Edutainment and Learning English – What’s it all about?

If you are looking around in the language learning space you have most likely come across the term “edutainment” or “education entertainment” lately. More and more startups in the space are focusing on this way of teaching languages.

So what is edutainment all about? Can you really have fun and substantial results at the same time? Well, if you think about edutainment is not a new concept. In fact, most of our ancestors have learned that way in many cases. And even you will already have learned with edutainment content, for sure.

Back in the days edutainment was story telling and fables. An entertaining way to teach non-literate people basic concepts of social behavior instead of telling them directly “this is how it has to be done, because that’s the law”. One could say that even the Bible is a form of edutainment.

Later on we got museums and then television with documentaries or software and games for the computer. Today’s edutainment startups are, of course, based on an Internet or mobile experience.

How does edutainment work?

Understandably, the basic premise of edutainment is to keep the learner entertained during the learning process, leading to longer learning time, the wish to learn (play) more and hence to get better results overall.

The way how edutainment is implemented into language learning today is usually either by games or videos, getting you to learn through content you are already interested in. This means that you don’t have to adjust your personal behavior to new learning patterns. You can simply replace some of your usual gaming or time watching video with educational content.

Here are three examples for English learners.

English Attack!

English Attack! uses short videos of blockbuster movies or music videos to teach English. It is based on a motivational system that lets the learner earn points by completing tasks and games.


EnglishCentral is also using videos to teach English vocabulary and pronunciation. Videos are available in categories like business, travel, social etc. Besides interactive transcripts that help you to learn vocabulary, EnglishCentral also features a voice recognition feature that helps learners to work on the pronunciation.


Voxy is a mobile application that delivers content based on your personal interests.  You learn new vocabulary in context and from the latest headlines. There are also features that deliver related vocabulary based on your location, like in a pharmacy or supermarket.

  • I wish I had time to research gaming theory. It is a huge paradigm shift. I think Farmville could have been a university of its own had they developed a plan rather than to simply investigate how to make it addictive.

    • It’s also the question how long Zynga will survive. More and more players seem to leave the games. Probably a bit too simplistic.

  • englishcentral

    Hi Kirsten,

    Thanks again for another insightful article and for mentioning EnglishCentral. I’ve been involved in tech and education for an eternity and slowly but surely becoming more cautious about both the social aspects of learning and also what you label “edutainment” (and that is a very broad term).

    I think edutainment is very good if it doesn’t go too far into the realm of learners participating solely to get excited and complete tasks for rewards. You may be encountering a lot of content and knowledge but you probably aren’t retaining much. There needs to be a focus on the learning path and slowing learners down – especially in language learning. A balance between attention to language (form) and immersion in meaning (function). At EnglishCentral, our “tainment” is not through games or off task focus but through curiosity and linking the experience to something intrinsically motivating for the learning. Our “edu” is to give students control and the ability to slow down, focus on form, repeat and train.

    At the end of the day, content, not attracting students with fancy activities — will still win the day. We clearly are following the path of “edu” by giving students great content but with structure and purpose. It has to be carefully thought out or gaming becomes “being gamed”.

    thanks again,


    PS. Thought I’d mention my fav. game for learning language – Draw My Thing….. a revelation that I do hope someone will research as a basis of synchronous language learning.

  • Pingback: Practice and Grow English Vocabulary by Playing Words with Friends()