Leveling up language proficiency through massive multiplayer online role playing games: opportunities for English learners to receive input, modify output, negotiate meaning, and employ language-learning strategies

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Master's Thesis

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The purpose of this study is to gain a better understanding of the usefulness of online videogames for promoting second language (L2) acquisition. To achieve this goal, I analyzed the specific types of interaction that take place between English language learners while playing the online videogame entitled Guild Wars 2. Previous research has shown that there can be positive results on L2 acquisition from interaction that occurs while playing video games known as massive multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPGs). MMORPGs immerse players in virtual worlds that are populated by hundreds of other people, and all are participating in the game in real time. Learners who opt to play the game in a foreign or second language (L2) are exposed to target language input in a context-rich environment in which they can interact freely with native-speakers and other language learners. Although research into the benefits of MMORPGs for L2 learners is still relatively new, the findings so far have been overwhelmingly positive. This study aims to move beyond the question of whether MMORPGs are beneficial and instead asks why and how they may be beneficial. The data from this study are gathered from the recorded screens of 3 volunteer ESL students as they interact in Guild Wars 2 for a period of about 10 hours over a 5-week period. In-game interaction is analyzed and placed into categories that are meant to capture the number and types of opportunities for negotiation of meaning and types of learning strategies used. This study suggests that MMORPGs are beneficial to L2 acquisition because they provide opportunities for L2 learners to produce large amounts of output, and the output produced by one player is a meaningful source of input for other players. Input and output allowed for connected interaction, in which focus on language form can lead to modified-output. Further, players have the opportunity to negotiate input as a means to complete game tasks. Finally, game tasks are similar to tasks believed to be beneficial in an L2 classroom.


Posted at the University of Utah.