Post by Andrew Moffat (2015 Cohort)
For people learning a second language, today’s hyper-connectivity has the potential to present new domains of engagement with and exposure to their target language. Exposure to the target language is accepted as a necessary condition for language learning, and it is often a key variable in classifications of learning environments. However, Internet-based communication technologies have the potential to connect learners with expert and non-expert speakers of the target language, regardless of geographical location, providing opportunities for informal learning.
Computer-Mediated Communication (CMC) has historically been approached within Applied Linguistics and Second Language Acquisition as a tool for enhancing language learning. More recently however, there has been an increased focus in investigating language learners’ pre-existing, “extramural” English-language online communicative activities, exploring their potential as a site of exposure to language and negotiation of meaning in authentic interaction, with a view to integrating this aspect of learners’ lives more deeply with their formal learning. Most of this work is small scale and qualitative in nature, and there has been relatively little large-scale fact-finding carried out to survey current practices in this area.
My talk presented the findings of a large-scale survey undertaken in partnership between the University of Nottingham and Cambridge University Press. A questionnaire asking respondents about their English-language online communication activities was promoted on CUP’s online dictionary website, receiving over 10,000 responses in a four-week period from second language English speakers all over the world. The analysis of this data set identified contexts of CMC in which English learners most frequently use their L2 as well as commonly occurring difficulties encountered therein. The talk concluded with a brief overview of an approach to incorporating and supporting English-language online activities in the classroom, thereby integrating formal and informal learning.