pet theory of linguistics is going, you can find my Japanese language learning log in the top right corner.

26:22 - And if anything has helped you in this video, let me know.

26:24 - And if anything has helped you in your own language learning journey, I’d love to hear it because I’m always ears and eyes open to other strategies.

26:33 - Nonetheless, thank you so much for watching yet again, have a good one and as always, don’t forget to stay awesome and keep learning. See you next week. .