In the language learning literature, games often deal with foreign language vocabulary, but rarely with learning sentences, and barely with conversations. This study set out to examine the effects of game-based learning on foreign language learners’ learning of sentences and discourse-level forms in the following settings: “learning with game playing,” “learning with game designing,” and “learning without games.” Analysis of the participants’ data showed that “learning with game playing” exerted the most significant effect on learning motivation. “Learning without games” was particularly facilitative in terms of short-term gains, especially when the learning content was limited. However, its advantage was reduced as the learning content became more extensive. In contrast, “learning with game designing” was better able to boost learners’ attainment, especially when learning content became more extensive; and it was most helpful in terms of promoting and retaining the gain in the long term. Insights from this study provide important pedagogical implications for differentiated game-based learning practice for foreign language learners.
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