December 1, 2012

Article: Call of Duty and World of Warcraft Double As Language Class


Call of Duty and World of Warcraft double as language class
by Laura Kane
November 20, 2012

Increasingly, people are turning to games like World of Warcraft and Call of Duty to learn and teach second languages. Multi-player online games allow for an immersive experience with native speakers, while raising the stakes — if you can’t communicate, it’s game over.

“Games are so effective at teaching language,” said Yolanda Rankin, a research scientist with a doctorate in computer science at Spelman College in Atlanta, Ga.

Rankin tasked a class of ESL students with playing the game EverQuest II. One group played the game by themselves, while another joined teams with native speakers. The students on teams scored significantly higher on vocabulary tests than the solo players.

“The magic ingredient was having those native speakers,” she said. “(The students on teams) were using those vocabulary words to collaborate to complete the quest. That made it more meaningful.”

Dionne Soares Palmer, a freelance writer in California, wrote her PhD dissertation on learning Spanish playing World of Warcraft. (Note to graduate students everywhere: she spent 10 hours a week slaying orcs and called it “research.”)

After eight months of raids, healing spells and quests on a Spanish copy of the game with a guild on a server in Spain, she had jumped two levels in a Spanish placement test.

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