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Learn English or die: The effects of digital games on interaction and willingness to communicate in a foreign language

Keywords: digital games , interaction , language teaching second language acquisition , willingness to communicate.

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Abstract:

In recent years there has been a lot of interest in the potential role of digital games in language education. Playing digital games is said to be motivating to students and to benefit the development of social skills, such as collaboration, and metacognitive skills such as planning and organisation. An important potential benefit is also that digital games encourage the use of the target language in a non-threatening environment. Willingness to communicate has been shown to affect second language acquisition in a number of ways and it is therefore important to investigate if there is a connection between playing games and learners’ interaction in the target language. In this article we report on the results of a pilot study that investigated the effects of playing an online multiplayer game on the quantity and quality of second language interaction in the game and on participants’ willingness to communicate in the target language. We will show that digital games can indeed affect second language interaction patterns and contribute to second language acquisition, but that this depends, like in all other teaching and learning environments, on careful pedagogic planning of the activity.

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