HELLO AGAIN READERS
I have been quite busy lately. Which also means that I haven’t had time to really write anything creative in a long while; other than this poem about me lamenting the fact that summer is coming and I’m lost as heck. Most importantly, I am currently working on my Bachelor’s thesis at Uni, and I thought that I’d share my idea and topic with the internet, while also telling an interesting story about my own life. This probably isn’t actually that interesting to (m)any of you, but it is a great way to divert myself from doing some actual – relevant and worthwhile – things towards the thesis itself (or any of the other myriad schoolwork I have to finish this month (send help)).
The long and short of my Bachelor’s thesis is this: I want to study the effects of out-of-school media, and how it affects students learning a second language (in this case the language is English). Moreover, I want to study the opinions of the students, and not just raw scientific data. Even more moreover, I want to see which media are used for out-of-school learning, not just if and how they are used.
For those who could not care less about universities and their silly studies, I feel you. But this is, in my opinion, something that we should all be interested in; the way outside influences and activities help us learn things when we are not in school (as most people only spend a fraction of their life in school). Learning doesn’t stop when you leave school – on the contrary actually – I think our learning gets heightened even more when we do things that we enjoy!
In a hypothetical future where I graduate and decide that I actually want to be a real researcher – and not an entrepreneur/rock-star/astronaut/crime-fighter – this is what I’d use my grant money and time on. In the meanwhile, in this reality, my suggestion for anyone that is interested in mumbo-jumbo-moon-speak scientific research to look up Pia Sundqvist and her research. She has done some great studies regarding out-of-school learning, particularly with media and video games.
Right, why am I talking about my thesis? And why does it even matter? Wow, those are some direct – and quite honestly rude – questions there bud, a.k.a me. The answer is that it doesn’t really matter what I do for my Bachelor’s thesis. What does matter is why I am doing this exact thing/topic, and why I was influenced to do it. Well, let me tell you..
The only place this story can start is at the beginning: I was born in a barn to my parents, and then these three really smart dudes showed up with… Wait I think I’m getting my story mixed up with another guy. Let me start over again.
I was four-years-old. No, not when I was born, but when I first started watching cartoons on TV. My father had received or borrowed a satellite dish for watching TV from his friend. One of the channels on that dish was Cartoon Network.
Now why is this small detail important? Boy howdy let me tell you! Because CN (Cartoon Network) was a satellite channel, and CN was obviously all in English, which is not my native language. Moreover, it had no subtitles; which meant that there was me, a small little lad, and a language I couldn’t understand in cartoons like The Powerpuff Girls and Ed, Edd n Eddy. But it didn’t stop me from trying. There’s this story that my grandmother sometimes reminds me about; some of her friends from the Netherlands came to visit her and her family, which meant me as well. While not a master of the Dutch language at four-years-old, I was however a master of blabbering in English with words that I had heard on Cartoon Network. Sure, the conversation was quite one-sided, and sure, it was because I couldn’t actually speak English. I sure as heck tried to though.
However, Cartoon Network was only just the beginning of it all. It was only the first steps of learning a new language by myself. One of the most influential episodes on this journey of self-learning came when my dad decided to buy me the original Xbox in 2002-3 or so. Granted, it wasn’t the first time I played video games in English. I still have faint (and beautifully nostalgic) memories of playing the third Monkey Island game on my dad’s ancient computer, and playing the original Doom with my cousins. Still, the most important one was the original Xbox, and the game that came with it: Halo: Combat Evolved. Holy crap, I tell you.
I played this game and the subsequent ones that came after it for hours upon hours. By Halo 2, online play was possible with Xbox Live. This meant that I could communicate and play with anyone else playing the game, wherever they might be in the world. I made international friends with total strangers just by talking to them – in English.
Some years after this, I built my first computer (thanks again dad), and started using the internet. Here I am, even still. This is where the entire spectrum of the English language really opened up to me. The internet is (and was) rife with different vocabularies and many ‘pocket societies’ that all have their own wordage and codes, unified by the English language. I don’t even want to know how many hours I’ve spent on YouTube or Steam. Too many.
And that’s really the point in all of this. I learned more English from cartoons, video games, books, movies, music, the internet etc. than I ever learned in school. This is obviously quite ironic coming from a person who is supposed to teach other people in the future to learn English – in school. But it is still true. Also, you have probably noticed another reoccurring theme in this story, which is my father. My parents were the ones that gave me the ability and space to learn the language on my own, back when my mind was malleable and learning constantly. That is my other point here; parents, if you want your children to learn languages when they are young, surround them with all these possibilities of learning the language in meaningful ways. Not from a textbook, sitting in school.
Thank you for reading! Now listen to the best video game theme ever while I drown myself in nostalgia: