World of Warcraft and Language Learning: Rolando’s Unique ELL Journey

Language Acquisition through Video Games

World of Warcraft and Language Learning: Rolando’s Unique ELL Journey

Welcome to episode 130 of the Equipping ELLs podcast, hosted by Beth Vaucher. This month, we bring you inspiring interviews with real English language learners who share their unique stories of learning English. These narratives highlight the transformative power of bilingualism and aim to inspire both educators and students.


In this episode, Beth interviews Rolando, who grew up in a rural area of Panama. His early education offered limited English instruction, and at home, no one spoke English, making practice nearly impossible. Despite these challenges, Rolando was determined to achieve his dreams of studying science in the United States, with his eyes fixed on a career with NASA.

Early Influences and Sacrifices

Rolando’s mother played a crucial role in his educational journey. She instilled the importance of schooling and made significant sacrifices to support his learning. At around 8 years old, she bought Rolando a computer, a rare and valuable resource in their area. This opened up a world of information and learning opportunities. She also provided him with English magazines about science, fostering his interest in both the language and various subjects.

The Role of World of Warcraft in Language Learning

A pivotal moment in Rolando’s English learning journey came in the 8th grade when he convinced his mother to let him buy the video game World of Warcraft. This game, available only in English and the USA, required collaboration and communication with other players online. Through consistent gameplay, Rolando improved his speaking, listening, reading, and writing skills in English. He didn’t realize the extent of his language acquisition until he returned to school and found his English proficiency far ahead of his classmates!

Academic and Professional Success

Rolando’s dedication to his studies paid off. Although his initial goal of working for NASA faded, he remained motivated by the prospect of attending college in the U.S. to study engineering. Through a swimming teammate, he learned about the Walton International Scholarship program, which required excellent grades and fluency in English. Rolando excelled in the entry tests, conducted in English, and won the scholarship.

Rolando attended John Brown University, where he studied electrical engineering. He graduated in May 2015 and returned to Panama. His U.S. degree was a significant advantage in the job market, and he quickly secured a position at a prestigious company. Since graduation, Rolando has used English daily, emphasizing the lasting impact of his language learning journey.

Rolando’s Advice for Teachers of ELLs

Rolando believes that teachers can best support ELL students by motivating them with clear objectives and goals. By encouraging students and showing them the tangible benefits of learning English, educators can ease the burden of the language acquisition journey. Rolando views English as a valuable tool that opens doors to numerous personal and professional opportunities, and he encourages ELL students to embrace the gift that bilingualism is.

Rolando’s story offers valuable insights for educators and ELL students alike. Listen to our full conversation with Rolando, by clicking on the player above. And join us next week for another inspiring story and educational insights!

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We all know that teaching isn’t easy, but it doesn’t have to be this hard. Equipping ELLs is a podcast for both ESL specialists and homeroom teachers who are looking for effective and engaging ways to support their English Language Learners without adding to their endless to-do list. Tune in each week to hear tips, strategies, and inspirational stories that will empower you to better reach your ELL students, equip them with life-long skills, and strengthen relationships with colleagues and parents.

Your host, Beth Vaucher, is the founder of Inspiring Young Learners. She is an ESL certified homeroom teacher with over 10 years of experience teaching in the US and internationally. Her background of M.Ed in ESL and Curriculum and Instruction combined with her experience has led her to develop a bestselling newcomer curriculum that has sold in over 90 countries around the globe. She brings a different perspective to teaching ELLs from her years teaching and living abroad and working with ELLs from around the world. You will walk away from each episode with the ideas and tools you need to transform your experience as a teacher and cultivate a thriving and welcoming environment for your ELL students.



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