Effectiveness of Semester-long Video-synchronous Conversation Practice
This study empirically investigated the effect of semester-long video-synchronous conversation practice on L2 Japanese learners’ improvement of oral proficiency. The participants were 31 intermediate JFL university students at a U.S. university, and participated in the experiment as a part of their coursework. This study deployed a pre-post research design, and analyzed students’ improvement of oral proficiency quantitatively.
Based on the previous finding that learners may benefit more from conversations with a non-native partner than with a native one (Varonis and Gass, 1985), the present research examined whether or not there are differences on the effectiveness of online conversation practice depending on interlocutor type (i.e., peer or native as a conversation partner). Accordingly, the experiment was conducted with a control group (Kanji Group), and two experimental groups (Peer Group and Native Group) in order to examine 1) the effectiveness of weekly video-synchronous conversation practice on learners’ improvement of oral proficiency, and 2) the differences on the effectiveness of the practice by the interlocutor type.
The results found that all the three groups significantly improved their oral proficiency, and there were no differences detected between the two experimental groups. Since the control group also made significant gains, evidence for the effect of the conversation practice was not found. With regard to the second question, assuming that a large portion of the improvement of the two experimental groups was accounted for by the effect of the online practice, whether or not the conversation partner was a peer or a native did not make a difference.
Along with the quantitative analysis of students’ improvement, this study reports students’ perceptions toward the practice and their beliefs about conversation partners’ native speaker status. Regardless of the interlocutor type, they showed overall positive reactions to the practice. As for their beliefs about conversation partners’ native speaker status, strong preferences for native speaker as a conversation partner were found in the participants in all three groups.