I'm working on a game to learn English, and grappling with the best way to organize the course. It would be great to hear from people what they've liked when using other apps.

I guess there are a few approaches:

  1. by difficulty level split grammar up by level. eg start with "simple past" and move to causative or passive until later. same for all other grammar types

  2. by grammar grouping eg verbs / noun forms / modals / pronouns ... and the various sub-types of each. modals of advice/requests/ability would be a subtopic of "modals" etc.

  3. by random grouping group topics together that fit well together, to make lessons with more flow and variety. eg put conditionals and comparatives together, so you can teach something like "If you pick the largest one..."

I built a site for learning Japanese (JGram.org) and the grammar there is much smaller chunks. For example this list of "level 2" items: http://jgram.org/pages/viewList.php?lv=2

has patterns like "despite / just / it seems / because / without / it's decided " ... These are more like useful one-off sentence patterns, not quite idioms or phrases, but I'm wondering if there's any way to organize those types of items at a higher level?

If there's a better forum for this type of question, I'd love to know, otherwise any comments appreciated!

  • What words and grammar do you need to introduce early, so that users can follow the instructions and/or get help? Do you want to be able to advertise the game by saying "In five minutes, you will know how to... In one hour, you will be able to..."?
    – Jasper
    Commented Oct 15, 2014 at 1:31
  • What is your target market? European guys who want to pick up American gals in nightclubs? Mexican-American construction workers who want to own their own businesses? German high school students who want to ace their English courses? French pre-law students who want to get in to British law schools? You could profitably make a different game for each of these markets.
    – Jasper
    Commented Oct 15, 2014 at 1:41
  • The target is korea/japanese young adults who want to learn english for life and career. Good point about the flow, since each lesson should build on the ones before. However there's such a big disconnect between the classical "parts of speech" categorization and all the random sentence patterns. What are the best designed courses out there in your opinion?
    – dcsan
    Commented Oct 15, 2014 at 2:17
  • You might have three sub-markets. 1) Young adults who want to date foreigners (either at home or abroad). 2) Young adults who want to understand American music, movies, and/or television shows. 3) Business English -- e-mails, international phone calls, English words in Microsoft Office user interfaces, product manuals. I would suggest choosing a submarket, and identifying a small set of "parts of speech", "sentence patterns", and vocabulary that lets the users do something useful.
    – Jasper
    Commented Oct 15, 2014 at 2:48
  • The "Morphographs" system is the best program I have seen for teaching people how to: expand their English vocabulary, spell more words, and use concepts with different grammatical forms. It is meant to be a 1 year supplement for elementary school students. It has lots of game-like activities. It emphasizes creatively mixing and matching the roots of English words, and understanding how the prefixes and suffixes affect whether the word is a noun, verb, adjective, or adverb.
    – Jasper
    Commented Oct 15, 2014 at 2:57

2 Answers 2


The NC levels in British schools (to my knowledge) work by building up complexity in ideas using small sets of vocabulary. Tenses are worked in.

The first three levels involve reporting: small statements about small things. You could whack out colours, pencil case items, instruments, sports, insert generic group of common objects here, and have people try to say what they do, what colour things are, what sports they play etc.

Levels four and five introduce two tenses, what you do in the present and what you did in the past.

Level six wants justifications, making a statement and justifying it with a small development and opinion.

Level seven onwards introduces more tenses and complicated constructs, all of which are easy to learn provided the learner has a strong grip on all the lower levels.

How you work it into a game is your challenge, but this kind of an order may (or may not) help.


One thing you could do is to use my Encyclopedic Dictionary of Mercan English, which is a learner-friendly front-end to the Merriam-Webster free online dictionary of English, with extensive linkage to other sources as well.

The learner-friendliness consists of:

  • the fact that it is much easier to browse the words, and follow links to related topics


  • the fact that the interface language is Esperanto, making it accessible to English-learners regardless of their native language (and so ideal for ESL students).

To access the Merriam-Webster free online dictionary of English through this learner-friendly front-end, go to:


and bookmark it.

  • hi mike - keying everything off esperanto is an interesting idea but instead may end up being a barrier for everyone? another approach is how tatoeba project use a graph to describe relations blog.tatoeba.org/2010/02/…
    – dcsan
    Commented Nov 8, 2014 at 21:27
  • @dcsan: Kurt Vonnegut’s use of graphs to describe stories is also interesting: mapachili.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/vonnegut.jpg
    – Mike Jones
    Commented Nov 9, 2014 at 11:11
  • thats actually really fascinating - Joseph Campbell as infographic! but not much to do with graph theory around grammar... still looking how to structure my course!
    – dcsan
    Commented Nov 12, 2014 at 10:28
  • @dcsan: Why not email one or two ESL teachers at The New School with this question? Here is the link to find their profiles and email addresses: newschool.edu/directory. (For Division choose “The New School for Public Engagement”, and then for Department choose “English as a Second Language, School of Languages”.) Good luck!
    – Mike Jones
    Commented Nov 15, 2014 at 12:02

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