Twine Reflection

In 2015 I traveled to Barcelona, Spain, and took my very first Spanish language class with a friend of mine. My friend, Danika, had taken Spanish in high school and in college. My very basic second language background was in Italian. Many people told me that learning Spanish wouldn’t be so challenging as the process of verb conjugations and syntax between the Italian and Spanish languages is very similar (i.e. subject - verb - object). I was required to take placement exam and was appropriately placed in the most beginner level course. Upon arrival to my first day of class, I realized that the teacher did not speak any English, and that I was going to be taking a Spanish language class for four hours a day (36 hours total) without any direction in my native language. Other students in the class had some background in Spanish, making me the least familiar with the language. Now, I took this class for enjoyment so the stakes were very, very low, but the experience was so relevant as I was in the process of completing my first masters in education. I was able to experience, for a short time, how an English Language Learner must feel (to a slight degree) when they are immersed in a school that is culturally different than their own as well as with students from different backgrounds. The teacher did not use any materials to teach us other than her voice. She would cold call on us, ask us questions and expect us to be able to answer her using language we had only heard her speak at us - no visuals, no videos, no handouts - only listening and jotting down random notes. My Italian background was of now help! It was extremely overwhelming, but has made me more empathetic to the experience of language learners in my school. I also learned how critical is it to present information to ELL’s in multiple formats, with visuals, providing opportunities for small group learning and glossaries of terms in students’ native language.

I mention this experience because when creating my Twine game, I felt a similarly overwhelmed. Clearly, the purpose of both human and programming languages is communication. Communicating with a person (human language), or communicating with a machine (programming language) involves the expression of directions, emotions and imagination through spoken words or written symbols. As humans, we generally have much more experience with spoken words. A similarity I came across when writing my Twine game was that both human and programming languages rely heavily on semantics and syntax. Semantics is the meaning given to a certain word. When using Twine, I relied on certain words with “[[...]]” around them to create a button to move my game player to the next passage. If I changed the title of my next passage to a different word, the two passages would not longer be linked. Furthermore, on my language log I recorded that, “When I create a tag on the style sheet, I cannot have spaces between the words if the tag is more than one word because when adding the tag to the passage, dashes are added between the words. For example, if my tag on the stylesheet was, On Fire, when I would go to write it on the passage, it would read, On-Fire. This small difference does not link the background photo to the passage”. It is very important when programming that words are identically connected to the action that follows. Next, I also realized that syntax, or the arrangement of words and phrases matters A LOT when writing code. For example, I initially struggled with including multi-media into my passages as my passage would become blank when I copied code into them. According to my language log, “I now realize that < > encompasses an entire action and I know that links must go within “ “ .” Each component of the code, or syntax of the code, matters. You cannot remove one piece and hope that the general message will be received by Twine and that Twine will know what to do. Everything needs to be exactly in place!

Through both my experience as a human language learner and a computational language learner, I have realized that supporting ELL students requires explicit, clear directions, multiple opportunities for practice, multiple opportunities to show mastery and delivery of content / instruction through a variety of mediums. When learning Twine, I watched Youtube videos from multiple sources, read published PDF documents, as well as less formal forums, contacted Dr. Ardito for individual questions, and practiced through trial and error. Taking an online class such as this one is both a blessing and a curse. I do not have time to attend an in person class, but learning a new language alone feels both isolating and at times frustrating. I think attending an in person class alleviates some of the stress that comes along with being unable to de-bug some of the errors, especially after researching how to fix the error without success. Fortunately, when ELL students attend school, they are provided support from human teachers who have empathy and patience, unlike computers. In one of my reflections I wrote that I believe a major difference between learning human and computational languages is that, “I think human languages are more forgiving than computational languages. For example, when learning a new human language, there is room for error. Humans will work with you to try and figure out what you are saying, and language learners are able to listen to how native speakers speak”. Multilingual people usually say they were able to pick up a new language through living in the location where the language is spoken, watching movies, or listening to music. With programming, the natural auditory experience is lost.

Ultimately, being able to speak more than one language, either human or computational is an extreme benefits. Computational languages allow you to create a tangible experience, while human languages help convey your emotions while going through an experience. Human languages evolve and develop over time (i.e. slang, varies uses of words, dialects, formality), while computational languages do not have that ability. The stability of computational languages can be a benefit as once learners have mastered the language, they do not need to stay on top of any changes. Finally, human language is both logical and emotional, which is why I prefer it; meaning can be conveyed through non-verbal cues such as eye contact, body language, facial expression.

Dantes Inferno Game

    • Gerald Ardito
      Gerald Ardito


      Your final reflection is exemplary and insightful. You demonstrate both the willingness to work hard personally (which is a quality I have been able to observe before) as well as an empathy towards the challenges that learners face. This is a powerful combination.

      I loved this:

      I mention this experience because when creating my Twine game, I felt a similarly overwhelmed. Clearly, the purpose of both human and programming languages is communication. Communicating with a person (human language), or communicating with a machine (programming language) involves the expression of directions, emotions and imagination through spoken words or written symbols.

      How do you feel about possibly introducing  ELL students to computational languages? 

      Additionally, the game you created is just beautiful. As a former student of Latin and Dante, I found it especially meaningful.

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