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A web game called Cantr II (or just Cantr) is not like many web based games: it's text-based, very slow paced, and there's no official "goal"---you just interact with other characters. The idea is to play your character consistently and create an interesting storyline.

The game world is ongoing. There are no levels, quests, or Out of Character achievements for you as a player. It’s not a game to win. Your characters take part in and contribute to a living history.

According to its webzine post Cantr Language Learning:

Players ... with a reasonable grasp of a foreign language can easily increase their vocabulary in the foreign language and improve their language skills. The slow-paced nature of the game means that it is ideally suited for this purpose ...

I'm tempted to create a Cantr character for Chinese and see what happens. But maybe this is just a waste of time. (Unfortunately the Chinese language area stopped spawning 10 years ago; post. It seems I'm a little late. Oh well.)

Question: Is the online role-playing game Cantr II much use for language learning?

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(I'm the author of the Cantr Webzine post you quoted)

I've been using Cantr to practice Spanish and later Portuguese. You're supposed to have at least some working knowledge of the language, so that's one thing, and there are plans to better define this and encourage language learning.

Survey of Players

Seeing this as a good opportunity to get insight from players on their use of Cantr to learn languages, I just surveyed players and got back 167 responses. About 24% said thay play Cantr in a language other than their own.

Future languages

There was quite a variety of responses in terms of languages people would be interested in playing that they don't currently. I don't see Chinese, but if even one other person can be found (to have someone else to speak with) that may be enough to open the language again, as well as others.

Concerns

There are two main concerns among players that discourage them from playing a character in another language.

  1. Don't know the language well enough to communicate or understand well.
  2. Lack of time to dedicate to play in another language.

Other concerns:

  • Lack of translations for things in the game. Just this week I had an idea to help with that- we may be able to use automatic translation until volunteers (players) review and correct the translations (note that Cantr is completely run by volunteers).
  • Enough other players to practice the language with.

Positive things expressed by players

  • Seeing examples of language use by natives, and practicing with natives.
  • Learning by exposure to the language where your character meets other characters of that language. Someone expressed that this experience encouraged them to learn a new language.
  • The multi-lingual dictionaries created in game for characters (and their players) to use.
  • Being able to practice Esperanto and Lojban, whereas it's relatively hard to find such opportunities elsewhere.
  • Interacting with people of other cultures.

Conclusion

The effectiveness of Cantr to learn languages, as with language learning in general, depends much on the effort an individual puts into it, as well as the activity of other players. But Cantr does provide a slow-paced way to practice language and to have something interesting to talk about due to the society simulation aspect. Content and society is created completely by the players, so it's not just translations you're looking at, in terms of notes written by characters, etc. in addition to the translated mechanics of the game and many technical terms.

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I am not familiar with Cantr, but I introduced my son when he was a kid to the game "Civilization". It is also slow (single game can take weeks, and after you lose, it makes you wonder if you would be better off investing in a different technology at certain inflexion points), has extensive technology development tree and encyclopedia, not the usual "slash and kill" game. It is more "resource allocation and planning" game, and player needs to read a lot to understand how to exploit the resources in full.

I did notice that he learned new words, and when I asked where he learned them from, answer was "Civilization".

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