Learning English With Texting on Social Media: The Case of Taiwanese ESL Students in the U.S

Learning English With Texting on Social Media: The Case of Taiwanese ESL Students in the U.S

Hong-Chi Shiau (Shih-Hsin University, Taiwan) and Catherine Hua Xiang (London School of Economics and Political Science, UK)
Copyright: © 2018 |Pages: 21
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-2724-4.ch010


Social media has induced substantial growth of various cultural contacts, resulting in a great variation of uses in English. In light of the popularity of new social media, contacts of people from different cultures have been changed from predominant face-to-face encounters to instantaneous communication. This case study examines how Taiwanese students relate their ESL learning experiences to the use of social media and how their uses help transform these ESL students' gender/ethnic identities during study abroad. Adopting an ethnographic research approach, the results suggest some barriers and challenges those ESL students face during the time abroad, both linguistically but also in terms of intercultural friendship. Pedagogical implications and recommendations are made on how to more effectively using social media in developing linguistic and intercultural competence in the context of study abroad.
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Setting The Stage

Texting on Social Media and Digital Literacy

The special nature of text messaging communication has led to a wave of studies internationally. Much research on texting, or short messaging service (SMS), has been primarily devoted to the addictive behaviour among global teenagers and its psychological and cultural implications (Holloway & Valentine, 2000; Reid & Reid, 2004). These studies have identified a relationship between increased mistakes in writing assignments and the increased use of text messages amongst students, especially teenagers. One of the explanations is due to the abbreviated SMS language which teenagers prevalently use when texting (Rössler & Höflich, 2002). There has been a growing concern among educators, parents, researchers and the general public that this practice is damaging the use of language and will affect the standard forms in the long run (e.g. Aitken 2001; Kim & Mitomo, 2006; Kinder 1999; Ling & Yttri, 2002).

Digital technologies, in a way, have been creating an easily distracted generation with short attention spans. For instance, Skenazy (2009) argued that digital communication behaviours in general, and more specifically texting, potentially diminish key social skills like effective listening. Given the concern, parents, school teachers, and experts feel a need to intervene in order to limit the use of mobile technologies by children. The irresistible temptation of these technologies and the supposed vulnerability of children speak to scholars’ earlier concerns, resulting in calls for more protection and guidance on the use of digital technologies. However, other studies, particularly in the field of cultural studies and cultural geography argue that students are adapting to new communication norms in an increasingly digital world, refuting that texting on mobile phones is antisocial (Holloway & Valentine 2003; Thompson & Cupples 2010).

Similarly, from social linguistic perspectives, notably that of Crystal (2008), the aforementioned concerns on literacy are challenged by noting that texting ultimately encourages creativity, through language play, and develops the ability to communicate concisely in spite of character restrictions imposed upon users of CMC (computer mediated communication). In analysing the association between the reduced type of language used in internet chatting and that used in text messages, Crystal (2001) coined a word, “Netspeak,” attributing some of the abbreviated forms in text messaging to the users’ familiarity with chat rooms. Since short messaging services, by their very nature, are abbreviated, informal, and unsupervised (Haggan, 2007), there is a clear legacy passed on from other computer-mediated communication environments. The length constraints challenge individuals to communicate what they intend while maintaining a degree of clarity, and the trade-off between clarity and efficiency ultimately results in effective communication.

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