English Learning Games Reviewed
Playing With Language: Best Learning English Games for All Abilities
Learn English: Sentence Master
Sentence master is an extremely clever app designed by educators to really make is players think about the composition, context, and overall structure of thousands of different sentences in the English language. Developer Masterkey Pro has designed this app with what is arguably the perfect combination of educational approach and “gamification” of the English-learning process.
Choosing between single and multiplayer the gaming mechanic is very simple. Its approach is based on presenting the player with a variety of different “word tiles” that appear in random order. The task is to arrange these tiles into a complete sentence, effectively requiring the player to utilise their understanding of the English words on screen to construct the correct sentence. This approach also requires the player to know more than just the individual words on the screen, however. Having to construct sentences with this impressively simple mechanic actually forces the player to consider the context of the words and phrases. There is a mixture of familiar and unfamiliar phrases in the game’s database.
As for the game-centric aspects of the app, it is constructed in a manner that allows you to progress through various levels of difficulty. You can choose to play single or multiplayer, and you progress from beginner to expert, unlocking each level as you go. This means the app caters for all abilities and levels, from beginner to English-language pro. The free version is certainly worth a try, with the only drawback being that the pro version – which includes extra features like a competition mode – costs £13.49. However, even the free version of this app certainly could be used as peripheral tool for English-language students to supplement actual course materials in their study for the GRE examination, or simply for their English studies in general. Download the app here (Android) and here (iPhone)
Vocabulary TOEIC Test
The TOEIC Program is an internationally-recognised standard of excellence pertaining to the learning and assessment of learning the English language specifically for use within the workplace with more information found at the www.andrewbiggs.com website. This is of course a very attractive prospect for both employers and employees – Vocabulary TOEIC Test is an app tailored specifically for this test and its standards.
This app is constructed much like any other quiz-based language-learning app. It has distinct sections, each containing various subjects. In this case, each of these subjects is directly or indirectly related to those looking to learn English for employment within a business. Therefore, the sections range from tests that cover contracts, marketing, conferences and computers, through to shopping, ordering supplies, eating out, and cooking as a career.
This app covers a remarkable range of subjects, each directly relevant to the TOEIC program. It has 50 sections in total, each with 12 different words. Each word has an audio recording to accompany it. However, this app contains minimal interaction with the subject material, so should be viewed purely as a bank of words relating to relevant subjects within the business world, appealing only to those who require extra prompting for the TOEIC test. Download the app here (Android)
Words With Friends 2
This app is arguably the most game-centric of all the apps contained in this list and has become highly popular amongst not only those looking to learn English, but in the gaming community generally. This broad appeal is partially because of the game’s extremely simple mechanics and slick, highly-polished designed, owed largely to its success of the original Words with Friends and the effect this likely had on the budget for this sequel. With this sequel comes new features, as well as an overall reworking of the game’s design and interface to make it look slicker and more polished than ever.
Words with Friends 2, like the original released in 2009, is a tile-based word game that is as simple as playing Scrabble. Players go up against real-life opponents across the globe that are also playing the game and must use the game board to construct words out of the letters they have. Spelling words earns players points, which aggregate and contribute to your profile’s stats. New features include new game modes like being able to play against bots instead of real players. The Lightning Round also adds extra pressure to the gameplay.
This app isn’t ideal for use as a primary learning resource for prospective English language learners. It doesn’t have the focus of Sentence Master on constructing actual sentences and phrases, nor does this have the content of the examination-prep apps such as GRE Vocabulary builder. What it does have is simplicity, as well as encouraging the player to be creative when constructing words out of individual letters of the alphabet. Download the app here (Android) and here (iPhone)
GRE Vocabulary Builder
Magoosh’s Vocabulary Builder is an extremely useful tool for improving proficiency at aspects of English language comprehension contained with a variety of standardized exams. Don’t expect the kind of gaming features found in apps like Words with Friends, though.
This app lies almost exclusively on the functional side of English language learning apps, offering you plainly-presented options pertaining to the variety of English-language exams. These options take you to the relevant sections, each containing a quiz structure that tests aspects of English comprehension such as testing your understanding of various word definitions by presenting you with a chosen word and challenging you to choose the most relevant definition from a list. This progresses through various difficulty levels and becomes very challenging the further you delve into the app’s database of quizzes.
For those that enjoy the feeling of playing an entertaining game in the classic sense of the word, this app doesn’t have the strongest appeal. However, between quizzes you can face off against an opponent, which could potentially appeal to the competitive side of some players and extend further than a outright vocabularly builder tool such as www.vocabulary.com. Furthermore, this app offers different sections aimed at stepping towards getting students prepared for the GRE and GMAT exams, the High School Words for ACT and SAT, as well as words/quizzes for TOEFL and IELTS. Download the app here (Android) and here (iPhone)
Another app that became wildly popular on the app stores, Spelltower is a polished and refined word-finding game that bases itself on the mechanics of Tetris. This is perhaps the most well-known title to appear on this list (behind only Words with Friends 2), and certainly leans more towards the fun-and-games end of the educational spectrum. Thinking of using this app to prepare for English language tests? Think again. It may be a fun way to construct different words and test your spelling, but educationally speaking, this is extremely light-hearted and isn’t enough as a standalone tool for English language learning.
That said, this game’s broad appeal is obvious from the outset. Letters from the top of the screen. Various achievements such as constructing a word with 5 or more letters will clear the surrounding tiles, while using rarer and more difficult letters (such as X or Z) will clear the whole row. This will force you to be creative, however, as you cannot repeat words – they can only be used once.
Again, this isn’t a strictly educational app. It is an addictive game that happens to have a mildly educational aspect to it. It’s still incredibly fun and broad appeal, however. Download the app here (iOS)
Ultimate English Vocabulary Prep: GRE & all exams
This app gives itself a tall order by having the title of “Ultimate English”, and thankfully it doesn’t disappoint. Opening the app presents you with a variety of options, including “Doing Well on a Standardised Test”, “Improve my Job Prospects”, or simply “Improve my Vocabulary”, giving you the option to tailor the experience to your specific language needs.
Its content includes a series of sections with increased difficulty, each testing your knowledge on various words and phrases by presenting them to you and asking you the most appropriate definition. This app also rewards you with in-game “dollars” as you progress, which should appeal those who prefer to feel like they are playing a game as they learn.
One of the most noticeable aspects of this app is its clean and professional design, which contrasts with some of the more basic, quiz-based apps on this page. However, you should be aware that despite being a great tool for improving your vocabulary presented in a visually-appealing package, the app will ask for some details for marketing purposes at the outset. Download the app here (Android) and here (iPhone).