This research proposal attempts to explore ways in which the nature of the electronic medium, the internet is affecting second language (L2) essay writing among learners. It is clear that the effects of the internet on learning L2 writing will be momentous and widespread, just like the previous communication technologies, such as print and broadcast that created several varieties of new features and applications in linguistics like graphic, hyper-verbal sounds, among others. Internet use may promote or constrain learners’ ability to communicate in ways that are significantly different from those found in standard language.
We must be ready to acknowledge the massive technological improvement, communication power, and social capabilities of the internet. However, we must also express concerns over the effects of the internet on the learners of L2. The Internet has become a source of worry for language teachers with regard to linguistic issues, particularly in writing. This is due to the fact that writing has dominated internet communication methods. Learners of language are most likely to be casualties of the internet. This is because the internet has presented relaxed forms of writing, such as in e-mails particularly in spelling use and abbreviations. Internet is also creating new generations of technologically able learners who may presume standard norms in effective writing. At the same time, L2 learners may lose creativity and flexibility as globalization promotes sameness, especially in the English language (Crystal, 2004).
Distinctive features of written language
There are distinctive features in all written languages. These are the features that learners must beware of when writing essays. Firstly, languages have graphic features. These are the general presentation and organization of a written language. Graphic features of a written language include identifiable typography, spacing, illustrations, page design, and use of color. Learners can easily identify a given language using such graphic features. Secondly, written languages have graphological/orthographic features. Every language has a writing system consisting of distinctive alphabets, punctuations, letters, spelling, and means of showing emphases, such as boldface, italics and others. For instance, learners can distinguish between British and American English through their spelling variations. For example, the spelling of neighbor in British English, and neighbor in American English has a spelling difference of the letter u. At the same time, L2 learners must beware of certain spelling modifications present mainly in English and not most varieties of languages e.g. beanz, eazzy, among others. Thirdly, there are grammatical aspects of written language. These aspects mainly reflect several possibilities of morphology and syntax in linguistics. L2 learners can recognize these features through sentence structure, inflections, and word order. For instance, we may add letters in writing to reflect a third-person singular e.g. (John knows……..) and, at the same time, accommodate the religious aspects of English like thy, thou, and thee in a second-person singular. Fourthly, written languages possess lexical features. These are vocabularies of languages. Lexical aspects of languages are sets of words and idioms with distinctive use in language varieties. For instance, there are jargon, expressions, and phrases of languages in every profession. Fifthly, written languages have discourse features. Discourse aspects of written languages show the structural organization of texts. These are mainly relevancy, coherency, paragraph structure, and logical organization of thoughts. Learners can notice discourse aspects of written language in scholarly journals with logical sequence including abstract, introduction, body, methodology, results, discussion and conclusion (Larsen-Freeman, 2000).
These are elements of written language, which any L2 learner must take into account when writing a task. At the same time, teachers and learners must identify how the use of the internet affects these various aspects of written languages.
Most speakers and writers laud the growth, and improvements of technology as effective communication, and social interaction tool. However, they also express their concerns over varieties in nonstandard languages that exist on the internet. The Internet has created difficulties for both language teachers and linguistics learners with regard to linguistic issues, particularly in writing. This is because writing has dominated internet use in communication. Consequently, this research proposal seeks to establish the differences that exist in second language essay writing due to aspects of social issues facilitated by the internet.
The research’s general objective is to establish second language essay writing differences due to aspects of internet use on learners. Likewise, the research also has specific objectives as follows.
- To identify effects of internet language on distinctive features of written language among second language learners.
- To explore second language learners’ attitude towards internet language and standard language at school.
- To establish how the internet and CALL (Computer Assisted Language Learning) can enhance second language learning.
Researchers interested in the effects of the internet on essay writing differences among L2 learners must inquire whether the internet is creating homogenous language in electronic communication or not. Likewise, the researcher must also look into whether or not the internet will produce a single variety of language that is defined by features of a written language. The fundamental question to ask is whether or not all L2 learners and users of the internet present their writings with the same kinds of written languages features. Researchers interested in this nature of inquiry must establish the different situations the internet presents to L2 learners. They must also identify and describe the noticeable linguistics features of every situation, and note variations in their use (Dudeney, 2000).
This approach will ensure that the researchers precisely present strategies which students learning a second language use in writing essays and the linguistics notions they have towards internet influences. This will enable the researchers to evaluate students’ concerns and beliefs about internet and L2 learning and essay writing difficulties. The researchers will find some of these internet influences easy to identify because they have been there for a long. However, there are new elements emerging with the new technology that may also be subject to change. For instance, the use of mobile phones as an internet gadget has created fresh varieties of short linguistic expressions that have affected language learning. For instance, during the 1990s, mobile phone technology erupted with immediate consequences to linguistics. These effects mainly came from the Short Message Service (SMS). The small screen size, limited characters per message (160 characters), together with small keypads created the advanced use of abbreviated language than ever before. If we consider the rate of technological developments, then no doubt new linguistic situations will emerge with new technologies. There are five broad internet-using situations that have significant variations i.e. they have significantly distinctive language features. These variations affect learners of L2 in their writings.
Internet situations affecting essay writing among second language learners
Electronic mail (e-mail) is an internet-based system used to transfer messages among users. Electronic mails have facilitated the growth of the internet. Users can send emails to their families, friends, and workmates, among others. There are also income mails. Both incoming and outgoing mails vary greatly in length and style. Learners and linguistics teachers concern themselves with these apparent diversities in e-mails. Therefore, the researcher must identify the linguistic coherence of the situation. At the same time, the researcher should also establish whether rapid and immediate e-messaging encourages the use of specific linguistic features that present variations among the audience. Therefore, it becomes difficult for learners to generalize the language of e-mail. Unfortunately, such variations in styles may affect their writing abilities in learning the second language (Heslop, 1994).
Chat groups discuss particular topics on the internet. Any interested computer users may take part in these discussions. Chat groups may be global or local. Owners or editors may regulate information content, while others do not have restrictions. Certain factors may make chat groups contribute to diversity in linguistic use.
The Internet also has virtual worlds. These are imaginary situations that people participate in, for text-based fantasy. As users engage in real-world situations, they construct words from education and business to use in their chat sessions. They develop acronyms and other forms of language modifications, which they adapt to linguistic reading and writing. This is because of linguistic possibilities in such imaginary worlds.
World Wide Web (WWW) is a collection of all computers linked to the internet containing documents users can access through the use of the standard protocol. The web contains references, encyclopedias, archives, advertisements, yellow pages, and creative writing, among others. These materials are increasingly available on the web. These large volumes of topics must raise linguistic concerns. Researchers should establish whether the web has coherence and valid generalization regarding the use of language.
Researchers interested in this field must note that the internet is a highly versatile area that creates many possibilities for users to explore, express, introduce new combinations of the language elements and react to new technological innovations using written language. Innovations make the internet be in a constant state of change, lacking precedent, looking for standards and directions. It is unclear whether the emerging trends will stick to the Standard English requirements or create their own linguistic, stylistic features to facilitate communication. In addition, we do not if these trends may combine old and new features for effective communication (Crystal, 2004).
Second language learners are grasping the communicative potential of the internet available to them. They are also in learning situations. They must master the art of communicating over the internet where there are no universally established rules, and the trends vary considerably from those of languages taught in class. Internet writing and paper-based writing vary considerably in terms of following the rules of grammar. For instance, paper-based letter writing has established rules and manual references available for learners. These writing styles are taught in schools and learners feel secure once they have mastered the standard requirements. However, writing e-mail has no established standards. Writers do not follow any rules in writing e-mails. Consequently, they break the rules of writing without knowing, and most recipients may respond inappropriately. It may be difficult to establish all the communication difficulties on the internet since the stylistic features vary, and there are no recommendations about e-mail communications (Bauer, 1983).
Scholars are investigating the levels of constrained interactions on the internet and how they affect learners. Lynn Cherny studied language use in the virtual worlds and found out that linguistic interactions were amenable in descriptions with reference to registers. General studies on internet language use concluded that e-writing is an emerging register, and participants are aware that their languages have significant variations from the standard language (Cherny, 1999).
Both teachers and learners have recognized the fact that the language of the internet is always in a state of transition. Currently, users look forward to when there will be predictable and stable language on the internet. Goffman insists that there is a great need for reliability, predictability and familiarity with all internet users’ situations, and language use in it (Goffman, 1959).
Researchers must note internet constraints communications. Consequently, L2 learners exposed to such constraints are most likely to transfer them to their essay writings. Users have tried to solve the problems of varieties of internet linguistics in countless idiosyncratic ways but with no tangible success. The challenge is that most internet users are highly motivated individuals, keen to explore the capabilities of a new medium, and have knowledge about its procedures and have strong views and beliefs about its use. We can expect several linguistic innovations and ingenuity from internet geeks in their applications.
The researcher must note that too much idiosyncrasy causes problems of intelligibility. There is pressure among learners to conform to the standard of linguistics features in their writings. However, they face difficulties due to the negative effects of internet writing styles.
Applications for educators in applied linguistics
Language educators are making new connections and collaborating across the internet. Internet applications have enabled interactions among language teachers in a global context. This is mainly self-directed learning and sharing of knowledge. Teachers may exploit internet applications, such as wikis, blogs, virtual worlds and gaming in order to improve language learning among themselves and learners.
Computer-Assisted Language Learning (CALL) works towards the development of social identity in a target language, such as English and subsequently develops strategies for language learning. There are improvements in learning L2 as a result of technological applications. Language educators must guide L2 learners in terms of what contents to teach and students must accept and learn that knowledge. Learning has been teacher-based where teachers merely transfer knowledge to students. In addition, reforms in learning are rather slow, and language learners may attempt to copy didactic contents on the internet rather than engage in transformative learning (Thomas, 2009).
Researchers should seek to establish how applied linguistics on the internet can promote learning of the second language. The internet medium can facilitate the teaching of L2 among learners in terms of remedial tasks, particularly in writing essays. The CALL must work together with the internet in order to provide a fresh dimension in learning the second language writing and reading.
At this level, it is difficult to ascertain the impacts of the internet on L2 learning. Therefore, language researchers must respond to inadequate literature and supporting guidelines for the effects of the internet on learners writing styles. At the same time, they must also strive to establish what conditions must be in place for the internet to promote effective language learning, and how teachers can use best practices in teaching in order to eliminate learning difficulties caused by nonstandard language on the internet. In this context, the researcher must develop processes of activities that will help L2 learners avoid difficulties and differences in writing essays.
Bauer, L., 1983. English word-formation. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Cherny, L., 1999. Conversation and community: chat in a virtual world. Stanford, CA: CSLI Publications.
Crystal, D., 2004. Language and the Internet. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Dudeney, G., 2000. The Internet and the language classroom. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Goffman, E., 1959. The presentation of self in everyday life. New York: Doubleday.
Heslop, B., 1994. The elements of e-mail style. New York: Addison-Wesley.
Larsen-Freeman, D., 2000. Teaching Techniques and Principles Language Teaching. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Thomas, M., 2009. The Handbook of Research on Web 2.0 and Second Language Learning. New York: Information Science Reference.