Q. Are Language Learning Video games designed to replace the foreign language classroom? What is the role of the teacher?
While it is possible to extend self-learning pedagogy to create modified video games that work well as stand-alone activities, The Sims 2 would be an extremely poor choice for this. The strength of The Sims 2, is that the game itself does not have any prescribed goal or directions. Thus, the teacher has the opportunity to use the game as an authoring tools to construct their own directed activities. Using modified data files, students can then choose to continue exploring the game or extend the assignments for homework depending on their personal engagement level with the game and learning preferences.
Q. Are any Foreign Language Classrooms Actually Using The Sims 2?
Q. The modding video talks a lot about vocabulary. Is this just about vocabulary? Can other skills be taught?
The modding process described focuses on making the game itself teach the students reading and vocabulary simply by playing it naturally. Skills like writing and conversation are done through activities facilitated by the teacher. Thus, by itself the modded game will teach some reading and vocabulary; with the aid of a teacher it will teach all skills.
Q. By using video games, aren't we just catering to the boy students at the expense of the girl students?
Games like The Sims 2 actually have a more female players than male.
Q. Where can I download files?
Useable (not complete, but modded enough to be useable in a classroom setting) datafiles for German classrooms are available for download here. If you are interested in other languages, please email me ravi(at)mit(dot)edu to be put in touch with other people interested in the same language as you.
Q. I own the English version of the game, how can change it to be in a foreign language?
First download the above files, then follow these directions (just the top half).
Q. What about assessment?
Assessment should be conducted in the same manner you would conduct any other content-based instruction lesson, simply using the video game as the content. For example, you might have students produce an in-game scrap book documenting the lives of their Sims in the L2. Alternatively, you could give students guidelines in the L2 about the kind of house they need to design, then grade students according to how well their house conforms to those guidelines. In essence, playing The Sims 2 to should not be thought of as a passive experience in which students then need an external assessment measure. Rather, we should think of playing The Sims 2 as a series of activities centered around creating different scenarios and telling stories. Assessment, then, should be focused on evaluating what students create.
Q. What about listening and speaking?
See above answer. The Sims 2 provides numerous in-game options for promoting reading and writing. Like when working with books, listening and speaking are facilitated through classroom activities structured around game content. For advanced students it is possible to include create movie clips and then narrate voices for them -- however, this requires modest technical proficiency and generally would be presented as one possible option for more eager students.
For video games intrinsically focused on listening and speaking, see The Grim Fandango project.
Q. I need to take my game to a conference. Will my students be able to play without the CD?
Q. How do I get accents in the biographies?
Use these directions to install international keyboard support on your computer (PC directions only). Then simply type an apostrophe before whichever vowel you would like to accent in the sims.
Q. Can students working at different computers still interact with the characters their classmates have created?
The simplest way is to have people use the same computer at different times, however, if you are using different computers it is possible for students to export their assets for other students to incorporate. The proper way is to use the Sims Exchange center (see "Can I connect with the French Community" below for other languages). You could also try copying the appropriate files directly (backup all files first). On the P.C. they reside in "My Documents\EA Games\The Sims 2\Neighborhoods". You can use SimPE to see which files are which.
Q. The Sims can not be very tall or very short, very large or very thin? (some students created weird characters)
If you need to create odd shaped characters (i.e. if you need to create characters that match a story students read) it is possible to do so using external tools. However this requires technical proficiency and considerable time spent on tasks not conducive to language learning. As such, students in a class hoping to use simple in-game tools are limited to a normal range of body shapes.
Q. What kind of language do the SIMS speak? The students almost are convinced they speak French which is hilarious if they think they can
recognize French words!
The Sims speak a fictional gibberish known as "Simlish"
Q. The sims do not have a sexual orientation, just a gender? Some students are telling me their Sim is "gay" or "lesbian" an interesting topic for gender studies!
Initially the Sims start with no sexual orientation -- that is, the players do not specify a sexual orientation when creating their character. However, through the choices a player makes and the interactions between same-gendered Sims that a player directs their Sims to perform, more game options become available which could be characteristic of a gay or lesbian Sim.
Fansites are available in multiple languages using the menu on the left here.
Q. My goal is to get talking with French students/people about their characters etc in French online with webcams etc. It would be better if they could create a more realistic French neighborhood like a parisian or provence or alsace etc but gosh that would be a lot of work!! Same with food items, objects, etc.
It is possible to create custom food items, objects and neighborhoods, but it is a lot of work. Ultimately if more classrooms use The Sims 2 and could create objects to share and discuss with one another this could be easier.