Learn to speak Japanese by playing Minecraft

Kotoba Miners aims to teach through play.

James York, an English teacher and PhD student researching language learning in virtual worlds, is teaching Japanese online by using Minecraft.

The class, which he calls Kotoba Miners, takes place on a dedicated Minecraft server which contains several structures built for different learning activities.

Different buildings off of “University Road” contain different exercises that encourage students to read and and speak Japanese together. For example, in the “Ice Palace,” players must communicate in order navigate a series of pressure plates correctly. If they take a wrong step a trap will activate and kill the player.

York told Tofugu in an interview that he became interested in learning languages in virtual communities when he joined a Japanese World of Warcraft guild in 2006. He started the Minecraft server as a tool to teach English to Japanese students by getting them to interact with English speakers, but when the class ended and the Japanese students left, the English speakers stayed and wanted to learn Japanese.

“I experimented with a number of virtual worlds and games as part of my research,” York told Tofugu. “I rejected MMOs for lack of control over content and their often extremely specialized discourse (e.g. ‘Prot Warrior LFG SFK pst’). I also rejected a lot of social worlds (i.e. Second Life) for their painful aesthetics, controls and distance between user and content-creator. Minecraft is simple. Controls, aesthetics, and gameplay. This means that you spend less time learning how to navigate the game and more time learning and focusing on language.”

You can find out more about the class and how to join on Kotoba Miners’ official site.

Emanuel Maiberg is a freelance writer. You can follow him on Twitter @emanuelmaiberg and Google+.

Got a news tip or want to contact us directly? Email news@gamespot.com

Written By

Emanuel Maiberg is a freelance writer in search of the Citizen Kane of burritos.

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Discussion

76 comments
codyko2
codyko2

SIGN ME UP!!! I SO WANT TO USE THIS!!

Holy-Rapture
Holy-Rapture

Couldn't get into Minecraft but maybe I'll pick it up now if this is any good. Been wanting to learn Japanese ^_^

dipdish
dipdish

Please edit your text. "players must communicate in order navigate a series of pressure plates correctly."

Rennik_Repotsir
Rennik_Repotsir

Interesting... I want to learn Tagalog, Mandarin and Japanese; however, I never played Minecraft...

freedom01
freedom01 moderator

As a Japanese guy, I want to see how they are using Minecraft to teach Japanese. Also I think this makes it more entertaining to learn

jessie82
jessie82

ive really been wanting to learn japanese but i cant stand minecraft anymore..

Dannystaples14
Dannystaples14

Please don't scroll below me. Someone has taken an article about learning Japanese on a gaming site and turned it into a discussion of genocide and war brutality. For your own sanity.

freedom01
freedom01 moderator moderator

Interesting , for those that have short attention spam, this might keep them interested

thermalmotion
thermalmotion

Interesting, I've always wanted to learn Japanese! Unfortunately I've never wanted to play Minecraft.

Articuno76
Articuno76

I'm curious to see how this will work as videogames are one of the most enduring/motivating mediums/aides to help people learn Japanese.

liquidbutter
liquidbutter

That's silly. Americans learn all their Japanese from anime. Kawaii otaku, Gamespot-san! ^_^ hehehe, OHHHH :O

wa128
wa128

Japanese is an unimportant language... Learn English, Spanish and Chinese

StickyJr1
StickyJr1

@dipdish It's almost like you think this site publishes news about people learning languages...

xantufrog
xantufrog

@wa128 or learn whatever you want for whatever reasons you might have - be it a new Japanese friend or an interest in their cinema or...

Articuno76
Articuno76

@wa128 Hindi as well. People forget just how widely Hindi is understood thanks to the influence of Bollywood in the Indo-Asian area. Anywhere there are Indian sub-continent minorities you'll probably be understood.

enoughofthis
enoughofthis

@wa128  why learn spanish .....i can see importance of chinese and english but spanish lawl

Sevenizz
Sevenizz

Was just about to say that.

vadagar1
vadagar1

@strangelove_1 as the future ruler of earth I suggest you stow that hate until you die, I dont need stone age apes running around my empire 


long live humanity

freedom01
freedom01 moderator

@strangelove_1 The only racist person I see around here would be you

Darth_Tyrranus
Darth_Tyrranus

@strangelove_1 As a resident of Japan, I have to say that I think you are off on some counts.  Certainly Japan had an atrocious history of human rights violations during World War II, and it is inexcusable.  It shocks me to this day that the prime minister and some other politicians still pray at the Yasakuni Shrine, especially considering what a foreign policy nightmare it creates.  However, I do think most people in Japan have changed, and it would be a far cry to call them xenophobes.  Japanese people in general are far more polite and considerate than most of their neighboring countries.  During my time in Japan, I've only met one person who I would say is outright racist, and even then he was a pretty friendly guy, to me at least.  If I had to think of one of the main problems in Japanese society today, I would have to say that sexism is a far bigger problem in Japan than racism.  In fact, I've been shocked how much Japanese people will go out of their way to help a foreigner like me, even though they don't know me at all.  I really think that if you spent some time in Japan, your perceptions of Japanese people would be changed.

kouji03
kouji03

@strangelove_1  wow almost every country has its own dark past but people change, thanks for the input anyway.

packtop
packtop

@strangelove_1

And American didn't kill million of peoples during the war and with the atomic bombs that's still killing peoples nowaday because of the radiation.

freedom01
freedom01 moderator

No, was born in the states and kept on moving around from place to place due to my fathers job, but I would definitely want to live there when I get the chance. My Japanese might not be perfect since I cant read kanji, but I can speak fluently and read the basic hiragana and katakana and the most basic kanji

Shadowdanc3r
Shadowdanc3r

@enoughofthis @wa128 If you live in America, the Spanish language can be a great asset for job seekers, it's the most spoken non-English language in the US and the number of speakers are set to continue to grow.

mygiboxatgmail
mygiboxatgmail

@enoughofthis @wa128why spanish? its just one of the most common languages you will hear if you travel around but who cares I live in a honky town and not planning to go out anytime soon right ?   O.o

strangelove_1
strangelove_1

@vadagar1

I suggest you see a therapist about those delusions of grandeur...

strangelove_1
strangelove_1

@Darth_Tyrranus

Yes and those are the politicans they vote for and even the mayor of Tokyo has publicly denied the rapeof Nanking calling it "propaganda" and called the forced sex slavery the IJA commited in WW2 a "voluntary service".

Also I have lived in Japan and they are only nice to rich white westerners but all because they act nice does not mean they are without prejudice, if you were poor and trying to make a living there as a non-japanese you would see a much much different side

strangelove_1
strangelove_1

@kouji03

Please the Japnese havent changed they were just beaten. Givin the chance they would do it all over again.

Llama345
Llama345

@packtop  That is stupid. It was either drop the bomb or spend another 5 years wasting lives of a bunch of other countries. Japan wasn't even going to surrender after the first one. 

strangelove_1
strangelove_1

@packtop

Yes the US bombed Japan it was a war but the US unlike the Japanese never murdered people just for the sake of brutality. Big difference.

Darth_Tyrranus
Darth_Tyrranus

@strangelove_1 @Darth_Tyrranus No, you are racist for making blanket statements about Japanese people like "Japanese people are xenophobes who would commit atrocities just like WWII again if given the chance."

strangelove_1
strangelove_1

@xantufrog

At least the Germans have tried to own up to their crimes, Japanese have not. So no I dont hate the Germans becuase they actually regret the crimes unlike the Japanese.

Until the Yasakuni Shrine is demolished and Japan makes denial of the war crimes commited illegal and issues a formal apology to China  and pays reparations to survivors they should be held fully accountable for their crimes commited in WW2.

strangelove_1
strangelove_1

@Darth_Tyrranus

Im racist for stating historical facts now? So guess jewswho talk about the holocaust are being racist against germans then huh?

Darth_Tyrranus
Darth_Tyrranus

@strangelove_1 @Darth_Tyrranus I'm going to have to disagree with you.  I'm anything but rich, and I'm trying to make a living here, but I haven't had any significant problems with racism.  Also, a number of my friends here are black, and they don't have your negative outlook on the country either. 


I have no defense of Japan's conduct during WWII.  It is inexcusable, and it is frustrating how Japanese politicians sometimes try to revise history as a way of saving face.  However, from what I understand about Japanese politics, there just aren't any good political candidates to choose from to begin with, so what can you do?  It's just like the last presidential election in the US.  When you have two duds like Obama and Romney, what can you possibly do about it?


As a final note, it's funny how you come here to complain about racism, but in the process you end up coming across as just as racist as the people you are complaining about.

xantufrog
xantufrog

@strangelove_1 All I want to say is if you think Americans don't harbor disgusting racist thoughts you haven't lived here long enough. I've lived in urban and rural areas in all parts of this country and am pleased to report we are a largely friendly and caring people with strong community values in most areas. However, there are a lot of bad eggs out there too. I say "get over it" to your outrage that someone would want to learn Japanese. If you hate them then you should also hate Germans, and Germans are great folks

CommandoAgent
CommandoAgent

@strangelove_1 @kouji03 Yeah the Japanese were beaten after you fascists dropped two nuclear nukes on innocent civilians and thus to still this day your using the same tactics elsewhere.

CommandoAgent
CommandoAgent

@strangelove_1 "Can you show me where Americans outright murdered millions of people in cold blood for only the sake of brutality?"

Iraq should that let ring a bell already? oh wait what about the Christians that you murdered and sided with Islamists in Bosnia?

strangelove_1
strangelove_1

@Bowser05

Can you show me where Americans outright murdered millions of people in cold blood for only the sake of brutality? Or tortured POWs or took woman as sex slaves? Didnt think so. American soldiers did their best not only to do no harm but to help civilians whenever possible.

Bombing in war is not a crime especially when your country did not start it. Genocide, looting and rapee is.

Bowser05
Bowser05

@Sevenizz  So Pearl Harbor justifies us launching nuclear strikes against the enemy? Pearl Harbor was short-term damage...nukes are long-term. That being said, not country is perfect, and this argument disgusts me. We have our share of nasty things we've done...we merely do most of it under the table. No country is a saint, as somebody put it. We all have our darkness within. Hell the wars we are currently fighting are for extremely immoral reasons. But that's ok, because as long as you are able to pick apart Japan specifically, then we are absolved of all of our sins. ::rolls eyes:

Sevenizz
Sevenizz

Pearl Harbor says hello. Thousands murdered by the Japanese while America was asleep.

#never forget

Articuno76
Articuno76

@strangelove_1 @kouji03You might want to read Crichton's book "Rising Sun" (from the same author as Jurassic Park) which discusses war by proxy of hostile takeovers. Take note on how insane and farfetched it seems today.

kouji03
kouji03

@strangelove_1 @kouji03  whatever dude japan never apologize and yasakuni was built for thos class A war criminal i agree now thanks 

kouji03
kouji03

@strangelove_1 @kouji03  no what was the real reason for it? and go search ww2 japanese apologize something you might see things at least not something from your ass or comment section from your racist websites 


strangelove_1
strangelove_1

@kouji03

Yes its a shrine where the ashs of class A war ciminals who were hung by Americans for genocide that Japanese hold sacred. Its basically the equivalent of a shrine to Hitlerr.

kouji03
kouji03

@strangelove_1  yasakuni shrine? you dont even know what that is for man :( at least google things man its so easy to google... never apologized? LOL 

strangelove_1
strangelove_1

@kouji03

So tell me where is the US shrine to the sand creek massacre that our president prays to? hmmm?

kouji03
kouji03

@strangelove_1 @kouji03  whatever dude  you were comparing reason now you are comparing number LOL "but the US unlike the Japanese never murdered people just for the sake of brutality. Big difference"

strangelove_1
strangelove_1

@kouji03

NM because you are comparing a rogue army detachment in the US killing a few dozen indians 200 years ago with the deliberate genocide of millions committed by the Japanese in WW2 of which they still have not even so much as apologized in fact they even built a shrine to honer the people who did it.

kouji03
kouji03

@strangelove_1  nvm im argueing in a gaming site kinda stupid sorry.  off topic 

kouji03
kouji03

@strangelove_1 @kouji03  umm read about your own history damn it i didnt grow in japan so i dont know much about them but you have your own damn share of massacre.



"Yes the US bombed Japan it was a war but the US unlike the Japanese never murdered people just for the sake of brutality. Big difference."  

sand creek massacre is an example

Smosh150
Smosh150

@Llama345 @packtop  Indeed, the Atomic bombs dropped on Nagasaki and Hiroshima were not even the pivotal of death and destruction then. The US firebombing had destroyed more of Japan's cities and killed more than both of the atomic bombs, the atomic bombs were pretty much just to show that we didn't need to invade to destroy the Japanese. Though tbh I don't know if the Japanese could have held out for 5 years especially since the Russians were about to join the US in an invasion of Japan(a lot of hate between Japan and Russia at the time), Hirohito was already considering surrender before the atomic bombs were dropped, it was just that last nail in the coffin.

Smosh150
Smosh150

Damn editing time, anyways to add to the Japanese they were pretty brutal, especially with the war in china, now that was something that was really disgusting, but my point to all that was is that no country that participated in WW2 was innocent and that the US did commit brutal warcrimes.

Smosh150
Smosh150

@strangelove_1 @packtop  What are you talking about? US soldiers brutally killed Japanese soldiers when they tried to surrender due to them not being able to trust them even if they were sincere about their surrender and because of the Batan Death March. Now Japan I will admit were way more brutal than the US to both POW's and civilians on the Pacific Islands, but the US did kill many out of brutality. Outside of the Pacific theater the US did commit warcrimes as well, mainly against POW's, pretty much every country during WW2 committed brutal warcrimes, no country was innocent, just the defeated countries are the only ones that really seemed to matter to everyone once the war was over.