CHAT VS. VIDEOCONFERENCE IN INTERCULTURAL TELECOLLABORATION
In this piece of research, we analyse written and oral synchronous exchanges with chat and videoconference tools, particularly with BBB (BigBlueButton), performed by Secondary Education pupils participating in the European project TILA (Telecollaboration for Intercultural Language Acquisition) (http://www.tilaproject.eu/). As explained in Tro (2015), these pupils had the chance of interacting with peers from abroad, making a communicative use of the TL (target language) and learning by doing (Doughty and Long, 2003). Through this analysis, we aim to point out specific patterns characterising communication in each environment and technology difficulties and misunderstandings arising in interactions, which are compared concerning the format of communication used.
Telecollaborative projects enhancing ICC (intercultural communicative competence) (see Byram, 1997, 2012; Byram, Gribkova and Starkey, 2002) have been generally carried out (e.g. Lee and Markey, 2014; Kirschner, 2015), especially with informants who are university students. Along the same lines, Tro (2015) presented an introductory research project in the field of intercultural communication and SLA (second language acquisition) through telecollaboration within the framework of the TILA project, with Secondary Education pupils as participants.
Regarding the method of research, we listened to, transcribed, qualitatively analysed and compared chat and BBB interactions by pupils in London and Valencia (Spain), following a set of criteria for each variable of interest. Accordingly, some interesting conclusions could be reached.
On the one hand, chat sessions show a generally straight-to-the-point communication, with fewer interaction turns for the same (sub)topic and lateral topics than in BBB. However, politeness when starting conversations and changing into another language, fewer misunderstandings and silences and less time lost on technical difficulties are remarkable.
On the other hand, in videconferences with BBB there is a less rigid scheme, being easy to introduce lateral topics and intercultural aspects. In addition, there are normally more emphasis on misunderstandings and more interaction turns for a (sub)topic, through repetitions, reformulations and so on, e.g. negotiating meaning (see Pica, 1992, 1994; Foster and Ohta, 2005, among others). In general terms, native speakers are willing to help non-native ones; these last show a lot of interest and WTC (willingness to communicate) (MacIntyre, Clément, Dörnyei and Noels, 1998), make efforts for being understood and their utterances are frequently produced in terms of interaction turns. Accordingly, and although silences, overlaps and misunderstandings arising from technical problems with sound are also present in BBB, we can conclude that this is a better tool for telecollaborative intercultural exchanges than chat.
We consider these results an important step within the field of telecollaborative intercultural exchanges that can help students and pupils learn a TL and acquire ICC being in contact with peers from abroad. Furthermore, promoting WTC (MacIntyre et al., 1998) and motivation (e.g. Dörnyei, 2008) through telecollaboration can be very enriching, both for students and teachers. In sum, research on telecollaborative intercultural exchanges provides us with better tools for SLA and the achievement of ICC.