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Facilitating second language learners’ listening comprehension with Second Life and Skype

  • Natasha Levak (a1) and Jeong-Bae Son (a2)

Learning how to comprehend while listening to a second language is often considered by learners to be a difficult process that can lead to anxiety when trying to communicate (Graham, 2006; Graham & Macaro, 2008). Computer-mediated communication (CMC) can be used to assist in increasing access to native speakers and opportunities to listen. This study investigates the effectiveness of the use of Second Life and Skype as part of facilitation techniques and the affordances of these online tools for developing listening comprehension. Participants in the study were learning either English or Croatian and were located in Sydney and Brisbane in Australia, Split in Croatia, and Mostar in Bosnia and Hercegovina. A mixed-methods approach was utilised incorporating pre-tests and post-tests (quantitative data) to gain information on the effectiveness of the techniques for developing listening comprehension and in-depth interviews (qualitative data) to gain the participants’ views on the perceived effectiveness of the techniques and the affordances of Second Life or Skype. The results of the study indicate that both techniques resulted in positive gains in the development of listening comprehension. Based on the analysis of the interview data, a more in-depth perspective on the affordances of each online tool was developed, which informed the creation of a new facilitation technique utilising both tools. The study demonstrates how online tools can be used to facilitate interaction between learners and illustrates the need for the selection of online tools for language learning to be based on pedagogy. It is recommended that the selection of tools should be carefully considered in alignment with task aims and the affordances of online tools.

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