Chapter 7. Collaborative tasks for negotiation of intercultural meaning in virtual worlds and video-web communication
In many foreign language education settings, communication tasks in the target language mostly take place between nonnative-speaker classmates sharing the same mother tongue. ‘Networked’ environments such as voice-enabled 3D virtual worlds or video-web communication may have an added value in creating opportunities for language learners to synchronously communicate outside the classroom. As such, these tools may facilitate intercultural communication and collaboration with other (native) speakers of the target language. In the European Networked Interaction in Foreign Language Acquisition and Research (NIFLAR) project,* innovative e-learning environments were designed and studied for their potential to create authentic and interactive contexts that support the development of intercultural competence in foreign language learning contexts. The technology-mediated pedagogical tasks targeted intercultural communicative competence (following, e.g. Byram 1997; and Müller-Jacquier 2003), in which intercultural awareness and social interaction seek to play a much larger role than it is possible in current classroom-based foreign language education. The NIFLAR design also took into consideration the set of design principles that have emerged from TBLT research (Ellis 2003; Doughty & Long 2003; Long 2009; Norris 2009; Van den Branden 2006; Willis 1996). In this chapter we present NIFLAR’s technology-mediated, task-based framework for the development of intercultural competence and discuss its application to both video-web task-based communication and the virtual world <i>Second Life</i> by Dutch learners of Spanish communicating with native-speaker teachers of Spanish<i>. </i>We offer qualitative and quantitative data gleaned from the completion of two tasks and discuss the potential effects of technology-mediated TBLT in such environments, focusing on negotiation of intercultural meaning in communication between language learners and native speakers.