Interest driven learning in higher education is a new concept to me and it took some time this semester to truly understand what it meant. At some point in the semester, I was actually engaged in it before I fully comprehend how valuable it is in motivating the leaner. Now, I finally get it. My interest in digital gameplay as a tool for SLA is a great motivator as I intend to begin teaching English as a second language later this year, and furthermore, I am beginning to tackle the Korean language so that I might better teach English to Koreans. Therefore, if my interest in teaching English motivated me in this program, might I not offer students a means to learn English that improves their motivation.
As I have learned gameplay is very popular and so many are engaged in it that I must include it in my curriculum as a form of immersion, as well as a motivating activity.
With that said, my quest continues. I have looked at one Off-the-Shelf adventure videogame and SLA. I have also examined one videogame specifically designed for SLA by an L2 learner, that felt what he basically describes as a 3D dictionary game, would improve his language learning. And in this short critique, I will take a brief look at MMOs and L2 learning. The paper I chose to critique was prepared by Pasfield-Neofitou (2014) and is a summary of research on MMOs and language learning with a focus on SLA, and provides a solid overview of the subject (p. 271). I chose this paper as it was written in 2014, which makes it fairly current, and the author undergirds the paper with three pages of references; references which I will further investigate when time permits.
From what I have read some players are so interested in gameplay that they are actually willing to dabble in a L2 in order to interact with a larger community of players in MMOs and as Pasfield-Neofitou (2014) describes “It is this ‘massive’ popularity of MMOs which makes them valuable as international portals for language learners (p. 277). Peterson discusses the difficulty faced by language learners in MMOs and how some learners creatively overcome these difficulties and how they felt about their in-game learning:
Learners also learned new words and expressions, and while they had difficulty sometimes following the interaction, most reported that chatting in the game was a good way to improve their English. Participants found their communication with both fellow learners and native speakers rewarding, commenting ‘I sometimes scrolled the text back and looked at the whole interaction, just thinking wow this is what I did’ and ‘I was delighted at establishing a successful conversation between me and a native speaker. (as cited in Pasfield-Neofitou, 2014, p. 278)
Consequently, MMO gameplay can actually be the motivation for L2 learning instead of gameplay as simply a tool to aid in L2 learning. It is quite apparent that I must better understand the learners of this century as I would never have come to this conclusion without being exposed to the readings I have encountered in this course. Apparently, MMOs not only encourage a desire to learn an L2 but are also thought to aid with commitment, “Roy describes his experiences playing with colleagues as promoting a long-term commitment to language learning (as cited in Pasfield-Neofitou, 2014, p. 278). According to Pasfield-Neofitou (2014), MMO gameplay has, even more, benefits and is considered a positive environment by SLA researchers as the author explains “… how the combination of social and game aspects may provide opportunities to participate in interaction, which is both supportive and social, as well as authentic and goal-driven, as deemed necessary by both sociocultural and psycholinguistic branches of SLA theory” (p. 272).
I argue that to effectively learn an L2, a means to reduce the learner’s affective filter must be considered, as stated in SLA theory. Peterson addresses affective filters and anxiety reduction in L2 learning in MMOs with the following, “Although the relative lack of paralinguistic cues in text-based chat led to views of the medium as ‘lean’ in its early years, some suggest that this may actually act to reduce negative affective filters and foreign language anxiety present in face-to-face settings (as cited in Pasfield-Neofitou, 2014, p. 275).
In conclusion, Pasfield-Neofitou (2014) addresses many of the issues that most concern me with L2 learning. The paper discusses long term motivation, motivation provided by interest driven learning, immersion, and socialization, as well as reduction of learner anxiety. This is done while providing an important overview of MMOs and language learning and I feel fortunate to have unearthed it, and will definitely refer to it in the future, as it contains much to be considered.
Pasfield-Neofitou, S. (2014). Language learning and socialization opportunities in game worlds: Trends in first and second language research: Language learning opportunities in game worlds. Language and Linguistics Compass, 8(7), 271-284. doi:10.1111/lnc3.12083