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EFL learners’ perceived use of conversation maintenance strategies during synchronous computer mediated communication with native English speakers

In Japan as EFL environment, the learners in university level have few chances of authentic output and interaction in English. Although they have fair amount of vocabulary and grammatical knowledge for competitive entrance examinations, they have weakness in applying their knowledge to performance. For such learners to further develop their spoken L2 ability, the researcher provided them eight video synchronous computer mediated communication with native English speakers using Skype for one semester. Concretely the learners gave short presentations to Filipino bilingual English teachers and then had discussion with the teacher about what they had presented. Interaction during the sessions was a crucial opportunity for them to have uncontrolled conversation with native English speakers.
Under the circumstances, this study investigated perceived use of conversation maintenance strategies during synchronous computer mediated communication with native English speakers. I also concerned the relationships of the strategies use with speaking ability and comprehensive proficiency level. Thus, the research questions were: (1) How were the learners’ perceived use of conversation maintenance strategies related with one another?; (2) What were the relationship of those strategies with learner’s speaking ability?
The participants were 21 Japanese university students whose major were Economics. During the semester, the participants experienced five synchronous computer mediated communication sessions in total. Two Filipino native-like English speaker teachers were in charge of seven groups of two or three Japanese EFL learners. Each of the teachers listened to three presentations during each 50 minutes session. During one period, the teacher had interaction with the learners especially after each one’s presentation, asking questions and giving some comments.
Speaking ability was assessed through an interview test following the format of STEP Eiken test for Japanese learners of English which consists of reading aloud, picture narration and open-ended free Q&A. To obtain the learners’ perception of conversation maintenance strategies, a questionnaire was provided after each session, which asked about how much they could actually put into practices about each items. Recorded data of the spoken interactions was also used to find out more about the reality. The details will be provided in the presentation.
So far based on the questionnaire results, as for the RQ (1), among the valuable findings were the relationships between using eye contact and asking question to the teacher (r =.61, p<.01) , between asking question to the teacher and readiness to help peers during the session (r =.70, p<.01), and between well-preparedness of presentation and active listening to the interaction of peers and the teacher (r =.63, p<.01). As for the RQ (2), speaking ability was correlated weakly with trying to give presentation without written script (r =.40, p<.05), and with asking questions to the teacher (r =.43, p<.05) . Further details of actual spoken data would be presented in the conference.
In conclusion, synchronous computer mediated communication had successfully provided opportunities for the learners to practice maintaining conversation.


Atsushi Iino    
Hosei University

Atsushi Iino has been teaching English for 27 years in Japan. He has MA in TESOL from Columbia University Teacher College, MA in Applied Linguistics from University of Tokyo. His research interest is instruction of speaking with SCMC with international context.


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