Graduate Seminar: In-Game Social Interactions that Facilitate Second Language Acquisition

Event Date: 
Thu, 2017-03-16 09:30 - 10:45

Location: 655 McBryde

Speaker: Yolanda Rankin


In comparison to self-paced tutorials, commercial videogames create an immersive learning environment that allows students to experience the virtual world through sight, sound, participation and imagination. Research shows that one particular genre of videogames, Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games (MMORPGs), provides opportunities for native and non-native speakers to interact with one another during gameplay. Gameplay experiences in MMORPGs are such that language is a means for accomplishing the game tasks and contributes to Second Language Acquisition (SLA), one’s ability to read, write, listen and speak in a targeted language. In contrast, educational videogames intentionally designed for SLA, tend to lack the element of fun or entertainment necessary to sustain learning over time. I posit that we can learn from players’ experiences in both commercial and educational videogames to understand which design elements and aspects of gameplay actually facilitate SLA. Consequently, I examine game dialogue between native English speakers and English as Second Language (ESL) in the popular MMORPG EverQuest2 to understand how these social interactions facilitate ESL students’ proficiency. Next, I examine the gameplay experiences of African American women playing an educational videogame to identify design elements that create inclusive learning environments for diverse players. Finally, I talk about the role of in-game social interactions as a framework for designing conversational game characters to promote students’ proficiency in the targeted language.