DOES THE CONTENT MATTER IN A VIRTUAL EXCHANGE? ENGLISH AS A SECOND LANGUAGE (ESL) STUDENTS IN NEW YORK CITY MEET ESL STUDENT TEACHERS IN TEL AVIV TO EXPLORE MULTILINGUALISM
1 Kibbutzim College of Education (ISRAEL)
2 Borough of Manhattan Community College/CUNY (UNITED STATES)
About this paper:
Conference name: 17th International Technology, Education and Development Conference
Dates: 6-8 March, 2023
Location: Valencia, Spain
Abstract:In a world where multilingualism is still considered rare due to misconceptions, multilinguals (including bilinguals) don’t regard themselves as such in spite of clear evidence to the contrary. Hoping to have some impact, we welcomed the opportunity to offer our students a unique virtual exchange project. The project took place between immigrant students in a remedial writing course at a community college in the USA and education students in their final year of a 4-year undergraduate and ESL teaching certification degree program in Israel. For all, English was at least a second language.
In this five-week “Personal Narratives and Bilingualism” project, participants learned about multilingualism, the definitions and the common phenomena among multilinguals. They had to notice instances of code-switching and try to explain when, with who, and why they think it happened. Likewise, they were asked to share their own second language acquisition experiences.
Oral narratives of personal experience (Labov, 2002) were used as a reflective tool. Participants were asked to share an oral narrative of a memorable childhood experience on Flipgrid in both English and what they considered their first language (L1). These oral narratives were the base for analyses and reflection on language use and ability. Using partial narrative analyses, evaluative clauses were identified and compared in both versions of the narrative.
Using the platform Slack, the participants were asked to share their reflections and to discuss their feelings in regard to their narratives, the similarities and differences they found. Finally, the participants were guided to reflect on the process, what they learned about themselves and their language use.
The data from the reflections were analyzed using data driven thematic analysis. The themes that emerged dealt with 'Feeling Different', with comments such as 'When I want to express myself, I have a completely different experience in English and Chinese'; 'Use of L1 vs L2', with comments such as, 'I have learned that there are gaps (some professional and some cultural) in the quality and way I do it between the two languages I speak.'; 'Comfort Level', with comments such as, 'Because Hebrew is my native language, I can easily include my feelings and make them more natural.'; as well as 'Cultural Aspects of the Language', comments including, 'I think both languages have cultural differences and that is why I could express my self differently in each part, with different ideas and flow of conversation and the same topics.' Interesting comments were given regarding the word choice made in the different languages of the participants, with comments like "I put much more effort in choosing my words correctly in my L2/L3'.
More detailed results will be presented along with other findings that emerged while analyzing the data, regarding the awareness of the participants of their bilingual self and their English language ability.
Both groups benefitted from the opportunity to practice their English in a more personal manner as well understanding the impact of language and cultural differences in telling a story. Their reflections show a very positive attitude towards the experience and their self-discovery.
 Labov, W. (2002). Ordinary Events. In C. Fought (Ed) Sociolinguistic Variation: Critical Reflections. Oxford: Oxford University Press 31-43
Keywords: Multilingualism, virtual exchange, digital tools.