Recent technological advancements in network-based communication (NBC) hold special promise for second and foreign language teachers and learners, as they provide for connectivity between a wider range of speakers than previously believed possible. Particularly promising among the various forms of NBC are those that allow for synchronous, real-time communication, the obvious advantage being that messages are typed, sent, and received instantaneously, bringing the electronic communicative exchanges from the static to the more dynamic, and thus more closely resembling oral interaction. Communication through synchronous NBC has even been dubbed “chatting,” further underscoring its resemblance to oral interaction. Because oral interaction is considered by many to be important for second language development, and because synchronous NBC, such as chatting, bears a striking resemblance to oral interaction, it seems logical to assume that language practice through NBC will reap some of the same benefits for second language development as practice through oral interaction. While interesting, this assumption is nevertheless one that has yet to be fully explored. Specifically, there is no published research that demonstrates that NBC chatting holds the same potential for the development of grammatical competence as does oral interaction. Grammatical competence is defined by Canale and Swain (1980) as the knowledge of the features and rules of the language, including the lexicon, the syntax, and the semantics.
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