Denklisch - The Game

A gamified approach to language learning at work

interaction-design-association-IxDA: Part of the presentation - Miro Board

At denkwerk we celebrate diversity with our international employees. We also do what we do best, creative problem-solving. That gave rise to the internal initiative "Denklisch – The Game".

Josi  Longhi Siqueira and Molly Oberholtzer (r.) as speaker at IxDA22

Bringing language learning into the workplace is challenging, for both employees and employers, remote and in-office. This initiative is a way of accompanying language learners into starting to apply their learned language at work. A solution that is driven by service design, co-created and led by the denkwerk community.

The outcome of it is Denklisch /dénk-ɡlɪʃ/ a collaborative language learning game that brings language practice closer to the working routine. With weekly check-ins and daily challenges, the game brings learners together and challenges participants to practice a bit every day, in fun and unexpected ways, providing not only a reason to practice but also the right people to do it with.

“Collaborating with others when doing tasks was nice… When you do it (language tasks) with a group of like-minded people you feel more motivated.”

Denklisch community member

What we learned in overcoming language barriers

We used a service design approach to move from understanding to prototyping, keeping community practices as the forefront. From the community, we held a retrospective to gather feedback and input from our pilot. Drawing from those shared perspectives and conversations, here are the overarching conclusions of the program.

96 Challenges

12 weeks

7 Players

The Game as a Safe Space

The game provides a safe space to get into the learning role, and outside of their professional working role.

  • To learn work vocabulary, one needs to practice at work and ideally with (close-to) real content.

  • Everyone has a different learning process and needs different stimuli, tasks, and will find motivation in different activities.

  • Having a group of learners is key to keeping higher motivation.

  • A learning community can make a longer development process more transparent.

  • The game transforms daily interactions into learning opportunities.

“You slowly get comfortable with speaking German. Because when you do it as a task, it is like you are learning something. So you can start doing it from your safe area. As it is as a task, you don’t need to be fluent, you don’t need to know everything, you are a student, you are allowed to make mistakes … It sets expectation, creates a safe area to make mistakes, so no one is judging you.”

Denklisch community member

Conclusions on breaking language barriers

Language learning is a big undertaking and very likely a long process. There is no single answer nor single method that can facilitate this process for every different learner. What does help, is gamifying the process to increase motivation and get people outside of the limitations of professionalism. Challenges that remind that even the smallest practice counts towards achieving the greater goal of learning a foreign language. Mindset shifts that help participants to realize that those small daily moments here and there are in fact opportunities to learn. 

A community that not only connects individuals but inspires them.

The safe space, makes you realize you can do more than you think.