Understanding language learners’ interaction in SCMC

A sociocultural study

Brianna Janssen Sánchez, University of Iowa

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The emergence of computer-mediated communication has brought exciting new models of interpersonal interactions for language learners, which have considerable implications for L2 acquisition. This poster presents a study that explored language learners’ interactions and how their immediate social environment, especially their interlocutor and the computer, impact their interaction. Sixteen intermediate level Spanish language learners completed SCMC opinion exchange tasks and findings revealed a variety of interactional features including intersubjectivity, off-task discussion, social cohesiveness, use of humor, use of English, and relationship building.

Stimulated Recall interviews shed light on learner perspectives and showed that both the interlocutor and the computer influenced the learner interaction during the task. Students reported that words or phrases indicating intersubjectivity were used to emphasize agreement and show personal feelings. Students also decided to discuss off-task topics and use humor because they were prompted by something they saw in their off-task internet use, because they wanted to make their partner feel good or happy, or they wanted to be funny, exaggerate, or make the task more fun. Polite formulas were used in order to gauge partners’ thoughts on an issue, or complement or acknowledge an opinion. Students reported the reasons that they used English in their reports were because they did not know how to say a word, wanted to keep the conversation flowing, or they did not know if their partner would know the word in Spanish.

Finally, 15 out of 16 students reported using the Internet for both on-task and off-task activities including online translators or dictionaries, email, Facebook or online class notes. Based on the results from this study, it is evident that learners are conscious of their social world and that SCMC is a place for real social communication in the target language.

Brianna Janssen Sánchez

Ph.D. Candidate in SLA
University of Iowa