TILA presentation at the León Telecollaboration Conference

León Telecollaboration Conference, 12-14 February 2014
Kurt Kohn, Steinbeis-Transferzentrum Sprachlernmedien

“Telecollaboration, lingua franca communication, and speaker satisfaction”

Telecollaboration environments provide language learners with rich opportunities for natural and authenticated communication. Web 2.0 tools from blogs to videoconferencing to 3D virtual worlds are used to form new social environments for collaborative creation, sharing and exchange. Real-life communication has thus expanded into virtual space with unprecedented possibilities for natural and incidental language learning outside and beyond the traditional classroom.

Against this backdrop, I first briefly introduced the “lingua franca” quality of telecollaborative communication and the constitutive role of speaker satisfaction for communicative success. Two questions needed to be answered in relation to a given social and communicative context: Are the speakers satisfied with their own performance? And are they satisfied with their interlocutors’ performance? In natural communication, speaker satisfaction is a key indicator of communicative success extending to all levels of communicative performance: gestures, pronunciation and fluency, grammar and lexis, thematic coherence and development, situational appropriateness, poignancy of expression and comprehensibility. External norms have an influence on speaker satisfaction (only) in so far as they are perceived as such and represented in the speaker/hearers’ knowledge and skills.

This social constructivist conceptualization of communicative success in terms of context-sensitive speaker/hearer satisfaction has relevant pedagogical implications. It explicitly acknowledges a common creative force underlying a learner’s language development in its entirety, regardless of its evaluation from the point of view of an external norm. Helping learners advance their lingua franca competence thus essentially involves encouraging and helping them to explore and trust their own creativity. In this sense, implementing a pedagogical “lingua franca” space in the foreign/second language classroom is a significant change towards language learning for real life, thereby adding a new quality to learner autonomy.

In the main part of my presentation, I then reported on insights from a case study we are currently carrying out to investigate the interdependence between telecollaboration, lingua franca communication and speaker satisfaction. The study is part of our involvement in the pilot course and research activities of the EU project TILA (“Telecollaboration for Intercultural Language Acquisition”). Our case study emphasis is on English as a lingua franca discussions (short: ELF discussions) in two web-based communication environments, the 3D virtual world environment OpenSim and the web 2 videoconferencing environment BigBlueButton; the pedagogical objective is to facilitate and foster intercultural communicative interaction and competence development in English. Target groups include secondary school pupils and university students who are non-native speakers of English; proficiency levels range from A2 to B2.

In terms of methodological approach, the ELF discussions take place in small groups of up to 5 speakers from diverse lingua-cultural backgrounds around the globe. A critical incident scenario ensures natural and semi-authentic communication conditions. Questionnaires and structured interviews help elicit user experience data and speaker profile information. Replay of recorded discussions is used to facilitate introspective speaker comments regarding lingua-cultural divergences, challenges, and strategic solutions. To conclude, the study insights will be discussed with regard to pedagogical measures concerning learner preparation and teacher development.

[Presentation download at http://uni-collaboration.eu/?q=node/899]

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