IRC Francais : The Creation of an Internet-Based SLA Community

Research into text-based chat environments for foreign language learning has shown that discussions online have a signifcantly different character from those in the classroom. In this paper, we begin with a brief design history of one of these environments: IRC Franceais. Our experience both illustrates the challenges involved in moving these chat environments from the language lab to the Internet and offers insight into some of the causes of these changes in conversation. The initial challenges we encountered ranged from ethical diffculties in doing research in Internet-based chat environments to bootstrapping a synchronous community. After exploring these challenges, we present a study taking a closer look at the interactions online and in the classroom over the course of a semester. During this semester, classroom interaction was largely teacher-oriented, despite the best efforts of the teachers involved. Even though teachers initiated online conversations in the same way, however, online interaction was student-driven and signifcantly more interactive. These observations lend credibility to the language ego permeability theory and its emphasis on inhibition. Quantitative endings of this study mirror a number of other studies. Qualitative endings suggest that important features of the medium lead students to feel more comfortable in the online environment. In particular, the ``almost realtime'' nature of this medium seems to offer a blend of benefits that arise in both face-to-face conversation and asynchronous interaction. In doing so, however, some new challenges are introduced. We conclude with some suggestions for new research directions into both these challenges and more general issues in second language acquisition in online environments.


James M. Hudson , Amy S. Bruckman


Bruckman, Amy (2006). Teaching Students to Study Online Communities Ethically. Journal of Information Ethics 15:2, 82-98.


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