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The University of Salamanca released “HiHola” earlier this month, an innovative videogame that is designed to build players’ Spanish language skills as they enjoy interactive game play. The entertaining and educational game’s designers assert that while the best way to learn a language is by living it, the second best way is by virtually living it”. HiHola is a 3-D virtual game, similar to the Sims, set in Salamanca, Spain, where users are immersed in the town’s youthful energy, its impressive historic scenery, and most importantly, the Spanish language.
Playing the game
Players take on the role of study abroad students, making their way through Salamanca using Spanish they’ve recently learned in class to communicate with others in everyday situations. Players can attend class in the park with their teachers, hang out with friends, hit the clubs at night, or just take in cultural attractions such as the Plaza Mayor, la casa de las conchas and the monumental New Cathedral. A chat system allows students to talk to one another and set up study sessions with their teachers.
The current version of the game is designed for intermediate-level Spanish learners and players must already have a basic command of the language to follow instructions. Versions of the game designed for other Spanish levels are scheduled to be available in the future.
With a budget of 2.8 million Euros, HiHola is the product of a joint collaboration between the University of Salamanca and digital animation companies. It also received support from the local Department of Industry, Energy and Tourism, and Education. The game has first been released to Spanish language schools and the University of Salamanca’s summer course program, but it is planned to be distributed internationally to schools also.
A learning and teaching resource
Teachers can use the game to complement the material they’re teaching and even to evaluate students’ progress after they’ve finished playing. It’s already being used at the University of Washington, where students seem to be responding positively. Teachers confirm that using the game as an engaging study tool seems to encourage more “study” time.
HiHola offers students the unique opportunity to experience Spain and learn Spanish in an ideal study destination. The game effectively captures the lively university atmosphere and historic air that characterize Salamanca and have traditionally made the city popular among Spanish language students from around the world. Founded in 1218, la Universidad de Salamanca is one of Europe’s oldest universities.
HiHola effectively transforms the traditionally passive learning format of a videogame into an active learning experience, which allows players to not only improve their Spanish but to also gain valuable insight into Spain’s rich cultural heritage.