World of Warcraft as a Medium for Intermediate-Level English Language Acquisition: Leveling up Accuracy, Fluency, and Lexical Complexity




Zariski, Ross

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In recent years, video games have exploded in popularity and the sales of many popular video games now rival Hollywood blockbusters for revenue. While traditionally used as a medium for entertainment, researchers have also recently begun to explore their potential as learning resources. Many educational games have been created in an attempt to combine entertainment with education, but very little research has been done exploring the potential benefits that commercial online video games can have on language learning. This descriptive study is designed to examine whether or not an off-the-shelf (OTS) Massively Multiplayer Online Game (MMOG) - World of Warcraft, can act as a medium for language acquisition. Specifically, it examines whether intermediate-level English language learners’ written accuracy, fluency, and lexical complexity can increase through its play, and what the participants’ perceptions of using an MMOG as a language learning resource are. Participants consisted of four intermediate-level adult English language learners and four English as first language (EL1) speakers. Each English language learner was randomly paired with an EL1 speaker and played the MMOG World of Warcraft over a span of four weeks. The participants’ chat transcripts, along with semi-structured questionnaires, and interviews, were used to gather in-depth data from the participants. The participants’ chat logs were analyzed for improvement in the areas of accuracy, fluency, and lexical complexity by comparing the first and last 25% of their exchanges with the EL1 speakers. Two of the four participants showed some improvement in all three areas that were analyzed, while the remaining two participants showed some improvement in one or two of the three language areas. Results from the questionnaires and interviews indicated that all of the participants felt that playing the game with the EL1 speaker contributed positively to their English language skills and provided a positive learning environment. These results contribute to the growing body of research on MMOGs and give credence to the argument that video games do not have to be solely considered as a source of entertainment, but that they can also be useful as pedagogical tools.



Applied Linguistics, SLA, World of Warcraft, MMOG, CALL, ESL