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COMPUTER GAMES AND LEARNING

INTRODUCTION

Playing video and online computer games as a hobby has dramatically increased in popularity since the 1990’s (1, pp. 24-26). The games differ from one another depending on the purpose of the game. The games’ difference in structure and utility places them in various genres, for example, the genre ‘first-person shooter’. However, most of the games have a common denominator, which is that they are mainly constructed with English as the primary language (4, pp. 95-114). Most video and online computer games have instructions, storylines, and chats that are written in English. People who engage in such activities every day will have a continuous interaction with the English language. It seems credible that such an incessant interaction could improve players’ English vocabulary by using English as a lingua franca.

A lingua franca can be defined as any spoken communication between people who have different mother tongues and the language spoken between them is a second language for both of them (13, pp. 5-15). It could be argued that English is practiced as a lingua franca between gamers since many of them are non-native speakers communicating in English while playing. It is important that players understand English in order to understand the game and other players as well as using it as a strategy to become successful gamers. The use of English may possibly give players an opportunity to engage in a larger range of games on account of the individual comprehension of English.

English is the first lingua franca to penetrate continents through both language spread and the distribution of the Anglo-American culture (13, pp. 5-15). Hence, non-native speakers of English could be aware of what constitutes, for instance, insulting language use in gaming. In some games players are required to communicate with each other in order to move forward in the game. Those who have good language proficiency could have an advantage since their language skills could affect the outcome of the game. Still, non-native speakers with different ethnic and cultural backgrounds may have different opinions of what is appropriate discourse while speaking English (8, pp. 9-17). Seidlhofer (13, pp. 5-15) mentions that the negotiation of meaning is essential for non-native speakers while communicating with each other. To use the strategy of negotiating meanings improves one’s language proficiency since the ability to notice associations of components in a language develops. The lack of language proficiency could lead to complications if non-native speakers do not understand each other. In games where people play together in teams, they might be required to describe what actions to carry out and which places to go in order to be successful in the game. Thus, it is essential that they do not misinterpret each other but if they do it may lead to consequences in the gaming reality, such as the death of the characters. When defining language proficiency the expression itself is ambiguous. However, while discussing language proficiency connected to video and online computer games one should draw attention to vocabulary since it stands for the main linguistic difference between the games. Therefore, this essay primarily focuses on vocabulary when referring to English language proficiency.



This topic is worth studying because the language used in video and online computer games may have a considerable impact on players’ language proficiency and, therefore, one would be able to argue the activity of playing video and online computer games to be a learning situation. As Chik (4, pp. 95-114) concludes, teenagers practice language learning inevitably through activities which spark their interest. Therefore, it may be interesting to perceive video and online computer games as a source for English language learning since English can be seen as a lingua franca between gamers. Consequently, the players may be able to widen their English vocabulary while interacting with other non-native speakers. As mentioned, games consist of various types of vocabulary, a form of language that the players may not be exposed to in school. According to Gee (5, pp. 26-28), playing video games can be seen as a learning situation where players can deepen their knowledge of literacy. Moreover, players communicate with each other while playing, either within the game or through independent chat sites (3,pp.14-25). The use of this type of communication indicates that players are exposed to the English language continuously. Furthermore, many games are directed towards a wider audience consisting of non-native speakers, which makes gaming one of the arenas in today’s world where English is used as a lingua franca.

Playing video and online computer games is, as mentioned, a popular activity for many people in today’s society (4, pp.95-114). Thus, this investigation is considerably current and up to date. The investigation of such an up to date area will hopefully lead to interesting results; for instance, there is the possibility that players of these games have acquired high levels of English through playing video and online computer games rather than from their previous English education.

This essay will investigate the terms and expressions used in video and online computer games, considering the language of the instructions and storylines in the games. Moreover, it treats the issue of whether the language used in these games could affect non-native speakers’ vocabulary by playing such games. Possibly, the games may consist of a language that would not be exposed to the players through other activities where English is used, for example, in school or through the media. The investigation also includes the language used in the communication between players, mainly focusing on the possible improvements of vocabulary. The aim is to examine the types of vocabularies used in the games and by the players in order to see whether the games can be a source for widening players’ vocabulary. It is of interest to regard the players’ opinions of their improvements to gain information whether such games could be a factor for the widening of vocabularies. To answer the hypothesis if playing video and online computer games improves players’ vocabularies, these research questions have been constructed:

1. What varieties of vocabulary are players exposed to?

2. How do players use the English language, in terms of speaking and writing, while playing video and online computer games in English?

3. How does the language used in the games influence players’ English vocabulary?

4. What impact have players noticed of their English vocabulary from playing video and online computer games?

The research questions have to be answered in order to confirm that playing video and online computer games can improve players’ vocabulary by using English as a lingua franca.

Unfortunately, there was limited previous research primarily focusing on players broadening their English vocabulary through the use of video and online computer games. Therefore, associations were created between studies concerning non-native speakers’ language use and whether games are utilized in school environments in order to gain information if video and online computer games could be considered a learning device. To be able to receive proper information concerning this topic one has also considered previous research done on computer-based language learning as well as on the definition of English as a lingua franca. In order to distinguish if players improve their vocabulary by actively playing video and online computer games, computer games and learning are discussed in the next Section.

COMPUTER GAMES AND LEARNING

The interest for integrating video games with educational purposes was first formed in the 1980’s, when the so-called edutainment games were constructed (15, pp. 29-45). However, there was still cynicism against video games, as it was believed that the games would influence players in a damaging way. In the 1990’s the gaming industry was prospering but the market changed. The video game companies began to focus on the production of entertainment games instead of edutainment games since they detected the possibility of making more money in that category .Computer gaming has become a popular activity the last decade and today the interest of using such games in education has increased .He makes a connection between popular culture and the use of computer games in learning environments. This association may be based on the fact that computer games have become such a significant leisure activity for many people. Therefore, it is important to recognize those interests as people absorb information easier when interested rather than when they are not.

There have been many studies done on the subject of computer games integrated in language learning, for instance, Beatty (1, pp. 24-26) mentions the term CALL, which stands for Computer Assisted Language Learning. CALL refers to the method of teaching language through different computer-based materials, which are purpose-made for that area. Computer games or other materials found on the Internet, such as videos and audio files, can be implemented in language learning. These computer-based materials are created for language learning in school. The games are pedagogical and contain research- based exercises, which, therefore, are conceived as ‘purpose-made’. Additionally, there have been inquiries done on how video games can affect players’ learning technique, explaining that it would be possible to obtain better strategies of learning through playing. Thus, players develop their skill of making associations and strategies of preparation for learning in the future (5, pp. 26-28).

Sandford et al.’s (12, pp. 45-50) study deals with the use of computer games in school. They discuss the fact that pupils are less involved with their education, and that they are more involved with playing computer games as a leisure activity. Hence, the idea of using computer games in language learning would meet the pupils’ interests, and make them more involved in their education. Sandford et al point out that combining pupils’ interests outside school with what is expected of them in school would be ideal for language learning. Even though using computer games in language learning have indicated to increase pupils’ motivation in school, Sandford et al. maintain that it is essential that teachers choose appropriate games to be used in the classroom. That it is important to analyze the features of the game so that the use of games in the classroom will not become as familiar as playing games at home. If teachers do not pay attention to this dilemma it is possible for pupils to use the game as a way of showing their skills of gaming, rather than using the game as an instrument of learning.

Stanley (14, p. 2) claims that teachers should ask their pupils about the computer games they play at home, that it would be a good way of bonding with the pupils since the teacher shows interest in their interests. Furthermore, Stanley states that teachers should attempt to play the games that their pupils are playing, even though that is not a necessity for using games in the classroom. It would be an advantage to gain experience on how the games are composed in order to increase teachers’ awareness on pupils’ different interests. His statements imply that online computer gaming has become such an influential activity for young people and that teachers are exhorted to turn their attention to this phenomenon. Consequently, trying to capture pupils’ current interests and apply them in language teaching would seemingly give pupils the impression of being a part in the evolvement of the school system.

Linderoth (8, pp. 9-17) presents the fact that playing computer games will help players develop various qualities, such as the ability of analyzing, contemplating, and to become observant to details. The fact that such qualities would develop from the activity of playing computer games indicates that gaming has a positive effect on players. Moreover, Linderoth mentions that the industry of computer games is thriving and new technologies are constantly developing. Hence, it is difficult to distinguish which games will be of assistance in the learning process and which games will lead to a dangerously high consumption and affect players in a damaging way. Possibly, Linderoth refers to the fact that to invest too much time playing such games could have the effect of lacking social competence, as it could become an isolating activity in a worst-case scenario. However, one could assume that a high consumption of computer games that stimulates the learning process could be positive for pupils’ development. However, traditional teaching methods may not be applicable when using computer games associated with language learning for educational purposes (15, pp. 29-45) Thus, it is essential that teachers are aware of how to adapt teaching methods in order to meet the technology used, that the teaching methods interact with the technology rather than being two separated procedures.

Computer games are used in learning environments at the present (1, pp. 24-26), indicating that teachers already have embraced this phenomenon as a possible way of learning. Therefore, it is feasible to consider video and online computer games that are played on leisure time as learning instruments, not only for language development but for the development of other qualities as well (8, pp. 9-17). Moreover, Chik discusses the fact that non-native speakers have a tendency to play video and computer games that are in English. Furthermore, she mentions that learning does not solely exist in schools, and also that everything people do during their spare time can be considered as a learning situation. Thus, it seems possible to acknowledge video and online computer games as learning devices, not only as useful tools for education but also as instruments for developing different abilities of value in everyday life.

In order to understand how the English language influences non-native speakers it is preferable to examine how the English language has developed into a lingua franca. In addition, it seems relevant to discuss how non-native speakers use the language for the purpose of understanding the usage of vocabulary.

 


Date: 2016-04-22; view: 1512


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