Learning while Gaming: Second Language Students’ Acquisition of English Idioms

University essay from Högskolan i Halmstad/Akademin för lärande, humaniora och samhälle

Author: Patricia Vanhanen; [2017]

Keywords: idioms; linguistics; computer;

Abstract: Idioms are found in every language, and if one wants to master a language it is important to learn and be able to use idioms while communicating. The English language is no exception. As well as in other languages, idioms are used extensively in the English language. There is also a difference between a literal and an idiomatic meaning of a sentence. If one wants to understand different shades of meaning it is important to know the meaning of idiomatic expressions. For example, “break a leg” is an idiom used commonly when speaking. The literal meaning of the sentence would an instruction by the speaker telling someone to break a bone in their leg. However, the idiomatic meaning of this expression is: good luck and do your best. This idiomatic expression is often used among actors when they tell each other to “break a leg” before entering the stage to perform. Furthermore, computers have become an increasingly important and widely used medium of communication over the past two decades. Researchers have viewed this positively, and noted how it is especially helpful when it comes to language development. The aim of this study is to investigate whether playing computer games as a leisure activity improves the usage and knowledge of idioms among students in the secondary school. A total of 22 students participated in the study, 12 male students and 10 female students. The methodology is based on a quantitative method (Dörnyei 2007).  The data is collected with the help of questionnaires in which students had to answer questions about their video gaming habits and attitudes towards idioms. Apart from this, they then had to work with idiomatic expressions in three different ways to measure their knowledge of idioms. Even though the data collected is limited, some evidence was found which indicated that playing video games or online computer games does have a noticeable impact on the English language, regarding idioms. The observation measured the participants’ usage and knowledge of idioms. The main conclusion of the study is that video games and online games might influence the players’ language proficiency in a positive way with regards to idiomatic expressions. Moreover, most of the students state that they consider idiomatic expressions important, and that they are necessary to learn to acquire a more nuanced English language.

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