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130. World of Warcraft and Language Learning: Rolando’s Unique ELL Journey
Episode 1307th June 2024 • Equipping ELLs • Beth Vaucher, ELL, ESL Teachers
00:00:00 00:37:42

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Welcome to our series on inspiring stories of language learning from real ELLs!

In this episode of the Equipping ELLs podcast, host Beth Vaucher interviews Rolando, an inspiring English language learner from rural Panama. Rolando's journey to bilingualism is marked by determination, a supportive mother, and an unconventional learning tool: the video game World of Warcraft. Discover how Rolando overcame limited English instruction at school and leveraged technology to achieve fluency, ultimately securing a scholarship to study electrical engineering in the U.S. Rolando shares valuable insights for educators on motivating ELL students and emphasizes the lifelong benefits of mastering English. Join us to hear Rolando's story of perseverance, language acquisition, and professional success.

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Welcome to episode 130 of the Equipping ELLs podcast, hosted by Beth Vaucher. During the month of June we have some incredible interviews on cue for you. Over the next few weeks you’ll be hearing interviews with real ELLs who share their stories of learning English. We hope these stories inspire you and show the big picture of what a gift bilingualism is for our students who take the journey. 

First up, Beth welcomes into the studio Rolando. Rolando grew up in rural area of Panama. He attended public school, where English instruction was very limited. And then when he went home, no one spoke English, so there was no opportunity for practicing. 

His mother, at an early age, helped to instill the belief that school was very important. Rolando knew that to achieve his dreams of working for NASA or his mother’s dream for him to go into the medical field, he had to make and keep school a priority. He was very driven and always made school a priority.

His mom sacrificed to buy him a computer when he was about 8 years old. This was super uncommon at that time, especially in Rolando’s area. It opened the world to information and learning for Rolando. She also bought him magazines in English about science and more. 

When Rolando was in 8th grade, he convinced his mother to let him buy a video game : World of Warcraft. It was difficult to buy a physical copy at that time in Panama. The game was only available in the USA and in English. Rolando was able to get his hands on the game, and because it was a game available only in English, and a collaborative game played online with other players, Rolando gained consistency in speaking, listening to, and reading English. 

He gives this consistency with the speaking/listening of English online in the game the credit with his English learning. He didn’t realized his gains in language acquisition until he started school the following year and realized how advanced his English was in comparison to his classmates. 

Although his goal of working for NASA faded over the years, he maintained motivated to keep good grades, finishing at the top of his class for scholarships, etc. because he still had the goal to go to college in the U.S to study engineering.

Through a swimming teammate, Rolando learned of the Walton International Scholarship program. The requirements included excellent grades and also some level of fluency in English. For his entry into the scholarship program, he took math, chemistry, and physics tests in English for the first time.

5-6 students were awarded the scholarship from each country in Central America. ,With his scholarship, Rolando had tuition completely paid for, summer airline tickets home, and more. 

Rolando graduated from John Brown University. He studied electrical engineering and gained an undergraduate degree.

duated from university in May:

In Rolando’s opinion, the best way that teachers can best support ELLs in their classroom is to motivate them with some sort of objective or goal. Find the ways to meet the student and encourage them with the very good reasons to push forward in learning the language and moving toward achieving bilingualism. He says it eases the load and the burden of the long journey of language learning.

And he wants ELL students to recognize English as a valuable tool to be added to your toolkit, both in your personal and in your professional life. And he believes it is a gateway to many opportunities and experiences. And you’ll be glad you’ve learned English when you have! You will use it!

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