Twitter handy tool for foreign language teaching

Last Updated: Sun, Nov 28, 2010 08:20 hrs

Twitter, mostly famous for celebrity gossips, is being transformed into more purposeful social media tool for teaching foreign language at the University of South Carolina.

Professors Lara Ducate and Lara Lomicka Anderson are using Twitter as a learning aid to inject a little fun and spontaneity into foreign language instruction.

"One of my main goals of using it in my French class is to build community," said Anderson, an associate professor in the Department of Languages, Literatures and Cultures who, with Ducate, an associate professor of German.

Anderson also has her students use Twitter to converse with native speakers at École des Ponts Paris Tech, a French university, to "keep the conversation going all the time."

Ducate used Twitter last fall in a teaching methods class to connect students with peers in foreign language teaching method courses at other universities.

"It was a way to let the students find someone who is also teaching their language and learning how to deal with their first semester as a teaching assistant. This gave them a chance to get a little bit more personal attention and also support from more than just me and their USC classmates," she said.

Other than Twitter, they've used discussion questions on Facebook, Skype long-distance chats, and e-mail. They've also worked with podcasting, blogs, and Wikis.

The appeal of Twitter is that it offers a good way for students to get to know one another, the two professors said.

Another advantage of Twitter for language instruction is that Tweets are short.

"It's easy for them to write one sentence quickly that doesn't require a lot from a proficiency standpoint. I think they're more willing to do something like that than having to write a longer blog entry or something that takes more time," said Ducate.

Anderson concluded by saying that, "It's short and it connects them with the outside world and class discussion by bringing in news items and other things they want to share. Students don't see [Tweets] as homework quite as much because they're fun and allow them to talk about themselves, which they love to do." (ANI)