Spaceteam ESL and Former Linguisticators

SpaceTeam ESL

One of the things I love about running Linguisticator is getting to interact with people all over the world who are passionate about languages. It's also rewarding to watch what students accomplish over time. I first met Ross Sundberg almost four years ago when he took our Core Course. Ross then participated in an informal Icelandic reading group I ran for a time online. He is now working on his PhD in Education and Applied Linguistics at Concordia University.

Ross wrote to me recently to share a project he has been working on with his supervisors: turning a game called Spaceteam into a language-learning tool for ESL. I've since been in touch with Dr. Walcir Cardoso, one of the project leaders, who shared with me the description below. Please check it out and share with anyone you think would be interested. A lot of work goes into these types of projects, and it is very generous to make such tools available for free. Personally, I love the old school graphics :)


Spaceteam ESL: using mobile gaming to develop fluency and listening skills

Many language teachers agree that one of the key challenges in the language classroom is developing fluency. Students may be hesitant to use language in a genuine way, and despite the best efforts of teachers to provide interesting activities, it can be difficult to overcome this reluctance.

This challenge was what motivated our efforts at Concordia University to develop Spaceteam ESL, a free multiplayer game for iOS/Android that focuses on developing fluency (including fluency in reading, in speaking - pronunciation, and in listening) amongst learners. Based on the hit game Spaceteam (over 3.5 million downloads), Spaceteam ESL puts players in a fun situation in which they have to speak and listen to each other in order to keep their spaceship alive.

SpaceteamESLThe game works like this: a group of 2-4 players call out instructions at each other to repair a malfunctioning spaceship before it explodes. Each player's mobile device displays a random control panel and players must follow time-sensitive instructions on their screen. The challenge is that the instructions for the control panels on Player 1's screen (for example, “Switch off book!”) are actually sent to Player 2, and vice versa, meaning that the two players must quickly shout their mixed up instructions to each other before their ship blows up. They have to be quick because they are being timed (what you see below are two screenshots for two players playing “Level 1 - beginners”: it uses words from the 1,000 more frequents words in English and it contains relatively easy pronunciation features).

The gameplay is fast and furious, and players really enjoy shouting the instructions at each other. Here's some footage from some teachers who were beta-testing the game for us.

The game's trailer also shows you a bit about how gameplay works:

The speed and vocabulary of the game is entirely adjustable depending on the level of the learners that teachers have in the classroom, and the game includes a pronunciation practice tool for players to learn all of the game's vocabulary words. This practice includes listening to the target words and recording them for comparisons with the original recording.

A complete set of game instructions and lesson plans are available for free at, and the game is available for both major mobile platforms:

We're really excited to hear about teachers and learners using the game, so if you have any experiences, positive or negative, that you'd like to share, please don't hesitate to contact us:

David Waddington (Educational Studies)

Walcir Cardoso (Applied Linguistics)

Also, as an added incentive, if you start using the game in your language classroom and get in touch with us, we'll send you a little bit of Spaceteam ESL swag!

Back to blog