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Gaming kids better at English: study

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Young gamers playing 'World in Warcraft' in Stockholm. The game was cited by researchers as one those which helps improve a child's level of English. Claudio Bresciani/TT
15:24 CEST+02:00
A new Swedish study revealed that children aged 10-11 who play computer games are better at English than their peers, with researchers saying they were "very surprised" at the kids' vocabulary level.

The report was carried out by researchers at the Universities of Gothenburg and Karlstad. A total of 76 children participated in the study, which found that those who spent more time playing video games had greater knowledge of the English language. 

"What we discovered was that gaming is extremely important in terms of improving a child's vocabulary and understanding of English. The vocabulary level that they acquired was very surprising," Liss Kerstin Sylvén, associate professor specialising in languages at the University of Gothenburg and co-author of the study, told The Local.

As part of the study the children were broken into three groups. One was for non-gamers, another for moderate gamers, and the third for frequent gamers who play for several hours per week.

The youngsters also kept a language diary for a week to keep track of how much they were exposed to English, for example through television and magazines.

When the results came in it was revealed that those who played games for longer were better at English. The results also demonstrated significant differences between boys and girls in terms of their gaming preferences.

"A game like 'World of Warcraft' requires a child to be very active in their use of language as there is a lot of role-playing involved. The same goes for 'Grand Theft Auto' which was also very popular with boys," said Sylvén.

"Girls tend to play games to a lesser extent and the ones they do play are more social, like 'The Sims' as an example."

In Sweden children start learning English formally at the age of ten, but more and more schools are starting lessons even earlier, even in the first grade.

The academic who co-authored the study told The Local that there were advantages to computer games, despite the image many parents have of them being a distraction to homework.

"There are so many negative aspects in terms of the image of computer games, but there is no doubt, speaking from a language perspective, there are benefits for children who play them. I'm not a gamer myself and my eyes were certainly opened doing this study," said Sylvén.

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She added; "What is crucial is how much children are exposed to English outside of the classroom. That makes a big difference. Children in Sweden definitely see English as a cool language."

Last year the Local reported that Swedes were ranked at the top of the class when it comes to speaking English.

The Local/pr 

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