The Subjective Dimension
Edited By Arnd Witte and Theo Harden
The essays in this volume explore the subjective dimension of intercultural language learning, ranging from theoretical considerations to empirical studies and providing stimulating insights into this important area of study.
English Learner – English Speaker – Intercultural Speaker – Digital Native: Student Construction of Communicative Competence Gained through Reflection on Computer-Mediated Exchange
Introduction and background
Computer-mediated intercultural exchanges in English language teaching have, in the past, largely focused on online interaction between non-native and native speakers of English aimed at enhancing the linguistic and intercultural competence of the participating foreign language learners (cf. Belz 2003). More recently there has been a move towards a ‘Telecollaboration 2.0’ (Guth/Helm 2010). This is a multiliteracies approach to online exchange that places more emphasis on tools of communication as cultural artefacts in their own right (cf. Thorne 2003), which considers the multidimensional, subjective nature of cultural identity in the many social and cultural strata of the student groups involved (cf. Lamy/Goodfellow 2010: 116) and that problematises striving for native speaker competence in acquisition of the foreign language because, Train (2006: 256–257) argues, it is inappropriately based on ‘the imagining of human communities and identities around the concept of nation-states’.
The research described in this paper resonates with the conceptual shift in online exchanges outlined above. It explores a group of German students’ emergent understandings of what it means to be communicatively competent when interacting in linguistically and culturally diverse networked groups using English as a lingua franca. The students brought substantial experience of English language learning and intercultural and ← 203 | 204 → computer-mediated communication to the exchange described. However, research findings suggest that the experiential nature of online intercultural activity combined with various opportunities for reflection on the experience help exchange participants develop and verbalise a more nuanced, critical awareness...
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