Integrating International Video Chat into the Foreign Language Curriculum

Integrating International Video Chat into the Foreign Language Curriculum

Tasha N. Lewis (Department of Modern Languages and Literatures, Loyola University Maryland, Baltimore, MD, USA) and Holly Schneider (Department of Modern Languages and Literatures, Loyola University Maryland, Baltimore, MD, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/IJCALLT.2015040105
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This article is a description of face-to-face real-time international virtual language exchanges that have been integrated into first and second year Spanish courses at the university level. The focus of this article is to explain the origins of the virtual language exchange, its implementation into the program-wide curriculum, its effect on students, and to explain in detail how a session operates. The success of the virtual language exchange program is evident based on an analysis of video captured dialogues, coordinator and facilitator observations of the program, as well as participant feedback about the experience. The content and methodology of this article are adaptable to any second/foreign language course.
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While the main objectives of foreign language study can vary greatly, oftentimes developing communicative and cultural competency is a primary goal. Although complete immersion in a target language and culture has the ability to offer a unique and valuable linguistic and cultural experience working towards this goal, not all students are afforded this kind of desirable opportunity. However, there are ways of bringing this type of immersion experience to life that do not physically involve traveling to a target language country. Through carefully planned telecollaborations with students from the target language and culture, language learners can further develop their communicative proficiency in a virtual immersion environment. These telecollaborative experiences are aimed at fostering communicative as well as cultural competence in a way similar to that of a full immersion experience such as study abroad.

We have entered a digital age where smart classrooms allow teachers to readily use technology for pedagogical purposes. Currently, in many parts of the world, students are more technology savvy than any other generation and expect their teachers to make use of technology in order to enrich course material. Foreign language classrooms are especially not exempt from these expectations. In the foreign language classroom “technology is generally used as a tool to help language learners interact with the language in new and interesting ways” (Lewis, 2013, p. 222). For example, foreign language teachers typically use PowerPoint to present material, conduct activities and review concepts; they also use YouTube to bring culture into the classroom. The Virtual Language Exchange program, as reported in this article, was specifically developed out of an attempt to hone in on enhancing the language learner’s encounter with the target language and bring the target culture as close as possible to the language learner through the use of modern technology in order to improve communicative proficiency.

This article aims to describe the result of one teacher’s use of a telecollaborative exchange between her students taking Spanish at Loyola University Maryland and her former student from Spain. This effort began as a supplemental cultural activity with the goal of integrating culture and practicing vocabulary related to student life, but it evolved into the curriculum-wide program known as the Virtual Language Exchange program at Loyola University Maryland. From its modest beginnings in one section of Spanish, to its large-scale expansion with the support of the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities (AJCU) and the Association of Jesuit Universities in Latin America’s (AUSJAL) Virtual Dual Immersion Project, the Virtual Language Exchange program is now a well-established and fundamental pillar of the Spanish language curriculum at Loyola University Maryland. The main objective of the Virtual Language Exchange has been and will continue to be that students from different language and cultural backgrounds are brought together with the goal of developing foreign language skills as well as intercultural communicative competence.

The information provided in this article is twofold. First, it is meant to serve as a model for implementing and using telecollaboration in language classrooms everywhere. In this sense, a detailed report of what is a Virtual Language Exchange and how does it work is given. Second, it is meant to link theories of second language acquisition with the actual design of the Virtual Language Exchange program.

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