Do not disturb. Studying for English exam.

The last weeks in class, we’ve been talking about games and the gamer scene in general. That made me think about if there are any connections to my field of study: linguistics.
As you may have noticed in my blogposts of this semester, I’ll try to discuss the language component in all different areas of the digital. So, how can that be done when talking about gaming?
First of all, gaming is known to be part of the entertainment industry. It is a growing sector that makes millions of dollars yearly. People use it as stress relief and treatment after an exhausting day at work or in school. However, it can also create stress (Yee, 2014). Furthermore, it is used by all different types of people and all different generations are taking part in these online worlds (cp. Yee, 2014). Exactly these characteristics of the gaming population make gaming a perfect tool for language learning.

As pointed out in several blogposts, gaming is a lot about communication. It can extend real life communication by enabling us to stay in touch with friends and it can also establish new friendships and connect people across borders. The language mostly used for this communication, especially with foreigners, is English. English is the most important language when it comes to the area of computers, programming and IT in general. It is also the most used in digital media as I discussed in the last few weeks. All that explains the importance of English for the gamer community. This increased usage of the English language can be beneficial for young English learners. There are several studies showing a positive effect of gaming on language acquisition. Sylven and Sundqvist (2012) for example, proved a positive correlation between the amount of gaming and the scope of vocabulary in English in young gamers.

So, when kids are playing video games in their room, are they actually currently engaged in a language learning process? Should parents change the way they think about the excessive time kids spend with gaming? Partly yes, there is definitely a possibility that kids improve their language skills by expanding vocabulary and unconsciously training reading and listening comprehension. However, purely sending your kid in their room to engage in gaming is not what I have in mind. I see a large potential for (language-)schools to make use of the positive attitude kids have towards gaming. They could develop systems to train kids in foreign languages while playing their favorite games. Whenever we are happy or engaged in an activity that we really like, our brain is capable to soak in more information which facilitates the learning process. They will unconsciously improve their language proficiency. Chatrooms in games could be used to create language tandems in which kids speaking one language are matched with kids of another language. It could be seen as a modern kind of pen friends.  

Many schools have already digitalized parts of the learning experience by including tablets or little digital games to increase engagement of children in the 21st century. Incorporating language learning in games like World of Warcraft or other role-playing games could provide learners, especially teenagers, with a new supportive approach when they are struggling with language learning. Of course, this system has to be developed carefully and the learning process has to be observed in detail. I am aware of the danger that gaming could be promoted in general and that would may be lead to addictive behavior which would then even be supported by schools and teachers. It should be clear that gaming cannot substitute analogue English learning BUT it can add a positive component to a frequently used leisure activity of 21st century kids, teens and adults.


Nick Yee (2014). The Proteus Paradox.

Sylvén und Sundqvist (2012). Gaming as extramural English L2 learning and L2 proficiency among 
young learners