Academic journal article Foreign Language Annals

The Development of L2 Japanese Self-Introductions in an Asynchronous Computer-Mediated Language Exchange

Academic journal article Foreign Language Annals

The Development of L2 Japanese Self-Introductions in an Asynchronous Computer-Mediated Language Exchange

Article excerpt

Abstract: Computer-mediated communication is an increasingly popular means of conducting classroom language exchanges, but those requiring asynchronous modes must generally forgo oral options in favor of text. This study explores the potential of asynchronous video, focusing on 15 university learners of Japanese in the United States in an interclass project with 26 English-learning peers in Japan. Both groups performed online video self-introductions in their second language (L2) before modeling the same task in their first language, completing a language awareness--raising activity on target language models of their choice, and performing a second self-introduction in L2. The second L2 performances showed more elaborate discourse but no improvement in syntactic complexity. Implications are discussed for maximizing the pedagogical benefits of similar asynchronous online exchanges.

Key words: asynchronous CMC, L1 transfer, native and nonnative speakers, target language models, videoconferencing

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Introduction

Background

Computer-mediated communication (CMC) has become an increasingly popular means of facilitating authentic interaction among second language (L2) learners at different locations around the world, but very few class-to-class online language learning partnerships established so far have involved less commonly taught lan- guages (Belz & Thorne, 2006). Negotiating various cultural and institutional con- straints in orchestrating these types of exchanges can be challenging for any language (Opp-Beckman & Kieffer, 2004), but particularly so for those spoken in relatively restricted geographic areas. For most U.S. university learners of Japanese, for example, the operative time zones and academic calendars offer no common hours during the normal school day and only approximately three to eight weeks of overlap in the spring and fall semesters, respectively. Thus, synchronous modes of interaction such as text chat (Belz, 2002, 2004), video chat (Jauregi & Canto, 2012; O'Dowd, 2000), and online virtual reality simulations (Jauregi & Canto, 2012) are generally impracticable. While e-mail (Belz, 2002, 2003, 2004; Itakura, 2004; O'Dowd, 2003), discussion boards (Liaw, 2006), or blogs (Yang, 2011) are potentially viable alternatives, none of these provide learners with much-needed opportunities for oral interaction (see Long, 1996), which are already scarce in many university language classrooms (Flewelling & Snider, 2005).

One possible solution is the use of asynchronous video communication. While CMC technologies all have their own cul- tures of use that must be considered in terms of their adaptability to new purposes and the transferability of the interaction skills they engender (Thorne, 2003), in addition to affording telecollaboration, asynchronous video offers a number of other potential benefits. For instance, when speaking and listening, learners generally have difficulty attending to both form and meaning at the same time and, thus, tend to prioritize the latter (Skehan, 1998). However, by allowing learners to replay and reflect on oral utter- ances that are fully produced, asynchronous video permits them to focus on different aspects of linguistic performance in turn. Thus, it creates opportunities for learners to notice features of their interlocutors' output (Schmidt, 1995) as well as gaps in their own (Swain & Lapkin, 1995), both of which have been suggested as effective in promoting L2 acquisition (see, e.g., Mackey, 2006; Schmidt, 2001).

Another potential benefit of asynchro- nous video exchanges is that they allow for task planning, which has been shown to produce superior L2 fluency and complexity (Ellis, 2003). They also afford opportunities for rehearsal and self-evaluation and, thus, may facilitate the development of presenta- tional skills as well. However, no formal study to date has carefully examined the actual linguistic outcomes of this particular type of exchange. …

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