EUROCALL 2014

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Social Networking Sites for learners at beginner level: an alternative use of FB

Recent research has investigated the use of Social Networking Sites (SNSs) in higher education as potential web resources that create dynamic learning environments, promote critical thinking and offer authentic L2 learning opportunities, beside making deeper connections with the culture of the native L2 speakers.
Since such sites are already an integral part of many students’ e-routine, it was suggested that instructors should take advantage of using SNSs such as FB for the opportunities they offer to interact and collaborate with other speakers of the L2.
In contrast with researchers that have examined different ways to integrate FB, or similar SNSs, within intermediate-advanced foreign language class to promote communication, this study has considered an alternative use of the same tool for a near zero beginner class of L2 learners of Japanese within an Italian University.
Given that classes where the L2 has a different writing system from students’ L1 need to invest a lot of time to introduce and practice the script, less space is dedicated to activities that digital natives would need, and probably appreciate, most to become proficient learners in a multicultural and society.
FB is currently the most popular SNS in Italy and was selected for this empirical project to address two issues: 1) students’ perceptions and attitudes towards the use of a web resource, with which they are already familiar, to learn and practice online Japanese writing; 2) its potential benefits in terms of motivation, language and cultural learning.
The study, which run for ten weeks and was offered on a voluntary basis, included the participation to a closed FB group and used a mixed-approach which included two surveys, submitted to the whole class before and after the project, and language tests.
Forty eight students, out of about a hundred, decided to join the closed FB group. In order to encourage participants to be exposed to and engage with authentic materials available on the web from the very beginning of their learning, a series of simple pedagogic tasks was developed and submitted on a weekly basis. Guidelines for designing tasks were taken from principles of language teaching, grounded in SLA research.
The data were analysed using statistical software. Differences between the FB group exposed to selected authentic material and the one that did not participate in the project offer insights to better grasp the full potentials that SNSs may play in developing participation, motivation, language and cultural learning awareness in the context of foreign language learning.
Given the interest raised by the results of the study, similar projects are planned to be implemented within classes of other less commonly taught languages within the same institution.

Author(s):

Tiziana Carpi    
Department of Language Mediation and Intercultural Communication
National University of Milan
Italy

PhD Candidate at the University of Rome.
Lecturer of Japanese Language, Culture and Translation at the National University of Milan. MA in Japanese Applied Linguistics, School of Oriental and African Studies, London (England), BA in Japanese Language and Literature, "Cà Foscari" University of Venice (Italy). Her research interest focuses on CALL for Japanese language.

 

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