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Telecollaboration for developing writing skills at the beginning level of L2 acquisition (Liudmila Klimanova, University of Arizona; Maria Bondarenko, Université de Montréal)

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Session régulière / Regular Session
11:10 AM, Mercredi 26 Avr 2017 (30 minutes)
Lunch / Dîner   11:40 AM à 01:30 PM (1 heure 50 minutes)
Session: Virtual immersionBloc: Immersion virtuelle

The beginner’s level of second language (L2) acquisition (A.1) is a very challenging level for university teachers and students to develop writing proficiency. One of the challenges of this level is that beginners lack a wide array of language resources to be able to communicate their ideas freely when writing in the target language. Therefore, there are very few authentic environments as well as genres and social registers where beginning learners can function as successful writers. The second problem concerns the general orientation of language teaching at this level (Atay & Kurt, 2006; Cook, 2005). Most beginning language textbooks are geared towards oral communication activities and postpone the development of writing skills to a later stage of interlanguage development. Therefore, most writing exercises at the beginning level ask students to choose or fill in a missing form or word, restricting a learner’s creative use of complete language structures. Moreover, some languages add another challenge - a mastery of a new alphabet and a familiarization with a new keyboard. In this paper, we will argue that social media and tools of online communication, such as social networks and chats, open new possibilities for developing writing skills at the beginning level. We will present an experimental approach to teaching beginning writing skills by engaging learners in social online chat with learners in another institution and with native speakers. 70 students (46 beginning learners and 24 native speakers of Russian) from three universities participated in a two-week-long telecollaboration project. We will report the results of motivational surveys and show excerpts from online conversations we collected during this exchange. We will conclude with a brief discussion of the rationale for the use of online chat with beginning learners to support the following points:
- Online chat (synchronous and asynchronous) as a now prevailing form of electronic communication presupposes authentic social interaction with a real person in a real online environment (Jenks, 2014). Understanding how media messages are constructed and used by target language speakers is identified as a new learning objective in the 21st Century Skill Maps for World Languages.
- Online chat motivates students and personalises writing activity by engaging learners’ social identity and their agency, or ‘socioculturally regulated capacity to act’ (Ahearn, 2001), which refers to ability to make choices, take control, self-regulate and thereby peruse their goals leading to a personal or social transformation (Duff, 2011).
- Online chat, as a spontaneous writing exercise, contributes to the development of strategic competence (Canale, 1983; Canale & Swain, 1980) that is, ‘use of verbal et non-verbal communicative strategies that can be called into action to compensate breakdowns in communication due to performance variables or to insufficient competency’ (Canale & Swain, 1980, p. 30). Beginning writers learn to re-use or ‘recycle’ linguistic elements learned in class and\or produced by their interactant.
- Analysis of learners’ errors and communicative faux-pas as well as discussion of turn-taking strategies and non-verbal communication means help identify linguistic elements that beginning writers need to master in order to be effective communicators in online contexts despite their language limitations.
Ahearn, L. M. (2001). Language and agency. Annual Review of Anthropology, 20, 109–137.
Atay D. & Kurt, G. (2006). Prospective teacher and L2 writing anxiety. Asian EFL Journal, 8 (4), 100–118.
Canale, M. (1983). From the communicative competency to the communicative pedagogy. In J. C. Richards & R.W. Schmidt (eds.), Language and communication (pp. 2-25). New York, NY: Longman.
Canale, M. & Swain, M. (2002). Theoretical bases of communicative approaches to second language teaching and testing. Applied linguistics, 1, 1–47
Celce-Murcia, M. Dörnyei, Z., & S. Thurrell. (1995). Communicative competence: A pedagogically motivated model with content specifications. Issues in Applied linguistics, 6 (2), 5–35.
Cook, V.J. (2005). The English writing system. London. Arnold.
Duff, P. A. (2006). Identity, agency and second language acquisition, In A.Mackey & S. M. Gass (eds.), Handbook of second language acquisition (pp. 410-426). London, UK: Routledge.
Jenks, C. J. (2014). Social interaction in second language chat rooms. Edinburgh, Scotland: Edinburgh University Press.
Swain, M. (2006). Languaging, agency and collaboration in advanced second language proficiency. In H. Byrnes (Ed.), Advanced Language Learning: The Contribution of Halliday and Vygotsky (pp. 95-108). New York, NY: Continuum.

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