Using the serious digital game City of Immigrants to enhance pragmatic and media literacy skills
Recent global events have led to circulating images of long airport lines, with travelers having their health checked to prevent the spread of disease. Evoking scenes of immigration from the past, this is the scenario that takes place at the beginning of City of Immigrants (https://www.mission-us.org/) (2015), a serious game designed to teach about immigration and industrialization a hundred years ago. In the game, the character’s arrival in New York is not at the airport, but on Ellis Island (see box 1). Although Lena, a Jewish immigrant at the turn of the twentieth century, clears this initial obstacle, further challenges await her. Students playing the game make decisions for Lena, helping her navigate this precarious situation.
While the primary focus is on developing an understanding of historical events and trends, Lena’s path through the game is determined by the ways in which she uses language to shape relationships with the people she meets. The game thus provides an opportunity for EFL learners to focus on pragmatic competence.
Using the game in the EFL classroom
Although missing the elaborate graphics of commercial games, playing serious games contributes to the development of media-related competencies as well as the language and content-related skills they target. Competencies of the Common European Framework of Languages (CEF 2018) addressed in the game include listening (CEF 2018: 55) and reading comprehension (CEF 2018: 62), aural and audio-visual reception strategies (CEF 2018:54), and developing a pluricultural repertoire by introducing other cultural norms and generating empathy for them (CEF 2018: 158). The game can also develop students’ plurilingual comprehension skills (CEF 2018: 160), as its use of Yiddish terms offers opportunities for students to identify Yiddish and German cognates, and use them as context cues to support their understanding of English. The game moreover develops learners’ sociolinguistic knowledge, providing opportunities for learners to strengthen their ability to “recognise and interpret sociocultural/sociolinguistic cues…” (CEF 2018: 138), and use these to respond to interlocutors appropriately. In the game, examples of pragmatic conventions regarding politeness, stereotypical phrases, register, tone, and disagreement are evident.
Cultural and plurilingual learning
Lena’s Judaism plays a central role in the game, authentically depicting the role of Jewish immigration in the development of New York City. In addition to introducing Yiddish words, Jewish traditions are described within the gameplay and are moments of conflict for Lena when she is, for example, asked to work on the Jewish day of rest. Educators should anticipate anti-Semitic prejudices that the game may unintentionally reinforce. For example, Lena’s focus on earning money may play into stereotypes of Jewish people as being overly interested in financial matters. Linguistically, teachers can contribute to learners’ plurilingual competence by comparing Yiddish terms with German cognates, such as maidel (a partial list of the Yiddish terms in the game is in the teacher’s manual at https://bit.ly/3bQGjEK). A visit to a Jewish museum or an interdisciplinary approach focusing on religious customs and history could serve to contextualize Lena’s background.
Additionally, U.S. history is embedded in the narrative and especially in the turning points that hinge on Lena’s decisions....
Jetzt weiterlesen mit Friedrich+ Englisch!
- Digitaler Vollzugriff auf die Inhalte der Zeitschriften Unterricht Englisch und Englisch 5-10
- Intuitive Benutzeroberfläche mit thematischer Struktur und intelligenter Suche
- Jährlich über 100 neue didaktische Beiträge, Unterrichtseinheiten, Arbeitsblätter, Lesetexte, Bildmaterial, Filmsequenzen, Hörtexte, Methodenkarten, Lernplakate, Klausuren und vieles mehr