How Social Media Is Impacting Language Studies
This generation is best defined by its connectivity. Social media, or rather, Web 2.0, has influenced practically every aspect of our everyday lives. Language studies and language training are no exceptions. Want more proof? Check out these exceptional ways Web 2.0 has impacted language studies, both in terms of research and education.
Twitter and Language Research: Heatmaps and the Discovery of Spanish Superdialects
In a study on “Crowdsourcing Dialects”, researchers Bruno Goncalves and David Sanchez of the Institute for Cross-Disciplinary Physics and Complex Systems used GPS data and heat mapping technology on Twitter to trace patterns in Spanish dialects throughout the world. In order to understand their goals, let’s look at both British and American dialects. Accents aside, consider the other differences between American and British English. They say chips, we say french fries. They say pavement, we say sidewalk. They say sauce, we say ketchup.
The same variance exists in Spanish. Depending on where you live, you may refer to a car as carro, auto, coche, or movi. You may refer to a computer as ordenador, computadora, or computador. The Spanish words for car and computer were used in the study because they had some of the highest regional variety.
But the interesting part of these findings was not in the differences but in the similarities. What they found was that there are two “superdialects” of Spanish, which are divided between rural and urban areas. In other words, a similar dialect is used in Ecuadorian cities as is used in Spanish speaking sections of California cities, the only real connection being that both locations are urban.
Millions of Tweets were utilized as part of this project. Indeed, without Twitter, this study would not have been possible.
Social Media and Language Learning
In a small study by Kee-Man Chuah of the University of Malaysia, about 100 undergraduate university students were studied qualitatively on whether they felt social media had influenced their English language studies. Students were asked in a survey to express their thoughts on various social media networks, including YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter. Here is what they found:
More than 50% of the respondents said they used Twitter to help build vocabulary.
60%of the respondents said they felt that YouTube had helped them improve their speaking skills, but less than 40% used it to study grammar or writing.
Over 70% of respondents said they participated in Facebook discussions, which helped them practice writing, and also allowed them to collaborate and clarify difficult topics with their peers.
Then take the more drastic social networks available to everyone with internet, such as Skype, Google Chat, and other face-to-face video services. Video chat has allowed people to study with native speakers from other countries. This has made it possible for people to familiarize themselves with various accents and also practice speaking, as opposed to just listening to videos on YouTube.
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