Friday, February 27, 2009

more & more, chat in the new paradigm

some short things to ramble about as I get ready for my TESOL presentation, Denver, in about a month:

-just finished another writing class with chat in it; some people again handled it well and easily, while others were amazed that it was possible, that they could do it, that it happened in a writing class, etc. In general it was a class of people who had excellent grammar, excellent finding & searching skills, etc.; they'd been around.

-the class chat was marred somewhat by a difficult situation in which Firefox, on an e-mac, made it impossible to copy/paste anything into the TappedIn chat window. Tapped In in general was also difficult, with people occasionally in the CCR (comfy conf. room) and not knowing it, or seeming to be there yet not. But the inability to copy/paste url's was the most frustrating. No way out of it, either, except getting out and doing the whole thing (including log-in, and finding the URL's) in Safari.

-I've become interested in truly bilingual chats. It was pointed out to me that chats use emoticons and pictures often; and therefore, are not totally sound-based anyway; they clearly involve just seeing, reading & typing. Now here's the question though. Assuming everyone in a chat room knows two languages perfectly well. So, they begin using both frequently, mixing freely, carrying on in two languages simultaneously. Presumably they just use whatever is easier, whatever comes to their minds. Presumably they speak in confidence that either language will be understood at either end. Now: does their language fall into a kind of pattern (always using one lang. for one thing, the other for the other)? At what do you say, this is actually its own language, since it has consistent patterns?

The phenomenon of true & willing bilingualism seems to be more common and used more and other words, people who know two, and just willingly use both together, at most opportunities. Some Taiwanese students were explaining to me that since all of them knew both (Taiwanese & Mandarin), they mixed freely; it wasn't like this in their parents' generation, but it was now. One admitted that he preferred one, simply because he knew it better, but participated along with the rest, using both frequently. Similarly, I ran across a Spanish-English chat online, that was based physically along Texas border towns, and this was happening; unfortunately I have lost it now, or I would study it more carefully, as I know both, in this case, and might get some insight into my own research question. I have two points here: one is that the online environment, consistently providing bilingual space which is known for that and sought out for that, becomes in itself a site for a dialect to develop & flourish, and have its own patterns. Second, the willingness to use elements of one's environment and integrate it, albeit impulsively, to the grief of one's parents, a hallmark of pioneers in the young generation who seem to be taking on this bilingualism/worldly integration as a badge that their parents of course didn't share. I'll keep my eye out for more evidence. A single article about the phenomenon, printed years ago, alone accounts for half a dozen references in a Google search for "bilingual chat;" this means both that very little has been written about it, and, that there is extreme interest in what has been written, as it has been copied and referenced far and wide. This particular article was about Chinese-English and the use of bilingual spaces to familiarize with a new culture, and interact.

-I'm determined to research SL chat a little more, since it has occurred to me that chat in conjunction with 3d movement of avatars through town space or down a street, is different by nature than chat w/out pictures or setting. So is chat in online learning environments, where often things are happening on the board, or people are listening to speaking, and carrying on a running chat simultaneously. These chats often mix media, such that the chat carries its own information independent of the other media, but occasionally crosses over or is influenced by the other media. Another thought occurs to me, which is that this kind of picture or video/chat combination could be very useful to the process of language learning, though it probably hasn't been up to now.