Title: Developing linguistic and cultural perspectives of English as a foreign language through email discussion
Journal: JALT CALL SIG Journal, 2008. Vol.4, No.3,pp 3- 14. (this is the link )
Author:The author is Bahman Gorjian, who is an assistant professor at Islamic Azad University,Iran in TEFL Department, Science and Research Centre. He got his Ph.D in TEFL from the same university.
One of the aims of conducting this research is to investigate whether the usage of email discussion can enhance the learners’ knowledge of second language (L2) culture. The discussion was done in the form of writing short essays within 200-300 of words with discussion on various topics about culture and perspectives. Another aim is to develop writing skills with appropriate and accurate grammar usage. This study is an experimental study where experiment between control and experimental group was done. There were 400 subjects participated in this study. The subjects were non-native intermediate students majoring in English translation from various courses. They were enrolled in the fall semester in 2007. Their average age was 17. 18 non-native instructors also got involved in this study with the average 12 years of teaching in EFL Department. Their average age was 33. In selecting the two targeted groups, 650 candidates sat for a L2 writing proficiency test from TOEFL. From the 650 candidates, 400 of the most successful scorers selected to join the study. The selected 400 participants then sat for pre test. During the pre test, the participants were needed to write a two-paragraph cultural-oriented essay in order to examine their level of L2 cultural awareness. One group was named with control group and another group was experimental group. In an effort of figuring out the role of email and L2 cultural information transfer, the two groups had to write 12 essays on different topic about culture. One essay had to be written by each participant per week. Both groups received the same topic. The participants from experimental group had to write the essays via email and control group traditionally handed in their work through hard copy submission. The post test of writing about culture was conducted as final exam to determine how much they have progressed. The selected 18 non-native instructors became the raters and feedback providers. The result of this study shows that the usage of email discussion with the assistance of L2 teachers can give impact on L2 learners’ cultural awareness. Besides that, it gives beneficial outcomes for the learners’ linguistic development and writing skills.
This research interests me by informing way on how cultural information can be exchanged in an attractive way; via email discussion. While interacting with others via computer technology, learners in the same time can improve their linguistic proficiency as well as their writing skills. If this study does not interact with linguistic elements and stand solely on cultural exchange, this study perhaps fails in gaining my interest. This study was successfully conducted with pre-test and post test among the two groups. In addition, the participation of 18 language instructors was also appropriate in rating the participants’ performance whether they could improve from the study or not. However, the study failed to identify the suitable quantifiable of “culture” measurement. In gauging whether cultural awareness is rising or declining, a specific measurement scale should be applied. Even the L2 teacher who became the raters claimed that the learners showed the progress, the statement cannot be generalized to all. In the future, scrutinize instrument with specific rating scale should be used in achieving the validity of the research findings. Within Malaysian context, email discussion in enhancing linguistic and writing skills of L2 learners is already integrated. I used to experience it when I took part in computer class during primary school. When I was in secondary school, the method was still traditional similar to what had been applied to the control group in this study. In Malaysia, cultural exchange among L2 learners and native speakers is still not fully applied. That is because the major concern of L2 instructors or teachers here is more on the language proficiency attainment rather than the cultural exchange and awareness. This research however can give a new strategy for L2 teachers in motivating the L2 learner to engage in interactive L2 learning in different way. Gaining cultural awareness can be considered as additional outcomes of the strategy but the language attainment should be the main target.
As a conclusion, the application of email in improving linguistic and writing skills should be supported