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Monday, April 9, 2007

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Using World Of Warcraft To Teach English
6:00 AM | Cord Kruse | 6 comments

Gamasutra recently interviewed professor Edd Schneider about his theory that online games like World of Warcraft can be used to teach English to Asian teens. Based on a project conducted two years ago, Schneider and his colleague, Kai Zeng, found that the game was an excellent tool for teaching conversational English.

The professor hopes online games will break down server boundaries and allow players from different countries to interact.

What inspired you to start connecting American and Chinese players?

Beyond the marketing thing, it just bothered me that games are supposed to let us play together, then [for most MMOs] they split everyone up on servers. I think that's totally asinine. If you play WoW, wouldn't you like to play against the best players from China? Everyone would say "yes." What we're hoping people are going to do is say, "Let's make an ESL-friendly server. Tell the Americans that not everyone is going to have perfect English, but they're going to want to learn."

That would be an attractor, because the other thing that bothered me was that these online games get bad PR. People say, "You can't be in my clan unless your English is perfect." That's a small number of gamers, I think, and if you had this ESL server with a million people it would show that the majority of gamers are open-minded.

Did you see a difference in the Chinese students' English?

Some of them were really starting to sound like Americans. A lot of time it was more a confidence thing than a language thing. Also, they're getting conversational English they wouldn't get in a normal class, more authentic English, with phrases they wouldn't get in textbooks.

It's not going to be like, "The ball is good." It'll be like, "You've got to get over there!" It's a conversational thing. Besides, I think the biggest obstacle for a lot of Asian students who eventually come to America is the cultural difference. This sort of social interaction gives them a safe space to learn.

To read the full Q&A click over to the site below.

Gamasutra: WoW Teaches English
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