Twitter in Foreign Language Classes: Initiating Learners into Contemporary Language Variation

Twitter in Foreign Language Classes: Initiating Learners into Contemporary Language Variation

Geraldine Blattner (Florida Atlantic University, USA), Amanda Dalola (The University of South Carolina, USA) and Lara Lomicka (The University of South Carolina, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-9577-1.ch034
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This chapter looks at the potential of the mircroblogging tool Twitter as a multifaceted resource for foreign language learners and educators. It highlights how this microblogging and social networking service provides authentic settings that are both dynamic and communicative, and which facilitate the cultural enrichment of first-year French learners, by enhancing their socio-pragmatic awareness and developing their multiliteracy skills in a second language. We argue for the importance of making students aware of this linguistic culture from an early stage of their language studies. This invisible second language culture is rarely discussed in traditional classrooms and only sporadically presented in foreign language textbooks; however, it can easily be experienced in digital environments like Twitter, making it an ideal context for such exposure. Our results suggest that the incorporation of linguistic cultural elements is indispensable to the development of intercultural communicative competence, a skill that paves the way for successful communication across national boundaries and in different electronic discourses.
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As Gonglewski and DuBravac (2006) highlighted, language instructors should view themselves as educators who embrace and promote contemporary and popular modes of expressing and interpreting meaning in various contexts and (electronic) media. For language learners, developing electronic literacy in an L2 may be a difficult task, but one necessary for taking advantage of the numerous opportunities to observe authentic language and autonomously practicing their linguistic abilities. Teaching toward mutliliteracies enables language learners to become active members of different global learning communities and use a foreign language in new contemporary ways (Kasper, 2000). It is, therefore, not surprising that a rapidly growing literature in the field of L2 pragmatics has witnessed a variety of experimental studies in traditional classroom settings, as well as in less traditional environments, such as those incorporating online social media (Taguchi, 2011). Within the scope of Computer Assisted Language Learning (CALL), studies have explored the efficacy of various electronic online resources in pragmatics learning and attempted to identify optimal instructional practice for socio-pragmatic development in the L2 curriculum using different social networking sites.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Socio-Pragmatic Competence: Ability to recognize the effect of context on strings of linguistic events and to use language appropriately in specific social situations. In romance languages a typically difficult socio-pragmatic competence for language learners is to master the pronouns of address (i.e.: tu/vous in French, tu/usted in Spanish)

Syllabogram: A symbol that represents a syllable. In French for instance, the letter ‘ c ’ is a syllabogram of several words such as ‘ c’est, s’est, sait, sais ’

Truncation: Omitting of one or more unaccented syllables at the beginning or the end of word. This is a linguistic technique that is commonly used in different electronic media. Words such as Macdo (McDonald’s), min (minutes) are normal in Twitter for instance.

Intercultural Communicative Competence (ICC): Includes the knowledge, skills, and personal attributes (such as cultural sensitivity, intercultural communication, etc.) needed to live and/or work in a diverse world.

Tweetsmart: A term used for someone who has both common sense and knows what's going on in Twitter.

Nonce Borrowing: A word borrowed from another language on a one-time basis; an unestablished borrowing, e.g. da best , of course used in French prose.

Multiliteracy: In our technologically saturated society, being literate does not only imply being able to read and write, but also having knowledge of how to interact in a variety of electronic media. In other words technology users must rapidly identify the discursive and interactional norms (including audio, spatial and gestural representations) in a particular medium in order to communicate with other users in an appropriate and expected manner.

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