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Social Networking Sites to Learn Spanish as a Foreign Language: An Investigation of Busuu and Wespeke as Tools for Blended Language Learning

Saona-Vallejos, MA (2022) Social Networking Sites to Learn Spanish as a Foreign Language: An Investigation of Busuu and Wespeke as Tools for Blended Language Learning. Doctoral thesis, Liverpool John Moores University.

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Research on Language Learning Social Networking Sites (LLSNS) and Spanish as a Foreign Language (SFL) has been limited to date. English as a Foreign Language (EFL) has dominated LLSNS, and the existing research typically focuses on informal/autonomous language learning. This thesis is original in that it investigates Busuu and Wespeke, two LLSNS not previously researched in combination, and explores their use in a Spanish course in the higher education sector. The study fills several gaps in the literature related to the social dimension of LLSNS and uses Hinkelman’s (2018) ecological framework to investigate how LLSNS can be used in a blended learning context. Two research questions guided the study: 1) What theories of SLA do LLSNS adhere to? And 2) How do the features of LLSNS develop SFL learning skills?
An exploratory research design was used involving two stages in a blended Spanish beginners’ course developed by the teacher-researcher in a university in North-West England involving twelve students. A mixed-methods approach was designed to collect data via user experience questionnaires, feedback questionnaires, logon sheets and focus groups and analysed by thematic analysis and descriptive statistics.
While LLSNS are often promoted in line with social constructivist learning principles, findings suggested that not all LLSNS follow them, and many, like Busuu, tend to rely on behaviourist exercises involving repetitive practice. Conversely, Wespeke largely followed a social constructivist approach, encouraging language exchange and online social interaction. While LLSNS can help improve core language skills, learners in the study were surprisingly more interested in using their online features to improve writing rather than speaking.
This study’s main limitation was that no linguistic performance was measured. However, it has implications for the effective design of blended language courses. Future research is required to measure learner performance in LLSNS and to investigate the attrition and/or disengagement experienced by some students.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Uncontrolled Keywords: Blended Language Learning; Language Learning Social Networking Sites (LLSNS); Second Language Acquisition (SLA); Spanish as a Foreign Language (SFL); Task-Supported Language Teaching (TSLT)
Subjects: L Education > L Education (General)
P Language and Literature > PB Modern European Languages
T Technology > T Technology (General)
Divisions: Education
SWORD Depositor: A Symplectic
Date Deposited: 07 Nov 2022 16:57
Last Modified: 07 Nov 2022 16:57
DOI or ID number: 10.24377/LJMU.t.00017966
Supervisors: Thomas, M and Peiser, G
URI: https://researchonline.ljmu.ac.uk/id/eprint/17966
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