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Weblog or blog is one of the new features of second generation web (Web 2.0). Blogs have emerged as a new way of online communication when people widely use blogs for purposes such as publishing personal journal, reporting news, sharing knowledge and information and discussing topics of interest including business and politics. Blogs even become a new way of journalism (Lasica, 2003). Herring, Bonus, Scheidt & Wrigth. (pg.1, 2004) define blogs as web pages that regularly personalize in which dated entries are listed in reverse chronological sequence, which means the latest entries will be at the first list. The types of blogs have been categorized based on its function. According to Nowson (2003), there are three types of blog which are news, commentary and journal. While according to Herring et al. (2005, cited in Grimes and Warschauer, 2007), there are three types of blogs each named as personal journals, filter blogs and knowledge log (k-log).
Nowadays, blogs have become an important medium of information because of their timely publication, easy to use (free software), and wide availability. Blogs are one of asynchronous communication tools that according to Vonderwell (2003) it has a factor of delay that affects learning. The nature of blogs that it give learners the space and time to reflect and publish their understandings, provide opportunities to give feedback and express their new ideas, make it a useful teaching and learning tools (Ferdig, 2004). This statement means that asynchronous E-learning increased reflection and capability to process information (Hrastinski, 2008). Blogs are also started to be used as a potential tool in language learning and teaching. For instance, Grimes and Warschauer (2007) stated the work of Bloch (2007) to describe the use of blogging in encouraging critical literacy and academic writing in a university ESL composition class.
There are previous studies conducted on how the uses of blogs could enhance second language learning. However, the results of the study remain unclear as it is still in early stage to be confirmed. For instance, research by Yu-Chih Sun (2006) on Blogging as a way of learning to write supported the claim that blogs help in English language learning. She reported that practicing in wide-ranging writing, gives learners an opportunity to improve their writing proficiency and also to develop their logical thinking skills that vital in writing academic writing. Discussions about the language of blogs in previous studies are also not specified in particular blog's genre. Even though there are some other studies that support the claim, there is still concern about the use of language in particular blogs genre especially the English language used by bloggers (user of blogs) in blog's posts, comments and forum discussions. The concern is whether or not the use of English language in particular blogs is appropriate and how far it can aid or jeopardize second language (L2) learners in learning English both for speaking and writing skills.
Blog is being claimed by many earlier studies as a good tool for language learning. On the contrary, not many studies specifically claimed that blog can be a good learning environment for second language acquisition. According to Yule (pg. 163, 2006) there is a difference between 'acquisition' and 'learning'. He mentioned that 'acquisition' is ongoing progress of a language proficiency by naturally using the language while communicate. While 'learning' is describe as the on purpose process of accumulating the knowledge of the language such as vocabulary and grammar. These circumstances suggest that language learning in fact can be in any blogging environments. Language acquisition process not necessarily by setting up a blog that provide the learning tools, but by using the language naturally while blogging. In addition, bloggers come from varies countries and many of them are non-native speaker of English. How do they use the language? Is there a tolerance in making grammatical error? Do they use formal or informal language? Do they apply code-switching? And how do bloggers use tone in different blogs? All these questions are issues that need to be addressed. In what ways this can help and hinder English learning process is also become a concern.
Purpose of the study
The purpose of this research is to investigate the use of English language in blogs, and how blogging activities assist or inhibit English learning process among second language learners.
The research questions addressed by this research are stated below:
What are the factors that may aid or jeopardize the acquisition of English language among L2 learners when they participate in blogging activities?
What are students' opinions toward blog as a language learning tool?
The rationale to address students' opinion and perception towards blogs a language learning tool is that even though blogs offer web-based distance learning for language learning, it is still a concern whether it is a suitable environment for language acquisition process.
Significance of the Study
Bloggers are different in language and culture. Understanding on how bloggers use English will improve their sociolinguistic competence. According to Yule (pg 169, 2006) sociolinguistic competence is the skill to use appropriate language concurrence with the social and cultural context of L2 learners. Therefore, this study helps individuals or professionals as multilingual bloggers to be able to use English language appropriately while blogging.
Besides, this study will benefit the non-native English speaker or L2 learners to know what are the advantages and disadvantage of using blogs as an environment for English language acquisition. In addition, second language learners can benefit by knowing which aspect of blogs can help and which can jeopardize their acquisition of English language.
Scope and Limitation
The subjects of the research will consist of undergraduate students of English for Professional Communication (LG220) course offered by Academy of Language Studies. Other undergraduate students from other faculties at Universiti Teknologi Mara also will be another group of this research subject.
The data of the research will be collected during July 2010 to November 2010 sessions at Universiti Teknologi Mara, Shah Alam. A quantitative research method is conducted to collect the data. A descriptive research design using a survey method will be developed for this purpose. A set of questionnaires will be developed to be distributed to the subjects.
Definition of Terms
Weblog - A website that displays the postings in chronological order by one or more individuals and usually has links to comments on specific postings.
Blog - (a contraction of the term "web log") is a type of website, usually maintained by an individual with regular entries of commentary, descriptions of events, or other material such as graphics or video. Entries are commonly displayed in reverse-chronological order.
Blogger - A person who writes a blog or weblog.
Blogging - The act of keeping a blog, or writing a blog entry.
Blogsphere - the collective community of all blogs.
Asynchronous - For Computers and Telecommunications. of or pertaining to operation without the use of fixed time intervals (opposed to synchronous ).
Dialogue - conversation between two or more person.
Monologue - a prolonged talk or discourse by a single speaker especially one dominating or monopolizing a conversation.
Computer-mediated communication - is defined as any communicative transaction that occurs through the use of two or more networked computer. While the term has traditionally referred to those communications that occur via computer-mediated formats (e.g. instant messages, e-mails, chat rooms)
Hyperlink - a reference to a document that the reader can directly follow.
Tone - the author's use of words and writing style to convey his or her attitude toward a topic.
Features of Blogs
A Blog is a website and asynchronous computer-mediated communication (Herring et al, 2004, cited in Gumbrecht, pg 1.).According to Trevino (pg.2, 2005) an interactive characteristics of blogs is that it can be update consistently. However Herring et al (cited in Grumbrecht) claim that there is a limited interactivity between authors and blog readers as the blog readers possibly delay comments on blog posts any time.
Contents of blogs include posts, comments and hyperlinks (Huffaker, pg.2, 2005). He elaborate that the blogs characteristics includes publishing text or graphics immediately without a need of technical knowledge. He also describe that blogs allow authors to store preceding blog posts by dates and hyperlinks to others bloggers.
According to Herring et al (2005) cited in Grimes and Warschauer (2007), the organizations of blogs are varies. The organization ranging from single author blogs with limited external sites links, comments and irregular updates to multi-author blogs with many external hyperlinks and tags, regular updates and ample comments.
Who Use Blogs?
A number of people publishing blogs has been increasing; and blogging is increasingly popular among youths. According to Huffaker (pg 2. 2005), majority of the community of blogger are youth below 20 years old. More than 50% of all blogs are created and personalized by individuals who are between the age of 13 to 19 years old (Henning 2003 cited in Huffaker, pg 2, 2005). Another study reveals that 40.4% of blog authors are teenagers under 20 years old (Herring et al 2004, cited in Huffaker, pg.2, 2005). All these studies prove that many youngsters use blogs.
In addition, gender also has an influence on the preference of language use in blogs. Huffaker & Calvert (2005) who cited Herring, Kouper, Scheidt, & Wright (2004) stated that over 203 randomly selected weblogs, it was found that 54% of the authors were male and 46% were female. However, they added, in a category of teenagers, female percentage is bigger than male.
Source from Wikipedia stated that a blogger can also be people with variety of professions such as doctors, mechanics, lawyers, educators or politicians. They use blogs as medium to communicate with the public.
Why do People Use Blogs?
The genre analysis done by former researchers have shown that blogs are categorized by its purpose or uses. People use blogs for many different purposes. According to Herring et al (pg.1, 2004), educators and business groups use blogs for knowledge sharing. For this purpose it is called knowledge blog (k-log). They also claimed that individuals use blogs as a medium to express and empower themselves. Journalists, for example utilize blogs as news resources.
As mentioned earlier, there are three types of blog as claimed by Herring et al (2005) cited in Grimes and Warschauer, (2007). In their study they also stated that the purpose of using blogs corresponds with blog topic of interest. They stated that personal journal blogs characterized by personal experience topic, filter blogs characterized by political topics and k-log characterized by technology topics.
Blogs as Language Learning Tools
Blogs have been used as learning and teaching tools. According to Huffaker (p. 2, 2005) blogs are functional as learning tools across academic disciplines. He added that blogs have a potential educational technology because the opportunities of storytelling encourage literacy and collaborative learning.
Many people nowadays rely on educational blogs to assist their second language learning outside classrooms. Bets an Glogoff (2005) claimed that educational weblogs are increasingly used in teaching and learning language. Various previous studies were conducted to know the effectiveness of blogs as language learning tools. However not many studied about the effectiveness of blogs as language learning environment.
A study by Sun Yun Cih (2006) suggests that, learning English as a foreign language is promoted by writing personal journals and reflections in English. This study claimed that writing blogs can benefit the blog writers and readers to enhance their writing skills. Besides, writing blogs also motivate their learning of English.
2.5 Language of Blogs
Potential of blogs to improve second language learning has been broadly discussed. Many studies support the claim that blogs can be effective tools in language learning. However, it is important to realize that even though blogs can be the tools for language learning, bloggers who are L2 learners are the keys. The way they use English language while participating in blogging activities will be the most important aspect in determining the effect of blogging in second language acquisitions.
Blogs are used by people around the world. Variety of people with language differences are communicating in blogs. According to Tomohiro Fukuhata (p.2), language such as Japanese, English, Italian, Spanish, Russian and French are used in various blogs. He added that the difference in language and nation causes people to have different interest on a topic discussed. Consequently, this will be the barrier to second language acquisition.
Other study by Efimova & de Moor, (2005) cited in Nowson (2006) stated that blogs are mainly in a form of written language, but blogsphere has shown that blogs are also possible in both forms of monologue and dialogue. According to Crystal (2001), online language such as in blogs is variety and comprehensive which has both writing and speech features.
Nilsson (2003, cited in Nowson, 2006) who studied on the language use in community of researchers' weblogs, stated that bloggers frequently use informal language; in group terms such as me, my, we, us and our than out-group term such as they, them and their. Moreover, he added that bloggers write posts in "short, paratactic sentences" utilizing non-standard constructions and slangs. All these issues suggest that formal and informal form of language use in blogs stimulate concern on how blogging can benefit second language learners. Nowson (2006) said that the language informality used by bloggers allow the use of short forms, nonsense words, and abbreviations such as LOL (laughing out loud). These probably affect the formal writing.
Tone of Writing in Blogs
Bloggers write blogs with purpose. Bloggers as the authors must use appropriate tone in writing. Using the right tone will facilitate readers to recognize the author's intention and avoid misinterpretation. Elder (pg 248, 2008) defined tone as the author's use of words and writing styles to convey his or her attitude toward a topic. As people use blogs for many different purposes, the tone use in blogs will probably be different according to the types of blogs. For instance, people who publish personal blogs may use emotional tones, educators may use neutral tone in educational blogs, and politicians may use sarcastic tone.
Amanda & Lenhart (p. 74, 2005) stated that bloggers choose the tone and words that describe the blog authors. The words and tones indicate the author's expression. They further cited Langellier and Peterson (2004) who proposed that bloggers use colloquialisms when discussing their research to express the naturalness in the interaction. Bloggers also use tones in storytelling to make the readers connected to what they want to say.
Code Switching in Blogging
The study of Weblogging as a Multimedia Literacy Event: Analyzing the Discourse Space of a Student Blogger's Speech Community by Azni Mohamed Zain and Koo Yew Lie (p. 23, 2009) identified that code switching occurs in the bilingual community of bloggers. The result of their study proposed that the bloggers sometimes code switch from English to Malay language to describe particular Malay terms that are related to the conversation context. The result of this study arouse an issue whether the nature of code switching in bilingual community of blogs negatively affect English language acquisition among L2 learners.
There are two purposes that this research study intends to address. They are:
To investigate the English language use by L2 learners in blogs.
To determine some of the factors of blogs that affect English language acquisition among L2 learners.
3.1 Research Methods
A quantitative approach will be the methodological framework of this study. A descriptive research design using a survey method will be used. In order to obtain the data, a set of questionnaires composed of questions concerning the language use by the subjects in different types of blogs.
The samples of the study will consist of hundred and fifty (50) undergraduate students of different faculties at Universiti Teknologi Mara (UITM) Shah Alam. Some of the subjects will be undergraduate students who taking English for Professional Communication (LG220) course offered by Academy of Language Studies. Students from other faculties at Universiti Teknologi Mara also will be part of the subjects. All the subjects are non-native speakers of English and user of blogs.
The instruments used in collecting data for this research include the blogs of two purposes that are blogs for personal and educational purposes. Data of this research will be collected using the survey instrument and a set of designed and developed questionnaires. The questionnaire will address the research questions of this study. The questionnaire will be developed after evaluating sufficient literature related to the use of English language in blogs by L2 learners.
In order to create the questionnaire, frequently asked questions related to the research concerns below are studied and used:
Students' perception towards blogs.
Students' blogging activities.
Students' performance in using English language while blogging (uses of formal or informal, code-switch and tone)
Do blogs enhance or inhibit their English language proficiency?
Data Collection Procedures
The subjects are informed earlier that they will be involved in a research. They will be explained about the purpose of the research that is to investigate the use of English language in blogs, and how blogging activities assist or inhibit English learning process among L2 learners.
The collection of the data will begin on October 2010. Firstly, a set of questionnaires will be developed regarding the concern of this research. A group of individuals who have similar background with the targeted subjects will be selected to pilot test the questionnaires. The purpose of pilot testing the questionnaire is to evaluate whether the questionnaire is reliable and valid before it is finally administered. After completing the pilot test, the questionnaire will be distributed to the targeted subjects by October to November 2010.
Finally, after administering the survey, data collected from the survey will be analyzed, tabulated and reported.
Treatment of Data
After conducts the survey to collect the data, the data will then be analyzed and tabulated. From the questionnaire, students' responses to the questionnaire will address students' perception towards blogs. In order to ensure that the data are trustworthy, a likert-type scale will be used to measure unbiased responses to the questions. Questions are composed from Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) about students' perception towards blog will be modified, pilot tested and distributed to the subjects. The questions will be stated in both positive and negative statements to make the students response to the questions accordingly. Responses to the questions about the students' performance when participating in blogging will be rated using the same scale.
The Likert- type scale for all the questions as follows:
1= strongly disagree, 2= disagree, 3= neutral, 4= agree, 5= strongly agree.
1= strongly agree, 2= agree, 3= neutral, 4= disagree, 5= strongly disagree.