Oral communication skill development with a cooperative digital game
While digital games are not often integrated into foreign language curricula at schools and universities, a growing body of literature in digital game-based language learning suggests that commercially-produced games can be an effective and highly engaging means of facilitating second-language acquisition (Peterson, 2013; Reinhardt, 2019). Previous empirical studies have focussed on vocabulary acquisition (e.g. Miller & Hegelheimer, 2006) and on the benefits of online interaction between learners and L1 speakers of the target language (e.g. Zheng et al., 2009). However, the potential of digital games to develop learners’ L2 speaking skills still remains largely unexplored. To better understand the learning mechanisms involved, a study was designed in which four groups of young adult Japanese learners of English played the cooperative puzzle game Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes over four one-hour gameplay sessions. The game requires learners to cooperate by exchanging information quickly and efficiently in order to solve a series of information gap tasks, leading to the production of much spoken English and thus the potential for peer-based language learning. An initial discourse analysis of learner language elicited through the gameplay activity will be presented. This analysis is informed by a cognitive interactionist SLA framework that posits instances of learners negotiating for meaning as evidence for second language acquisition. Evidence pointing to gains in discourse management, vocabulary, pronunciation accuracy, and oral fluency resulting from game-based interaction between learners will also be discussed.