WRITING A GUIDEBOOK. WHEN ONLINE TANDEM LEARNING SUPPORTS FOREIGN LANGUAGE ACQUISITION
This contribution will present an on-line tandem learning project between the Department of Philology, Literature and Linguistics of the University of Pisa (Italy) and the Cornell University, at Ithaca, New York (U.S.A.). It will be highlighted how the structure of the project fulfills the requisites for the acquisition of a foreign language and how the activities were intended for the activation of the mental circuits supporting learning. These, according to the stimulus appraisal model by Schumann (1999, 2001), include the dimensions of novelty, pleasantness, goal/need significance, coping potential and the self-social image preservation.
The project, which started in the Academic year 2013-14, had two principal aims, on the one side, to integrate the English language courses with spoken conversations among peers in real communicative contexts, on the other side, to teach the students how to write a tourist guide. This task, which was very demanding, equipped the students with the necessary skills and expertise in writing travel guides that could be useful for their future career. It is now widely accepted that the language of the guidebooks belongs to the domain of the language of tourism (Dann 1996, Gotti 2006, Maci 2010, Nigro 2006), and that both the content and the layout reflect significant cultural differences, which need specific instructions. Therefore, the Italian participants, who worked in groups of four to five people, were first given instructions on how to write a guidebook with the aim of attracting American tourists. The task required various steps to be performed and decision to be taken that implied choices at both content and linguistic levels. Contacts via Skype with the American partners served to illustrate the project and to negotiate the content of the guide, which was then shaped to fit the partner’s requirements and suggestions. Then, the first draft of the text was sent to the American partners for corrections. Finally, the amended text was presented to the other project participants and discussed in a plenary session.
Behavioral reactions of the participants and results achieved proved the project successful.
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