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Social Media’s Role in Language Learning Essay

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Updated: Jun 1st, 2021

Introduction

Due to the development of modern technology, social media (SM) websites have gradually changed people’s lives and the most popular methods of communication. Nowadays, such websites are used for a variety of purposes, including cultural exchange and the acquisition of foreign languages. The way that SM use impacts the process of language learning is of interest to both the members of the scientific community and common learners. Being an effective platform for practicing target languages, SM cannot substitute in-person learning activities, which can be related to specific expectations and the pressure to choose words perfectly.

Data Collection Results

For the language observation assignment, one person was interviewed about her attitudes to language learning with the help of SM platforms, the effectiveness of such practice, and the role that SM should play in learning strategies. The interview lasted for more than twenty minutes, and the individual managed to express her opinion on different aspects of the research question. Among them were the peculiarities of communication via SM pertaining to foreign language practice, room for errors in SM conversations, and the comparison of language learning using SM and traditional methods.

Using the interviewee’s answers, it is possible to single out several assumptions that may inform common language learners’ approaches to self-education. Firstly, the interviewee considers SM communication with target language speakers an effective option due to exposure to ideas, images, and events related to other cultures. Despite recognizing the benefits of SM in language learning, she takes a balanced approach to evaluate the option. Therefore, the interviewee does not claim that it can replace other methods, such as entering a different linguistic environment, visiting classes, and having conversations with native speakers in person.

As for other main points, the interviewed person claims that communicating via SM, a language learner feels more pressure to express ideas in a precise and grammatically correct way compared to in-person conversations. In the context of language learning, this feature of SM platforms can be regarded as both an advantage and a disadvantage. The interviewee seems to associate this pressure with the fear of making mistakes that leads to reductions in the amount of content that SM users produce when communicating in their target language. In addition, it is possible that she sees the pressure as a factor that may distract online learners from their key goals and reduce their opportunity to make mistakes and learn from them.

Finally, according to the interviewee, communication with target language speakers using SM can be an effective supplement to traditional learning since SM websites are easy to work with and access. All of these ideas can be used to formulate good research topics, and to study modern authors’ findings related to them is a significant task.

Interview Findings and Scholarly Research on SM in Language Learning

Effectiveness of SM as a Language Learning Tool

The selection of the most promising methods helping to improve one’s foreign language is an extremely important task. The analysis of the existing scholarly literature can help to define whether the use of popular SM platforms for cross-cultural communication positively impacts people’s practical skills. The article by Akbari et al. contains the literature review section, in which the authors summarize the current knowledge concerning SM use and success in language learning (126). The scientific community started paying attention to this research question in the mid-2000s when social networking websites were gaining rapidly in popularity (Akbari et al. 126).

In 2010, the great role of social networks in learning was established by two research groups led by Yu and Jones (Akbari et al. 126). As for language learning, in particular, the study by Lomicka and Lord conducted in 2011 revealed strong links between SM users’ exposure to the target language and improvements in their communication skills (Akbari et al. 127). Therefore, judging from modern authors’ findings, the interviewee’s intuitive conclusions concerning the effectiveness of SM for practicing target languages find reflection in linguistics research.

Although the effectiveness of SM for practicing foreign languages is a widely supported point, there are specific circumstances that increase it. As an example, Blattner’s and Lomicka’s study dated 2012 demonstrates that to maximize the positive outcomes of language learning via SM, students should know how to integrate the activity into their classroom learning (Akbari et al. 127). Therefore, modern authors’ conclusions imply that language learners should have prior experience with their target language to take maximum advantage out of SM websites.

Scholars’ opinions on the status of online communication as an autonomous approach to language learning also deserve attention. Speaking about the generally accepted ideas, online communication in the target language is believed to be effective as a part of any learning strategy (Akbari et al. 127). Used with some activities, including language classes or grammar exercises, communication via SM helps to put language theory into practice, thus helping users to improve their skills in expressing thoughts (Akbari et al. 127). At the same time, according to the review conducted by Akbari et al., there is no evidence that SM communication is effective as a separate strategy (128).

Thus, without visiting classes or other activities based on traditional learning methods, the use of SM is unlikely to be a viable option for people willing to learn some language from scratch. Such conclusions align with the interviewee’s assumptions; in her opinion, despite all of their advantages, SM websites cannot replace traditional approaches to learning. Modern authors’ findings also support the need to combine such activities with other learning options.

SM, Feedback, and Pressure to Speak Properly

During the data collection procedure, the interviewee was welcome to express her thoughts on the features of social networking websites impacting the process of language acquisition. In her opinion, users react to each others’ posts and messages in different ways, and this is why language learners can sometimes be too afraid of making mistakes. This unobvious pressure, she claims, encourages users to filter what they want to say, and they produce less verbal content compared to people using in-person language learning. The interviewee’s position seems to be clear and logical, but it does not find solid support in the academic literature.

The first important point is modern researchers’ perceptions of external opinions and the role that they play in language learning. As an example, when it comes to feedback from other users, including the recognition of grammatical errors, it is generally considered as a positive feature of SM that facilitates language acquisition (Abrahim et al. 2). According to the self-determination theory, people willing to develop some skills are expected to perform challenging tasks to increase motivation and feel that they control the process of learning (Akbari et al. 127).

It is also accepted that the activities that involve the opportunity to receive feedback immediately increase learners’ chances to achieve success (Akbari et al. 127). Taking these points into account, it is valid to say that communication with target language speakers via SM falls under the definition of an effective task that requires learners to accept a challenge.

The interviewee lists pressure to speak properly among the most challenging aspects of language learning via SM. This idea has to deal with the so-called foreign language anxiety that typically manifests itself in language learners who experience the fear of failure (Ríos and Campos 257). This type of anxiety often affects people who do not have a lot of experience with some language and prevents them from gaining it.

Importantly, there is no evidence proving that the need to practice languages with the help of SM increases learners’ risks of developing xenoglossophobia (Ríos and Campos 257). Instead, according to the study by Mills dated 2011, the use of Facebook communication activities as a part of language education can “decrease teacher dominance and language learner anxiety” (Ríos and Campos 257). With that in mind, the need to avoid making mistakes is not directly related to barriers to effective learning.

To some extent, modern authors recognize the presence of pressure discussed by the interviewee, but they do not associate it with negative outcomes. In 2012, Chenzi et al. conducted an experimental study to learn more about the advantages of SM activities integrated into writing courses for students learning English as a second language (Ríos and Campos 255). According to their results, this approach to language learning requires students to feel responsible for their works since “they have a larger audience” (Ríos and Campos 255).

However, the feeling of responsibility for the content of the produced posts is not regarded as a barrier to reaching educational goals or a limitation of language learning using SM. Instead, it is claimed to be a factor that can empower students and make them more independent from teachers in terms of learning (Ríos and Campos 255).

According to the interviewee’s point of view, the pressure related to the audience’s potential reactions does not add to the effectiveness of language learning with the help of SM. She tends to associate it with people’s limited ability to make mistakes and learn from them, whereas the researchers listed above sometimes see this pressure as an advantage.

An important thing about the pressure to write perfectly and make no mistakes is that it depends on the mode of using SM for language learning. For example, this problem does not bother learners when they are supposed to use their universities’ Facebook groups, encouraging them to communicate in their target language (Ríos and Campos 258). Instead, students perceive the closed virtual communities as a “pressure-free environment for language learning” (Ríos and Campos 258). Based on that, the way to use SM to learn some language should also be taken into account to make more specific claims.

The situation can be drastically different when it comes to communication with a large group of native speakers since it is a stressful event by definition. In their research, Lin et al. study people’s attitudes to SM designed specifically for language learning and intercultural communication (141). According to the results, the ability to communicate with native speakers of their target language online increases learners’ motivation and levels of self-confidence (Lin et al. 141).

More than that, it is stated that learners’ psychological comfort is heavily impacted by choice of options for communication with native speakers. For instance, people who learn languages in a traditional way tend to experience more stress compared to online learners when it comes to conversations with mother-tongue speakers (Lin et al. 141). Therefore, not all of the interviewee’s conclusions align with the research findings.

One more assumption presented by the interviewed person is that online learners are limited in their ability to make mistakes and analyze them compared to traditional learners. It is not known whether people feel more anxious about making mistakes online or in real life. At the same time, it is quite difficult to compare online and in-person learning in terms of the frequency of language mistakes.

Based on the surveys conducted by Lin et al., the opportunity to get feedback pointing out some mistakes is among the most valued aspects of online language learning (132). In addition to this point, it is known that learning with the help of SM has numerous advantages related to mistake prevention. In particular, online communication enables people to think twice and check the correctness of the grammatical constructions that they choose before posting something online (Ríos and Campos 255). The interviewee’s claims concerning mistakes deserve attention since they help to identify certain research gaps to be addressed in the future. Among them is the way that online and traditional language learners perceive mistakes that they make.

Conclusion

To sum it up, the interviewee’s assumptions align with modern researchers’ findings to different degrees. Among the points supported in both types of sources, there is the effectiveness of SM in language learning due to the ability to facilitate cultural exchange and expose learners to a different language environment. However, it is difficult to regard learning via SM as an effective autonomous strategy. Also, the analysis of the interviewee’s claims helps to single out the existing gaps in research. Thus, the difference between SM and traditional learning in terms of people’s ability to make mistakes and learn from them is yet to be studied.

Works Cited

Abrahim, Shugufta, et al. “Exploring Academic Use of Online Social Networking Sites (SNS) for Language Learning: Japanese Students’ Perceptions and Attitudes Towards Facebook.” Journal of Information Technology & Software Engineering, vol. 8, no. 1, 2018, pp. 1-5.

Akbari, Elham, et al. “Autonomy, Competence, and Relatedness in Foreign Language Learning Through Facebook.” Computers in Human Behavior, vol. 48, 2015, pp. 126-134.

Lin, Chin-Hsi, et al. “Language Learning Through Social Networks: Perceptions and Reality.” Language Learning & Technology, vol. 20, no. 1, 2016, pp. 124-147.

Ríos, Jacqueline Araya, and Jorge Luis Espinoza Campos. “The Role of Facebook in Foreign Language Learning.” Revista de Lenguas Modernas, no. 23, 2015, pp. 253-262.

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