The potential of text-based Internet chats for improving ESL oral fluency
Christopher Grant Blake, Purdue University, United States
Purdue University . Awarded
Text-based Internet chats have become a popular component of second language classrooms, making it possible for students to communicate with native speakers and second language learners across the globe. While a number of studies have reported on the positive affects that chat discourse can have on the learning environment, few studies have examined whether participation in chat discourse can help learners improve their proficiency in a second language. To the best of knowledge, no studies to date have examined whether second language learners can improve their oral fluency through participating in a text-based chat learning environment.
This dissertation addresses the above question by examining the oral fluency development of 34 ESL learners who participated in the same six week course but in separate instructional environments: a text-based Internet chat environment, a traditional face-to-face environment, and a control environment that involved independent learning with no student interaction. A fluency pretest was administered prior to the study and a posttest was administered at the end. Speech samples collected from these tests were analyzed for fluency at five temporal variable levels: speaking rate (SR), phonation time ratio (PTR), articulation rate (AR), mean length of run (MLR), and average length of pauses (ALP). Improvement in fluency was measured in terms of the pretest to posttest gain scores on each of these measures.
The study found that the gain scores of participants in the text-based Internet chat environment were significantly higher on the PTR and MLR measures than the gain scores of participants in the face-to-face and control environments. Gain scores on the three other measures were not significant. The author discusses these findings in relationship to Levelt's (1989) model of language production and argues that text-based Internet chat environments can be a useful way of building oral fluency by facilitating the automatization of lexical and grammatical knowledge at the formulator level.
Blake, C.G. The potential of text-based Internet chats for improving ESL oral fluency. Ph.D. thesis, Purdue University.
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