A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum: Electronic Discussion and Foreign Language Learning
Hanna, Barbara E. & de Nooy, Juliana (2003) A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum: Electronic Discussion and Foreign Language Learning. Language Learning and Technology, 7(1), pp. 71-85.
Amongst the opportunities for cross-cultural contact created by the burgeoning use of the internet are those provided by electronic discussion lists. This study looks at what happens when language students venture out of the classroom (virtual or otherwise) to participate in on-line discussion groups with native speakers. Responses to messages and commentary by moderators and other participants on the (in)appropriateness of contributions allow us to determine what constitutes successful participation and to make suggestions regarding effective teaching strategies for this medium.
A case study examines the threads started by four anglophone students of French when they post messages to a forum on the website of French newspaper Le Monde. Investigation of these examples points to the ways in which electronic discussion inflects and is inflected by cultural and generic expectations. We suggest that successful participation on internet fora depends on awareness of such cultural and generic mores and an ability to work within and/or with them. Teachers therefore need to find ways in which students can be sensitized to such issues so that their participation in such electronic discussion is no longer seen as linguistic training, but as engagement with a cultural practice.
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