Why-talk? Investigating the role of task-based interaction through synchronous network-based communication among classroom learners of Spanish
Jill Lee Pellettieri, University of California, Davis, United States
University of California, Davis . Awarded
This dissertation reports on an investigation of the use of task-based, synchronous network-based communication (SNC) and its potential for promoting second language acquisition (SLA) among learners of Spanish. During one University quarter, sixty non-native speakers of Spanish from the intermediate Spanish language program at the University of California, Davis were paired to carry-out five language tasks using ytalk, a UNIX-based software program for SNC. Two of the basic questions that guided this investigation were whether learner-centered, task-based SNC chats could foster interaction and the negotiation of meaning, an important vehicle for L2 development, and whether specific features of the language task could serve to promote this negotiated interaction. The analyses of the transcripts obtained reveal that the language produced by these non-native speaking dyads is indeed interactive: Learners actively negotiated meaning in Spanish to successfully communicate with their partners and complete the tasks. These negotiations pushed learners to a form-focused, more comprehensible, and often more target-like L2 interaction. An analysis of the relationship of the task features to the amount of negotiation produced revealed that the structure of the language task was indeed significant for promoting negotiated interactions: closed tasks produced significantly greater amounts of negotiation than open-ended tasks.
Through post-experimental interviews the learners themselves expressed a great deal of enthusiasm about engaging in this type of L2 practice. They stated that they enjoyed being able to successfully communicate in Spanish, and moreover, that they enjoyed the satisfaction they felt upon being able to complete the often challenging language tasks in Spanish.
This study therefore concludes that task-based SNC can be a powerful tool in promoting L2 development among language learners. Not only does this type of language practice allow learners the opportunity to engage in the cooperative co-construction of meaning with their partners, it also allows them a comfortable environment for form-focused interaction where they can develop and test hypotheses about the L2. Finally, task-based SNC offers learners an experience that they find challenging, but fun, and which ultimately can make them more confident about their own L2 abilities.
Pellettieri, J.L. Why-talk? Investigating the role of task-based interaction through synchronous network-based communication among classroom learners of Spanish. Ph.D. thesis, University of California, Davis.
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