General
01 Mar 2010

Social networking threat to language learning

Research into the impact of technology on language learning has found that the growing use of English in social networking sites is creating a threat to the learning of other languages, of more formal English and even to learners’ first languages. The researchers, from across Europe, also found that the use of gaming holds great promise, but is to date largely unexploited in language learning. The European Commission initiated study investigated the impact of ICT and new media on language learning, across eight European countries.

The study found that the rise of virtual worlds and of massive multiplayer role playing games hold great potential for the use of different languages and learning in this informal environment. The study also recommends further research into the development of Personalised Learning Environments (PLEs), where users generate content, use informal learning models and environments and control their own learning.

The researchers make recommendations to strengthen language teachers’ professional development and ICT literacy; to innovate pedagogy through technology; to work on cross-sectoral initiatives; and to strengthen communication in creating awareness of successful initiatives and best practice.

Anne Stevens, Senior Lecturer in Modern Languages at The Open University, was the UK academic lead and says that language teaching practices are not yet fully integrated into technological innovation and change: “Many language teachers are daunted by the speed of technological development and the popularity of new social networking sites, but strengthening knowledge and confidence in this area through training – and integrating ICT into language learning best practice – will bring benefits for both the learner and the teacher.”

Presenting an overview of formal and informal language learning, the research found that, in spite of large geographical differences in the take-up of new technologies for language learning and the attitudes to its use, there are some universal tendencies. Through increased awareness about the benefits of innovative methods and concerted measures on national and regional levels, more people could be involved in language learning and make faster progress with the help of tailor-made technological support.

Notes to Editors
The ownership and the copyright of this study belong to the European Commission.

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