Internet Chat Room
as a Learning Tool
by Adam Simpson
An issue often discussed among teachers is the dilemma of
getting students to use language in real time situations.
This article discusses the implications of getting language
learners to use internet chat rooms for language learning
of Chat Rooms
Firstly, language students can use a chat room at any time
to interact with any number of people anywhere in the world.
They allow learners to interact in an authentic context
with native speakers without being restricted by location.
In many ways, this is an unprecedented learning opportunity.
Secondly, Chat rooms can promote autonomous learning. This
is primarily due to the fact that the teacher's role is
minimized. Transcripts are generated which are useful for
studying the language used. Every line of conversation is
recorded, and can be seen in full thereafter.
Another advantage is that students have the opportunity
to observe the language used by native speakers. Learners
are able to see how a conversation develops, and also to
notice what kinds of response are suitable (or unsuitable)
in given situations.
Chat rooms also promote active involvement. The learner
is enticed into conversing with others, and yet can withdraw
as and when they feel like it.
Learners are also given the opportunity for skills development
and practice. Chat rooms offer the learner the chance to
produce language which is somewhere between everyday spoken
English and the language in its written form. Many learners
may not have previously been exposed to such informal written
Finally, and importantly, they allow communication to take
place in real time. This is a truly authentic communicative
device. The conversations are real and the frameworks around
which they are built are extremely loose. They therefore
necessitate a degree of spontanaeity and adaptation. Also,
the sense of real time is a little more forgiving than a
face to face spoken encounter. Firstly, there is that all
important thinking time between seeing what the other person
has written and making one's reply. Secondly, there is the
factor of anonimity which potentially increases the learners'
Difficulties with Chat Rooms
Learners' keyboard skills in English are usually slow which
means that they often miss part of the conversation thread.
It is the nature of chat room dialogue for conversations
to move very quickly at times, thus leaving the learner
somewhat confused and downhearted.
Furthermore, the way the conversation scrolls down the screen
requires the participant to read text very quickly. This
is often difficult for EFL students, due to deficiencies
in the type of reading skill which native speakers would
Chat room participants also often use slang and abbreviations
which EFL learners may not be familiar with. Having previously
stated that students may benefit from seeing how native
speakers use the language, it should be noted that an 'internet
language' is evolving rapidly, which differs in many ways
from spoken English.
Native speakers using chat rooms may discuss topics which
are culture specific to the English speaking world, or inappropriate
or offensive to some learner groups. This may lead to misunderstandings
which have nothing to do with the learner's knowledge of