Polytechnic Institute of Leiria (PORTUGAL)
About this paper:
Appears in: EDULEARN16 Proceedings
Publication year: 2016
Pages: 4517-4525
ISBN: 978-84-608-8860-4
ISSN: 2340-1117
doi: 10.21125/edulearn.2016.2093
Conference name: 8th International Conference on Education and New Learning Technologies
Dates: 4-6 July, 2016
Location: Barcelona, Spain
E-mail is one of the most frequently used communication tools in today’s world. In the field of education, particularly in higher education, the use of e-mail has also become a very common means of communication between students and teachers. The aim of this study was to characterize the use of e-mail by Chinese students in communicating with their Portuguese teachers during a one-year stay at a college of higher education in Portugal learning about Portuguese language and culture. To carry out this study a corpus of over a thousand e-mails sent by the students to the programme teachers was collected and analysed. With regard to the specific analysis performed in the study presented in this text, the following categories were adopted: the situation in which the e-mail message is embedded, the communication turn that it corresponds to and through which interaction unfolds between the sender and recipient, the purpose of the e-mail, the presence of text and (if present) its structure and its length. The results showed a division of the e-mails over two types of dominant situations as the immediate contexts for sending e-mails: situations related to the courses being followed and situations related to the coordination of the programme. These situations display various differences in relation to purpose, level of interaction reached, presence or absence of text in the message body, and length of messages. The purposes arising from the context of the courses relate primarily to the sending of homework, while the predominant purposes of e-mail messages related to coordination are to send requested information or to ask for information, in particular concerning the choice of optional courses or willingness to participate in or the actual participation in various activities provided by the college. The analysis revealed that the presence of text and the average length of the text are greater in situations associated with the coordination of the programme. The implications of the research underscore the relevance of creating a diversity of communication situations in which students can make use of e-mail. These situations should not be limited to the students’ own context but should include other facets of their year abroad as well as their participation in college life and in the community in which they are living and learning the language and culture.
E-mail, writing, student-teacher interaction, language learning, studying abroad.