Foreign Language Learning with Quill

So I’ve been learning German pretty steadily for the past year (I use a combination of Duolingo with setting my phone and online services into German) and I’m always looking for ways to accelerate the learning process. Learning a language is one of those activities that really benefits from learning in a variety of contexts; i.e. not just learning in a classroom (virtual or physical). If you’re not actively living in or visiting an area where the language is spoken, getting these opportunities can be challenging.
Enter Quill. Quill is this years Indie RPG winner of the best free RPG. Quill is a solo RPG where the player is presented with a scenario that they need to write a letter about. The letter must be five paragraphs and there are restrictions on what words can be used and how their use contributes to the player’s score. At the end of the letter, the player totals their score and consults a chart that will provide an explanation of the outcome/reception of their letter. It’s a great writer’s exercise and some of the published scenarios are really creative.
Recently, it occurred to me that there’s not really a requirement to write the letter in your native language. So I promptly picked up a copy of Quill (with a donation of a few dollars) and the Cthulhu-inspired Shadow and Ink scenario. With these and an open tab to Google Translate, I set about writing my first letter with a few observvations…
  • You’re not going to write great prose… I often forget that I’m downright loquacious to the point of being pedantic in English… My German is a bit more basic…juvenile wouldn’t be totally unfair.
  • You will learn a ton of new vocabulary. Just don’t be surprised when it’s a bit stilted towards the theme of the scenario. In my case for example, I learned words that aren’t likely to pop up in my day-to-day lessons (horrible, terrifying….tentacles…).
  • You will start to think in the language you’re learning. I’m very much at the stage where I still think in English and go through a laborious translation phase. Using Quill has helped me to start to break through that and to start thinking in German in many cases (which makes for much better writing).
Overall, I’m really enjoying this experiment. I’m looking forward to trying out different scenarios to see if they push my language acquisition in different directions!

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