Early Second Language Learning and Adult Involvement in a Real-World Context: Design and Evaluation of the "ELENA Goes Shopping" Mobile Game

Ellen Rusman*, Stefaan Ternier, Marcus Specht

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


This article describes the theory-informed design of the “ELENA goes shopping” mobile game and reportson the evaluation of its effectiveness through a design research approach. The game aimed to foster youngchildren’s (aged 4-8) interest in a neighboring (geographically proximate) language and to familiarize themwith its sounds, pronunciation and vocabulary. Additionally, it strived to involve adults in young children’slanguage learning activities. To achieve these objectives, the game connects playful learning activities to anaccessible, familiar real-world setting (supermarket). The game was developed and evaluated through threeiterative design research cycles. First, interdisciplinary experts (n = 8) evaluated the game by means of aquestionnaire and focus group discussion. In the second and third cycles, the game’s feasibility andusability was evaluated via questionnaires, semi-structured interviews and a language learning outcometest. Results revealed that children (34) and adults (14) alike found the game useful for familiarization withand motivation to learn another language, and feasible to involve adults. Nevertheless, children could playthe game autonomously with minimum adult assistance. A dependent t-test on a repeated vocabulary testrevealed adults’ and children’s perception that the game helped them familiarize with another language tobe consistent with test results. A limitation to this study is that the test was administered immediately aftergame playing. Future studies could explore effects of “real-world” contextualization on early secondlanguage learning and vocabulary recall by measuring after longer time spans and compare results versus anon-contextualized game.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)90-103
Number of pages14
JournalEducational Technology & Society
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2018


  • Mobile assisted (early) language learning
  • Game-based language learning
  • Situated/contextualized learning
  • Seamless learning

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