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Learners’ linguistic choices in their cultural discussions: Attitudes and perceptions towards the first and target culture

Whether in telecollaborative environments (Liaw, 2006; Lomicka, 2006) or contained classrooms (Oskoz, 2012; Wildner-Bassett, 2005), the extensive research on learners’ cultural reflections illustrates the indisputable interest in intercultural (communicative) competence (Byram, 1997, 2000) in foreign language (FL) education. However, there is little knowledge as yet regarding how FL learners’ discourse practices (Martin & White, 2005) in such interactions reflect their openness to resolving misunderstandings, handling stereotypes, and becoming critical of their own cultural practices (see Belz, 2003). Working upon Byram’s (2000) assessment criteria and Appraisal Theory (White, 2005), this study examines the extent to which learners’ discursive practices in their asynchronous online interactions hinder or facilitate intercultural competence while participating in online discussions.

This study explores the following:
1. How are learners’ linguistic choices linked to different aspects of intercultural communicative competence?
2. To what extent do online asynchronous interactions enhance or hinder learners’ intercultural discussions?

Ten learners from a one-semester advanced Spanish language class provided the data for this study. Separated into three groups, learners completed two one week-long online forums related to two different cultural topics. In addition, they answered pre- and post-questionnaires and posted bi-weekly online journal entries that collected their impressions regarding the content of, and approach to, their cultural discussions.

The qualitative analysis of the online forums, journals, and questionnaires using modified versions of Appraisal Theory and Byram’s assessment criteria illustrates the extent to which (1) learners’ attitudes and perceptions towards their own and the second culture were closely related to their use of emotional, judgment, and appreciation markers, and (2) learners’ approaches to the second culture differed based on the topic and evolved during the online cultural discussions. Further results and pedagogical implications will be presented at the conference.


Ana Oskoz    
Department of Modern Languages, Linguistics and Intercultural Communication
University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC)
United States

Ana Oskoz (B.A., University of Deusto, M.A., University of Iowa, Ph.D., University of Iowa) is an associate professor of Spanish at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC). Her research is in areas of language and technology, such as the use of synchronous and asynchronous communication tools for second language learning to enhance second language writing and foster intercultural competence development.

Olimpia Pérez-Broncano    
Department of Romanic Philology, Slavic Philology and General Linguistics
Universidad Complutense de Madrid

Olimpia Pérez-Broncano obtained her MA in Intercultural Communication from this university in 2012 as a Fulbright scholar. In 2010, she received an MA in Speech Sciences from the Universidad Internacional Menéndez Pelayo in collaboration with the Centro Superior de Investigaciones Científicas (Spain), and she graduated from her BA in Computational Linguistics from Universidad Complutense de Madrid in 2009, obtaining the UCM Undergraduate Extraordinary Award and the third position National Award for the Excellency in the Academic Performance in the Humanities, 2nd cycle. Her research interests are: neurolinguistics (PhD candidate); intercultural awareness development in discussion board (UMBC); online glossaries (Lalingap, UCM).


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