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Video Call or Chat? Negotiation of meaning and issues of face in telecollaboration


Negotiation of meaning depends both on human interactions and mode of communication. Chats may be time consuming but emerged to be the most effective at the present compared to video calls which are affected by saving face and politeness and at the end of the day do not achieve desired learning outcomes. Little research has been carried out in this topic of contention and needs to be done because that may be the reason that video calls in the learning environment have not been able to achieve much. Measures also need to be put in to deal with human behavior in learning.

Summary of the article-video Call or Chat?

The article by Rose van der Zward and Anne Bannink’s key point interest was to determine if its video calls or chats that work better on language learner communication. The study that was carried out prior to the writing of this paper wanted to investigate the negotiation of meaning during interactions between native speakers and non-native speakers of the English language. The participants of the study were university students that were either native English speakers or non-native English speakers.

The key points of the set up telecollaboration in real time were to investigate the scope, pattern and nature of the real time interactions between the two participating groups. The model used in the study was the Varonis and Gass method of non- understandings (1985). The data collected from the chats and video call scripts was then coded for negotiation of meaning episodes and analyzed for learner initiated signals of non-understanding.

Discussions Video Call or Chat?

Thesis statement: Is video calling more effective than chatting in L2 learning?

The major claims in the article include issues in computer- mediated communication: their differences and similarities, negotiation of meaning in CMC (Computer-mediated communication) and negotiation of meaning in relation to issues of ‘loss of face’.

The major differences between video calling and chatting was that with chatting, messages can be stored for future reference, messages can be edited, chatting is slow and premeditated, the face of the person one is chatting with cannot be evaluated or decoded for meaning in facial expressions and that chatting has intentional emotions and is text based while videos are speaking and listening based. Negotiation of meaning is a series of conversational twists by a leaner in the event that they are holding a conversation with another. The conversational twists are majorly from failure to understand for one party, the conversation is forced to slow down as the other participant explains what they meant so that they are on the same page and the conversation can therefore continue. This event of one participant clarifying what they meant is effective for the non-native learner as it is the opportunity for them to learn something new. According to the writers of this article, extensive research still needs to be done to the two computer-mediated communication forms to effectively establish which of the two is more effective in L2 learning. The Varonis and Gass model developed in 1985 is still the most commonly used tool to decode negotiation of meaning and uses two techniques, resolution and trigger, to decode meaning. Trigger (T) is the part that leads to misunderstanding while resolution has an indicator (I) that shows that the listener did not understand and a response (R) where the speaker tries to correct the part not understood by the listener. The reaction to response (RR) then follows as a problem solving solution where the listener confirms that they have understood and conversation continues to flow. The issues of ‘loss of face’ come about because most listeners do not want to admit that they have not understood something and instead of asking for clarification they wait for the speaker to decode that they did not understand and resolve the issue. The study sought to know if these issues were manifest in the digital setting or not.

Data Analysis-video Call or Chat?

The mode of communication was found to influence interactions. None of the chat participants pretended to understand a potential trigger because they could not see the face of the other participant. This therefore meant that in a chat session, the non-native speaker could easily ask to understand what the other party meant by use of a particular word. The video call sessions experienced this issue and it is because facial expressions could be read and hesitation seen so the issue was not easily addressed as the video caller participant pretended to understand everything to save face rather than seek clarification. The native speaker in this case did not push the issue farther to avoid embarrassing the non-native speaker. Another pattern was detected in the chat sessions and that is the idea of anonymity. In a chat session, the non-native speakers do not have a face to save because they could not be seen and conversation they did not understand they simply asked and the conversation continued to flow. The chat sessions were also not affected by things like sign activity and unintentional face expressions like the video calls where the native speaker could easily see that the non-native speaker did not understand because of what they gave off, for example, one clutched the earphones to indicate he did not hear well while another pretended to understand a joke prematurely by laughing in between the joke before the punch line was delivered.

This study revealed that negotiated interaction is not solely to blame for L2 learning outcomes but that also constraints and privileges of a particular mode of communication can hinder learning or be advantageous to it.

Critique and conclusion-video Call or Chat?

  1. Do video calls achieve the learning of the English language?

Video chatting rarely allows for task completion

Videos may be advantageous in other aspects such as establishing a rapport between conservationists and confidence of visual interaction, in L2 learning it is a disadvantage because in cases of non-understanding, saving face gets in the way of learning.

  1. Do solutions exist for navigating negotiation of meaning with video chats?

The negotiation of meaning sequence was aborted after two indicators of non-understanding of the same trigger or sometimes the negotiation of meaning was not started at all and learning in this cases failed. If video chats are ever to be successful in L2 learning then the native speakers need to be held responsible for their counterparts understanding instead of helping them save face through politeness or solidarity. Saving face is costing computer- mediated communication.

  1. Can research in human interactions (politeness and saving face) save L2 learning?

Once human interactions in relation to video calling have been understood and through research found ways to deal with it then maybe in the future it can be an effective learning tool.

My thesis statement sought to find out which of the two modes of communication were better in the learning of English as a second language to non-native speakers. I have come to the conclusion that chatting, though time consuming is more effective in seeking clarification. Video calling offers far too many inhibitors to learning and adequate research on improving video learning experiences needs to be carried out.