Informal Language Learning Through Mobile Instant Messaging Among University Students in Korea

Informal Language Learning Through Mobile Instant Messaging Among University Students in Korea

Aaron William Pooley, Warren Midgley, Helen Farley
Copyright: © 2019 |Pages: 17
DOI: 10.4018/IJMBL.2019040103
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Mobile technologies and platforms that facilitate communication across different languages are increasingly relevant in a world characterised by the global flows of diverse populations and disparate digital environments. This qualitative study explores communication between native and non-native speakers of Korean, mediated through mobile instant messaging in the sophisticated digital environment of South Korea. This article reports on two studies that examined the experiences of English-speaking language instructors (Study 1) and international students (Study 2) in a private university situated in South Korea during 2012 and 2015, respectively. This is done by focusing on face-to-face and screen-to-screen communication, and the co-dependencies arising between language instructors and international students. Between 2012 and 2015, large upgrades in the local digital environment saw the emergence of ubiquitous low cost or free high-speed Wi-Fi coverage and a near universal national adoption of a local mobile instant messaging service. The participants in Study 2 were widely found to be digitally literate and demonstrated an acuity with mobile instant messaging. They developed creative solutions for communication and language learning by blending sociolinguistic and linguistic competencies within mobile instant messaging chat rooms. This article highlights the changes that have occurred between 2012 and 2015 and demonstrates the need for further research into how mobile instant messaging services support communication between people from different language and culture backgrounds, particularly for people without access to formal language instruction.
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In Korea, mobile technologies are widely used, are supported by sophisticated infrastructure and are largely responsible for that country’s manufacturing sector’s export strength (Park, Kim, Shon & Shim, 2013; Park & Lo, 2012). The export success in mobile technologies and manufacturing is dependent on transnational business partnerships in which English is the lingua franca, creating an urgent need for English language skills in professional contexts (Goerne, 2013; Tange, 2009). In response, the Korean government has developed strategies to recruit English speakers from around the world to assist in preparing the future Korean workforce by providing English language communication opportunities in primary, secondary and tertiary education settings (Collins, 2014; Collins & Shubin, 2015). These strategies have created flows of English speakers into East Asia as language workers and as sojourning students.

Recently, researchers have examined these global mobilities evidenced by the increase in transnational employment opportunities and international student programmes in higher education institutions (Canagarajah, 2013; Mok, 2016; Mok & Han, 2016). Studies on long-term transnational employment opportunities have investigated the intercultural adaptation of migrant workers settling into new social and cultural environments (for example, see Faez, 2012; Stodolska & Santos, 2006). Studies on short-term transnational language employment opportunities have looked at temporary work programmes, particularly those involving working tourists who are often in their early twenties and using their income to finance their travel and leisure (Chen, 2016; Goerne, 2013). While working tourists often engage in part-time, unskilled labour in their destination country, they often also pursue temporary language teaching contracts (Collins & Shubin, 2015). The growing use of English as a lingua franca means that many working tourists are English speakers employed as language workers and travelling to non-English-speaking countries in Central and South America, the Middle East and throughout Asia (Tange, 2009).

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