by Bethany Vilchez

You are sitting in a classroom and the teacher is filling the board with grammar rules about comparative adjectives.  You are trying so hard to pay attention, but all the words on the board make your brain shut down. You decide to take a short nap. When you wake up, the class is over. Oh, well.  You’ll have to review again at home!

Now, picture this: You and your teacher are sitting in a circle and having a discussion about your favorite apps, what you like and dislike about each one.  You and the other students download some of your favorite apps to show one another and compare which are the best and the worst.  Before you know it, the class is over.

You had fun, and you learned about comparison adjectives. But why is it that one can learn more or more easily, for that matter, while having fun?  Linguists agree that any activity that relaxes students can make it easier for them to acquire information. One such expert, Stephen Krashen, calls this the affective filter. When a student feels pressured or is under stress, his/her affective filter is raised which prevents him/her from acquiring any new information. Basically, a high affective filter can be compared to a mental block. The idea is to keep the affective filter low so that concepts can “flow” to the brain and not be impeded.

Another reason why it is easier to learn new concepts while you are having fun is something called intrinsic motivation. Intrinsic motivation is performing an activity because you enjoy it.  So, if you are having fun while completing an activity, it is much easier to feel motivated and master that endeavor or task. Without intrinsic motivation, it becomes very difficult for someone to excel in any pursuit.

Finally, Dr. Glasser, the creator of Choice Theory, stated that “Fun is the genetic payoff for learning.”   It is a basic need that drives human behavior. In other words, when learning a language is fun, it becomes natural and empowering. Thus, having fun while learning a language leads to quicker and more natural acquisition of that language.

Remember that having fun does not mean that there is chaos or disorder in the classroom; it is quite the opposite. Students are extremely focused and astute because what they are doing is extremely interesting and motivating for them.  Thus, having fun while learning relaxes students and leads to a more natural acquisition of the target language.