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An analysis of L2 Japanese learners’ social CMC with native speakers: interaction, language use and language learning
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posted on 16.01.2017by Pasfield-Neofitou, Sarah Ellen
A significant number of studies point to computer mediated communication (CMC) providing excellent opportunities for language learners to communicate with native speakers (NS) outside of formal study. However, despite the claimed benefits of informal communication with NS peers, most research on second language (L2) CMC so far has concentrated on online activities within instructed contexts. Furthermore, the majority of research conducted on L2 uses of CMC examines the acquisition of English, and thus does not address the specific challenges posed by communicating in a non-alphabetic language such as Japanese.
In order to investigate the CMC use of L2 learners, and the opportunities for language acquisition participation in online communication presents, the current study employed a multi-method approach. A longitudinal study was undertaken, in which data from the online interaction between Australian learners of Japanese and their Japanese contacts was collected. In contrast to many previous studies, volunteers were not paired with NSs in order to complete a specific task, but instead, were asked to invite their own current online contacts to participate. The collection resulted in a corpus of over 2000 instances of naturally occurring language use via blogs, email, social networking sites, online videos, chat conversations, mobile phone, videogames, and websites. Background interviews were completed to gain insight into participants’ language and computer use histories. Participants were also invited to take part in a follow-up interview, focussing on one particular interaction, in order to obtain more detailed information about their language use and acquisition in context. The use of Sealey and Carter’s (2004) social realism framework allowed for a holistic approach to the analysis of the interviews, CMC and other data, using NVivo software.
The study increases our understanding of CMC interaction in an L2, in terms of language us and opportunities for acquisition, and the nature of language in CMC in general. One of the key findings of the current study is the identification of perceived language-specific “domains”, which were found to affect participants’ language choice, code and orthographic switching, and use of contextual resources. The current research also provides greater insight into the establishment and maintenance of relationships online, and three main avenues for gaining access to CMC in an L2 were identified, comprising education, international exchange, and importantly, established online social network paths. Five types of CMC use, namely “talking”, “writing”, “reading”, “listening”, and “watching” were identified, based on participant’s own descriptions and their actual use. Importantly, participant’s own categorisations and practices often challenged traditional categorisations of “synchronous” and “asynchronous” CMC mediums. Participation in these activities was found to lead to rich opportunities for language acquisition, through the use of a variety of contextual resources, participation in authentic communication, and engagement in repair and peer feedback. The implications of these findings for teaching, learning and research are discussed.