Video Games Help U.S. Soldiers Learn Arab Language, Culture

From The National Geographic:

Arab_1 Researchers have developed an interactive computer system that uses artificial intelligence and gaming techniques to teach Arabic to U.S. soldiers. Soldier-students equipped with microphones navigate through an Arabic-speaking environment on a computer screen. If they successfully phrase questions and understand the answers, they can move on to the next level of the game. But this is more than just a language lab.

The system emphasizes nonverbal behavior. Users are taught to adopt local customs such as putting their right hand over their heart when meeting someone for the first time. The characters that users face in the game, meanwhile, are animated by artificial intelligence. They may nod in approval or cross their arms with skeptical hostility in response to the users’ actions.

“Language without any context is hard to learn,” said Vilhjálmsson, a research scientist with the Information Sciences Institute at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. “But if you put it into the context of face-to-face communication, allowing for gestures and other non-verbal behavior, it becomes easier [to learn].”

More here.