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Strategic Use of Modality during Synchronous CMC

Issue: Vol 27 No. 1 (2010)

Journal: CALICO Journal

Subject Areas:

DOI: 10.11139/cj.27.1.101-117


Research on computer-mediated communication (CMC) in the second language (L2) classroom has revealed the potential for technology to promote learner interaction and opportunities for negotiation of meaning as well as to provide opportunities for language access outside the classroom environment. Despite this potential, social, linguistic, and technical factors can still limit the richness of interactional opportunities for L2 learners engaged in synchronous CMC. However, the multimodality of synchronous CMC may provide learners with tools and strategies (e.g., change of modality of communication by making selective use of text chat) that can help them garner increased opportunities for target language production. Such strategies were utilized during a 20-minute bimodal CMC exchange between a pair of L2 learners. During the course of the interaction, one learner employed voice chat almost exclusively, thereby positioning himself initially as the leader and more productive member of the conversation. However, at a midpoint in the interaction, the other learner began using the text chat option to gain a foothold in the conversation when her spoken turns were interrupted, ignored, or missed by her partner. By strategically appropriating the text-chat tool, she was able to negotiate the initial interactional asymmetries and reposition herself as a contributing, even guiding, member of the conversation.

Author: Shannon Sauro

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