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PhD Student Uses Minecraft to Teach Japanese Language

by Ron Duwell | May 13, 2014May 13, 2014 8:30 pm PDT

Kotoba Miners (1)

Now I am convinced that you really can use Minecraft for just about anything. In an extensive interview with Tofugu, English teacher and PhD student at a Japanese University James Yolk explains how he built an entire JLPT Level 5 class, the most basic Japanese level, called “Kotoba Miners” using the interactive world of Minecraft.

Instead of lecturing and teaching in a traditional sense, normal lessons see Yolk and his students all sign into a Minecraft server and interact with one another through TeamSpeak. Once in game, they will discuss objects and items found in the game using common Japanese grammar and vocabulary, and they will always review what they discovered in the previous lesson.

Kotoba Miners (4)

His curriculum can be found split up into different “language buildings” he has set up on his server, and it follows that of the Genki books used by most beginners and colleges around the world. Executive Video Game Editor Joey Davidson and myself both have extensive experience with this series of books.

Yolk, inspired by his experiences of learning Japanese through World of Warcraft, will also set his students loose in the world and force them to survive two days of Minecraft time. While surviving, students are also given a list of objectives written in Japanese that they must accomplish over the two days, and after the class reconvenes, everyone will use basic Japanese grammar learned to discuss each other’s experiences.

Kotoba Miners (2)

Yolk has even designed a level called the “Ice Palace” which forces students to communicate in Japanese if they want to complete it.

Students have given the class nothing but praise.

Kotoba Miners the community enhances the language learning experience in every way, and I honestly can’t think of a better resource. Most of all for me is that it keeps me motivated, and I can say for sure I wouldn’t still be studying Japanese if I didn’t come across Kotoba.”

It’s a fascinating interview which makes me want to check out Yolk’s class. Unfortunately, he only has a class for beginner’s Japanese at the moment, but he is looking into ways of using Minecraft to teach kanji, something I’d be totally down for. Plus, he is reaching out for teachers of other languages to expand his idea.

Minecraft Japanese

Information on signups for future classes can be found at the official webpage, and a new class will actually be starting in June. Fees range from $20 for the monthly course, meaning roughly four classes once every Tuesday, to $149 for the full course.

Anybody interested in learning the basics of Japanese want to give this a try?

Kotoba Miner Tofugu

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Ron Duwell

Ron has been living it up in Japan for the last decade, and he has no intention of leaving this technical wonderland any time soon. When he's not...


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