Working hypothesis in second language development in natural settings of World of Warcraft twenty one year old adult's second language development in the game of play of World of Warcraft

Open Access
Lee, Yunjoon
Graduate Program:
Curriculum and Instruction
Doctor of Philosophy
Document Type:
Date of Defense:
April 30, 2014
Committee Members:
  • Jamie Myers, Dissertation Advisor
  • Jamie Myers, Committee Chair
  • Scott P Mcdonald, Committee Member
  • Matthew Edward Poehner, Committee Member
  • Michael Grant Schmierbach, Committee Member
  • language development
  • language acquisition
  • ESL
  • video game
  • online game
  • world of warcraft
This research is concerned with the power of natural learning for L2 development. In this study, the World of Warcraft community has been used as an environment for natural learning. There was one subject, who was a 21-year-old male adult and had a high interest in playing World of Warcraft but had minimum motivation for learning English as a second language. For over one and a half years, he participated in World of Warcraft. His verbal interaction was taped and transcribed. His speech was analyzed from the time he began playing the game to the end of the study. The findings showed that there were five stages in his language development. In the first stage, the subject used deleted routines, which were incomplete in both grammar and meaning. In the second stage, he could use routines that were grammatical and meaningful. But this did not mean he had developed grammatical knowledge. Instead he used routines as single units. In the third stage, he began to notice subcomponents of routines, so-called “chunks.” In the fourth stage, the subject realized how to combine chunks with other chunks or chunks and routines, and consequently he constructed new sentences. This stage reflected that he “noticed” chunks among routines, but he did not show enhancement of his grammatical knowledge because his sentences did not require grammatical complexity. Before he moved to the fifth stage, he often committed grammatical errors. This resulted in the occurrence of negative feedback from other players, which brought him to raise his grammatical consciousness. In the final stage, or fifth stage, the subject could construct compound and complex sentences. Also, he could build interrogative sentences with interrogative pronouns and make passive-voice sentences, which means he was able to iv create grammatically complex sentences. With these findings, we have interpreted how the subject enhanced both grammatical and language developments. That is, we could argue that his developments were ascribed to a natural learning environment (see, Krashen, 1982), namely the game World of Warcraft. His primary concern over the game itself (see, Skehan, 1998) made him notice (see, Robinson, 2003) his preferable language forms, which are routines and chunks (see, Lewis, 2000). Also, because he had no teacher and no language materials in World of Warcraft, we could say that his developments of language and grammar came from his socialization (see, Mitchell & Myles, 2004) in the World of Warcraft community. Grammar emerged in the fourth and fifth stages. This result suggests when and how L2 teachers can most effectively teach grammar. For this, L2 teachers should keep in mind that in the fourth stage, the subject received many instances of negative feedback from other players and that the negative feedback raised his grammatical consciousness. Despite all of the positive findings, we have to concede that the subject’s language developments were only appropriate for small talk. His sentences were basically simple and short, though he showed some compound and complex sentences in the last stage. Also, his grammatical knowledge was limited, though he knew how to make subordinate clauses, interrogative sentences, passive-voice sentences, etc. Natural learning, as in World of Warcraft, can become too nondirectional (see, H. D. Brown, 2007a). If a learner loses all interest in playing the game, we are afraid of their automatic loss of language learning. However, this research has important implications for L2 classrooms. That is, an L2 student can learn his or her target language if he or she is given a proper environment. Without the teacher’s help, the L2 student can v grow in the direction that enhances his or her ability to speak up to a certain level, but the student needs the teacher’s help to get beyond that level. Another implication is that “routines” are a basic element in language development. We hope that the “routine” concept gives L2 teachers a sense of what to teach and how to teach it in their classrooms. In this respect, we would like to say that this research is of great significance in the English-education market.