Similarities between Playing World of Warcraft and CLIL

Liss Kerstin Sylvén, Pia Sundqvist

clil, gender, computer gaming, second language acquisition


This article argues that playing World of Warcraft (WoW) and Content and Language Integrated Learning (CLIL) have a number of similar features. We base our argument on findings from three studies. The first (Sylvén 2004/2010) is about CLIL and non-CLIL students at upper secondary level and aims to investigate what effect, if any, CLIL has on the incidental acquisition of vocabulary. The second (Sundqvist 2009) is about extramural English and aims to examine its potential impact on learners’ oral proficiency and vocabulary. Extramural English is broadly defined as any type of contact that learners have with English outside the classroom. The third is a joint study focusing on young learners and their extramural English habits and aims to see whether there is a relationship between what the learners do in English in their spare time and their learning outcomes in school, as measured by the national test of English and a written vocabulary test. A pattern regarding gaming and learning outcomes emerged from the three studies, making it possible to claim that playing WoW shares many features with CLIL. In CLIL contexts, the aim is to integrate the learning of subject content with the learning of an L2. Similarly, in a game such as WoW – an extramural informal arena – an authentic, content-rich L2 immersive environment is supplied. We conclude that what CLIL claims to do intramurally, that is, in the classroom, WoW and possibly also other massively multiplayer online role-playing games seem to accomplish, at least to some degree, extramurally.

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