Target languages, types of activities, engagement, and effectiveness of extramural language learning

Ruofei ZHANG, Di ZOU, Gary CHENG, Haoran XIE, Fu Lee WANG*, Oliver Tat Sheung AU

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Journal PublicationsJournal Article (refereed)peer-review

21 Citations (Scopus)


Since Sundqvist introduced the term “extramural English” in 2009, empirical research on extramural language learning has continued to expand. However, the expanding empirical research has yet yielded incommensurate review studies. To present a timely picture of the field of extramural language learning, this study conducts a review of 33 relevant articles retrieved from Scopus and Web of Science databases. The results showed the five types of target languages frequently investigated in this field (i.e., English, German, French, Chinese, and Japanese) and seven main types of extramural learning activities (i.e., playing digital games, watching videos, reading, listening to audios, having technology-enhanced socialisation, having face-to-face socialisation, and writing compositions). People’s engagement in extramural language learning was overall high, especially listening to audios and playing digital games, mediated by the relationship between the difficulty of the activities and people’s target language proficiency levels, gender, and the interactive environment. Extramural language learning was overall effective for language development and enhancing affective states in language learning. The effectiveness may be influenced by the involvement of language inputs and outputs and the amount of engagement time. Implications for practitioners were suggested concerning encouraging digital gameplay, emphasising formal language instruction, and creating positive interactive environments for extramural language learning.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0253431
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 28 Jun 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding: G. Cheng’s work was supported by the One-off Special Fund from Central and Faculty Fund in Support of Research from 2019/20 to 2021/22 (MIT02/19-20) and the Research Cluster Fund (RG 78/2019-2020R) of The Education University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong. H. Xie’s work was supported by the Faculty Research Fund (DB21A9) and the HKIBS Research Program Grant Application (HCRG-201-002, 702024) of Lingnan University, Hong Kong. O. Au’s work was supported by the Open University of Hong Kong Research Grant (No. 2019/1.4). The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.

Publisher Copyright:
Copyright: © 2021 Zhang et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.


  • Female
  • Humans
  • Language
  • Language Development
  • Learning
  • Male
  • Multilingualism


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