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Acquiring new language skill such as writing, and reading can be very difficult for adults especially for adults who wanted to study second language. This is because in order to acquire new language skill, one must be exposed to a lot of input and practices. Language learning has always been associated with competencies, grammar, tasks, exercises and drill activities (Nadzrah & Kemboja, 2009) Scholars and researchers have come out with various methodologies to assist second language learners to acquire their targeted language and improve their language skills such as writing. Nowadays, with the help from technology a new branch called Computer Assisted Language Learning (CALL) has been established in order to find out how to combine technology with language learning hence helping the second language learners to improve their language skills. This is because a lot of previous researches had convinced today's researchers that language learners need to notice and interact with the linguistic input in order to acquire their target language (Chapelle, 2005)
When a learner uses computer and internet to perform their language tasks and training, they automatically involves in CALL. Technology used in CALL is more than just communication tools because it involves devices such as word processor for writing, online dictionaries for learning vocabularies in other words technology in CALL are devices and tools that can be used by the learners to manipulate language more effectively (Levy & Stockwell, 2006) Hence, all elements of computer mediated communication such as weblog, online chatting, and all forms of social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter also fall under CALL and they all can be used by language learners to assist them in acquiring language skills like writing, reading and speaking. A particular interest has been put on Weblog in order to discover its effectiveness in helping the second language learners to improve their writing skill. The term "Weblog" originally refers to the computer files generated by web servers to log their activities. However, the term Weblog today which is pronounced as "We blog" refers to the online site containing different messages from the blogger (Sauers, 2006) Therefore, according to Cory Doctorow (2002) the term Weblog or blog can be defined as:
A web page that contains brief, discrete hunks of information called posts. These posts are arranged in reverse - chronological order (the most recent posts come first.) Each post is uniquely identified by an anchor tag, and it is marked with a permanent link that can be referred to by others who wish to link to it. (p.1)
In other words, a weblog is a site where the users can post or compose their writings and published them online. Once the writings have been published, they can be viewed and read by others as the weblog is marked with a permanent link to the site. According to Sauers (2006) there are three types of weblogs: individual, subject and organizational weblogs. The individual weblog is the original type of weblog, which is run by individual for their own reason and it is commonly personal in nature. It resembles an online journal. The subject weblog, on the other hand is run by one or more bloggers focused on a particular subject of interest like hobbies, or politics and the last type of weblog which is the organizational weblog only represents the views, opinions, and events of an organization (Sauers, 2006) The content of the weblog can be from various topics depending on the types of blogs.
Although weblogging is not an uncommon phenomenon, however the use of weblogs in teaching and learning language in Malaysia is still at the nascent stage. The second language learners in Malaysia are still not aware about the use of weblogging in order to improve their writing skill. Therefore, the purpose of this study is to examine whether or not weblog is an effective tool to help the second language learners to improve their writing skill and how does it helps them to improve in their writing. By answering these two questions:
Can weblogging help them to improve the second language learners in their writing ability in terms of sentence structures, grammar, and word choices?
How does weblogging help them to improve their writing skill?
This research hopes to achieve its purpose by demonstrating that weblog is indeed an effective tool for the second language learners to improve their writing ability in terms of grammar, sentence structure, and word choices and it also helps them by providing a convenient writing environment and an alternative mode for the second language learners to practice writing.
Previous researches and studies have shown that weblog is an effective tool for second language learners to improve their writing skill. According to Nadzrah and Kemboja (2009) ESL students benefit a lot from blogging as they were able to write better because they realised that they have to put extra efforts in checking their grammar before posting their entry, which is something that they did not do when writing on papers. Abdulaziz Ibrahim Fageeh (2011) further emphasizes that weblogging helps to improve the learners' fluency in their abilities to convey and formulate their ideas because they are more careful in their writing as they have to pay close attention to the formal aspects of writing especially in grammar, word choices, sentence structure, paragraph structure and word spelling. Additionally, they also have learnt to adapt the academic writing style, learnt to use appropriate register and lexicons, tenses system, phrasal verbs and linking devices when they are writing in weblogs.
Moreover, a study by Ruby Vurdien (2011) proves that weblogging encourages the learners to spend a number of considerable time to think thoroughly when planning their task which includes making a careful choice of vocabulary, grammatical structures, appropriate register and spelling errors before posting their entry online because they realised that their posts will be read by a larger audience which is their friends and their tutors. This claim is maintained by Nadzrah and Kemboja (2009) who believed that the online nature of weblog where the writing can be viewed and read by everyone has motivated the learners to try their best to write using correct grammar and sentence structure. This is also supported by Jason M. Ward (2004) who claims that due to the online environment where everyone can read their work, weblogging motivates the learners to pay close attention to their writing making them to work extra careful when constructing their sentences hence helping them to produce good work in English and at the same time establish their writing on the web. In addition to this, weblogging can also help to improve argumentative writing and descriptive writing due to the comfortable writing environment provided by the site (Abdulaziz, 2011)
Weblog also helps the second language learners to improve their writing skills by providing a convenient environment to write. Writing is a stage process that includes prewriting, multiple drafting, and revising stage and weblogging has made the revising stage easier because the edit post and the delete post features allow the learners to easily edit and revise their work by adding new points or omits any inappropriate existing points (Dilani Sampath, 2011) Furthermore, due to the mode of weblogging which is different from the conventional writing mode, the learners were able to write longer as they can take their time to finish their task without being put under any pressure, hence making their writing more effective and creative although their English language skills were limited (Nadzrah & Kemboja, 2009) This environment is very useful because some of the learners wrote and thought in their native language first and then translated them into English and for this reason, the students were able to write more constructively and more organised (Nadzrah & Kemboja, 2009)
Moreover, the asynchronous nature of weblog gives the learners opportunity to think thoroughly before posting and edit the errors in their works as many times as they like whenever they like (Ward, 2004) This is supported by Dilani Sampath Pahala Gedera (2011) who claims that the learners can have "the opportunity to take time to reflect and engage in the activities when convenient and at their own space." (p.129) Moreover, the asynchronous nature of weblog allows the learners to revise their own entries and their peers' postings without being restricted to time and space, giving them the chance to learn new grammatical structures and new words (Nadzrah & Kemboja, 2009)
In addition to this, according to Dilani Sampath (2011) weblogging is less face threatening compared to traditional or conventional writing mode because the feedback received from the audience did not involve unsightly signs in red ink like exclamation marks and question marks, hence making them feel comfortable and less stressful in writing their entries. Moreover, the learners were able to express themselves more freely when writing in weblogs compared to writing on papers because they were able to use simple conversational English rather than formal English (Nadzrah & Kemboja, 2009) Furthermore, it is also reported that learners who posted regularly on their weblogs and exchanged views with their friends performed more proficiently in their writing tasks, hence showing an improvement in their critical thinking skills (Ruby Vurdien, 2011)
Last but not least, Abdulaziz (2011) has identified at least six positive things about using weblog - interaction with readers, finding an outlet and access to writing, writing in English on the Internet, developing academic writing in English, developing writing topics in more detail in adequate time and learning new vocabulary. However, he did not give further explanation for each advantage of using weblogs and weblog according to Ruby Vurdien (2011) is considered as a useful tool to continue practice writing outside the classroom. These well-known theories are significant in order to understand the findings. All of these notions will resurface and be further discussed and elaborated in the discussion section.
This research is useful for both the second language learners and the teachers in order to improve the second language learning experiences. Moreover, it can benefit the second language learners by motivating them to practice writing by giving them an alternative writing mode which is more convenient than the conventional writing. Last but not least, this research can help to contribute to the progress of second language acquisition and CALL as it can help to shape the language learning environment especially for writing skill in order to make it more interesting and motivating for the second language learners.