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Students at SLU Are Learning Italian by Playing ‘Assassin’s Creed II’

A professor at Saint Louis University is using video games to teach language skills to students.

Simone Bregni, Ph.D., started playing games in 1975 when he was 12, according to a press release. During the mid-’80s, he realized playing text adventures helped him learn English. That revelation inspired his research and teaching methods, along with work he did for a leading Italian video game publication in the 1990s.

He recently received a fellowship grant from SLU’s Reinert Center for Transformative Teaching and Learning to develop a language course based entirely on gaming. The class, called Intensive Italian for Gamers, reportedly provided students with two semesters worth of language acquisition over the course of a single fall semester. By the final, they were three to five points ahead of students who attended a traditional Italian course.

Bregni uses video games to reinforce vocabulary and grammar and teach students to problem solve in a foreign language. He’s utilized a variety of titles in the classroom, including “Final Fantasy,” “Heavy Rain, and “Rise of the Tomb Raider,” but he said “Assassin’s Creed II” is one of the most useful.

“In my Italian Renaissance literature course, for example, students explore Florence as it flourished under the Medici by playing ‘Assassin’s Creed II,'” Bregni said in a paper published in “Profession.” “My 21st-century American students partake in the life of Ezio Auditore, a 20-something man from an affluent family, by wandering around a cultural and historical re-creation of 1476 Florence.”

“I firmly believe that learning should be fun,” he added. “The fact that it is fun doesn’t take away from the seriousness — it’s just more effective.”

SLU now has games playable in multiple languages, including Italian, French, Spanish, and Russian so instructors and students can supplement their course work.

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