Languages—Research Highlights

Languages is an international, open access, peer-reviewed journal on interdisciplinary studies of languages, published quarterly online by MDPI. It aims to present discussions and developments of multidisciplinary research and thereby generate broad and practical applications for the study of languages in the world of today. The Journal’s central theme is the promotion of understanding of the diverse aspects of the world’s languages along three dimensions: Languages in space, languages in time and languages in interaction. More details about the journal and its scope are available on our website.

The first issue of the journal was released in 2016. In the following, we present a selection of published papers that were highly rated during the review process and highlight the latest research in linguistics.

Maximizing L2 Speaking Practice through iPads

Theresa Schenker and Angelika Kraemer

This study investigates the effects of additional out-of-class speaking practice, using a simple iPad application, on students’ overall speaking proficiency, fluency, and syntactic complexity. Students in the experimental and control groups (N = 52) completed an adapted Simulated Oral Proficiency Interview (SOPI) at the end of the semester, which was rated by two independent raters. Results of an independent-samples t-test revealed statistically significant differences between the two groups. The students who had received additional speaking practice on iPads achieved higher SOPI scores than the students in the control group. Two of the seven tasks of the SOPI test were used for the analysis of fluency and complexity. Results did not show any statistically significant differences between the two groups for fluency and complexity. The study suggests that mobile technology can be effectively implemented for beginning language learners to enhance their learning outcomes.

Narrative Perspectives on Self-Directed Foreign Language Learning in a Computer- and Mobile-Assisted Language Learning Context

Daniel R. Isbell, Hima Rawal, Rachelle Oh and Shawn Loewen

Millions of learners around the world use self-directed computer- and mobile-assisted language learning (CALL, MALL) programs to study foreign languages. One such program, Duolingo, currently attracts over 120 million users and is claimed (by the publisher) to be a highly effective method of language learning. While L2 researchers have shown limited engagement with similar large-scale commercial programs, issues related to learner persistence, motivation, and program efficacy have been reported. This study investigates the experiences and efficacy of learning Turkish on Duolingo for 12 weeks, drawing on a methodological tradition of researcher narratives. Three graduate student researchers kept diaries and completed weekly reflections on their Turkish learning experiences, which served as source material for individual narrative analysis. The resulting narratives were discussed and analyzed collaboratively from an ecological perspective. Strategies used by the researcher-participants were heavily influenced by ecological factors. Persistence in learning was found to be influenced by ecological factors and varied across timescales. Ultimately, the researcher-participants had limited Turkish learning outcomes and felt demotivated to continue studying on Duolingo. Implications for CALL/MALL design include presenting materials in a meaningful context, capitalizing on social affordances, and providing meaningful feedback to learners in order to facilitate learning and goal-setting.

I Text English to Everyone: Links between Second-Language Texting and Academic Proficiency

Michelle A. McSweeney

This article reports on research investigating the relationship between text messaging and academic literacy among Spanish-dominant emergent bilingual young adults in New York City (acquiring English). Through assessments of academic language and analysis of a corpus of 44,597 text messages, this study found that emergent bilinguals who send more messages in English and choose English for the settings on their mobile phones tend to have higher academic English skills. This study also found that the English messages they send are lexically less dense than the Spanish messages, illustrating that students use a narrower vocabulary when texting in their second language. This finding is explored in light of previous research that has found that using social media in the target language can help students develop fluency and intercultural competence skills, but not always vocabulary. The results are discussed in terms of the tendency for texters to text monolingually and other affordances and constraints of smart phone use in digitally supporting second language acquisition.