Talking while playing: the effects of computer games on interaction and willingness to communicate in English.
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameDoctor of Philosophy
This thesis puts an emphasis on the use of gaming technology as a form of computer-assisted language learning (CALL) activity, investigating its effects on interaction and willingness to communicate (WTC) in the target language (TL) of Thai English as a foreign language (EFL) learners. The study, adopted the pseudo-empirical research design with a pre-test structure, was carried out with 30 third year undergraduate students enrolled in a course of English for Information Technology 1 at a university in Thailand. The study modified an existing commercial game to better meet specific objectives of the language course. The data were collected by means of quantitative and qualitative research techniques (i.e., recordings of TL interaction in class and computer game activities, questionnaires, and interviews). The transcripts of participants’ interaction were analysed for the amount of words and turns and for the characteristics of their TL use. The questionnaire and interview responses were analysed to provide the evidence of participants’ WTC.
The study found that gameplay encouraged a significant increase in the quantity of TL interaction which also contained a variety of discourse functions associated with social, collaborative interaction (e.g., greetings, requests, and questions) and covered ranges of linguistic features (e.g., use of a variety of verb forms). This provided evidence that language learners received opportunities to interact using the TL when playing games. In addition, participants’ responses to WTC questionnaires and interview questions indicated that the level of WTC appeared to be enhanced by taking part in the game, as positive perceptions of WTC, low anxiety when interacting in the TL, high self-perceived communicative competence, and high frequency of TL use, were reported. This indicated that language learners benefited from less stressful environments within the game and thus were willing to use the opportunities provided to practice and use the TL.
In light of these findings, this study draws attention to the role and effectiveness of computer games in encouraging TL use for authentic communication and willingness to use the language. The study offers some suggestions for future research and concludes with implications for second/foreign language pedagogy, curriculum and CALL material design, and educational game development.