Intercultural computer-mediated communication exchange and the development of sociolinguistic competence




Ritchie, Mathy

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The main goal of this study was to investigate whether computer-mediated communication (CMC) intercultural exchange offers the conditions necessary for the development of the sociolinguistic competence of L2 learners. The secondary goal was to provide a description of the characteristics of the exchange as a language practice regarding language learning and cultural contact. Non-native speakers (NNS) of French in British Columbia interacted through computer-mediated communication with native speakers (NS) of French in Quebec over the course of one school semester. The data for this study included the transcripts of text-based chat discussions and of a group forum, and answers to questionnaires and interviews. Drawing on the sociocultural perspective, this study used a qualitative approach to analyze the collected data. The framework used to guide the sociolinguistic inquiry consisted of The Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (Council of Europe, 2001). The findings of this study suggest that intercultural CMC exchange offers positive conditions for the development of this competence. NNS were exposed to sociolinguistic variation and made minor changes in their use of sociolinguistic elements, showing that they developed sensitivity to the vernacular style used by NS. In addition, the exchange fostered the creation of a collective meaning that allowed L2 learners to participate in meaningful interactions and to increase their level of confidence. Finally, the exchange allowed participants to experience the dimension of “culture as individual” (Levy, 2007), an aspect of culture that encouraged them to share their personal views on culture and to connect on a personal level with their NS partners.



Language learning, Computer-mediated communication, Sociolinguistic competence