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One may ask, what is it like, role-playing. I can explain that it is like playing a small theater, but several important differences occur here: The first is, that the best number of players is about three, four or maximal five. During the play, the players impersonate characters created on their own and take part in the story created and told by person known under different terms, such as: Game Master, Dungeon Master, Narrator, Storyteller and so. The Game Master tells a story to players, and they participate in it playing out their characters. So the whole action and point of game occurs nowhere but in imagination of participants. This may seem strange at first, but has strong entertaining points.
Now, the role-playing is a big business. Many publishers on the market specialize in publishing only role-playing handbooks, that consist of rules and worlds to play. Future players may choose from a wide range of specially designed systems like Dungeons & Dragons(a fantasy one), Shadowrun(sci-fi) or Middle Earth Role Playing Game(another fantasy but in the world created by Tolkien).
Now, let us be concerned with the use of English learning in the role-playing. As you have just seen, the choice is wide enough to provide something interesting to almost everyone – but that is the matter which shall be discussed a bit later.
The teacher prepares to the play by inventing a story. This opens a door to many occasions when pieces of grammar, vocabulary or whatever else may be incorporated into the play. That's why the method is very attractive to some teachers, because it combines fun and learning simultaneously. Who wouldn't want to have this?
I shall provide an illustrative example to show how it works in practice: Imagine a teacher sitting behind the table, with three students before him.
Teacher: All right, so you have entered the cave and walked about two minutes in absolute silence, hearing only sounds of falling water drops.
Student one: Do we see something peculiar?
S2: Or hear something more than water drops?
T: Well, let me see. Roll that die and we shall know if you hear something.
S2 rolls a die.
T: Yes indeed. You hear a silent sound of something like growling.
S3: By the gods! This may be the beast in the cave!
S2: *Imitating the voice of a dwarf* Calm down, thou cowardly elf!
S3: How dare you!
S1: Shut up you two or we will all die here. Do we see something more?
T: Yes! Wandering in the cave, but still not hearing the source of the puzzling growling you suddenly see an altar.
S2: *Spits* The altar dedicated to vile gods of underground!
T: And then, you saw a lurking shadow behind it...
Okay, now come back to the reality. The example above may be used to prove that the role-playing can teach English indeed. The students during the play were forced to use such structures like imperatives(“Calm down, thou cowardly elf!”) or expressing emotions by simple phrases(“How dare you!”). The clever teacher will know when and how use it to imbibe such tasks in the gameplay without actually asking a student to do the task.
Further use of role-playing could be an integration between students and teacher.
Of course, the method is not free of downsides. Role-playing is not for everyone as it requires a lot of imagination and an average participant has to have at least a good grasp of English to understand all the dialogs and descriptions provided by the game master. Some people would not simply like playing the characters out. This all makes the method almost only for elites and used scarcely.
But still, when you have a couple of willing volunteers, this is worth trying, especially the part of focusing on integration and speaking skills. As it requires only speaking and sometimes rolling dice, this can be done also via Internet. There are numerous platforms for role-playing such as Fantasy Grounds or OpenRPG. Finally, if you don't know what to think about it, try it. Simply.
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