The Effects of Digital Game Play on Second Language Interaction

The Effects of Digital Game Play on Second Language Interaction

Hayo Reinders, Sorada Wattana
DOI: 10.4018/IJCALLT.2015010101
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This paper reports on a study into the effects of digital game play on learners' interaction in English as a foreign language. 30 Thai learners of English enrolled in a 15-week University language course completed 18 face-to-face classroom lessons, as well as six sessions playing Ragnarok Online, a popular online role-playing game. The game had been altered to include a number of quests for learners to complete. To gauge the effects of playing the games, participants' language use in both text and voice chats was recorded and analysed. Game play resulted in a large and significant increase in English interaction that used a wider range of discourse functions, and also resulted in significantly more frequent contributions compared with English interaction in class. We discuss some of the theoretical and pedagogical implications of these findings.
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Digital games have been shown to be able to make contributions to learning in various domains (for a review, see Hainey, Connolly, Stansfield, & Boyle, 2011; Kirriemuir & McFarlane, 2004; Mitchell & Savill-Smith, 2004; Randel, Morris, Wetzel, & Whitehill, 1992). Also in the area of language learning and teaching, the potential of games is starting to be explored. Games have been shown to motivate students (Anyaegbu, Ting, & Li, 2012; Liu & Chu, 2010), to encourage greater time-on-task (Gee, 2007) and to increase learners’ Willingness to Communicate (WTC) (Reinders & Wattana, 2012, 2014b). What has not been established conclusively, however, is if playing games leads to more interaction in the target language. Interaction has been argued to play a crucial role in second language acquisition (SLA) (Long, 1981) and it is therefore important to identify environments conducive to L2 (second language) production. Below, we will briefly discuss the role of interaction in L2 acquisition before looking at previous research into the use of digital games for language learning purposes.

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