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Interactive Fictional games for English Learning.

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Meeting the learning needs is a big job and there are many challenges involved. Recently, I was exposed to a strange challenge, where one of my student Anil, couldn’t cope up with the English learning at a great pace. I quickly noticed that Anil did not have a reading habit. Even after Anil being subjected to a lot of reading sessions and recommendations of reading newspapers, he wasn’t able to acquire his proficiency over the language.

Having proficiency is not an easy task. Anil was managing to get to the level of interpreting but was usually stuck at this level and was unable to move to the advanced level.

In addition, I observed that there was a high degree of fossilization, with Anil being unable to move beyond his current level of grammatical competence.

Furthermore, and perhaps linked to this, what I observed through this challenge was, the engagement through reading task was limited and we are still stuck on the traditional methods of learning English. The traditional method relies mainly on textbooks, grammatical learning and not on hands-on approach thereby emphasizes on basic skills.

Hence, it is imperative to put more inputs before expecting an output.

Are we expecting an output without an input?

  • An Exposure to language input is largely responsible for the development of learners. Nobody denies the essential role that input plays in English learning. The concept of learning English has moved beyond the walls of the classroom and language learning now, more than ever depends on the inputs that we chip in.
  • By using the word ‘Input’, I mean, extensive exposure to the comprehensible language, either through reading or listening for language acquisition.
  • Before we proceed with the inputs we should put our emphasis on INPUT HYPOTHESIS.
  • A linguist Stephen Krashen originally formulated this hypothesis stating that we can emphasise on grammar, rules, doing lots of exercises, but seldom giving chances to use, conclude language or giving exposure to interaction might not work.
  • One might obtain little input information in the classroom, with limited development and improvement of their English learning.

There were a few observations that I made with the lack of input,

The mind generates a lot of fear and embarrassment and one might avoid communication only not to experience embarrassment and humiliation in front of people.

Also because, a person is not exposed to a lot of words and vocabulary, his speaking will be restricted to certain words and hence a subconscious filter will prevent him from speaking.

One more obstacle that manifests itself during language acquisition is the affective filter. It does not impact acquisition of language directly. According to Krashen, the affective filter can be prompted by many different variables including anxiety, self-confidence, motivation and stress and can produce a blockade to learning due to too much of push and lack of vocabulary and exposure to English.

One analogy I can put forward here is, I cannot make new music before being exposed to the musical learning before.

Native and non-Native speakers.

For a Native speaker, it is the childhood acquisition of the language, and hence the ability to understand and accurately produce idiomatic forms of the language that differs him from a non-native speaker. And hence there is a large exposure of language around him.

For a native speaker, perhaps, the exposure might just be half an hour for the whole day and hence he is not subjected to a surrounding of too much English speaking which comes as a challenge and isn’t enriching. The only thing one needs to do or can be prominently worked upon is reading.

Challenges for Input

  • One thing we majorly forget to stress on is Classroom studying. If we look at one-hour classroom scenario, the prime importance of listening and writing skills in language acquisition can be worked on in the classroom but the interaction cannot be satisfied. There is a very less interaction among people in the classroom and hence the exposure to words is less.
  • Reading newspaper is beneficial but reading every day without motivation and skimming through words isn’t enough as one might not completely get the meaning of all the words used. Hence, there can be a loss of interest and engagement in it. The absorption is very less through this medium and hence the output is negligible.

How do we resolve the challenges?

A valid alternative to traditional language learning can be found in game-based language learning, which offers a means for all four language skills to be practiced in a flexible, highly empowering and engaging way.

Interactive Fiction is one of the oldest formats we have for language learning. In particular, it might offer language learners a potentially more engaging and interactive learning experience. It encompasses the unique learning and cognitive affordance of great exposure to language for deeper interaction with narrative text and giving more authentic and meaningful reading/writing skills practice.

Interactive Fiction involves an informed decision to be taken. A story flows ahead and certain conditions and questions are asked and one needs to make an affirmative decision which may lead to the flow of a story.

For reaching to this decision, a student needs to read the story carefully and needs to maintain an interaction and connection for reaching to an end.

There is a certain gratification to go for the end and hence absorption of words is higher here than a voluntary book reading.

Our experiment

I was excited to implement this learning technique as one of our projects and hence we made a simple game where two men are trapped in National Park, as they miss the bus. The game is a fiction story, creating a situation where you will have to think to answer. The main aim is to let you think new words and comprehend. It will improve the vocabulary practically and not only grammar. The game will engage a learner in the activity while he will have to be quick with his answers. That’s when he will learn and think new words, idioms and learn to comprehend.

It will reinforce the thinking skills in which interconnections are mapped and user experiences are considered.

Eventually, the thinking competency will be increased as one is exposed to 500 700 words in a period of three months leading to high improvement. Further, if we have an add on of a trainer who helps us in clearing our basic doubts and guides us through the journey of perceiving a high command over the language, we can certainly have no looking back!

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