How to pilot a spaceship — en français
You’re driving a spaceship that’s about to crash into the sun, and the only way to save yourself is by shouting instructions to your teammates.
That’s the intentionally absurd concept behind a new language-learning game developed by Denis Liakin, chair of the Département d’études françaises, in collaboration with professors David Waddington and Walcir Cardoso from the Department of Education.
“This is completely in line with all we do (in the department) to help students master the French language, and with David and Walcir’s research into the effects of gaming on learning,” Liakin says.
Launching November 9, Astronautes FLS (français langue seconde) is a multiplayer mobile game. Teams of 2 to 4 individuals can play using their phones or tablets, connected by Bluetooth and WiFi networks. Designed to enhance players’ basic knowledge of French, the game is available for free download in the App Store and the Google Play Store and is classroom-ready.
“For our students, knowledge of French is essential if they want to fully participate in the cultural and economic dynamism of Montréal and Québec,” Liakin says.
He hopes the game will help international and out-of-province students flourish within the Francophone milieu by enriching their vocabulary and improving their comprehension skills and pronunciation.
“Digital gaming has been expanding in popularity. This game, presented in a mobile format, has the potential to offer the same benefits of digital gaming while also maintaining the portability and accessibility attributes of mobile devices.”
Astronautes FLS is based on Spaceteam ESL, an English-language learning game created two years ago by Waddington and Cardoso, which is itself based on the hit multiplayer game Spaceteam by Sleeping Beast Games.
Launched in September 2015, Spaceteam ESL currently has well over 100,000 downloads.
A different classroom experience
Astronautes FLS is designed to transform the classroom experience, putting nervous language learners at ease while they are concentrating on playing the game.
“No one's keeping score in Astronautes FLS — everyone is just cooperating on this compelling but slightly ridiculous task,” Waddington explains.
To facilitate learning, the goal is for players to become so focused on trying to stay alive in the game that they forget its educational context.
In keeping with the game’s lighthearted approach, random word lists generate often-ridiculous word combinations. A sample word combo? “Démarrez le train important.”
Another added bonus is that players can adjust the speed of the game according to their comfort level with the French language.
Astronautes’s creators are hoping teachers will use the game in their classrooms, and students and parents will download it so they can continue playing at home.