Game on! Young learners’ incidental language learning of English prior to instruction

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Vanessa De Wilde
June Eyckmans


In this paper the incidental language acquisition of 11-year-old Flemish children (n = 30) who have not received any formal English instruction is investigated. The study looks into children’s English proficiency and the learner characteristics that can be associated with it. In order to measure the children’s English proficiency, a receptive vocabulary test and a proficiency test (which measured listening skills, speaking skills, reading skills and writing skills) were used. Information about learner characteristics was gathered through two questionnaires (for children and parents). The results show that a significant proportion of the 11-year-olds can already perform tasks at the A2 level (The Common European Framework of Reference for Languages) without having had any formal instruction. The study confirms that children learn English from the input they receive through different media (especially gaming and computer use). Furthermore, the data reveal a strikingly positive attitude towards English and demonstrate that in some situations Flemish children prefer using English over their L1 with their peers.


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How to Cite
De Wilde, V., & Eyckmans, J. (2017). Game on! Young learners’ incidental language learning of English prior to instruction. Studies in Second Language Learning and Teaching, 7(4), 673-694.
Author Biographies

Vanessa De Wilde, Ghent University, Artevelde University College Ghent

Vanessa De Wilde is a PhD student and teacher trainer of English at Ghent University, Belgium and Head of the English section in the Secondary Education Department at Artevelde University College where she teaches English as a foreign language at various levels of proficiency, is involved in the guidance and coaching of student teachers and works on course development. Her research interests are SLA of young learners and language teaching methodology. She has given various workshops to teachers of foreign languages and has presented the results of her research at conferences.

June Eyckmans, Ghent University

June Eyckmans is Associate Professor of Applied Linguistics at the Department of Translation, Interpreting and Communication of Ghent University, Belgium where she teaches courses in applied linguistics, research methodology and EFL. Her research interests center on second language acquisition research, with a special focus on L2 vocabulary learning. She publishes on cognitive linguistic approaches to vocabulary learning and on assessment methodology in national and international journals, and she currently supervises research projects on individual difference variables, vocabulary learning and incidental language acquisition. She is often consulted by national and international organisations for the improvement of language assessment procedures.


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