Writing and Culture in CALL: 21st Century Foreign Language Learning via Email Tandem Exchanges

Writing and Culture in CALL: 21st Century Foreign Language Learning via Email Tandem Exchanges

Reyes Llopis-García (Columbia University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-4611-7.ch008
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Abstract

This chapter discusses the importance of writing as a key ability to address in the foreign/second language classroom. The need to design and implement projects and tasks that foster authentic cultural learning through the meaningful use of written production is addressed, and a project that meets these criteria is presented. This email tandem exchange project was conducted between 94 intermediate-level students (47 pairs) from Columbia University/Barnard College in New York and the Universidad Autonóma de Madrid in Spain during the Fall Semester 2010 (and subsequently in 2011 and 2012). There were several goals to this project: to help improve students’ writing skills; to encourage them to learn about culture through authentic and real exposure to the target language (TL onwards, understood as “direct contact with a native speaker”); to foster progress in their use of the TLs through peer-to-peer corrections; and to take an active part in their own learning through self-assessment. Based on students’ opinions, this project had a very positive impact on the way they viewed the foreign/target culture on both sides of the Atlantic. It also helped them enhance their written proficiency and acquire a new lexical mastery that would have been impossible through the limited and less-real scope of the classroom.
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The Social Dimension Of Language Learning: Culture

When considering language learning, we traditionally think of its grammatical dimension: new linguistic forms and their meanings, and how FL learners need to “unlearn” how they say things in their native language, and re-learn how to communicate them using a different system. But what makes this system so unique is that pragmatic and sociocultural aspects play an important role as well, giving the new linguistic code a broader, more complex dimension, but also placing it within the context of the target culture. Languages are learned so that their speakers (native or not) are able to communicate within social contexts. Therefore, “there exists not only the awesome task of mastering the grammatical system of the language, but also the job of learning how to utilize this system appropriately and effectively when actually communicating in real-life situations.” (Barkhuizen, 2004, p. 552).

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