Intercultural Learning on the Internet. Some Uses of Networked Computing in Preparing for Study Abroad
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The Modern Languages Teaching Centre of the University of Sheffield was founded in 1993, to give the opportunity to learn a language to any member of the University who wishes to benefit from it. It currently delivers a University-Wide Language Programme in French, German, Italian and Spanish to approximately 750 undergraduate students who are specialists in other disciplines.
Many of the Centre’s students spend the third year of their undergraduate course at a European university. Others undertake industrial placements in Europe. In 1996–7, in direct response to student feedback, the Centre launched a new module, which aims to prepare students of Science and Engineering culturally and linguistically for a period of study or work in France, Germany, or Spain. As well as completing a traditional language course and compiling a portfolio of task-based exercises directly related to their stay abroad, students were asked to undertake a project involving the study of the place, region, or institution they were about to visit, using information gleaned from the World Wide Web, from an Email Tandem partner, or via an audio- and videoconferencing exchange.
This paper offers a qualitative, comparative account of students’ experience of using the different electronic media as instruments of cultural preparation for the year abroad. On the basis of evidence gathered via a student questionnaire it seeks to chart any gains in cultural understanding they felt they had made, and their affective response to the contact.
KeywordsForeign Language Cultural Preparation Clear Expectation Cultural Information Cultural Shock
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