Using similar tasks to increase negotiation of meaning and language production in an online second language learning environment



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This study investigates the use of authentic subtitled similar task videos (ASSTVs) and their relationship to second language negotiation of meaning and language production among non-native speakers of English in an online task-based language learning (TBLL) environment. Over the course of two weeks, twenty intermediate nonnative speakers (NNSs) of English from the English Language Institute at Texas A&M University engaged in four communicative tasks in pairs using an online TBLL environment designed specifically for this study, and a chat tool in WebCT Vista, a course management system provided by the university. ASSTVs were videotaped and integrated into the online TBLL environment. Participants were divided into two groups, each of which consisted of five dyads, to test the effects of ASSTVs. Five dyads were provided with the ASSTVs and the remaining five dyads were not provided with them before the task completion process. The first section of this study examines the effects of ASSTVs on negotiation of meaning, and the second section examines the effects on language production. The amount of negotiation of meaning was calculated through the negotiation of meaning sequences model developed by Gass and Varonis and revised for online communication by Smith. Language production was investigated in terms of fluency and complexity with regard to lexical and syntactic complexity. A detailed analysis of the data from the chat-scripts showed that NNSs engage in more negotiation of meaning and produce more fluent and lexically diverse language when provided with the ASSTVs than NNSs who were not provided with them. Based on these findings, this study concludes that using ASSTVs in an online TBLL environment is a viable and effective tool for promoting negotiation of meaning and language production in terms of fluency and lexical complexity.