Volume 12 Number 3
October 2008 Click here for the pdf.


Julie A. Belz
Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis
Nina Vyatkina
University of Kansas

Although corpora have been used in language teaching for some time, few empirical studies explore their impact on learning outcomes. We provide a microgenetic account of learners’ responses to corpus-driven instructional units for German modal particles and pronominal da-compounds. The units are based on developmental corpus data produced by native speakers during interactions with the very learners for whom the units are designed. Thus, we address the issue of authentication in corpus-driven language pedagogy. Finally, we illustrate how an ethnographically supplemented developmental learner corpus may contribute to second language acquisition research via dense documentation of micro-changes in learners’ language use over time.
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Lina Lee
University of New Hampshire

Synchronous Computer-mediated communication (CMC) creates affordable learning conditions to support both meaning-oriented communication and focus-on-form reflection that play an essential role in the development of language competence. This paper reports how corrective feedback was negotiated through expert-to-novice collaborative efforts and scaffolding with 30 subjects working on three different tasks—jigsaw, spot-the-differences and open-ended question. The findings reveal that text chats supported the focus-on-form procedure through collaborative engagement. Despite the fact that the experts were able to provide step-by-step scaffolding at the right moment to call learners’ attention to non-target-like-forms that resulted in error corrections, they needed to be made aware of not over-intervening as students reported interference between the expert's goals and the learner's. To maintain intersubjectivity, the use of both L2 and L1 shaped the route taken by experts and learners alike to negotiate L2 forms for both syntactic and lexical errors. The study concluded that it was not easy to provide corrective feedback and to attend to linguistic errors in a timely fashion during the meaning-based interaction. The long-term effect of focus-on-form procedures on L2 development through CMC remain to be explored in future studies.
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Anne Rimrott and Trude Heift
Simon Fraser University

This study investigates the performance of a spell checker designed for native writers on misspellings made by second language (L2) learners. It addresses two research questions: 1) What is the correction rate of a generic spell checker for L2 misspellings? 2) What factors influence the correction rate of a generic spell checker for L2 misspellings? To explore these questions, the study considers a corpus of 1,027 unique misspellings from 48 Anglophone learners of German and classifies these along three error taxonomies: linguistic competence (competence versus performance misspellings), linguistic subsystem (lexical, morphological or phonological misspellings), and target modification (single-edit misspellings (edit distance = one) versus multiple-edit misspellings (edit distance > 1)). The study then evaluates the performance of the Microsoft Word® spell checker on these misspellings. Results indicate that only 62% of the L2 misspellings are corrected and that the spell checker, independent of other factors, generally cannot correct multiple-edit misspellings although it is quite successful in correcting single-edit errors. In contrast to most misspellings by native writers, many L2 misspellings are multiple-edit errors and are thus not corrected by a spell checker designed for native writers. The study concludes with computational and pedagogical suggestions to enhance spell checking in CALL.
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Nian-Shing Chen, National Sun Yat-sen University
Sheng-Wen Hsieh, Far East University
Kinshuk, Athabasca University

Due to the rapid advancements in mobile communication and wireless technologies, many researchers and educators have started to believe that these emerging technologies can be leveraged to support formal and informal learning opportunities. Mobile language learning can be effectively implemented by delivering learning content through mobile phones. Because the screen size of mobile phones is limited, the presentation of materials using different Learning Content Representation (LCR) types is an issue that needs to be explored. This study addresses the issue of content adaptation in mobile language learning environments. Two dimensions have been taken into consideration to identify a promising solution: instructional strategies (LCR types: written annotation and pictorial annotation), and learners’ cognitive models (verbal and visual short-term memory). Our findings show that providing learning content with pictorial annotation in a mobile language learning environment can help learners with lower verbal and higher visual ability because such learners find it easier to learn content presented in a visual rather than in a verbal form. Providing learning content with both written and pictorial annotation can also help learners with both high verbal and high visual abilities. According to the Cognitive Load Theory, providing too much information may produce a higher cognitive load and lead to irritation and a lack of concentration. Our findings also suggest that providing just the basic learning materials is more helpful to learners with low verbal and visual abilities.
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Robert Blake, University of California – Davis
Nicole L. Wilson, Pearson & University of California – Santa Cruz
María Cetto, University of California – Davis
Cristina Pardo-Ballester, Iowa State University

Although the foreign-language profession routinely stresses the importance of technology for the curriculum, many teachers still harbor deep-seated doubts as to whether or not a hybrid course, much less a completely distance-learning class, could provide L2 learners with a way to reach linguistic proficiency, especially with respect to oral language skills. In this study, we examine the case of Spanish Without Walls (SWW), a first-year language course offered at the University of California - Davis in both hybrid and distance-learning formats. The SWW curriculum includes materials delivered via CD-ROM/DVD programs, online content-based web pages, and synchronous bimodal chat that includes sound and text.  The contribution of each of these components is evaluated in the context of a successful technologically assisted course. To address the issue of oral proficiency, we compare the results from both classroom and distance-learning students who took the 20-minute Versant for Spanish test, delivered by phone and automatically graded. The data generated by this instrument shows that classroom, hybrid, and distance L2 learners reach comparable levels of oral proficiency during their first year of study. Reference is also made to two other ongoing efforts to provide distance-learning courses in Arabic and Punjabi, two languages where special difficulties in their writing systems have an impact on the design of the distant-learning format. The rationale for offering language courses in either a hybrid or distance-learning format is examined in light of increasing societal pressures to help L2 learners reach advanced proficiency, especially in less commonly taught languages (LCTLs).
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