The Role of Classroom-Situated Game-Based Language Learning in Promoting Students' Communicative Competence

The Role of Classroom-Situated Game-Based Language Learning in Promoting Students' Communicative Competence

Qiao Wang (Kyoto University, Kyoto, Japan)
DOI: 10.4018/IJCALLT.2020040104
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The study is the second in a series of mixed-methods studies on the integration of The Sims 4, a life-simulation game, into language classrooms. In this study, the researcher explores the effect of game-based language learning (GBLL) on students' English communicative competence from three aspects, interaction, fluency and content, in a Japanese university. In class, students received instruction from the teacher on game language and gameplay skills, played the game on their own and presented gameplay stories. The presentations were recorded for evaluation. Surveys were also administered for students' perceptions on the GBLL classroom. Results showed that no clear improvement in communicative competence was suggested by quantitative evaluation. Qualitatively data, however, indicated that the game afforded students interesting events and proper expressions in presentations and that the teacher played a vital role in ensuring ample interactional opportunities and linguistic support. Suggestions for future research in classroom-situated GBLL were also proposed.
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The term communicative competence was coined by Dell Hymes (1966) after the birth of “linguistic competence” (Chomsky, 1965). By observing the communicative activities of children, Hymes (1972) concluded that successful communication requires a speaker to use the language not only correctly, but also appropriately. Based on that, he also proposed the four components of communicative competence: linguistic competence, sociolinguistic competence, discourse competence and strategic competence. Later, for the purpose of language testing, Bachman (1990) provided his taxonomy of language competence. According to him, language competence consisted of organizational competence and pragmatic competence. The former was further divided into grammatical competence and textual competence, and the latter into illocutionary competence and sociolinguistic competence. He further summarized communicative competence as “the capacity for implementing, or executing that competence in appropriate, contextualized communicative language use” (Bachman, 1990, p. 84).

Communicative Competence in Language Classrooms

The emergence of such teaching methods as communicative language teaching (CLT) and task-based language teaching (TBLT) in recent decades (see for example Evans, 2013; Farooq, 2015; Long, 2000; Nunan, 1991; Mart, 2018) has fueled the need to improve language learners’ communicative competence through classroom instruction. Many studies in this area have focused on communication strategies, or strategic competence (see Dagarin, 2004; Dörnyei & Dornyei, 2006; Nakatani, 1998); some on linguistic competence (see Newton, 2013); and others on instructional materials and design of communicative activities (see Gilmore, 2011; Nunan, 1989). In these communication-oriented language classrooms, computer-assisted language learning (CALL) technologies also play an important role. Chun (1994) investigated how class discussion through a computer network increased the interactive competence of first-year foreign language learners. Nowrozi (2011) recognized the lack of communicative use of target language both in and outside the classroom and proposed the integration of Computer-Mediated Communication (CMC) into language learning, as it can increase both input (exposure) and output (use) of the target language needed for learners to promote both their linguistic and pragmatic competence. Another study on network-based communication by Lloyd (2012) examined the role social networking sites could play in encouraging both written and oral communication between language learners and native speakers or other speakers of the target language.

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