Second language learning in an online computer game: insights from theories of social interaction, practice, and nonlinear dynamics
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Research in second language acquisition has typically focused on classroom and laboratory settings. This study explores second language use in a non-classroom setting. It is based on research from divergent fields including theories of social interaction from sociology, theories of practice from anthropology, and nonlinear dynamics from the physical sciences. This study is a qualitative study, which employs both ethnographic and discourse analytic methods. The study examines native and non-native English speaker interactions on a MUD, a text-based online game. Data was collected for one year. The data for analysis consist primarily of logs of online interactions. The major conclusion of this study was that individuals acquire language appropriate to a particular environment by interacting with others in that environment. As individuals come to an environment and strive towards particular non-linguistic goals, they necessarily interact with others in the environment. As they do, they create shared ways of interacting. Through interaction, they refine the ways in which they speak. By employing multiple perspectives to guide the analysis, new insights into second language use and interaction can be obtained. This broadens our understanding of second language use in non-classroom settings. Implications for pedagogy in foreign language education are discussed.