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Dissertation: The Role of WhatsApp in Developing L2 Spanish Learners' Intercultural Sensitivity: An Exploratory Task-based Language Study in a Language Immersion Setting

This event last occurred July 1, 2020

Join via Zoom at 2 p.m. on July 1:

Technology (i.e. the WhatsApp mobile application) can play a positive role in a student’s language and culture learning when it is used in collaboration with a task-based language curriculum. When technology tools are used in an intensive language learning environment, those mobile devices will allow students certain affordances as well as opportunities to work independently (e.g., create their own content to demonstrate cultural understanding) and/or to reflect upon cross-cultural issues that impact their intercultural sensitivity (Lee, 2011). Barker (2016) adds that cultural discussions performed during a student’s language learning process can lead to intercultural sensitivity development if done communicatively and in engaging environments. In this study, participants intensely interacted in a three week immersion experience where they used WhatsApp to communicate with each other, with their instructors and with their host families by completing tasks in three modules that were a part of an Advanced Spanish Conversation and Culture Course.

The investigator argues that if WhatsApp is well integrated into the course activities and curriculum of an upper level Spanish university course while abroad, the students will use more innovative ways to communicate, thus, allowing for more intercultural sensitivity growth. In this study, the author analyzed the intercultural sensitivity development and Spanish language use of twelve university level students as they learned Spanish in a 13 week study abroad program abroad in Segovia, Spain. The goal of the study was to gauge how effectively the students communicated with one another while simultaneously measuring their intercultural sensitivity growth to see if the integration of the mobile app, WhatsApp, had any effect on their intercultural learning capabilities. The author analyzed data from twelve learners’ interactions while studying abroad in a country that they were mostly unfamiliar with. As a result of WhatsApp’s various modalities and capabilities, the investigator found that all of the 12 students showed modest intercultural sensitivity growth along the Developmental Model of Intercultural Sensitivity Scale (Bennett, 1993) to assist them in more effectively communicating about the target language and culture.


For More Information Contact:

Monica Hopkins
School of International Letters and Cultures