Episode 15 – “Language Learning through Digital Games” by Meghan McGinley

How can games help someone learn a second language? Vanderbilt graduate student Meghan McGinley was interested in exploring that question this past spring. Meghan, who is pursuing a PhD in French with a certificate in Second Language Studies, was a student in a course on second language acquisition taught by my Center for Teaching colleague Stacey Margarita Johnson. Stacey regularly asks the students in her graduate courses to conduct interviews with language teachers or language learning experts. Meghan was planning to do her semester project on that question – How can games help someone learn a second language? – so for her interview, she reached out to University of Arizona linguistics professor Jonathan Reinhardt, who had recently published a scholarly book on games and language learning.

Meghan’s interview with Professor Reinhardt covers a lot of ground, from his path into game studies, to the problems when we think of work and play as two separate things, to the connection between Harry Potter and a 1961 book on games by a French sociologist. Stacey Johnson found the interview so interesting that she featured it on her podcast, We Teach Languages, and we’re excited to feature it here on VandyVox, too.

Stacey Johnson launched We Teach Languages, a podcast about language teaching featuring the diverse voices of language teachers, in 2017 as an offshoot of her courses. For a few years now, Stacey has been asking her students to conduct interviews with language educators. The interview assignment comes fairly early in the course, around the third week, so that Stacey can then use her students’ interviews throughout the course in conversation with the course readings. The interviews were so useful to her students that she was inspired to share the best of the interviews with the wider language teaching community. That led her to create We Teach Languages, which has now posted 115 episodes.

Stacey does a lot of the interviews for We Teach Languages, but she also accepts contributions from colleagues and regularly features the best of her students’ interviews. For instance, Meghan McGinley’s interview on language learning through games was featured in Episode 96. Stacey has written a really thoughtful blog post on her interview assignment, how it led to the creation of her podcast, and how her podcast continues to inform and enhance her teaching. If you’re interested in audio assignments in your teaching, or if you’re a language teacher, it’s recommended reading.