When was the last time you read a story that was truly unique and captivating – a tale that introduced you to new characters, whisked you off to fantastic worlds and strange adventures, and advanced your vocabulary skills at the same time?
If you’re like most people who have finished with their English language education, you probably don’t even know the answer to this question. And even if you or your children are still in school, still studying language, the answer is likely “not recently enough”. VocaTales aims to change that. Our perspectives, philosophies and social interactions are all influenced heavily by the language we use to interpret our experiences. The richer our vocabularies, the larger, more intricate, and more exciting our imaginations can grow. Vocabulary is important! It’s fun! It’s engaging! So why is the process of learning it usually so stale and uninspiring?
We don’t have a great answer to that question, but we do have a solution to the problem. Learning vocabulary should not be boring, and VocaTales intends to make sure that it isn’t – the process of learning new words should be just as inventive, artistic, and adventurous as using them to explore and express our imaginations.
So what is VocaTales?
It’s an innovative online platform and mobile app designed for vocabulary enthusiasts, creative thinkers, and excited students all over the world. But more than that, VocaTales is its own special world, a brand new universe created by a series of interwoven stories, each built around unique vocabulary words – myths, fairy tales, funny tidbits, westerns, space adventures, anything at all! Users are free to create any kind of legend they can imagine by writing a series of short (around 60-100 words) tales; these can be connected in a sequence, completely distinct from each other, or anything in between. Each author is also able to connect with the imaginative storyscapes designed by others, extending other authors’ storylines with tales of their own and challenging friends to do the same. The only rule in this creative, collaborative space is that each and every tale must be guided by an original wordplay process called Split and Spin – users see a new word to add to their vocabulary, split that new word into simpler parts based on its different sounds and syllables, and spin a tale around the resulting construction. For example, the word ‘rescind’ might be split into the words “Rescue Cinderella”; or the word ‘semantic’ might become a tale called “The Sea Man’s Stick”. Each tale must also include at least one proper usage of the original word, so users will more easily recall how to properly utilize the new vocabulary in their everyday speech, reading, and writing.
And beyond the individual tales and legends of VocaTales exists another overarching story. This largest, most epic story is that of a journey which all users will share – it’s your story. The story of a human entering a unique creative realm unlike any other, and learning to navigate the strange landscapes found therein. This isn’t just a silly metaphor – VocaTales is truly an interactive experience. Users advance through distinct levels as they hone their vocabulary and storytelling skills, unlocking new abilities as they do so. You’ll enter the site as a humble Observer of linguistic wonders and advance through the ranks from Narrative Knight to Semantic Wizard (among many others!) until you earn the title of Lexiest VocaLord, a supreme commander of the lexicon.
It should be pretty easy to see that this system is much more fun and engaging than the flashcards, study sheets, and dictionary-dives which have been the center of the student universe for ages. Of course it is! It’s a game, and playing is always more fun than studying. But is this method really as effective? Absolutely. In fact, VocaTales’ method is designed specifically to be more effective than any thesaurus at helping you learn new words and recall their proper usages.
Consider: the three stages of memory processing are encoding, storage, and recall. Essentially, the Split and Spin method of learning vocab encodes new words as stories rather than simply encoding them as facts. Studies have shown that the information within stories is remembered far longer than the information given by facts and figures, and can also be remembered more accurately. This could be in part because of semantic encoding, the mental process of associating facts with sensory experiences (like the ones you imagine while reading a good story!) which helps to solidify those facts in long-term memory storage. In other words, because VocaTales encodes vocabulary words within entertaining stories, they’ll take stronger root in your long term memory storage, and you’ll be able to recall their meanings and usages more easily.
In addition, VocaTales works with the developments and idiosyncrasies of our current era instead of senselessly fighting against them. It’s a social media platform just like Facebook, but designed specifically to excite the imaginations of creative thinkers, English students, and storytellers. It keeps to the short form content popularized by Twitter and Instagram, packing entertainment and education alike into easily digestible, bite-sized bits. Similar to streaming platforms like Netflix, it provides instant access to a huge supply of stories, encompassing a vast array of genres to binge, and characters and tales to connect with. And like any free game you’d find on the internet or the App Store, it’s fun, visually appealing, and just a little bit addictive! Simply put, VocaTales is a method of teaching and learning that’s built for the modern world. If we truly want to engage this generation and those of the future, get them truly excited about language, words, and learning, more archaic systems just aren’t gonna cut it. We need a new approach for teaching and learning vocab, and VocaTales is the first giant step in the right direction.