Academic journal article Language, Learning & Technology

Categorization of Text Chat Communication between Learners and Native Speakers of Japanese(1)

Academic journal article Language, Learning & Technology

Categorization of Text Chat Communication between Learners and Native Speakers of Japanese(1)

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT

A number of CALL studies suggest the potential benefits of network-based communication for L2 acquisition, focusing on its nature for inducing negotiation of meaning. This study examined negotiation of meaning that took place between students and native speakers of Japanese over a series of chat conversations and attempted to categorize the difficulties encountered. The data showed that the difficulties in understanding each other did indeed trigger negotiation of meaning between students even when no specific communication tasks were given. Using discourse analysis methods, the negotiations were sorted into nine categories according to the causes of the difficulties: recognition of new word, misuse of word, pronunciation error, grammatical error, inappropriate segmentation, abbreviated sentence, sudden topic change, slow response, and inter-cultural communication gap. Through the examination of these categories of negotiation, it was found that there were some language aspects that are crucial for communication but that had been neglected in teaching, and that students would not have noticed if they had not had the opportunity to chat with native speakers. In light of these findings, the authors make pedagogical recommendations on some classroom tasks for improving chat conversations.

INTRODUCTION

As a result of technological innovations, new types of communication, namely network-based communication, have emerged. These new technologies, e-mail and chat in particular, are being used increasingly in second/foreign language (L2) learning environments. Many researchers regard this type of communication as a promising tool for language learning, as it allows learners to interact with native speakers from the country where their target language is spoken. Previous research suggests that it increases learners' opportunities to use the target language (Barson, Frommer, & Schwartz, 1993), induces a series of negotiations of meaning (Blake, 2000), and improves the quality of written and spoken language (Sotillo, 2000).

SLA Theories

Second language acquisition (SLA) theories advocate that oral interaction that requires negotiation of meaning is necessary for enhancing learners' interlanguage (Ellis, 1985; Long, 1991; Pica, 1994; Swain, 1993, 1995). Negotiation of meaning is defined as "modification and restructuring of interaction that occurs when learners and their interlocutors anticipate, perceive, or experience difficulties in message comprehensibility" (Pica, 1994, p. 495). Modification and restructuring include repetitions, confirmations, reformulations, comprehension checks, recasts, confirmation checks, and clarification requests (Long, 1996).

The Interaction Hypothesis (Gass, 1997; Long, 1996, 1991) claims that resolving miscommunication (negotiation of meaning) enhances L2 learning, as it provides more opportunities for comprehensible input and modified output. The Output Hypothesis (Swain, 1993, 1995) explains that producing output is one way of testing a hypothesis about comprehensibility or linguistic well-formedness (Swain, 1995, p. 126), and that learners' hypothesis testing often invokes interaction between the learners and their interlocutor(s). Native speaker difficulties in following learners' interlanguage may trigger feedback, which in return may induce changes in the learners' output. Negotiation of meaning also occurs on occasions where the native speakers' input is above the learners' threshold level of understanding. Learners may notice a gap between their interlanguage and the language that native speakers produce, and may request clarification. The output hypothesis thus claims that the output induces negotiation of meaning and the negotiation leads to the enhancement of the learners' interlanguage.

CALL Studies on Negotiation of Meaning

Many CALL researchers postulate that network-based communication can facilitate second language acquisition in a similar fashion to face-to-face negotiations in classroom settings, and have found abundant evidence of comprehensible input and modified output resulting from negotiation of meaning (Blake, 2000; Kitade, 2000; Pellettieri, 2000; Warschauer, 1998). …

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