An Investigation of Social Networking Sites for Language Learning and the User Experience: The Case of Busuu and Spanish as a Foreign Language

An Investigation of Social Networking Sites for Language Learning and the User Experience: The Case of Busuu and Spanish as a Foreign Language

Miguel Saona-Vallejos, Michael Thomas
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-1282-1.ch004
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This chapter investigates the user experience of the language learning platform Busuu as a tool for learning Spanish as a Foreign Language (SFL). Social constructionism has been highlighted by previous research as the theory on which Busuu is based, however, Álvarez concluded that Busuu constitutes an ecological system of nested semiotic spaces where pedagogical elements and principles from different theories of language learning interweave in complementary ways. Following a review of existing research, the chapter analyses data arising from a study involving a mixed group of university students who used the premium version of Busuu for four weeks. Data were collected via pre- and post-tests, a user experience questionnaire, and individual interviews, and were analysed using descriptive statistics and thematic analysis. Findings suggest that Busuu did not fully satisfy the requirements of a social network in terms of ease of participation, communication, and collaboration. Further research is required to explore the implications of usability testing for the design of effective SNSLL.
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In their history of SNS, boyd and Ellison (2008) explained that since 1997, at least 45 SNSs had been created. While some general SNS at that time were used by language learners to practise foreign languages, founded in 2007, Livemocha is commonly regarded as the first dedicated SNSLL of its kind (Brick, 2011a, 2013). This was later followed by Babbel in the same year, Busuu in 2008, and Wespeke in 2010. Table 1 lists social media that are commonly identified to be SNS.

Table 1.
List of commonly identified SNSLL
2005R/W/L/SNDFreeND          - F2F exchange
          - Text, voice, video chat
          - Conversation topics
          - Foreign characters
2Duolingo2009R/W/L/SA1-B1Free33          - Written lessons
          - Gamified skill tree
          - Experience Points
          - Timed practice
          - Rewards
          - Class Platform
          - Not SNSLL
3Lernu2002R/W/L/SNDFree39          - Multilingual website
          - Text chat
4Lingueo2007R/W/L/SNDPremiumND          - Foreign language classes: kids, business, travel & leisure, specific subjects, tests
          - More a 1.2.1 teachers’ platform than an SNSLL
5Memrise2010R/W/LNDFreemium200+          - Learn languages, other academic subjects and Trivia and Pop culture
          - Based on flashcards
          - Learners can be followed but no direct interaction with them
6uTalk 1992R/W/L/SA1-B2
Freemium140+          - Extensive vocabulary
          - Measure achievements
          - Speaking games
          - Native voices
          - Educational platform
          - No chat

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