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Play to Learn, Learn to Play: Language Learning through Gaming Culture

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  08 April 2013

Dongwan Ryu*
State University of New York at Albany, USA (email:


Many researchers have investigated learning through playing games. However, after playing games, players often go online to establish and participate in the online community where they enrich their game experiences, discuss game-related issues, and create fan-fictions, screenshots, or scenarios. Although these emerging activities are an essential part of gaming culture, they have not attracted much attention from researchers and only a few empirical studies have been done on learning through beyond-game culture. Language learning in particular has not been extensively researched despite the proliferation of game players who speak English as a foreign language within this community. To address how non-native English speaking (NNE) game players participate in language learning through game play and beyond-game culture, three generations of activity theories and a multiple-case study design were employed in this study. The asynchronous computer-mediated discourses were repeatedly reviewed, and email interviews with participants were conducted over three stages. The discourse analysis of interaction data and interview scripts showed how participants were engaged in language learning through gaming culture. First, words or phrases used in game play could be learned while playing games. Second, sentences or discourses could be practiced through interaction with native or more fluent peers in the online community after playing games. Third, these two types of engagement in gaming culture were closely related to influencing language learning through repeated practices and collaborative interactions. In conclusion, language learning through gaming is appropriately understood when ecological perspectives are adopted to look at both sides of gaming culture.

Research Article
Copyright © European Association for Computer Assisted Language Learning 2013

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