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Bodies in cyberspace : language learning in a simulated environment Murray, Garold Linwood 1998

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BODIES IN CYBERSPACE: LANGUAGE LEARNING IN A SIMULATED ENVIRONMENT by Garold Linwood Murray B.A., The University of New Brunswick, 1974 B.Ed., Universite de Moncton, 1978 M.Ed., The University of New Brunswick, 1987 A THESIS SUBMITTED IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY in THE FACULTY OF GRADUATE STUDIES Department of Language Education We accept this thesis as conforming to the required standard THE UNIVERSITY OF BRITISH COLUMBIA March, 1998 © Garold Linwood Murray, 1998 In presenting this thesis in partial fulfilment of the requirements for an advanced degree at the University of British Columbia, I agree that the Library shall make it freely available for reference and study. I further agree that permission for extensive copying of this thesis for scholarly purposes may be granted by the head of my department or by his or her representatives. It is understood that copying or publication of this thesis for financial gain shall not be allowed without my written permission. Department The University of British Columbia Vancouver, Canada DE-6 (2/88) A B S T R A C T This dissertation reports on a multiple-case study documenting the experiences of 23 French as second language learners, most of whom were pre-service teachers, as they worked independently to improve their existing oral/aural competency through the use of the interactive videodisc program A la rencontre de Philippe. The program claims to invite learners into the fictive Parisian world of a young freelance journalist, providing them with the opportunity for immersion in the target language and culture as well as a degree of control over their learning. The study explores learners' experiences as they work with this program, investigates the impact this experience might have on their second language acquisition and reflects on the implications this information might have for second language pedagogy and research. Participants were asked to write a reflective personal language learning history and keep a journal documenting each work session. These work sessions were videotaped. The data collected served as a basis for interviews exploring the participants' interaction with the microworld presented by the program, the program's technological features, learner autonomy, and the learning process and outcomes as perceived by the learners. The experiences of the learners indicate that instead of using technology to bring the second language and culture to learners in the classroom, it is now both possible and desirable to use technology to "transport" learners from the classroom into the second language environment. In other words, participants reported having the experience of subjective personal presence in the microworld. Furthermore, their overall experience suggested that language learning is both an embodied and a situated endeavour, as well as a cognitive one. Therefore, computer technology can enhance second language acquisition by providing learners the opportunity to be immersed in sociolinguistically-rich, simulated communities in which they can engage in everyday activities and interact with target language speakers. iii T A B L E O F C O N T E N T S Abstract ii Table of Contents iii List of Tables vi Acknowledgements vii Dedication viii Chapter One Introduction 1 Chapter Two C A L L i n g All Theories: Practice in Search of a Paradigm 8 Synopsis 8 Autonomy 11 Second Language Acquisition 14 Listening 14 Implicit and Explicit Learning 16 Learning Strategies 18 Language Learning in Natural Settings 20 Affect 25 Language Socialization: A Brief History 28 Context and Cognition 31 Embodied Cognition 34 Situated Learning 37 Narrative 40 Conclusion 42 Chapter Three Accessing Learners' Experience 43 Synopsis 43 Rationale 45 Interactive Videodisc Program 48 Site and Participants 50 Methods 52 Procedures 57 Personal Language Learning History 58 Participants' Journals 58 My Journal 58 Observation 59 Interviews 59 Language Proficiency Tests 60 Analysis 61 Conclusion 64 Chapter Four Visits with Philippe: The Stories of Five Learners 65 Synopsis 65 Bernice 69 Bernice's Language History 69 Bernice's Work with Philippe 73 Bernice's Experience 84 Jean 91 Jean's Language History 91 Jean's Work with Philippe 94 Jean's Experience 102 Andrew 113 Andrew's Language History 113 Andrew's Work with Philippe 118 Andrew's Experience 125 Diane and Katelyn 135 Diane's Language History 135 Katelyn's Language History 139 Diane and Katelyn's Work with Philippe 141 Diane and Katelyn's Experience 156 Chapter Five Physical Bodies, Virtual Worlds: Learning with Philippe 164 Synopsis 164 Environment 168 Autonomy 168 Two-worlds Motif. 173 Engagement 175 Being There 176 Emotional Involvement and Values 178 Interactivity and the Role of Narrative 180 Learning and Engagement 184 Fixation 187 Exposure 189 Importance of Exposure 190 Opportunity and Necessity as Aspects of Exposure 192 Role of Context in Listening Comprehension 194 Context and Memory 197 Learning Through Exposure 199 Repetition as Repeated Exposure 201 Simultaneous Exposure to the Spoken Dialogue and Script 203 Evaluation 205 Comprehension 206 The Wall 207 More Self-Confidence, Less Anxiety 208 Speaking 211 Satisfaction 212 V Embodiment 215 Desire 215 The Body and Language Learning 218 Gender: Where Body and Culture Meet 221 Conclusion 224 Chapter Six Conclusion 225 Learners' Experiences 225 Impact on Language Acquisition 231 Implications for Pedagogy and Research 233 Bibliography 244 Appendix 1 Guidelines for Participants 257 Appendix 2 Letter of Consent 258 Appendix 3 Sample Interview Questions 260 Appendix 4 Language Competency Test Scores 264 Appendix 5 Philippe's World: A Narrative Tour 265 vi LIST O F T A B L E S Table 1: Profile of Learners 50 Table 2: Characteristics of a Simulated Language Learning Environment 231 Table 3: Oral Competency Pre-/Post-test Scores in Percentages 265 Vll A C K N O W L E D G E M E N T S I would like to start by thanking my research supervisor, Dr. Carey, who deserves special recognition for guiding my graduate work from our first meeting in New Brunswick through its various stages to completion, fostering my autonomy as a learner, supporting my requests for teaching assistantships and other funding, and demonstrating a genuine interest in my work. I also want to thank my other committee members, Dr. Marilyn Chapman and Dr. Ken Reeder, for their time, guidance and suggestions. Without the mentoring and encouragement of Dr. William Mackey of Laval University and Mr. Allan Forsyth of the New Brunswick Ministry of Education, I would never have embarked upon this challenge. Therefore, I extend my thanks to them. I am grateful to Gilberte Furstenberg of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology for the interest she demonstrated in my project as well as for her time and support, in terms of the documentation she supplied. I would like to thank my friends who were so supportive, and simply "there" for me. Hilary, Richard, Michelle, Stephan, and Andy come to mind. Thank you, Linda, for the food for thought and the "family" dinners. My thanks to Mark for the extended loan of his video camera. A special thank you to Sandie, who, by now, knows this dissertation better than I do. I am especially grateful to Christian and his laser printer for seeing me through the last trying days. Of course, I owe a special thanks to the wonderful group of people who participated in this study. DEDICATION To my parents Jean and Lawrence Murray for their love and support 1 C H A P T E R O N E INTRODUCTION We may be sure that the shapes of our consciousness are shifting in tandem with the technologies that engage our senses... (Abram, 1996, p. 115) Much of the fascination with new technologies stems from their increasing power to engage, if not bedazzle, the user's senses. At present it appears the only thing limiting technological development is imagination, suggesting the creative power is in the minds of wo/mankind. Yet, an increasing number of thinkers call for their colleagues to consider that other power which lies in the interaction between the human mind and the physical world it inhabits. Their arguments give prominence to bodies which enact thoughts and to the contexts which provide both the setting and relevance for these acts. In the space between the dreaming and wrapping of the product in crinkly clear plastic, the imagination has joined forces with the hands and whatever the environment has to offer. Visionaries like Janet Murray (1997) and William Mitchell (1995) have already seen sensuously rich alternate worlds, computer-generated illusions, beckoning us. The dreaming has begun. How would second language educators use this technology, were it readily available? Such technology could conceivably simulate communities of target language speakers which learners could join. It is commonly accepted knowledge that one of the best strategies for learning a language is to go and live where it is spoken. By becoming members of simulated communities, while sitting at their computers, learners could experience immersion in the target language culture, exposure to the language as it is spoken in a variety of circumstances by people from a cross-section of society, and interaction with these people. The computer program would, of course, provide technical support to assist learners as they acclimatize to the new environment 2 and learn the language and culture. While holograph television and visual telepresence, enabling virtual travel to distant locations (Mitchell, 1995), remain the dream-children of researchers, we do have the multi-media technology to simulate micro worlds in which learners can enjoy limited participation through the interactive possibilities of the program. The interactive video program A la rencontre de Philippe is an early attempt at such an approach to second language learning. Whereas early CALL (computer-assisted language learning) software tended to atomize language for primarily drill-type written practice, the desire for CALL courseware more attuned to the methodological considerations of the communicative approach coupled with developments in hypermedia1 and laserdisc technology has given birth to a new generation of interactive second language learning courseware. Developers of the program to be used in this study, A la rencontre de Philippe [Philippe]2 claim that it can account for what are widely held to be key ingredients in second language acquisition, namely, immersion and interaction (Furstenberg, 1994). As one of the developers puts it, "What attracted me to the medium (and what constitutes its highly compelling feature) is its ability to immerse learners in a live, rich context—a context with which they can interact and which they can explore, in ways not reachable by any other technology" (Furstenberg, 1994, p. 15). These programs are based on the premise that this experience not only 'Underwood (1989) provides a helpful explanation of what is meant by hypermedia and its capabilities by relating it to hypertext. Hypertext allows the user to select a word or segment of text on the screen causing "it to open up to reveal a footnote, a translation, bibliographical data, or other related text. Non-sequential links between one document and another allow users to pursue their interest in any direction, yet without losing track of the original context" (p. 78). In the same manner, hypermedia can provide links to non-text media, such as audio, video, graphics and animation. 2 The word "Philippe" in italics is often used as an abbreviated form for the name of the program, A la rencontre de Philippe. The participants in the research project in particular frequently used this shortened form. "Philippe'" in italics designating the program is not to be confused with the word "Philippe" without italics, which refers to Philippe, the fictive character. 3 facilitates the acquisition of second language structures but offers learners a way to learn how to use these structures in socially and culturally appropriate ways (Murray, 1992). How the developers hope to achieve this end makes Philippe a particularly intriguing example of the appropriation of hypermedia technology for language learning purposes. The developers adopt Papert's (1980) concept of the microworld which evolved from his creation of the computer language LOGO and subsequent work with school children using LOGO environments to facilitate their learning of mathematics. Papert (1980, p. 125) defines a microworld as "a 'place'...where certain kinds of mathematical thinking could hatch and grow with particular ease." By adopting Papert's (1980) concept of the microworld, this technology offers the possibility of inviting the learners into fictional communities where they can be immersed in the target language and actively participate in its culture (Murray, 1992). If these claims can be supported by practice, this new medium could very well have the potential to transform second language instruction. Claims that the program provides the learner with immersion in the target language, interaction with its culture and autonomy (Furstenberg and Malone, 1993) give rise to a number of potential research questions. How might the experience of learners substantiate or refute these claims? Or, more specifically, what aspects of the language are learned? How do the various technical supports or options facilitate this learning and enhance learner autonomy and self-direction? Do they, in fact, enhance the learners' perception of being in control of their learning? More and more, researchers are calling for inquiries which document the nature of learners' interactions within various CALL contexts (Chapelle, 1997). Although the learners working with Philippe are engaged in what are clearly language learning tasks ( e.g., listening, answering questions through dialogue menus, discovering the 4 meaning of new words, etc.), according to Janet Murray (1992, p. 328), one of the progam's developers, "the student's experience is not of using a reference tool or taking a quiz or even of completing an exercise. The experience is framed as a visit because the spatial rather than the pedagogical structure dominates the presentation." She calls for more research "to identify the student's relationship to the materials" (p. 328). It is the intention of this inquiry to focus on the nature of this relationship by addressing the following questions: (1) What are the experiences of the learners working on their own with the interactive videodisc program A la rencontre de Philippe'? (2) What is the impact of this experience on their second language acquisition? (3) What are the implications for second language pedagogy? Focusing on the learners' relationship—their experiences—with these materials responds to calls emanating from the fields of second language acquisition and computer-assisted learning for research which gives greater prominence to the thinking, feeling person and the exploration of "the incidental, aesthetic and the subtle" (Hlynka & Belland, 1991, p. 8). Schumann (1993), for example, has argued that exploration, rather than falsification, might better serve present second language acquisition research needs. Similarly, computer-assisted learning researchers (for example, Anderson & Draper, 1991; Kidd & Holmes, 1984; Knussen, Tanner, & Kibby, 1991) call for designs with the potential to show what actually happens to an innovation in practice and to suggest "directions for creative and effective instructional development and application" (Reeves, 1986, p. 103). Furthermore, concern for the learner as an individual with a personal and social identity has been reflected in second language acquisition research on affect and cognition (Schumann, 1992, 1994), learning strategies (Oxford, 1995; Oxford & Green, 1996), and motivation (Crookes & Schmidt, 1991; Pierce, 1995; Tremblay & Gardner, 1995), as well as in 5 CALL research (Chapelle, 1994; Jamieson & Chapelle, 1988; Atkins, 1993). In view of this work, this study has adopted a research design incorporating exploratory methods which attempt to take participants' identities and the variance of individual differences into account. In order to explore the questions outlined above, this multiple-case study documents the experiences of 23 French as second language learners, most of whom were pre-service teachers, as they worked independently in order to improve their oral/aural competency through the use of the interactive videodisc program A la rencontre de Philippe. Drawing on methods from diary studies and video ethnography, the study required participants to write a reflective personal language learning history, keep a journal documenting their perceptions during each work session, and be videotaped while they utilized the program. Information thus gained served as the basis for subsequent interviews exploring the participants' perceptions of their interaction with the microworld presented by the program, the program's technological features, learner autonomy, and the learning process and outcomes as perceived by the learners. Learner autonomy played a pervasive role in this study. The participants were working on their own, autonomously, in order to improve their French language proficiency. This inquiry not only explores the experiences of learners working with this particular type of language learning technology but it does so in a context highlighting learner autonomy. To say that my research interest is the use of interactive videodisc as a medium for second language acquisition is to tell only half the story. I arrived at this interest through involvement in work to develop and implement English second language autonomous learning programmes for school children in grades 3 to 11 in the province of New Brunswick. The challenge in the successful development of these programmes is to provide learners direct contact with the target language through a sufficiently wide range of authentic materials so as to enable them to choose 6 those which correspond to both their personal interests and level of language proficiency (Murray & Kouritzin, 1997). To complicate the process, these materials must be delivered by media which make it possible for the learners to proceed at their own pace while accommodating their learning styles. My interest in interactive videodisc programs is the result of a quest for this type of media and their accompanying materials. While these programs may not necessarily be intended for autonomous language learning per se, many incorporate principles of learner autonomy (Fox, 1993; Furstenberg & Malone, 1993; Ingraham & Emery, 1991) and display even greater potential to foster learner autonomy. Research and development are required to assure that this technology realizes its potential as a means of facilitating learner autonomy. The potential impact of this research is both immediate and long term. First, there are immediate implications for second language teacher education programmes. In places where learners are isolated from the target language community, finding pre-service teachers with optimal language facility has often proven difficult. Interactive videodisc programmes which invite learners into fictional worlds may assist these student teachers by providing a cost-effective alternative to full language immersion. Secondly, this type of courseware could also be developed for other heritage and minority languages to prevent language loss, a problem which recent research shows to have devastating social consequences (Kouritzin, 1997; Wong-Fillmore, 1991). Similar programs based on autonomous learning principles could be developed for school age children to provide schooling in minority languages where numbers do not justify, or circumstances do not permit, hiring a teacher proficient in these languages. Of course, programs of this type could always be used to supplement any second language or immersion programme. 7 By creating learning environments which immerse3 the learner in the target language and culture, this technology shows promise of providing language learners with opportunities which are beyond the scope of classrooms and their present pedagogy. 3 In this study the word "immersion" is used to refer to situations in which learners are in environments where they can hear and see the target language being used by native-speakers to carry out their daily activities. The claim made by the developers of this program is that it can simulate this experience for second language learners. 8 C H A P T E R T W O C A L L i n g A L L THEORIES: P R A C T I C E IN S E A R C H O F A P A R A D I G M Synopsis This chapter examines theoretical and empirical work relevant to understanding the experiences of the participants in this study. It draws on work in the areas of learner autonomy, second language acquisition, embodied cognition, situated learning, and narrative. The model of autonomy applied in this inquiry called for learners to be operating within a structure which enabled them to exercise control over their learning and to assume the responsibility this entails. Language learning programs which espouse principles of "autonomous learning" often emphasize experiential learning, direct contact with the target language through a wide choice of media and materials, training in "learning how to learn, " individualization, monitoring, and self-assessment of learning. This chapter also reviews areas of second language acquisition research that have a special bearing on the participants' experience. For example, there are those who have argued sequencing receptive skills before production, claiming it enhances speaking skills. Recently, researchers have demonstrated that the use of subtitles, enabling learners to hear and read the text at the same time, facilitates oral communicative performance. In addition to listening, the review briefly explores the areas of implicit and explicit learning, language learning in natural settings, motivation, and learning strategies. "Embodied cognition " refers to the notion that cognition depends on the kinds of experiences that come from having a physical body with its various sensorimotor capacities, which is situated in, and interacts with, its environment comprised of a nexus of biological, psychological and cultural contexts. Other theorists argue that because we are not only in the context but a part of the context, teaching and learning must be studied in the contexts of which they are a part. Bruner (1996, p. 105) claims language learning is "highly dependent upon participating in the local context of a culture. " As a matter offact, he believes all learning and thinking are situated in a cultural setting and dependent upon cultural resources. Other theorists call for situating learning in the contexts of its use. They see practitioners as forming groups, or communities of practice. Learning becomes a process of enculturation as learners enter and gain acceptance in these communities. Brown, Collins, and Duguid (1989) advance the "cognitive apprenticeship " approach to learning which situates learning in activity and makes use of the social and physical contexts. Lave and Wenger (1991) contend that we learn by first becoming peripheral participants in a community ofpractice. We work our way to gaining full participation by gaining access to a wide range of ongoing activity, other members of the community and information and resources upon which it depends. There is a parallel between the learning situation as conceived by these theorists and the situation of participants in this research project, who were peripheral participants in Philippe's community. Therefore, situated learning as legitimate peripheral participation in a community of practice might provide an insightful lens through which to view their experiences. "Narrative " is then examined as a pedagogical tool. It is portrayed not only as a tool for learning, understanding and remembering but as a way of understanding and experiencing our own lives. 10 C A L L i n g A L L THEORIES: P R A C T I C E IN S E A R C H OF A P A R A D I G M Two very revealing articles were published recently in a leading journal dedicated to the advancement of technology as a means of facilitating language education. One offered a series of design principles and guidelines for those considering authoring hypermedia language learning applications (Hemard, 1997). Absent is any mention of second language learning theory. This is understandable. The author's intent was to speak to a wide audience with a variety of pedagogical predilections. The other article presented a learner-based design model for interactive multimedia language learning packages (Watts, 1997). After a review of "widely used" language learning software on CD-ROM at a New Zealand university, Watts concluded most of it was drill-based material presented in a multi-media format. He proposed a design model incorporating "learner autonomy, mindful engagement of learners, learning strategy development and provision for different learning styles" (Watts, 1997, p. 4). While this article offered useful guidelines growing out of a consideration of learners goals, needs and situations, it too avoided presenting a theoretical stance which could guide the conceptualization of interactive multimedia language learning courseware. Concern for the lack of a theoretical base in computer-assisted language learning (CALL) has been raised by a number of researchers (Chapelle, 1997; Pedersen, 1987; Dunkel, 1991). In his book reviewing recent empirical work and trends in the field, Levy (1997, p. 221) notes that "rather than a specific theory of CALL, so to speak, an integrated theoretical framework which combines theoretical perspectives drawn from a number of related disciplines may provide a solution." Obviously, it must be "specific andapplicable to the CALL context" (Levy, 1997, p. 219). In order to establish a conceptual framework against which to examine the experiences of the learners in this particular CALL context, I drew on several areas. While the inquiry began 11 with certain sensitizing concepts (Blumer, 1954; Hammersley & Atkinson, 1983) drawn from the literature on learner autonomy and second language acquisition, these seemed inadequate to describe or explain the relations of the learners to this particular piece of educational technology. Concepts and themes emerging from an analysis of their experience pointed in the direction of embodied cognition, situated learning and narrative. What follows is a discussion of the theoretical avenues which were explored in order to better understand the experiences of the participants as they learned a second language in a simulated environment. Autonomy As was mentioned earlier, the original impetus for this inquiry came from the quest for materials that could facilitate learner autonomy in second language programmes. The participants in this study were working with A la rencontre de Philippe as autonomous learners. In other words, autonomy was a pervasive aspect of the learning context. Informed by Holec's model (Holec, 1981), this study sees the ingredients for autonomy in a formal learning situation as structure, control and responsibility (Murray & Kouritzin, 1997). Learners exercise control and assume responsibility by making decisions, or choices (Littlewood, 1996, 1993) touching all aspects of their learning, from goal setting to self-assessment (Holec, 1981). To do this, they must have knowledge as well as the "know how" (Holec, 1981), including the necessary metacognitive awareness of those learning strategies that are both appropriate in certain circumstances and work best for them. On one side of the coin, there is ability, dependent on having the necessary knowledge and skills; however, on the other side, there is the learner's willingness, dependent on his or her motivation and self-confidence to take on the responsibility (Littlewood, 1996). The challenge for the area of "autonomous language learning" has been to operationalize its organizing principles within a structure which enables 12 learners to exercise control over their learning and to assume the responsibility this entails. Although there is no theoretical framework as such, an examination of the literature yields guidelines for practice. For example, there is an emphasis on learning which is construed as an active use and exploration of the second language (Holec, 1981; Little, 1990, 1995). A part of the content then becomes the linguistic and pragmatic skills that learners develop in the target language through its use to accomplish their desired ends (Forsyth, 1993; Kenny, 1993a). Learners are expected to set goals, match methods and materials to goals and assess the outcomes. This has given rise to the study and practice of learner training in "how to learn a language." Learning the strategies, or the "how to," has become an important part of the content in these programmes. Methods rely heavily on actual use of the language. The language and its use are to be modelled principally through technology (Forsyth, 1994). To this end, learners must have direct contact with the target language through a wide choice of media and materials (Forsyth, 1990; Holec, 1981, 1987; Little, 1990, 1991; Littlewood, 1993). There is also a shift in emphasis from teaching the language directly to helping individual learners "learn how to learn" the language (Dickinson, 1987, 1993; Holec, 1981; Hoven, 1992). Teachers then have the responsibility of providing contextualized learner training; in other words, teachers should model the necessary strategies to learners as they are required in relation to a specific task (Esch, 1997; McDevitt, 1997; Wenden, 1991, 1995). Teachers not only model and coach, by providing guidance (Voller, 1997), but they put scaffolding in place to assist learners (Candy, 1991; Lieberman and Linn, 1991). Learners, for their part, are encouraged to explore through the choice/decision-making process. They manage their learning (Forsyth, 1993; Holec, 1981, 1987). This implies that learning is individualized and personalized. In other words, learners determine their own pace 13 and make choices based on their personal needs, learning styles, and interests (Dickinson, 1987; Holec, 1981; Mackey, 1991). Several educators have chosen to facilitate this process through the integration of project work carried out individually or in small groups (Kenny, 1993a,b; Little, 1995; Murray, 1996). Contrary to what its name implies, autonomous learning does not mean learning in isolation; in other words, cooperative learning is encouraged (Little, 1990, 1991). Learners are encouraged to share their work through presentations in which they talk about the process. In addition to this, learners engage in reflection as they monitor and assess their learning (Dickinson, 1987, 1993; Forsyth, 1993; Gremmo & Riley, 1995; Holec 1981; Kenny, 1993a). The language learning environment must be based on a structure which brings learners into contact with the target language while providing them with sufficient choices in order to enable them to assume ownership of their learning. Interactive multimedia courseware has the potential to provide such a structure. Not only do developers make an effort to base their designs on principles of learner autonomy (Fox, 1993) but interactivity relies on choice, a key element of learner autonomy. Meskill (1991) remarks that learner control which originally meant to have control over the sequencing of instructional objectives is now associated with the availability of options for the learner to select. She notes three types: optional pacing, control over the rate of interaction with the content; optional sequencing, control over what is to be done next; and optional content, control over what one wishes to study. Program designers reason that the more on-line options given the learner, the more likely it is that an individual learner can adapt the program to suit his/her needs. The interactive videodisc program used in this study brings a new dimension to the element of choice in autonomous learning. As a multi-form story (Murray, 1997), the video drama offers alternate paths, optional scenes, and various endings, determined by decisions or 14 choices made by the learner. Learners control the course of the narrative. Murray (1991, p. 11) writes that "in a learner-centered educational application, a well-designed computer-based fiction should have choices that are meaningful and not arbitrary and that 'readers' can invest themselves in making." It's this type of choice that provides a sense of agency, "the satisfying power to take meaningful action and see the results of our decisions and choices" (Murray, 1997, p. 126). This technology adds a new dimension to be considered in the study of learner autonomy, the learners' sense of agency in relation to the narrative structure. Second Language Acquisition The discussion of second language acquisition research will briefly highlight several areas which become especially relevant in an investigation of language learning in a microworld setting. They are listening, implicit/explicit learning, learning strategies, affect, and language learning in natural settings. It seems to me that understanding the second language acquisition process in everyday environments is crucial if we are to continue to use technology to simulate these settings and situations for the purposes of language learning. Rather than attempt an exhaustive summary of this literature, the discussion will be limited to aspects requiring special attention in relation to this particular learning context. Listening One of the major criticisms of multimedia courseware for second language learning is its limited voice recognition and artificial intelligence potential. Learners can't really practice their communication skills alone with the computer (James, 1996). On the other hand, the potential for authentic, purposeful listening is very promising. Moreover, there are those who advocate sequencing listening before speaking skills. Nord (1980) writes of a new paradigm for foreign language learning which shifts the focus from 15 language performance learning to language acquisition. The paradigm assumes that language performance (e.g. speaking) comes after language competence has been acquired and is guided by that acquired competence. Winitz (1981) writes of the benefits to learners of delaying oral production, claiming that "production practice is not a factor in language acquisition" (p. 129). In his research with a group of adult students, Postovsky (1974) found that they developed better overall language proficiency when oral practice was delayed. However, he cautions that the pre-vocal period was devoted to training in aural comprehension and written practice from spoken input. Burling, Becker, Henry, and Tomasowa (1981) conducted an experiment with university students in which the students learned Bahasa Indonesia using very simple machine-aided self-learning techniques. Toward the end of the first term, when the students finally began to speak the language, these researchers judged the students' pronunciation to be "remarkably good." They hypothesize that "hearing large quantities of the language, students become sensitized to the phonology, and when they start to speak themselves they have a sense of what sounds right and what does not sound right," adding that "little in the way of deliberate instruction in pronunciation seems necessary" (Burling et al., 1981, p. 165). This work suggests certain learners might be better off concentrating on their listening skills during the early phases of their learning. The work of these theorists and researchers had an impact on the English second language autonomous learning programmes developed by the Ministry of Education of the province of New Brunswick. In these programmes the introduction of the speaking skills was delayed. It is interesting to note that after three years of field observation and testing, researchers concluded that it was possible for young children to learn a second language on their own when they were given free access to appropriate material (Lightbown, 1992). Furthermore, the research indicated 16 that these children could speak English with more fluency and accuracy than a comparison group that teachers had taught in a conversation-oriented, contemporary audio lingual program for the same number of hours. This was a surprising result considering that the experimental project offered no training in oral production. The children in the experimental group of the Lightbown (1992) study spent a great deal of their time listening to recorded books which they read while they listened. There seems to be something very powerful about combining the listening and reading skills. It is noteworthy that multimedia facilitates the simultaneous presentation of the oral and written forms of the text. By and large, research into listening to video with subtitles indicates that combining the skills enhanced comprehension (Price, 1983), assured learners a high level of retention and recall (Brett, 1994; Vanderplank, 1992), and made them more likely to use the language they heard in the video than learners who did not see sub-titles. In a study examining the potential usefulness of subtitles for increasing learners' oral communicative performance, Borras and Lafayette (1994: 70) conclude that "when learning from 'authentic video' in a multimedia environment, having the opportunity to see and control subtitles, as opposed to not having that opportunity, results in both better comprehension and subsequent better productive use of the foreign language." Although more research is certainly needed, at present it would seem advisable to include a transcription feature, or subtitles, in multimedia courseware. Implicit and Explicit Learning "What is learned can never be judged solely in terms of what is taught" (Brown & Duguid, 1993, p. 11). The teaching/learning dichotomy becomes further blurred in programs like Philippe whose principal method of instruction is reliant upon offering learners the possibility of interaction in a sociolinguistically rich environment. In second language acquisition, researchers 17 have explored this distinction in terms of implicit and explicit learning. Attempting to standardize the usage of these terms, Schmidt (1994, p. 16) recommends the term "incidental learning" be used as an umbrella term "when reporting learning without the intent to learn or the learning of one thing (e.g. grammar) when the learner's primary objective is to do something else." He goes on to describe explicit learning as "learning on the basis of awareness at the point of learning" as opposed to implicit learning, or "learning without such awareness" (p. 20). These distinctions are reflected in Krashen's (1981, 1982) understanding of learning, a process involving conscious attention, and acquisition, a process which occurs when learners are using the language for communication and are not focussed on rules and form. This is not really a contentious issue among second language acquisition researchers. Krashen, however, evoked controversy with his claim that learned knowledge could not be converted into acquired knowledge, otherwise known as the non-interface position. Interestingly, Bialystok (1978) puts forth a theory very similar to Krashen's. She claims that implicit knowledge is developed through exposure to language use while explicit knowledge arises from study or focussed formal practice. Bialystok differs from Krashen by acknowledging the two are closely linked. Recent research in second language acquisition has explored the relationship between the implicit/explicit distinction (see Schmidt, 1993, for a theoretical discussion and an annotated bibliography). The debate continues as Krashen gains support from those who claim there is increasing evidence that the processes and products of the acquired and learned systems differ (Zobl, 1995). In second language acquisition the implicit/explicit distinction is often explored in the context of whether explicit grammar rules can be taught to learners (Schmidt, 1993). In other words, it is explored in reference to teaching as opposed to learning. In regard to the application 18 of this distinction to learning language through interactive multimedia courseware, especially that presenting complex microworlds which simulate target language communities, the technological potential is available to facilitate both types of learning. Indeed, such programs may provide an environment facilitating the study of this distinction. This may lead to insight concerning learning, or rather language acquisition, in "natural" settings. Certainly, a clearer understanding of the role of implicit and explicit knowledge, both declarative and procedural, in language learning would be helpful to those developing this type of program, not to mention language educators everywhere. Learning Strategies Technological courseware which employs the microworld concept in order to present learners—especially those working on their own—with target language communities in which they can interact will have to take learning strategies into account, as well as devise strategies for providing newcomers with contextualized (learner) training in "learning how to learn." In other words, as Wenden (1995) has demonstrated, task-related learner training should be delivered as it is required by the learners. Despite a growing body of literature in this area, what seems to be lacking is work investigating the strategies learners might use to learn the language in the contexts of target language environments. Work on learning strategies in mainstream second language acquisition has a distinctive classroom feel. For example, O'Malley and Chamot's (1990) framework, which distinguished between metacognitive, cognitive, and social/affective strategies, could apply to learning a language in a "natural" setting. Yet, the cognitive strategies, e.g., note-taking or repetition, seem to correspond directly to classroom-type tasks. In another example, Oxford's (1990) taxonomy divided strategies into "direct" strategies, requiring learners to process language, and "indirect" 19 support strategies, e.g., controlling anxiety and seeking opportunities. Her work has been criticized for not making a clear distinction between the strategies for learning the second language and those for using it (Ellis, 1994). In her program for planning and implementing strategies for learner autonomy, Wenden (1991) recognizes cognitive and self-management strategies as well as three types of knowledge, personal, strategic (related to strategy choice and application), and task (or, how to) knowledge. This program, too, is conceptualized with the classroom as a backdrop. In a later work Wenden (1995) emphasized a task-based approach to learner training, stressing the importance of teaching cognitive strategies in relation to "real life" tasks, which should be the focus of learning. Nonetheless, the point is that while this research has proven valuable, it has done so in a classroom context. In an attempt to identify learning strategies which computer program designers might want to weave into their designs, Park (1996) identified thirteen strategies on which a substantial degree of research has been done. Once again, many of these strategies, like summaries, concept maps, and advance organizers, pertain primarily to classroom-based learning methodologies. While anecdotal evidence suggests that programmers could use pedagogical advice, programmers and pedagogical experts might find think-tank sessions, in which both groups used their imagination, mutually beneficial in producing methodologies more in keeping with the power and the potential of new technologies. There is, nonetheless, some research dealing with learning strategies outside of the classroom setting. Acknowledging that second language researchers often pay only passing mention to out-of-class strategies, Pickard (1996) explores the out-of-class strategies of a group of German learners of English. He found the most cited activities to be ones related to reading and listening, which he sees as due to the availability of materials. However, it was "principally 20 due to the fact that the availability of speaking opportunities in the foreign language setting was limited" (Pickard, 1996, p. 157). It would appear these learners had neither access to members of the community or opportunity to engage in activities within the target culture. Home stays, of course, and work placements are two ways of doing this. We need to find others, such as interactive microworlds which immerse learners in a target language environment. In another study, this time a comparative one examining the strategies of distance and classroom foreign language learners, White (1995) found that distance learners exercised greater metacognitive control. Necessity is often the mother of invention. Noting that "our understanding of the varied means learners use to learn a second or foreign language has been artificially limited by an almost exclusive focus on learners in conventional environments" (p. 218), White concludes by calling for more research into the role of self-management strategies in autonomous learning. In addition to this, we need research into the strategies learners use in order to learn the language in everyday situations. As Collins, Brown, and Holum (1991, p. 8) posit: To make real differences in students' skills, we need both to understand the nature of expert practice and to devise methods that are appropriate to learning that practice. To do this, we must first recognize that cognitive strategies are central to integrating skills and knowledge in order to accomplish meaningful tasks. We need to identify the learning strategies, both cognitive and metacognitive, that are employed by learners as they acquire the target language through interaction with native speakers in the course of performing activities which comprise the situations of everyday life. Language Learning in Natural Settings Second language acquisition researchers have a problem accessing "natural" settings in which learners attempt to use the language for real-life communication purposes. Ellis (1994, p. 214) defines "natural settings" as those which "arise in the course of the learners' contact with 21 other speakers of the second language in a variety of situations—in the workplace, at home, through the media...." This definition leaves out an important aspect. Learners are performing tasks within these settings; they are not simply there occupying space. They are engaged in purposeful activities. Obviously, it's important to examine what goes on in these settings. However, after reviewing the literature, Ellis (1994) claims that most of it explores differences in learning outcomes between "natural" and "educational" settings. One group of researchers who at least have access to people learning the language in "natural" settings is those working with study abroad programs. Unfortunately, this research, too, generally limits itself to the comparison of outcomes in "natural" and "educational" settings. It seems to gather impetus from the beliefs that students who go abroad become the most proficient language users and that a combination of immersion in the target language environment with formal classroom learning is the best format for learning a second language (Freed, 1995a). As Freed (1995a) points out in her review of the literature in this area, little attention is paid to the actual linguistic experiences students have in the target language setting. Much of the research concentrates on (1) whether students who spend time abroad do become more fluent than those who only study at home, and (2) what linguistic differences might exist between these two groups. This is certainly the thrust of a major investigation Freed (1995b) has been conducting into the relationship between language learning and the environment. However, Meara (1994) reported on a study surveying 586 students, which had hoped to find out what it was that students did during a year abroad and how these things actually helped to improve their linguistic competence. Meara was forced to admit that a questionnaire is not the best tool for gathering this type of information. Nonetheless, he could conclude that students on work placements seemed to profit more from their year abroad than did those on study placements. Presumably, those on work placements had a wider range of contact with the target language. Therefore, he suggests giving students projects to execute while they are abroad. These projects should require a great deal of direct interaction with target language speakers. Meara's conclusion would lend support to the hypothesis that engaging in activities with target language speakers to the extent that one becomes a member of a community of practice is an ideal circumstance for language learning. For the past 20 years one group has been promoting language learning through enculturation into communities of practice. The United States' Peace Corps provides approximately three months intensive training in the target language environment. During this time volunteers are lodged with families. After that, the volunteers continue to leam the language as they become members of a community, using the language in interaction with target language speakers for real-life purposes. Guntermann (1995), who reports on this programme, limited her study to the degree to which participants mastered certain linguistic items. Guntermann concludes her study into students learning Spanish in a target language environment by writing: Thus far it appears that formal instruction in conjunction with a home stay can provide adults the necessary preparation for successful acquisition in an immersion setting. They seem also to leam the necessary strategies and skills for continuing to leam independently. Living and working in the culture lends authenticity to the experience and constant motivation to leam more and understand better. (167) What is missing from this body of research is an answer to the question: "How does living and working in the target language environment facilitate learning the language?" What are these strategies and skills that we need in order to continue learning the language independently in an immersion setting? This kind of information could prove crucial to the development of second language acquisition courseware focusing on the creation of microworlds as learning environments. 23 One body of research does concentrate on strategies which emerge from interaction between learners and target language speakers. A group of strategies used by target language speakers involves adjusting the way they speak in order to accommodate non-native speakers. This has resulted in the study of foreigner talk (Ferguson, 1975). Language is simplified, topics are treated briefly, and questions are preferred over statements (Larsen-Freeman & Long, 1991). In other research, Tarone (1977) has produced a typology of communication strategies, including circumlocution, mime, and topic avoidance among others, which learners use in conversations with target language speakers. There is another body of research which demonstrates comprehensible input is needed in order for learners to learn (Larsen-Freeman & Long, 1991). Concluding their discuss of how adjustments are made to speech in order to render it comprehensible, Larsen-Freeman and Long (1991) call for further research into already identified strategies, such as repetition, paraphrase, and various types of redundancy, in an effort to determine the optimal conditions for their use. This particular information could prove useful to the development of interactive microworld software. With voice recognition and artificial intelligence in their infant stages, how might program developers compensate for interaction with target language speakers which would incorporate these language features? One of the goals of these programs is to provide learners with language as it is used in every day situations. Surely, the advantage of this software is its capability to perform this very function. The dilemma for developers is to find ways of rendering input comprehensible without altering it so it is no longer the speech one hears in everyday situations. Larsen-Freeman and Long (1991, p. 144) conclude their discussion by suggesting that it is modifications to the interactional structure of conversation as opposed to adjustments to the language itself which is "a better candidate for a necessary (not sufficient) condition for acquisition." One way of doing this, for example, would 24 be to make provision for repetition or other forms of redundancy in exchanges between characters. The question for program developers then becomes "How can the interactional structure be adapted, or what features might the techno-pedagogical side of the program offer to compensate for the interface limitations of the technology?" Although more research is required to better understand these interactions, there is potential for this research to inform courseware creation. The discussion of language learning in "natural" settings seems to turn around the social aspects. Therefore, it seems appropriate to end the discussion on learning in "natural" settings by looking at a social model of second language acquisition, Schumann's Acculturation Model. Schumann (1978, p. 27) was attempting to identify causal variables of language learning "in the environment where it is spoken." He notes, "Languages can be and are mastered without study and without instruction. Second, it is probable that in the history of mankind more people have become bilingual without study or instruction than with them" (p. 29). Schumann's concern for learning language in the target language environment makes a striking parallel to language learning in a simulated microworld. For Schumann, acculturation meant "the social and psychological integration of the learner with the target language group" (p. 29). His model rests on the hypothesis that "second language acquisition is just one aspect of acculturation and the degree to which a learner acculturates to the target-language group will control the degree to which he acquires the second language" (1978, p. 34). However, does this hypothesis hold for a learner entering a simulated target language group? Does the degree to which the learner feels a part of the microworld or simulated group affect the learning that takes place? Schumann (1986, p. 380) later argued that acculturation was "sufficient to cause acquisition." Therefore, if Schumann's hypothesis applies 25 to a simulated community, learners who are highly involved or engaged with the microworld and its inhabitants should make progress in acquiring the second language. However, there are two other sets of determining factors. The degree to which learners acculturate depends on their levels of social and psychological distance. Social distance refers to the extent to which learners become members of the group. The factors which determine social distance, such as attitudes to the target language group, could apply to learners interacting within a simulated world. Just because we are asked to participate in a simulated world doesn't mean we will leave our preconceptions, beliefs, and "emotional history" (Schumann, 1992) behind. The psychological variables, which Schumann (1986) later classed as affective variables, deal with the individual learner's affective state in relation to the target language and its culture. To language shock, fear of appearing ridiculous, and culture shock, anxiety and disorientation upon entering a new culture, one might add computer anxiety for learners entering a computer-generated learning environment. Or, perhaps computer anxiety might be included in the factor "ego-permeability" which relates to lowering the learners' inhibitions and creating a receptivity to the target language input. The final psychological or affective variable is motivation which Schumann sees as involving the learner's reasons for wanting to learn the language. While he had incorporated Gardner and Lambert's (1972) notion of integrative and instrumental motivation V into his model, he suspected that the construct was more complex than an either/or categorization suggested. Affect The study of affect in language learning tends to be primarily in relation to motivation (Crookes & Schmidt, 1991). One body of work in this area gave second language acquisition the distinction between integrative and instrumental motivation (Gardner & Lambert, 1959). 26 Integrative motivation stems from the learner's desire to associate with target language speakers as well as possibly adopt aspects of their culture, while instrumental motivation stems from the desire to leam the language for utilitarian reasons. As we saw above, in spite of his concerns about oversimplifying a complex issue, integrative motivation fits quite nicely with Schumann's acculturation model. However, Gardner's later and ongoing work, while still maintaining this initial distinction, expands the construct of motivation to include a host of variables (Gardner, 1985, 1996; Tremblay & Gardner, 1995). Gardner (1985, p. 10) defines motivation as "the extent to which the individual works or strives to leam the language because of a desire to do so and the satisfaction experienced in this activity." This definition of motivation to leam the second language includes the components of (1) effort expended to reach a goal, (2) desire to leam, and (3) satisfaction with the task. While most second language educators would acknowledge these components as a part of the construct of motivation, the discussion has shifted to another, yet similar distinction, intrinsic as opposed to extrinsic motivation. In an attempt to explore the construct of motivation in respect to learner autonomy, Dickinson (1995) makes a case for intrinsic motivation. A common claim made for autonomy is that it increases learner motivation (Dickinson, 1987; Holec, 1981; Knowles, 1975). Underlying this claim is the assumption that "a measure of individual involvement in decision-making in one's own learning enhances motivation to leam" (Dickinson, 1995, p. 165). Dickinson relies on Keller's definition of motivation which "refers to the choices people make as to what experiences or goals they will approach or avoid, and the degree of effort they will exert in that respect" (Keller, as cited in Dickinson 1995, p. 168). Dickinson (1995) explores the relationship of autonomy and motivation in view of the 27 intrinsic/extrinsic motivation theory of Deci and Ryan (1985). Simply put, their theory states that learners interested in learning tasks and outcomes as ends unto themselves are likely to become more effective learners. One precondition is that the learning environment enhance learner autonomy by providing opportunities for choice and decision-making; thereby, fostering "self-determination." Moreover, feedback offered to learners should be informational rather than controlling. Grades, for example, are a form of control mechanism. A learning model should, therefore, attempt to optimize learner self-determination by maximizing opportunities for choice and incorporating a form of self-assessment which gives the learners a degree of control over grading decisions, enhancing the likelihood of the instructor providing informational feedback. Recently, Pierce (1995, p. 17) has reconceptualized motivation in an attempt to "capture the complex relationship between relations of power, identity, and language learning." Pierce sees learners as investing of themselves, their time and effort, in learning a second language in the hopes of increasing their "cultural capital." Her notion of investment, which conceives of the language learner as having "a complex identity and multiple desires" (pp. 17-18), presupposes that when language learners speak, they are not only exchanging information with target language speakers but they are constantly organizing and reorganizing a sense of who they are and how they relate to the social world. Thus an investment in the target language is also an investment in a learner's own social identity, an identity which is constantly changing across time and space, (p. 18) This understanding of motivation helped Pierce explain contradictions between the motivation of women in her study to learn English and what at times appeared to be an ambivalent desire to speak it. Certainly motivation is a complex issue deeply related to learners' affective states as well as their understanding of who they are. Until recently, however, second language acquisition as a discipline espoused a fairly sanitized view of motivation. Although they implied affective states, 28 distinctions such as integrative and instrumental motivation, or intrinsic and extrinsic motivation, were fairly clean-cut constructs which by their binary nature avoided scratching the surface (both literally as well as figuratively). However, language learning is a messy business which eventually means getting the body into the community, getting the body as well as the mind into the practice, and undergoing changes in how we view the world and our place in it. Learning a language is going to involve a change in identity as learners acculturate into the target language community on a societal level as well as on a level of community of practice, i.e., a group of practitioners who practice the speaking of the target language. These changes are going to be felt profoundly in the body. An examination of learners' motivation in "natural settings," as well as simulated ones, would want to consider the language learning experience as one "felt in the body" and explore the nexus of desire, acculturation, and identity. Language Socialization: A Brief History The developers of A la rencontre de Philippe seem to espouse Schieffelin and Ochs's (1986) contention that language acquisition is concomitant with language socialization, i.e., by learning a language in a community, language learners become competent socialized members of that community. The developers' intentions were to simulate one such community and, thereby, offer learners opportunities for acculturation. Citing Vygotsky (1962), Widdowson (1978), and Breen and Candlin (1980), the developers state they are basing their work on the notion that lingusitic competence (referring to the correct use of grammatical and lexical structures) is a part of an overall discourse competence (Kramsch, Morgenstem, Murray, 1985). They argue that "the ability to manage discourse in an interactional context not only facilitates the acqusition of the foreign language structures—it is the only way in which students can leam how to use them in socially and culturally appropriate ways" (Kramsch, Morgenstem, Murray, 1985, p. 32). 29 Canadian French immersion programmes represent one attempt to implement these notions in a classroom setting. These programmes, as initiated in Canada by the social psychologist Wallace Lambert (1974)—and a long list of eminent social pychologists who graduated with dissertations on French immersion under his direction—were based on the idea that children must use French as a second language in a communicative, activity-based classroom providing ample opportunity for social interaction. Interestingly, movement activities such as dance and physical education were seen to be of benefit. In a landmark publication, entitled "Nurseries as Models for Classrooms," McNamara (1974), another social psychologist, argued that social activities including play were fundamental to second language acquisition. According to early accounts of these classrooms (Noble, 1972), students were encouraged to engage in social activities based on the communicative approach which assumes that socialization as well as social activities in the second language were fundamental to language acquisition (Carey, 1984). Carey (1991) elaborates on these principles and argues that socialization in target language dance, songs, and chants not only will facilitate the participation of French immersion students in communicative activities but may even partially explain individual differences or aptitude for second language acquisition. Furthermore, because the initial mastery of the early French second language rhymes, rituals, gestures, songs, dances, and chants that characterize kindergarten and early elementary immersion social activity is accompanied by the use of English for meaningful communication among the students inside and outside the classroom (Noble, 1972), there is a strong precedent set and maintained that French language acquisition is mediated and maintained by English as a first language in both kindergarten and elementary school. Thus, it might follow that the better developed social and communication skills are in the first language, the greater the likelihood of 30 successful mediation of second language social skills. In addition, those children, often belonging to the majority language group, who have enjoyed such songs, chants, and socialization in their first language in the home culture and those socialized to be communicative and self-confident would perhaps most readily participate in such social rituals and activities in early immersion programmes. This insistence on the importance of social activities and socialization in the second language as a mediator of first and second language acquistion has enjoyed a long and consistent history in Psychology. Piaget (1929) proposed that children's language and cognitive development were intertwined and dependent on physical activity and play, as well as the acting out of cognitive representations. Piaget stressed the importance of play and other social activity that promoted the mental exploration of words as to language acquisition. Moreover, he stressed the need for social activity and playing at communciation in the second language in order to foster language development. This body of work by social psychologists, who have promoted play, individual differences, and autonomous social activities, served as a precursor to the communicative approach which has been the mainstay of French immersion programmes in Canada. More recent versions of language as socialization or socialization as language can be found in Carey (1984), where he argues that the socialization principles of second language acquisition, as developed by Ochs and Schieffelin (1983), are highly consistent with French immersion programs and have been adopted, where possible, by core French second language classes. Not only have recent statements of the language socialization viewpoint, as advanced by Schieffelin and Ochs (1986), had a profound effect on current second language acquisition programmes, but this work has informed the study of context and its relationship to language. 31 Context and Cognition "Brain, body, world, and artifact are discovered locked together in the most complex of conspiracies" (Clark, 1997, p. 33). As cognitive scientists and philosophers delve into these mysteries, their work is creating a fledgling science of the embodied mind. At the crux of the discussion is the Cartesian divide between body and mind. "Gone is the neat boundary between the thinker (the bodiless intellectual engine) and the thinker's world" (Clark, 1997, p. 220). The discussion which follows examines the work of current writers who have contributed to the development of this position. A preliminary analysis of the experiences of the learners in this study pointed beyond learner autonomy and second language acquisition to the areas of embodied cognition and situated learning. As one explores these bodies of literature, the influence of three thinkers, whose work in psychology has been applied to education over the course of this century, becomes increasingly apparent. They are Piaget, Vygotsky, and Bakhtin. More and more, present-day theorists are recognizing commonalities in their work as they explore how their theories might work together in order to enhance our understanding of language and learning (Chapman, 1997; Emerson, 1996; Tryphon & Voneche, 1996). Piaget, Vygotsky, and Bakhtin have contributed to current understandings of the interrelationships of body, mind, environment and cognition. Piaget was concerned with the interplay of action and perception in the development of cognition. Several of his key ideas can be seen reflected in the discussion on embodied cognition. For example, he affirmed that knowledge arose from interaction between the individual and the environment. Knowledge is created by "acting upon" the environment and changing it in some way. He wrote, "In fact what is taught is effectively assimilated only when it gives rise to an active reconstruction or even reinvention by the child" (Piaget, 1983, p. 721). He also talked 32 about the development of schemes and schemata, sets of cognitive structures "progressively constructed by continuous interaction between the subject and the external world" (Piaget, 1983, p. 703). In all activity, Piaget saw the processes of assimilation and accommodation at work. Through assimilation new experiences are "grafted onto previous schemes" (Piaget, 1983, p. 707) without altering them. However, accommodation involves changing existing mental structures to explain new experiences. While Piaget stressed the importance of interaction with the physical environment in order to provide opportunities for these processes to perform their functions, and thereby promote cognitive development, he also saw social factors playing a role by either facilitating or inhibiting the developmental processes. In contrast to Piaget, Vygotsky placed more importance on the social dimensions of learning. Whereas Piaget emphasized the physical context, Vygotsky expanded the notion of context to include the historical and the cultural. In other words, Piaget saw learning occurring t . . . . through interaction with a physical environment, while Vygotsky viewed learning occurring in a social setting through interaction with other people within the environment. From this line of thinking emerged the notion of a community of learners or practitioners. Vygotsky (1978) argued that learning occurs within a "zone of proximal development," the space between what a child can do and what the child could do given the appropriate guidance and support, either by adults and/or peers. The support and guidance act as a scaffold which can be gradually removed as the learner gains proficiency. The notion of providing scaffolding has particular relevance in the areas of learner autonomy and educational technology. (Each of these areas is faced with the problem of finding the means to guide learners to the successful accomplishment of the tasks set before them.) While Vygotsky saw language and speech as a tool in the learning process, he viewed language learning as a social process involving interaction which occurs in a 33 sociocultural context. Vygotsky's work suggests that "any kind of language acquisition device would have to be able to read, i.e., interpret, and reformulate (or filter) some aspects of the context that give meaning and form to speech signals" (Goodwin & Duranti, 1992). The notion of language and context being interdependent phenomena that must be studied together was pervasive in Bakhtin's thinking. Perhaps it was his colleague, Volosinov, who stated the position most succinctly: Verbal communication can never be understood and explained outside of... connection with a concrete situation... Language acquires life and historically evolves... in concrete verbal communication, and not in the abstract linguistic system of language forms, nor in the individual psyche of speakers. (Volosinov, 1973, p. 95, as cited in Goodwin & Duranti, 1992, p. 19) Bakhtin (1986) argued that language is dialogic by nature. In other words, understanding and use of language grows out of interaction with others in situations embedded in contexts determined by cultural and historical influences. Furthermore, according to Bakhtin, each social group (whether it's based on profession, religion, geographical area, or whatever) has its own way of speaking, which reflects and embodies shared experience and values. Because individuals rarely belong to the same social group or share the same experience, understanding involves the translation and negotiation of values, making it a phenomenon of interrelation and interaction (Emerson, 1996). Bakhtin (1986, p. 60) argued that "each sphere of activity contains an entire repertoire of speech genres that differentiate and grow as the particular sphere develops and becomes more complex." Speech genres serve as markers enabling participants in a communication situation to read and interpret various aspects of the context. Speech genres are learned through interaction with members of the social group, or community of practitioners. 34 Bakhtin's work seems to suggest that in order to become a proficient speaker of a language one would have to actually become a part of the social group or community. A common theme runs through this discussion of Piaget, Vygotsky, and Bakhtin, the role of context in language and learning. Piaget confined his analyses primarily to the physical environment, or context. Vygotsky's work stressed the importance of social, historical, and cultural contexts. While Bakhtin emphasized the contexts which surround spheres of activity, he also suggested that language provides context through speech genres. As the discussion progressed from Piaget to Bakhtin, language and cognition were viewed less and less as processes which occur uniquely in the head. More and more, they became processes mediated by the body and diffused throughout a social world or community. Embodied Cognition Cognitive scientists and philosophers have argued for a theory of cognition which acknowledges the dependence of cognition on the kinds of experiences that come from having a physical body with its various sensorimotor capacities, which is situated in, and interacts with, its environment comprised of a nexus of biological, psychological and cultural contexts (Abram, 1996; Capra, 1996; Clark, 1997; Johnson, 1987; McClamrock, 1995; Varela, Thompson, & Rosch, 1991 ). Varela and his colleagues, for example, promote the enactive approach, the study of cognition as embodied action. These theorists believe not only that sensory and motor processes, i.e., perception and action, are inseparable in cognition but that they have evolved together. Therefore, the enactive approach rests on two assumptions. First, "perception consists in perceptually guided action" and, second, "cognitive structures emerge from the recurrent sensorimotor patterns that enable action to be perceptually guided" (Varela et al., 1991, p. 173). The accompanying research agenda explores the relationships between the sensory and motor 35 systems that explain how the perceiver can guide his or her actions in the local situation. Earlier, Johnson (1987) had offered an explanation of how perception and action are related. He attempted to expand the concept of schemata by explaining the possible role imagination and metaphor play in their development. According to Johnson, through our participation in everyday activities, we develop image schemata. For example, we develop a verticality schema from the repeated and varied experiences of up and down in our daily lives. As small children we are taken up and eventually stand up. On it goes until, by the time we are adults, we have developed a verticality schema, the abstract structure of these verticality experiences, images, and perceptions. Metaphor serves to enable us to project these schemata, or patterns of physical experience, onto abstract domains. For example, prices go up, the number of Internet subscribers rises, and volume is turned up or down. In other words, the verticality schema enables us to understand quantity. Johnson (1987, p. xx) sees imagination as "a basic image-schematic capacity for ordering our experience." Imagination is a process through which "we have coherent, significant experience, cognition, and language" (p. 165). In this way, "understanding becomes a historically and culturally embedded, humanly embodied, imaginatively structured event" (p. 175). The notion of an enactivist theory of cognition has been taken up by Davis and Sumara (1997) who attempt to apply it to education. The basic tenet of this theory is that we are all part of a web of interrelationships. The upshot of this theorizing is that in understanding cognition we might be well-advised to abandon the separation of persons from contexts, and explore the likelihood that knowledge "arises from the fact that we have/are bodies that are parts of the organismic unity of an ongoing world" (Davis & Sumara, 1997, p. 110). In other words, we are a part of the context. For these reasons, Davis and Sumara conclude that teaching and learning 36 must be studied in the contexts of which they are a part. This view is echoed by other theorists. Clark has called on cognitive scientists "to abandon research methods that artificially divorce thought from embodied action" (Clark, 1997, p. xiii). Similarly, McClamrock (1995) notes that even if we see the brain as some sort of computational system, it is still an embedded entity. Therefore, he too cautions against studying it in isolation from its environmental context. So, what exactly is the role of language in all of this? Clark believes that, in addition to being a means of communication, language functions as a tool enabling us "to reshape a variety of difficult tasks into formats better suited to the basic computational capacities of the brain" (1997, p. 193). Surely, language plays a role in the process of "diffus[ing] achieved knowledge and practical wisdom through complex social structures, and... reducing] the loads on individual brains by locating those brains in complex webs of linguistic, social, political, and institutional constraints" (p. 180). Clark suggests that the physical environment and its context not only offer extended memory but they in fact help us think by eliminating the need to do so. For example, libraries store knowledge for us to access, and we develop routines so we don't have to think about how we carry out mundane daily tasks. Clark also asks the reader to consider the possibility that public language has evolved in part in a manner which facilitates acquisition and use. Clark's thinking underscores the interrelationships of humans, their physical environment, and language. Abram (1996) poetically documents the relationship of language and the physical world. He posits that the physical environment has given meanings and oftentimes sound to our words, suggesting that language arises from the perceptual interplay between the body and the world (Abram, 1996, p. 82). Because of these interrelationships, Abram implies that in order to leam a 37 community's language one needs to be physically immersed in it, "to enter the language with one's body, to begin to move within it" (p. 83). Echoing these words, Bruner (1996, p. 105) says learning a language is "highly dependent upon participating in the local context, or even the micro-context, of a culture." As a matter of fact, he believes all learning and thinking are situated in a cultural setting and dependent upon cultural resources. Bruner argues that culture gives us the tools to construct our world and our identities. These tools help us organize and understand the world in ways which enable us to communicate about it. According to Bruner, "the distinctive feature of human evolution is that mind evolved in a fashion that enables human beings to utilize the tools of culture" (p. 3). His studies of cognition and culture have led him to conclude that "meaning making involves situating encounters with the world in their appropriate cultural contexts in order to know 'what they are about'" (p. 3). Although Bruner is careful not to issue specific prescriptions designed to cure the educational system, his arguments point in the direction of situated learning. Bruner's thinking is pivotal, because, unlike most cognitive scientists, he attempts to span the gulf between theoretical work in the areas of embodied, and situated, cognition and educational practice. Situated Learning The gap between learning and use is an all-too-familiar lament amongst second language educators and learners. In a seminal paper on situated cognition, Brown, Collins, and Duguid (1989) theorize that this gap might be bridged by situating learning in the context of its use. They argue, because "situations might be said to co-produce knowledge through activity," "learning and cognition, it is now possible to argue, are fundamentally situated" (1989, p. 32). They feel this is especially so for language whose "constituent parts index the world and so are inextricably 38 a product of the activity and situations in which they are produced" (p. 33). They call on us to view knowledge, including language, as a set of tools. Tools, they argue, can "only be fully understood through use" (p. 33). Moreover, using them can mean a change in the user's world view as well as adopting the belief system of the culture in which they are used. They argue that practitioners are joined by complex, interwoven belief structures; hence, the term "communities of practice." Since activities can oftentimes only be understood from within the culture of the community, they believe that in order to leam to use tools as practitioners would, learners must enter the community of practice and its culture. Brown, Collins, and Duguid (1989), and others (e.g., see Reeder, Shapiro, Watson, & Goelman, 1996) see learning as a process of enculturation.' Therefore, Brown, Collins and Duguid (1989, p. 32) argue that approaches to learning such as cognitive apprenticeship "that embedded learning in activity and make deliberate use of the social and physical context are more in line with the understanding of learning and cognition... emerging from research." In a later article Collins, Brown and Hollum (1991) outline a conceptual framework for designing learning environments based on the principles of cognitive apprenticeship. It has four components: content, method, sequencing and sociology. Content would be comprised of domain knowledge, heuristic strategies ("tricks of the trade"), control or metacognitive strategies, and learning strategies. The method consists of modelling, coaching, scaffolding, student articulation of knowledge and reasoning, reflection, and exploration. Ever mindful that learning must be structured so as to preserve its meaningfulness, they put forward three principles for sequencing activities: global before local skills, increasing complexity, and increasing diversity. They also specify four sociological guidelines: (1) learning must be situated 'I see a parallel between their use of the term "enculturation" and Schumann's acculturation model, which was explored in the section on second language acquisition research. 39 in an environment that reflects its multiple uses, (2) learning environments must become communities of practice in which members engage in skills and communicate about what they are doing and how it's done, and (3) intrinsic learning as well as (4) cooperative learning are promoted. They conclude by stating that, "from learning one's language to learning how to run an empire," this was how people learned before there were schools (Collins, Brown & Hollum, 1991, p. 46). Brown and Duguid (1993) admit situated learning has been hounded by two relentless questions: how can these theories be operationalized and instantiated in educational technology? They feel Lave and Wenger's (1991) notion of "legitimate peripheral participation" offers a solution. Lave and Wenger (1991) contend that we learn by becoming members of a community of practice. We work our way from being "legitimate peripheral participants" to being full participants by gaining access to a wide range of ongoing activity, other members of the community, and information and resources upon which the community depends. "Learning itself is an improvised practice: A learning curriculum unfolds in opportunities for engagement in practice. It is not specified as a set of dictates for proper practice" (Lave & Wenger, 1991, p. 93). Furthermore, "an extended period of legitimate peripherality provides learners with opportunities to make the culture of practice theirs" (p. 95). If, indeed, the participants did experience work with the program as a visit with Philippe (as the developers intended), the learning situation as conceived by these theorists could be an analogue to the situation of participants in this research project, who were peripheral participants in Philippe's community. It therefore seemed that situated learning as legitimate peripheral participation in a community of practice might provide an insightful lens through which to view their experiences. 40 Narrative The learners' experiences could also be viewed through the lens of narrative. The target language community in this instance was fictional and, as such, part of a narrative structure. Participants were being asked to join this fictional community and become a part of its narrative structure. However, narrative or story telling can also be seen to serve another purpose. Story telling is a tool of expert practice. Practitioners pass on their expertise in the form of stories about their experiences. One institutionalized example is case study pedagogy. Brown (1989, as cited in McLellan, 1996) has referred to stories as "expert systems" for storing, linking, and accessing information whenever a situation requires it. As Bruner (1996, p. 132) puts it, Brown and his colleagues are speaking of "intelligence as not simply 'in the head' but as 'distributed' in the person's world." It is through conversations and narratives that "within a culture, ideas are exchanged and modified and belief systems developed and appropriated" (Brown, Collins, & Duguid, 1989, p. 40). McLellan (1996) notes there is increasing evidence to support the notion of stories as a tool for learning, understanding, and remembering. Among others, she cites Schank and Jona (1991) as well as Bateson (1994, p. 11), who believes "our species thinks in metaphor and learns through stories." Therefore, it comes as no surprise that proponents of situated learning see the use of narrative as both a guiding pedagogical principle i and a tool. Narrative, however, plays an even more profound and complex role in our lives. Outlining his theory of imagination, Johnson (1987, pp. 171-172) reminds readers that "not only are we bom into complex communal narratives, we also experience, understand, and order our lives as stories that we are living." Bruner, who agrees with Johnson, sees a terrible irony here. As educators we expend a great deal of effort teaching scientific methods, or as Bruner calls 41 them, methods for creating a 'reality according to science,' while "we live most of our lives in a world constructed according to the rules and devices of narrative" (Bruner, 1996, p. 149). Bruner advocates teaching narrative structure to our students because it can be a procedural tool to help them understand the stories they construct about themselves. He also promotes narrative as a pedagogical approach since one of our principal ways of understanding is through "a story of what something is 'about'" (p. 90). Stories have another function. They meld mind and body in the acquisition of knowledge. Stories enable us to physically feel as well as experience knowledge vicariously. Abram (1996, p. 120) explains his understanding of this process: Stories, like rhymed poems or songs, readily incorporate themselves into our felt experience; the shifts of action echo and resonate our own encounters—in hearing or telling a story we vicariously live it, and the travails of its characters embed themselves in our own flesh. The sensuous, breathing body is, as we have seen, a dynamic, ever-unfolding form, more a process than a fixed or unchanging object. As such, it cannot readily appropriate inert "facts" or "data" (static nuggets of'information' abstracted from the lived situations in which they arise). Yet the living body can easily assimilate other dynamic or eventful processes, like the unfolding of a story, appropriating each episode or event as a variation of its own unfolding. This line of thinking suggests that second language educators might want to make greater use of narrative in their pedagogy. Adding another module with more colourful stories or using comic strips more often to illustrate grammar points may be effective ways of doing this. However, second language educators might want to seriously re-think their pedagogy in terms of the recent research into cognition and the availability of powerful new technologies which will enable learners to become "characters within a huge story that is visibly unfolding all around [them], participants within the vast imagination, or Dreaming, of the world" (Abram, 1996, p. 163). 42 Conclusion Because there is no CALL theory, as such, researchers have turned to related disciplines for guidance (Levy, 1997). For example, Fox (1993), reporting on his project to develop interactive multimedia language learning courseware, sought direction in the area of autonomous learning whose principles he noted are not always easy to discover and in the methodology of the communicative approach, despite what he describes as the "tenous nature of its theoretical framework" (p. 101). Like Fox's work, this inquiry began guided by sensitizing concepts from second language acquisition and the sub-discipline of autonomous language learning. In order to situate the CALL-engendered experiences of the learners in this study within the literature, other areas of related scholarship have been explored. In addition to scholarship in second language acquisition and learner autonomy, the areas of embodied cognition, situated learning, and narrative have been explored. Work in situated learning views learners as participants in a community of practice. Learning is viewed as a process of enculturation, not unlike the acculturation process in second language acquisition. Learners are seen to be in an apprentice-type relationship to other established members of the community; whereby, they acquire the culture of practice. The physical environment as well as the social and cultural contexts play a key role, leading embodied cognition theorists to suggest that learning should be explored in terms of the interrelatedness of mind, body, and context. However, in this particular learning context, there is an added element, narrative. The participants are asked to engage in a fictional community and take part in a narrative structure. In spite of this, scholarship in these areas suggests that it could be helpful to view the learners as peripheral participants in Philippe's world and to explore their learning as a function of their participation in this community and its related contexts. 43 C H A P T E R T H R E E ACCESSING L E A R N E R S ' E X P E R I E N C E Synopsis This chapter outlines the methodology used to study the experiences of the twenty-three French as second language learners as they worked with A la rencontre de Philippe. The discussion of the methodology is preceded by a description of the videodisc program. The program invites learners into the fictional Parisian world of Philippe, a young freelance journalist. According to the developers, in so doing, it offers them immersion and interaction in the target language and culture. In order to achieve this, the program employs a narrative structure with themes of male/female relationships, living arrangements, and un/employment problems. Philippe turns to face the learner at the end of the first scene and asks for the learner's help. The program offers alternate paths, optional scenes and seven different endings, which are linked to the decisions learners make enabling them to influence the progress and outcome of the story. It also incorporates a number of interactive items including a map of Paris, newspaper, answering machine, and telephone. To help with the language learning task, the learner has on-screen stop and repeat segment functions available, similar to those on a video player. Other functions enable the learner to repeat a scene utterance by utterance with or without the transcription. By clicking on glossed words in the transcription, the learner can access glossary explanations. The program also offers cultural and historical notes as well as the usual help/guidance features. Of the 23 people who participated in this multiple case study most were prospective pre-service teachers, finishing Arts degrees. They were mostly females in their early 20's. However, there were some exceptions: two males in their early 20's as well as two in their early 30''s, and 44 two women, one in her early 50'''s and the other in her early 60''s. Attrition claimed 8 participants. Methods and procedures were informed by diary studies and video ethnography. Participants worked with the program once or twice a week for one or two hour sessions, depending on their personal schedules, over the course of a semester. Not only was each work session video taped but the participants kept journals documenting their experiences. Prior to commencing work with the program, the participants wrote their personal language learning histories. After they terminated their work with the program, fourteen were interviewed on two occasions. A sub-set of six participants were given language competency pre-/post-tests. Data analysis relied primarily on the constant comparative method. Interviews were transcribed verbatim. A procedural transcription was made from the video tapes, i.e., participants' actions were transcribed, as well as segments of conversation. After the data were unitized and coded, the "chunks " were grouped to form themes. This process was facilitated by entering the codes and their data locators into a spreadsheet program. The "sort" function grouped all code references. Themes were compared across cases. Four cases were selected to be presented in Chapter 4 and analysed in the manner described above. Then the remaining cases were analysed individually. All of these diverse voices and unique perspectives were brought to bear on the emergent theme analysis. 45 ACCESSING L E A R N E R S ' E X P E R I E N C E The challenge of the research methodology was to access and document the learners' experiences as they worked with the program A la rencontre de Philippe. The investigation used a multiple-case study design (Yin, 1994) drawing methods and procedures from diary studies and video ethnography. Participants wrote language learning narratives, kept journals, and were observed as well as interviewed. A sample of the participants wrote language competency pre-and post- tests. In a sense the inquiry was an experiment with methods, responding to the call for innovative research methods in this field which might be more in keeping with the nature of the phenomenon under study (Chapelle, 1997; Hlynka & Belland, 1991; Papert, 1993). In the final analysis, the variety of research methods and strategies, taken individually, seemed to present a unidimensional picture. However, used as a network, they produced a body of data which provided insights into the multifaceted experience of each learner. Rationale The research design for this study represents a departure from much of the work in the fields of computer-assisted instruction and computer-assisted language learning. Many educators, it appears, want sound statistical data upon which they might base decisions to implement new technology (Kidd and Holmes, 1984). Reasoning of this kind has led to a proliferation of experimental and quasi-experimental comparative studies which attempt to demonstrate that students leam more using a computer than other students receiving "traditional" instruction. In spite of the fact that these inquiries have for the most part reported "no significant differences" (Clark 1985; Liddell 1994; Reeves 1986), new media including interactive video tend to be evaluated by this type of research (Reeves 1986; Yildiz & Atkins 1993). Although the comparative studies have been criticized for a pervasive failure to account 46 for confounding variables (Clark, 1985) and for the short-sighted epistemological assumption that the constructs computer-assisted instruction and traditional instruction reflect "realities" that could be compared (Cunningham, 1986), other researchers and theorists have come to realize that the comparative studies are based on the "prevailing myth that the computer is superior to more traditional instructional media" (Hagler & Knowlton 1987, p. 85). Clark (1991) for the past decade has consistently argued that it is not media but methods that influence learning. As Pederson (1987, p. 107) emphatically stated in her review of CALL research, "CALL, in and of itself, does not result in more and better learning; rather, it is the specific way instruction is coded in CALL software that has the potential of affecting learning positively, for specific learners in specific contexts'" [italics in original]. In other words, it is not the medium, but how the medium is used that influences learning. The comparative studies are based on "the invalid assumption that media can be varied without changing instructional content or strategy" (Hagler & Knowlton, 1987, p. 87). Salomon (1991), who has studied the effects of introducing computers into the learning environment through both controlled, analytic experiments and what he referred to as systemic inquiry, concluded, "The attainment of any worthwhile effects by the inclusion of computers necessitates the redesign of the whole learning environment" (p. 16). He further cautioned researchers that he could not have demonstrated this "without observations of the whole system of interrelated events" (p. 17). Similarly, Papert (1993, p. 146) has argued that "computers serve best when they allow everything to change". Therefore, he is very critical of experiments which introduce computers into the classroom but allow nothing else to change. Consequently, Papert also calls for a new methodology, more congruent with the nature of the phenomena of the learning environment, based on "an epistemology predicated on pluralism and on connection 47 between domains" (Papert 1993, p. 155). The developers of A la rencontre de Philippe present a similar argument, noting "the impact of the material on the students' motivation, interest, and general cognitive and linguistic abilities will have to be assessed in ways approximating more the method of the social sciences (students' reports, teacher diaries, think aloud protocols, etc.) than those of the natural sciences" (Murray, Morgenstem & Furstenberg 1989, p. 99). Furthermore, as Lincoln and Guba (1985) posit, "If phenomena not only take their meaning from but actually depend for their existence on their contexts, it is essential that the reader receive an adequate grasp of what that context is like" (p. 360). The case study is "the primary vehicle for emic inquiry" (p. 359), i.e., inquiry which presents the phenomenon and its context from the learner's perspective, and which "tends toward a reconstruction of the respondent's constructions'" (p. 359). Yet, Van Manen (1990) reminds the researcher that from a phenomenological point of view our interest is not to merely report on something from the participant's perspective but to address "the question of what is the nature of this phenomenon as an essentially human experience" (p. 62). To access the learners' constructions of their experiences, the inquiry incorporated design features of diary studies and video ethnography. Diary studies are case studies in which language learners keep an introspective and/or retrospective journal over a period of time (Bailey, 1991). The design of this study drew on video ethnography not only to facilitate observation but to document learners' reflections on their responses to events in the learning environment. Goldman-Segall (1994) sees video ethnography as a means of providing Geertz's (1973) thick description which she characterizes as "a layered, rich, contextual description of an event that encourages the reader to get close to the meaning of those who experienced what the author is describing" (Goldman-Segall, 1994, p. 7). Video ethnography, therefore, offered a sound 48 complement to a diary study which can draw the inquirer to "facets of the language learning experience which are normally hidden or largely inaccessible to an external observer" (Bailey, 1983, p. 189). The Interactive Videodisc Program The interactive videodisc program, A la rencontre de Philippe, was developed under the auspices of the Athena Language Learning Project at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The basic instructional objective is the development of comprehension of authentic, spoken French (Furstenberg & Malone, 1993). A la rencontre de Philippe is intended for learners ranging from low-intermediate to advanced levels of proficiency. Relying on the tenets of the communicative approach to language learning, the program fosters a learner-centred, task-based environment which the learners are free to explore (Furstenberg & Malone, 1993). The program also draws on Papert's concept of the microworld and social constructivist notions which inspired its reliance on the metaphor of inviting the learner into a fictional community where he or she could be immersed in the target language and actively participate in its culture (Murray, 1991). Learners are invited into the Parisian world of a young free-lance writer, Philippe Vitaz, who is facing problems with his girlfriend, his living arrangements and his employment situation. Philippe, who has only been in Paris three months, shares the status of newcomer with the learner (Furstenberg, 1994). Through a technique called "conversational form," Philippe looks directly into the camera and asks learners to help him. From the first instance on, the learner responds to Philippe using dialogue menus. Once the learner agrees to help, Philippe gives broad instructions and suggestions regarding what to do. The learner is then free to explore and discover the various technological features of the program, different parts of Paris, as well as a number of apartments. 49 The program relies on a number of technical features to enhance learners' participation in Philippe's world. It offers alternate paths, optional scenes,, and various endings, which are linked to decisions made by the learners, thus enabling them to influence the progress and outcome of the story. The hypermedia platform permits the inclusion of techniques such as surrogate travel which places the user in the position of a pedestrian, moving step by step by clicking on arrows illustrated on a map or plan of a building shown on the computer screen. The learner's sense of immersion in a concrete world is further enhanced by "simulated, interactive objects" which in this case make it possible for the learner to peruse a French newspaper, access messages on an answering machine, make telephone calls, and tell time in the story. Appendix 4, entitled "Philippe's World: A Narrative Tour," offers a plot synopsis, illustrating the multi-form nature of the narrative. The multimedia tools allow the learner to proceed through the program according to his or her own pace and proficiency. These include functions such as stop, repeat segment, forward, access to glosses, captions, and other help, including an alternative slower sound track. Hypermedia technology, permitting links between text and video, make it possible to have a transcription for each utterance, to "click" on words in the transcription to have a glossary explanation appear, and to link the glossary to the video in order to see and hear multiple examples of the same word or phrase in context. Similar features facilitate the inclusion of cultural notes and the exploration of the pragmatic aspects of language, including gestures and facial expressions. One of the major weaknesses of the program is the interface which only allows very limited learner input (Morgenstem, 1992). Due to the current status of computer-based voice recognition and artificial intelligence technologies, the program in and of itself cannot afford the 50 learner the opportunity to develop speaking skills through oral communication with the characters. For this reason the program would seem to be limited to the development of comprehension skills. The developers intend for speaking practice to be provided by having more than one learner at a multimedia station and/or by classroom exploitation of the material which would be organized by the instructor. Site and Participants The site selected for this inquiry was the resource centre of a large language education department in a leading Canadian university. This university is located in a metropolitan area with a dynamic but small French-speaking community. This factor is noteworthy because it means that students have a remote possibility for out-of-school contact with target language speakers. The resource centre, although a less than ideal location for the study, was chosen because it offered the necessary equipment in a secure space. The program is only compatible with a Macintosh™ operating system, which again limits the choice of a site. In addition to this, the program requires a videodisc player as well as a video monitor. These three components comprised the work station. The work station, given the study's focus on learner autonomy, could have been located anywhere from someone's basement to the corner of a classroom. In this case, the resource centre offered three essential requirements: the equipment, public access, and security. In the large, yet crowded, multi-purpose room, the only available space for the Philippe work station was one between the photocopier and the circulation desk. Noise from the machine and voices from the room not only proved a distraction but interfered with audio and video recording. This problem was somewhat reduced by enclosing the work station with sound 51 resistant office dividers, serving primarily to deaden the noise from the photocopier. More importantly, the dividers provided the illusion of privacy for the participants. The cramped quarters also determined the positioning of the video equipment. While it would have perhaps been ideal to have a camera trained on the participants as they worked, especially the dyads, the fact that the work station faced a wall, coupled with the lack of space generally, eliminated this possibility. However, as others have discovered (McMahon & Ginsberg, 1995), video tapes of learners staring blankly into computer screens don't necessarily yield a lot of useful information. The site had still another disadvantage; participants were slightly anxious about the volume of the program disturbing other people. In a less than ideal world, people cooperate in order to overcome inconvenience. This is what happened here. A climate of mutual respect and accommodation prevailed, turning a less than ideal site into a satisfactory one. The participants in the study were recruited from the Faculty of Arts. Notices were posted on bulletin boards. Participants were also recruited at an information session for students interested in applying for admission to the French teacher education programme. In order to gain admission to this programme applicants had to pass a comprehensive language competency test. Perhaps because of this, several students, eager to upgrade their oral/aural skills, signed-up before leaving the room. In all, 23 people agreed to participate in the study. As individuals or in pairs, the prospective participants attended an introductory session during offering a hands-on demonstration of the program. This provided an opportunity to explain in detail the purpose and procedures of the study and to clarify our respective responsibilities and expectations. Nobody who wanted to participate was refused. Given the choice of working individually or in pairs, six of the female participants chose to work in dyads. Only four of the initial participants were male. 52 With the exception of two female participants in their early 50's and 60's, all were young adults in their early 20's. Most hoped to become French second language or immersion teachers. Over the course of the study, attrition claimed 8 of the participants, reducing the original number to 15. Most of those who dropped out reported that work and school responsibilities took precedence. Paul, on the other hand, struggling with written course assignments in the French department, felt his time could be better spent with a tutor who could help with grammar and syntax. Sheila, who came for her sessions while I was teaching, managed to slip away in the midst of frenetic end-of-term activity without handing over her narrative or her journal. Unfortunately, I lost contact. Therefore, although she participated as Laura's partner in a dyad, she is not counted as one of the 15 participants. In the final analysis, after attrition there were two male participants and one female dyad. All the other participants were females working alone with the program. Table 1 provides a brief profile of all those who signed up and commenced work with the program. It also explains in greater detail why the eight participants claimed by attrition dropped out of the study. Methods This section presents the methods selected along with an explanation of why they were chosen and how they complement each other. The methods were drawn from diary studies and video ethnography. The participants kept journals,1 documenting their experiences working with the program. According to van Manen (1990), in order to investigate the nature of an experience or phenomenon, "the most straightforward way to go about our research is to ask selected 'Although the second language acquisition literature refers to these studies as "diary studies," the terms journal and diary in this context can be used interchangeably (Bailey 1991). This inquiry will use the term "journal" because it lacks the nuance of "intimate details" carried by the word "diary". 53 Table 1: Profile of Learners Name2 Languages3 Motivation4 Career Goal Notes Andrew English German General interest; live in Quebec Undecided Studied in Germany 9 Bemice Toi San English Love of French FSL Teacher Speaks Mandarin and some Spanish 7 Connie English Russian Love of language; patriotism Private sector Upgrading before immersion prog. 12 Diane French, English Maintain cultural and family ties FSL Teacher Lost French, learned English 7 Dorothy Persian English Love of language FSL Teacher No interview data 6 Elizabeth English Croatian Love of language FSL Teacher 3 months in France as au pair 6 Gail English Love of language Undecided Gender: Wanted female characters 9 Helen English Bilingual country FSL Teacher "Wall" metaphor 11 Jean English Love of language FSL Teacher Age: early 50's 12 Katelyn English French Likes French; family ties FSL Teacher Spoke French until age 7, lost it 8 Laura Portuguese English Spanish Love of language/ people FSL Teacher Worked in a dyad with Sheila 8 Moira English Love of language Academic Age: early 60's 7 Patty English Cantonese Interest in people Undecided French immersion grades 6 to 12. 6 2In order to respect the participants' anonymity, pseudonyms have been assigned. 3The participant's reported first language leads the list and is in italicized type. 4Their motivation for learning French as opposed to working with Philippe. Approximate number of hours participants worked with the program. 54 Rose English German Spanish Love of language FSL Teacher Claimed 3 first languages 17 Tom English Love of language Teacher Year in France 8 The following participants were not included in the final analysis: Anna English (?) Anna, a pre-service teacher, dropped out because of a hectic schedule. (Only video data.) 2 Eileen Mandarin English She dropped out because of changes to a demanding part-time teaching schedule. 4 George English Indonesian He came for 3 sessions of 2 hours and stopped. He was doing 2 part-time jobs to support a young family. 6 Grace English? She started near the end of term and had to stop because of exam pressures and summer plans. (Only video data.) 3 Maria Polish English Maria and Nina were sisters who worked as a dyad. As the end of term approached, they were thinking of stopping because of the work load and exams. Maria was going to France for the summer, anyway. Then Maria was in a car accident and they never came back. 4 Nina Polish English 4 Paul English He felt the time would be better spent with a tutor who could help him with the grammar/syntax of his papers. 2 Sheila English I have no data from Sheila other than the video tapes of her work sessions with Laura. 5 individuals to write their experiences down" (p. 63). In a review of research methods in second language learning, Nunan (1992) concluded that diaries are an important introspective method which "provide insights into the processes of learning which would be difficult, if not impossible, to obtain in any other way" (p. 123). Bailey (1991, 1990, 1983), who has not only engaged in a diary study herself but written extensively on diaries as a research tool, concurred, "Properly done, the diary studies can provide us with important missing pieces in this incredibly complex mosaic—pieces which may not be fully accessible by any other means" (Bailey, 1991, p. 87). Bailey (1990; Bailey & Ochsner, 1983) recommended that this process commence with the diarist writing a personal language learning history. 55 Therefore, at the beginning of the project, the learners were asked to write a personal narrative in which they outlined their language learning backgrounds, their perceptions of themselves as language learners, their language learning goals, and how they hoped this particular program might help them attain these goals. Jamieson and Chapelle (1988) contend that understanding second language acquisition in relationship to CALL effectiveness is contingent upon examining such learner characteristics as age, expectations, ability, cognitive style, and affect. In a later article exploring how CALL activities can be designed and used to facilitate language learning, Chapelle (1994) reiterates the importance of knowing who the learner is and his or her purposes. Asking learners to describe their impressions of themselves as learners is vital to gaining an understanding of these perceptions in relation to the interactive tasks and the learning environment (Atkins, 1993). A short autobiographical narrative is an important step in learning about the nature of the participants' educational experiences and individual development (van Manen, 1990). Brown's (1984) comparison of diary writing and observation revealed them to be very compatible data collection methods. In this study all the participants were observed at the multimedia station as they interacted with the program and each other, if they were working in pairs. In order to maximize the usefulness of observation as a technique, a growing number of hypermedia researchers are using video-recorders (Blissett & Atkins, 1993; Cumming, Sussex & Crop, 1994; Knussen, Tanner, & Kibby, 1991). Videotaping allows educational researchers to capture, in a complex learning environment, the interplay of many significant details which otherwise might be missed (Goldman-Segall, 1991). Video enabled me to have a complete and accurate record of the participants' activities and comments, without constantly looking over their shoulders. I could sit back and benefit from a wide-angle view while my electronic eye 56 documented a close-up of the computer screen. I also conducted open-ended ethnographic (in-depth) interviews (Fontana & Frey, 1994). Following van Manen's (1990) recommendations, I adopted a conversational style or what he referred to as the conversational interview. The conversational interview served to gather material on the participants' experiences or to reflect with the participant on a particular topic. The interview became a "hermeneutic interview" as I went back to participants to dialogue about points arising from interview transcripts, journals, and narratives. In this sense, the interview served an analytical, as well as a "member check" function. The interview style reflected my role as researcher. Research suggested that the success of these interviews would depend on my ability to develop a rapport with the participants (Adler & Adler, 1994; Oxford, 1995; van Manen, 1990). Moreover, because I am, first and foremost, an educator, it seemed natural to display my interest in the participants as people and to share their concerns for their language development. I wanted to work with them, constructing a mutually beneficial relationship in which I offered them an opportunity to work on their French language proficiency and they offered me the opportunity to re/search that experience. A host of writers support this role for the researcher (Adler & Adler, 1994; Oxford, 1995). From a phenomenological stance, van Manen (1990) stresses orienting oneself to the phenomenon under investigation by entering into participants' lifeworld6 through a conversational relation with them and their world(s). One video ethnographer models her work on Bateson's notion of "disciplined subjectivity" - "an aesthetic [process], one of listening for resonance between the inner and the outer, an echo that brings the attention into focus" (Bateson, 6Van Manen (1990) describes lifeworld as "the lived world as experienced in everyday situations and relations" (p. 101). He recognizes that there are multiple and different lifeworlds, since we each have our own existence and reality. 57 1984, p. 201, as cited in Goldman-Segall, 1991, p. 476). Heshusius (1994, p. 16) uses the term "participatory consciousness" to describe her understanding of the role as one requiring "an attitude of profound openness and receptivity," leading to a "being with" the participants as opposed to "being there" as an observer. After all, "Personal experience methods inevitably are relationship methods" (Clandinin & Connelly, 1994, p. 425). In conclusion, the research methods I have chosen are epistemologically compatible with both phenomenological and ethnographic understandings of how to carry out research in an educational setting. I asked the participants to keep journals and to write personal language learning histories. I made observations and conducted conversational interviews. My understanding of disciplined subjectivity and participatory consciousness guided my interaction with the learners and influenced my procedures. Procedures In general, participants worked with the program from one to two hours once a week over the course of one semester, depending on their schedules and other commitments. No time limit was placed on the duration of their participation. They were told that they were welcome to work with the program for as many weeks as they wanted. The only restriction was the availability of the work station. There was only one, which meant the participants had to sign up for regular weekly sessions on a timetable. Participants were encouraged to come at other convenient times, in addition to their reserved block. My aim was to place as few restrictions as possible on their learning experience. Prior to commencing work with the program, participants were instructed to use it in any way they saw fit in order to improve their French language competency. Appendix I, entitled "Guidelines for Participants," is a copy of the hand-out that was given to the learners. 58 Personal Language Learning History According to diary study protocol, participants were asked to write a personal language learning history at the beginning of the study (Bailey, 1990; Bailey & Ochsner, 1983). They were requested to outline their language learning experiences, their understandings of how they best learn a language, their perceptions of themselves as language learners, and anything else they thought appropriate. They were also told to have fun with this and be as creative as they wanted. Participants were provided with two computer diskettes, one for their journals and narratives and another for their "saved" games. When they handed in their diskette with their narrative, it was copied into a directory entitled "Textbank" in a word processing program, WordPerfect™, and then returned the diskette to the learner. Participants' Journals Participants were asked to keep a journal documenting each session. In keeping with diary study protocol, they were asked to make the entry as soon as possible after each session and to focus on one main question: "What factors are important in my language learning experience?" (Bailey & Oschner, 1983, p. 189). In order to provide a vivid and direct account, they were requested to provide examples, incidents, and events, as well as their thoughts and feelings in response to these events (van Manen, 1990). They were asked to use the journal to monitor their learning. They were to note anything they did to improve their French in addition to work with Philippe. The first entry was to include their language learning goals and reasons for working with the program. The journals were reviewed from time to time by asking for the participants' diskettes. Their journals were downloaded into the textbank directory. My Journals Although Lincoln and Guba's (1985) recommendation that the researcher keep at least 59 three journals may seem excessive, I kept a log of day-to-day activities in the form of an agenda, a personal log which served to note reflections on developing constructions, issues, possible biases, ideas and questions, etc.; and a methodological log recording decisions made in accordance with the emergent design. In addition to this, I kept a log of the participants' work sessions, called "Session Records." These records indicated what form of data was collected (i.e., audio, video or both), as well as the duration of the session. The code of each tape was cross-referenced to the session number. In addition to this, I kept field notes chronicling observations, conversational interviews, events and meetings. I usually wrote these notes as I sat in the resource centre, and observed from a distance as the participants worked with the program. Observation In lieu of direct observation, all the work sessions were video-taped from start to finish. Positioned behind and to the right of the participant, the camera was focussed on the computer screen. In order to facilitate transcription, audio-cassette recordings were also made of sessions where learners worked in pairs. My aim was to avoid intruding and disrupting their work; therefore, I observed from a distance, seated at a table, where I journalized, labelled cassettes, and maintained a data trail. Interviews In addition to attempts to interview all the participants formally at the end of their work with Philippe, I took advantage of every opportunity to conduct casual conversational interviews. Oftentimes, at the end of a work session, the participant was asked how the session went. These conversations were for the most part video recorded as a continuation of the work session. Two in-depth interviews were conducted with 14 participants as they terminated their work with the program. Information gained from all sources up to that point served as a basis for 60 these interviews exploring the participants' interaction with the microworld, the program's technological features, learner autonomy, and the learning process and outcomes as perceived by the learners. The interviews were videotaped as well as audio-recorded for transcription purposes. Although the interview questions varied slightly for each participant, a template of the two interview schedules has been attached as "Appendix 3." Only brief, casual interviews were conducted with those who dropped out of the program after a couple of sessions. These usually centred on their overall assessment of the program and their reasons for dropping out. Personal commitments and obligations prevented two of the participants from sitting for interviews. Language Proficiency Tests In addition to this, the participants were asked to sit for comprehensive French second language competency tests conducted in a pre-/post-test fashion. Testing was conducted by the same teams of professionals who carried out the testing for admission to the French teacher education programme for the Faculty of Education. Although the content varied for each test, the format was the same each time, i.e., that of the one used for admission to the French teacher education programme. All participants were asked to take the test, but, for a variety of personal reasons related to their busy personal lives, only 6 managed to write both tests. The pre-/post-tests were not a focal point of the study. From the outset, it was recognized that confounding variables would render impossible the attrib ution of change in test performance specifically to the participants' work with this program. The tests served in a secondary fashion to provide information about the competency level of the participants in an attempt to flesh out the picture of who they were as learners. However, there was also the consideration that the test results, when triangulated with the learners' perceptions, might shed some light on their second language acquisition process. Appendix 4 offers a compilation of the test scores in percentages. 61 Analysis "In the social sciences there is only interpretation" (Denzin, 1994, p. 500). This section explains how the data were analyzed, i.e., how the "art of interpretation" (Denzin, 1994) was interpreted in this study. After a quick read through the language learning narratives and journals, I began with the interview transcripts because the information they provided offered the most representative of the participants' overall experience. Note, however, that the language learning narratives and journals had undergone a preliminary analysis in preparation for the interviews. In preparing the case studies, the first thing I did was to sit and watch the interviews as though they were documentaries on television. Then I read the interview transcripts, unitizing—demarcating units of information or meaning in the data (Lincoln & Guba, 1985)—and, annotating. Informed by Glaser and Strauss's (1967) constant comparative method of data analysis, procedures required the comparison of incidents to those with other codes, and, eventually, the comparison of codes themselves. At this stage, codes changed or were absorbed into others, until categories started to form. Looking not only for errors or omissions, including punctuation, in the transcriptions but for nuances which the written text might not convey, I then read the transcripts while listening to the video taped interviews. Next, the initial coding process was repeated, including comparing, cross referencing and recoding. The language histories and journals were then treated in a similar fashion. As for the video tapes of the work sessions, I viewed these, making detailed notes on what the participants actually did as they worked with the program and annotations on these notes. Segments were transcribed especially exchanges between those working in pairs. The written material thus generated was then coded. Codes from all data sources, along with cross references and data location identifiers, 62 were then entered into a spread sheet program, in order to facilitate sorting and grouping. Using the word processing program with the established textbank, chunks of data with same codes were then grouped and examined for patterns and emergent themes. In addition to this, lists of related codes had appeared after the sort. Graphic representations, illustrating their interconnectedness, were made of these codes. They were reconfigured to see if different patterns would reveal other insights. During the analysis process, but particularly at this stage, particular attention was paid to the use of imagery and metaphor (van Manen, 1990; Bailey, 1991). Throughout the process, ironies, discrepancies, and contradictions were noted. This information was integrated into case studies. The writing process was viewed as "a way of 'knowing' —a method of discovery and analysis" (Richardson, 1994, p. 516). The case studies were written in three parts: the first part was based on the participants' language learning history; the second part chronicled their work sessions and relied primarily on the video data triangulated with the journal entries and the interviews; and the third part, a reflection on their overall experience, relied primarily on the interviews triangulated with the all the other data sources. I have subsequently had brief telephone conversations with these participants regarding points arising from the data. With their permission, these conversations were tape-recorded. Other member checks were performed (Lather, 1986) by distributing a copy of their case study to the participants for their input. This procedure was followed for the five participants whose experiences with Philippe are detailed in the next chapter. The selection process of these five participants began with the first review the data. Bemice was chosen because of the articulate and reflective style of her writing. She was the first person to pass in her journal and I was intrigued with it as well as with her story as a language learner. Diane and Katelyn were chosen in order to include a dyad, because in practice learners 63 often work together at computers. Attrition had claimed the other pairs. Although their experiences were treated as individual and separate during the preliminary analysis, they were considered to be one case. Jean was chosen because she was of a different age generation than the other participants. Andrew was chosen because he was male and had no particular desire to become a teacher, whereas all the others did.7 In short, selection was based on age, sex, desire to enter the teacher education programme, duration of their work with the program, personal style, and mode of participation (i.e., as individuals or pairs). After case studies had been prepared for the nine remaining participants, a final cross-case analysis was conducted. The process had begun as soon as there were two cases to compare. Nonetheless, the initial analysis relied heavily on "direct interpretation of the individual instance" (Stake, 1995, p. 74). After the first five case studies had been prepared, a preliminary cross-case analysis using the "aggregation of instances" strategy (Stake, 1995, p. 74) was carried out. Lists of references to the same theme were compiled and these chunks of data were studied as a cluster, or a constellation (Goldman-Segall, 1994). It was during this analysis that four of the five categories central to this study, as well as several of their related themes, started to stand clearly apart from the corpus of data. These categories and themes formed a matrix upon which other instances could be aggregated until these clusters sometimes transformed, or broke away, into new themes, forcing a reconfiguration of the matrix. The experiences of the nine other learners were then viewed against this matrix. The themes with their nexus of interrelationships formed evolving patterns gradually transforming the matrix until five categories emerged: Environment, exposure, engagement, embodiment and evaluation. ironically, two years later, after a stint teaching in Germany, Andrew is currently enrolled in the teacher education programme. 64 Conclusion As one possible response to the call for "innovative" research methods in the area of computer-assisted language learning, the design of this inquiry has brought together methods from diary studies and video ethnography. They complemented each other well. Whereas narratives and journal entries appeared "flat" at times because of a lack of detail or anecdote, interviews provided a venue for elaborating, illustrating with stories, and reflecting aloud. Videotapes enabled me to relive interviews and work sessions months later. At times a facial expression or gesture clarified a passage from the transcripts or gave it new meaning. Together, the methods produced three types of information: contextual (or background), procedural, and reflective. Not only did the variety of methods and information facilitate triangulation but they produced a multi-dimensional picture of the learners and their experience. In addition to this, the three categories of information—contextual, procedural, and reflective—provided a format for the case studies, detailing the participants' experience. 65 C H A P T E R F O U R VISITS W I T H PHILIPPE: T H E STORIES O F FIVE L E A R N E R S Synopsis This chapter chronicles the experiences of five learners as they worked independently with the program. The case studies are organized in three parts: the participant's language learning history, an examination of the work sessions, and a reflection on the experience. Bernice, whose first language was Toi San, wanted to increase her exposure to spoken French and, in so doing, prepare herself for admission to the French language teacher education program. She appeared to experience the program as two interrelated contexts in which she plays different roles: herself as learner working with a piece of educational software, and Philippe's friend in the fictive world of the video drama. While Bernice's learning style, beliefs, and self-confidence played important roles in shaping her experience with the program, the value of the experience appears to have depended on her willingness to suspend her identity as Bernice the student and to immerse herself in Philippe's world. Jean, a mature student with children around Philippe's age, hoped the program would help her with her speaking skills and, thereby, improve her performance on the language competency test required by the teacher education programme. Jean, who has a passionate love of language, craved exposure to French as it is spoken in a variety of everyday situations. This is what she thought a program of this type could offer that a teacher in a classroom couldn't. Her work with the program demonstrates the impact that repeated exposure to language items in the context of a social situation can have on their acquisition. Moreover, her experience suggests that her ability to identify on an emotional level with the characters and the situations in which they found themselves had a positive impact on her learning. 66 Andrew, who had the experience of learning German through living and studying in Germany, wanted to learn French primarily because he was embarrassed to admit to Europeans that he was a Canadian who couldn 't speak French. He appreciated the control and agency the program afforded him. While both the transcription device and the narrative features of the program facilitated his comprehension and learning, the transcription device also served to open his eyes to how people use language in everyday communication situations. Andrew was able to make a comparison between learning a language in a natural setting and learning with this program which he thought simulated "the real thing" to a fair degree. Diane and Katelyn worked together with the program, so they were treated as one case. Both were fluent in French as children but had lost the language after they moved to English-speaking areas. They thought that classroom learning was drudgery and that languages could be learned more easily by living in the environment. In other words, they thought that language could be learned through exposure to its use in a variety of everyday situations. The advantage of this program was that it could provide this type of exposure. Although they saw the opportunity to speak French as an advantage of pair work, the benefits were questionable because of their limited proficiency. Moreover, the data suggest that working together impeded their engagement with the program, which in turn had a negative impact on their learning. 67 VISITS WITH PHILIPPE: THE STORIES OF FIVE LEARNERS This chapter chronicles the experiences of five learners—Bernice, Diane, Katelyn, Jean, and Andrew—as they worked independently with A la rencontre de Philippe. Because Diane and Katelyn worked together, their experiences, while treated individually, have been combined into one case. Each case study is presented in three parts. The first part contextualizes the experience by giving details of the participants' language learning histories which they felt were important enough to share with me. The second part focuses on their experiences, i.e., what they did in the work sessions, and relies on the journal as well as the video data. The third part offers a reflective discussion of the overall experience. In all three parts attempt to put forward the words and voices of the participants, while making no attempt to mask the fact that it is I who interpret these events. I have attempted to provide enough of the original data to enable you, the reader, to draw your own conclusions. You are also intended to be able to bring your theoretical perspective to the reading; in other words, you should be able to use the data to look at other theories. In any event or story, each participant or character brings his or her own unique perspective, as evidenced by the data in this study which clearly show a wide range of backgrounds, motivations, interests and abilities, even in this small sample. Through the language learning histories, the participants brought their identity to bear on the present context (Kohl, 1981). For this reason, the histories are presented here. They contain crucial contextual information, which, Rogoff (1984, p. 3) reminds us, is "an integrative part of cognitive events, not a nuisance variable." In order to understand the experiences of these learners we must consider their perceptions of their identity and how these perceptions intermingle with the social and cultural aspects of the present context (Goodwin & Duranti, 1992). 68 Despite their diverse backgrounds, Bernice, Diane, Katelyn, and Jean had at least one thing in common; they wanted to be French immersion or second language teachers. In order to gain entry into the French language teacher education programme, they had to pass a language competency test. Their test score was used to determine whether they would be admitted to the elementary or secondary second language or immersion programmes. For example, if a student got a low score, they certainly wouldn't be eligible for the immersion teacher program; however, the score might still be high enough to gain them admission to the elementary, or even secondary, second language program. As tests, they were peripheral to this study; yet, they were not peripheral to these participants' experiences. As Bernice said, the rest of her life depended on this one test. Bernice 69 Bernice, a fourth year French major, was one of the first to start work with Philippe. Her explanation of how the program suited her personality offers some insight into how she sees herself as a person and a learner. I'm a very quiet person...I guess that's why I've never really taken conversation classes because I never like to speak up in class. I guess, I like just one on one. Then I can interact more because there is no one criticizing me.... I'm so worried in class to say something wrong or there's pressure because there's always marks involved. But for this, it's more like recreational. (B.I2.29)1 It seems almost paradoxical that this quiet person has chosen to become a language teacher, a profession requiring the practitioner not only to be the centre of attention at least some of the time but to face criticism from students, administrators and parents. This paradox hints at the complexity of character underlying Bernice's quiet, soft-spoken way of being. Bernice's Language History Bernice's story as a language learner provides a glimpse of the complexity she brings to this learning situation. This is especially evident in the first paragraph of her narrative in which she outlines her linguistic history for the first fourteen years of her life. Although my first language is Toi San, a dialect of Chinese, I also consider English a co-first language. I came to Canada at the age of 2 and grew up with Sesame Street, Mr. Dressup and Mister Rogers' Neighborhood. Unlike my younger sister, I've been able to keep a lot of my Chinese because I act as a kind of a liaison between my parents and the English-speaking community (including my sister). My dad hardly speaks any English and my mom knows just enough to get around. When my parents and I first came to Canada, we lived in Alberta, where French was introduced to students in Grade 4. I 'In order to maintain an audit trail (Lincoln & Guba, 1985), quotations have been coded to indicate their location in the data. For example, in this code "B.I2.29," "B" indicates that the speaker is Bemice, "12" indicates that the quote is extracted from the second interview, and "29" refers to the page number in the transcripts. Other abbreviations used are "H" for the first interview, "N" for language learning narrative, and "J" for journal. This format representing the name of the participant, the specific piece of data, and the page number will be used throughout the dissertation. 70 picked it up easily; maybe I inherited this ability from my mom who can speak 4 or 5 languages herself. When the 4th grade teacher asked us about our future, I remember saying that I wanted to be a teacher or a nurse when I grew up. When I got to choose elective courses in high school, French was always the easiest choice. (B.N.I) Perhaps Bernice coins a phrase in her statement regarding "co-first languages." She understands the concept. She knows that technically Toi San was her first language. Rather, it seems to be an emotional issue related to her understanding of who she is, her identity. Bernice does not deny her heritage, nor will she be denied her rightful claim of belonging to a community of English speakers. As for French, Bernice doesn't say why it was the easiest choice but only hints that it was her love of French and desire to learn more. Throughout school Bernice worked hard and "always strived for the highest marks, especially in French" (B.N.I). A very competitive student, she wanted the highest French mark in the high school. Not afraid of hard work, in grade 11 she enrolled in the International Baccalaureate (IB) programme, where she "covered 20 months of material (Grade 11 and 12) in 14 months, followed by 5 months of IB work" (B.N.2). By her own admission, this "proved to be quite a challenge—for the first time, the French teacher actually spoke French for the whole hour" (B.N.2). Although "that was when French actually started getting hard" (B.N.2), Bernice notes that she "did really well" on both the provincial and IB examinations. Having worked hard on her French during high school, Bernice decided to be gentler with herself when she started university: I could have received credit for my IB work to cover first year French, but I decided to ease into university life rather than jump into the second year. I also decided to take up Spanish because a friend had once told me that it was easier than French, and since I needed the credits, why not?... Second year Spanish followed and it proved to be much easier than French. I took the grammar course (basically a review of first year) and an oral course. I found the oral classes to be a very strong reinforcement to the grammar classes. We could break off into small groups and discuss the short stories that we read. By the end of the year, I was definitely more fluent in Spanish than I was in French. In fact, I thought of words in Spanish before I could even think of them in French. (B.N.2) 71 This is truly amazing if we consider that Bernice had been studying French for 12 years, including the two-year, intensive IB programme. After a mere three courses in Spanish over a two-year time span, Bernice felt she was more fluent in Spanish than in French. During this period, Bernice was alarmed by her dropping French marks. She wrote, The second year French courses were going downhill. I ended up with 74% in literature and 77% in grammar-exactly 10% less than my Spanish oral and grammar courses, respectively. People told me that at the university level, those marks weren't bad, but for me, accustomed to high 80's and 90's, they were a shock. I began doubting my French ability, especially given that the Spanish was coming so easily. But what else could I do but continue with French? My goal was being a teacher and the Faculty of Education didn't accept a Spanish major. (B.N.3) Bernice seems to believe that ability is something distinct for each language and probably hereditary, as she suggested earlier. From these comments, her motivation would appear to be linked to rewards, her career goals, and her belief in her ability as a French language learner. On the other hand, Bernice's love of French appears to be her main motivation for learning the language and working with Philippe. When I inquired about the source of her motivation, she replied, "Probably because I want to try to do better in French, because I never felt like I've taken enough oral conversation practice, anything like that, I'm hoping this will help" (B.I2.26). I reminded Bernice of her need to pass the French competency test in order to be admitted to the teacher education programme. She responded, "Yeah, I think when I signed up it was anything to get into education program, because everything rests on that one test. I think now it's just an interesting program to work with" (B.I2.26). Bernice scored high enough on the pre-test to gain entry to the secondary French teacher education programme. In spite of the fact that she knew she had attained her goal shortly after she started working with Philippe, Bernice continued until the end of the semester. Bernice saw a relationship between her love of languages and being a good language 72 learner. Explaining what makes her a good language learner, Bernice said, "I think it's because I can pick up on languages and I like the languages that I leam. Because I leam them by choice and not by being forced to leam them. I choose to leam languages because I want to" (B.I1.18). When I paraphrased her remarks by saying, "So the freedom of choice is a big motivating factor for you," Bernice added, "I think if you're doing something you like, you're going to do it well" (B.I 1.18). During the second interview when I asked why it is important to her to leam French, Bemice offered these reasons, "Because I was always good at it so then I wanted to go into teaching it. I think that's the only reason I'm taking French because I always liked it and I wanted to go into teaching" (B.I2.20). Bernice's motivation for learning French appears to be a combination of her love of the language, her perception of herself as good at French and her desire to be a teacher. Her motivation for learning Mandarin was somewhat different. Bemice had started to leam Mandarin in grade 11 but found the grade 12 course difficult: There was so much new vocabulary, with so many strokes per character, that I soon fell behind. Often, I studied just a few hours before the tests and my only saving point was that the teacher assigned a lot of home projects on which I could get some help from my parents. The main reason I took Mandarin and still want to take it, despite it not being my family's first language, is because I don't want to forget my culture. Over the summer, I retaught myself some of the vocabulary I learned in high school by making up flash cards. Now, 5 months later, I've forgotten most of it again. (B.N.3) Bemice's high school experience coupled with her intensive university schedule discouraged her from continuing her studies. Her sense of caution seems to have diverted her from a goal which she finds important enough to work towards on her own. Perhaps her caution is a manifestation of her perception of herself as someone who learns new languages easily, so she avoids situations which challenge this belief. Although Bemice sees herself as someone who has a facility for learning new languages, 73 she finds her difficulty is attaining an acceptable level of fluency. Reflecting on this dilemma in her narrative, Bernice offers insight into her current level of French language competency and her language learning goals. In conclusion, I think that I have always acquired new languages easily but perfecting them is another problem. French is my main concern now because I can't seem to speak properly without first thinking through an entire conversation and possible responses. Once, I just blurted something out in French and right away, I mentally analysed what I said to see if it was correct. When I don't "rehearse" what I'm going to say ahead of time, I really fumble up; I sound like someone who has never spoken French before. I want to be able to speak French when I'm nervous, and even when I'm not, I don't want to have to be thinking about formal/informal greetings, pronunciation or anything else grammatical. I want it to come naturally. I guess only time and practice will tell. (B.N.4) Bemice seems unable to make the leap from a concern with form to being able to speak the language fluently. The only solution she sees is continued practice over time. For this reason, she has decided to work with the program A la rencontre de Philippe. Bernice's Work with Philippe Prior to her first work session with the program on January 26, Bernice already had reservations about Philippe's potential to help meet her goals. Reflecting on her introductory session with the program, Bemice made the following observation: As for Philippe, I am interested in using the program to increase my speaking ability. After having come to the introductory lesson, I think that it will help my listening skills more than my speaking because there isn't anyone to correct my speech. However, I do believe that the program will be helpful. I think this is the first time that I will be exposed to real French (from France) speakers for an extended period of time. I have had French teachers from various backgrounds, but I think all teachers speak at a "teacher speed" where they speak slower so that students understand them. In any case, I will try anything that could possibly help me pass the French Competence Test for the Faculty of Education. The more time that I spend in a French environment may be just what I need to increase my confidence in my own French abilities. (B.N.4-5) Although Bemice is cautious in terms of her expectations, she remains hopeful that the program can offer her something that has been lacking in her language learning up until now, exposure to a French environment. 74 Bernice's sense of caution resurfaced in her first session with Philippe. In her journal entry Bernice wrote, Today was the first time that I had real hands-on experience with the program and I think I was still hesitant about doing things~I have a fear of goofing something up when it comes to computers.... I was still a bit lost in the program because I had forgotten some of the options that were available to me. That is probably why I finished the story already; I didn't really investigate my surroundings. All I did was let the story play out and get involved only when I was told to. (B.J.I). Bernice's "computer anxiety" is a documented phenomenon, which can have a detrimental influence on learning and achievement; however, it can be overcome through instruction designed to make learners more comfortable with computers (Liu & Reed, 1995). Her level of anxiety prevented her from exploring the program. In addition to this, she was fearful about neglecting to note information crucial to her interaction with the story. Demonstrating her awareness of the impact her anxiety has had on her engagement with the program, she concluded her first journal entry by noting, "Maybe I'll be less uptight next time and try exploring a bit more" (B.J.I). In her journal entry for the second session on February 7, Bernice commented on her comprehension: As the opening scene progressed, I kept thinking, "I can actually understand what they're saying." Last time, all the words seemed to run together but today, I was picking out words. I was convinced that Philippe and Antoine were speaking slower although I know that isn't true. A teacher had once told my phonetics class that a foreign language always sounds faster than one's own language because one does not speak it. Today was the third time that I had seen the opening scene. Maybe I can understand it more because I've heard it all before. (B.J. 1-2) Apart from creating the impression of a more relaxed learner, Bernice's reflection on her comprehension raises an interesting issue. Throughout her work with the program, Bemice never seems to be certain whether she's understanding more because her comprehension is improving or because she's hearing the same scene repeatedly. The situation is complicated by the use of the 75 transcription option. Is she understanding more in subsequent viewings because she has seen the written text and used the glossary to look up words? Bernice can't help but wonder if her reliance on the transcription isn't detrimental to the development of her oral comprehension: "But maybe that's my downfall I like to see it written and that's why I have so many problems listening to people speak French" (B.I2.31). The relationship between comprehension and the transcriptions, or the "written vs. oral dilemma," figured prominently in Bernice's discussion of her third session on February 14. For my third run through the story, I decided to spend a lot more time in each scene. I think that the transcription of each scene is really helpful. For instance, in Olivier's scene with Philippe in my last story, I couldn't understand anything that Olivier said. I think that if I listen to it a few more times, I'll get to know it better, just like the opening scene. For now, I'm going to continue reviewing each scene with the transcription, glossary and cultural notes until I finish this third run-through. (B.J.3) During this session Bernice repeated each utterance and read the cultural notes and vocabulary explanations aloud. She continued her journal entry, writing, I would like to be able to understand everything that the characters are saying just by hearing them but I have always found that I understand things much better written down rather than spoken, especially if it is new material. I also like the transcriptions given in this program because brackets are placed around the words or letters that have been omitted in the pronunciation. I am so accustomed to saying everything as clearly as possible that once Philippe and his friends start speaking at a supposedly normal speed, I miss a lot of words because they drop so many letters and syllables. I can practice reciting the phrases that are transcribed but I never know if I'm doing it properly because there isn't anyone to correct me. I'm also trying to guess what the underlined phrases and words mean in the transcription if they are new to me. I guess that this also helps me draw from what I already know and then try to make connections between words with the same roots. For example, I guessed that de bouche a oreille meant "by word of mouth" because Philippe and Antoine were discussing ways of getting an apartment and I figured that people hear about things through the grapevine, from what somebody tells somebody else. (B.J.3) This entry is particularly interesting because Bernice shared her cognitive strategies as well as explained how she used context in order to understand. The use of the transcription feature remained one of her key strategies. When I asked 76 Bernice in the first interview why she found the transcription so helpful, she replied, I think it's because I can understand it more because of the fact that I can read it. You can see the words so I can understand it more. I guess that's why on the French test my written was much better than my oral because in written when I see the words I can basically get an idea of what's happening. (B.I1.10) When I asked her why this might be so, Bemice answered, "Maybe seeing is more of a reassurance that I'm hearing the right thing, I don't misinterpret it" (B.I1.10). Her lack of trust or confidence in her oral comprehension no doubt reinforces her need for correction. If she doesn't trust what she's hearing, she can never be certain that she's imitating correctly. The use of these strategies has slowed down Bernice's passage through the program. She is taking a more methodical approach which is indicative of the emerging image of her careful, analytic style of learning. The strategies Bemice is employing (e.g., listening and reading the text simultaneously, looking up words in the glossary, reading cultural notes, and repeating everything aloud) are not so much indicative of this style as are the manner and frequency of their use. Bemice is being thorough to the point of painstaking. There is also no sign of the anxiety which was particularly prevalent in the first journal entry. Bernice's apparently reduced anxiety level coincides with evidence of increased engagement with the program and identification with its characters. She began the journal entry for her third session with these comments: I was surprised to see that the story ended as quickly as it did even though I had chosen not to move into Aunt Amelie's house. I had thought that Philippe would choose to go house-hunting for a while, thereby showing me more of Paris, but I guess that option is up to me. (B.J.2) Bernice's surprise that the story ended so soon suggested that she had been engaged by it. The tone of the writing also demonstrates her engagement. She wrote, "I had chosen not to move into Aunt Amelie's house" as opposed to "I had advised Philippe not to move...." Her choice of 77 phrase, "showing me more of Paris," is reminiscent of an expectation that a visiting friend might have, hinting at a developing relationship between this character and Bernice. Bernice's closing comment, "I guess that option is up to me," shows an awareness of her autonomy in the program. She expresses this as an afterthought, a reminder to herself, that she can act independently of Philippe. This offers a further clue to the degree to which Bernice has accepted the persona of a friend of Philippe and, hence, of a character interacting in this mircoworld. Bernice's sense of engagement in Philippe's world is also reflected in her concern with the concept of time. Bernice concluded her entry for the third session by writing, As I run through the program, learning and writing down all the new vocab, I am also concerned about the time in the program. For example, I wonder if I have to get everything done before having to meet Philippe and the agent at 11:00. What would happen if at 11:00,1 was still at Philippe and Elisabeth's apartment exploring and copying down everything I see? I know that I can leave the apartment early and still arrive at 11 Rue St. Martin at 11:00, not earlier, not later. (B.J.3) It would appear Bernice is experiencing, to a degree, time as it is lived in Philippe's world. Her concern with "get[ting] everything done" on time is indicative of her engagement in this world. In the journal entry for her fourth session on February 28, Bernice provided some insight into her comprehension and metacognition. She had made a choice which altered the course of the story and, therefore, presented her with two scenes she had not viewed before. Bernice recounted the experience: I started with the second scene today, with Philippe asking me if there had been any telephone messages. This time, I chose to tell him that M. Richard had called. My previous choices had never interested him, so I was surprised to see a new telephone scene. I was even more surprised when Philippe went to view the apartment with M. Jacot from the agency. It had been a long time since I had seen this part of the story but nothing that the agent said sounded familiar. When after viewing the apartment, Philippe didn't say mon brevet de natation, I was sure that the dialogue had been different, and that it wasn't because I had totally forgotten what had been said before. I'm curious to know how one phone call to M. Richard affected the story so greatly. I mean, how did Jacot know that Philippe now had a full-time job and that his personal and financial position had changed enough to qualify him to live in this apartment. Maybe I missed 78 something somewhere. If I can, I might just go back and see if I did overlook something. (B.J.4-5) When the program took Bernice to the 11 a.m. meeting with Philippe, she told him his boss, M. Richard, had called. Philippe returned the call to be offered a full-time job. What is interesting about the following scene with the rental agent is that it is almost identical to the scene where Philippe viewed the apartment and didn't have a full-time job because he had not been in contact with M. Richard. The situation was identical in each scene; what differed was the context due to the change in Philippe's employment situation. Not having seen this part of the story for a while, Bernice could only determine that the scenes were different through her comprehension of the dialogue. According to her entry, Bernice has understood a lot of the dialogue in the scene. However, her curiosity about how the agent knew that Philippe had a full-time job indicates that she did not understand everything. Bernice's apparent confusion seems to stem from the similarity of the contexts of the two scenes, suggesting the intricate role context plays the comprehension process. Conversely, this incident also suggests the role talk plays in determining context. During her fifth session on March 6, Bernice finished her third "run-through," or game, and started her fourth. In this entry Bernice provided evidence that her ear was becoming fine-tuned to the accents of the characters in the drama. Again, I went home to Elisabeth's apartment to listen to the phone messages. I noticed that in Elisabeth's message to Philippe about the plumber that she added an extra syllable to voisine. She pronounced it with a "schwa" at the end when usually the last sound that you would hear would be the [n] sound. (B.J.6) Bernice's next journal entry offered information indicating that it would be premature to conclude that the hours she spent listening to Philippe led her to this discovery. On March 13 in the entry for her sixth session, Bernice provided this clarification: 79 I just want to add to something that I said in my last journal entry first. I am taking a Romance Linguistics class in which I am currently studying the French language. On Monday, we listened to a tape of Parisien children talking about long weekends. My prof said that one of the most common phonetic characteristics of Parisien speakers is that they add a "schwa" to the end of words, even if there is no "e" present. This is the most common phoneme to be added to words because it also represents the hesitation sound. The "schwa" is represented by an upside-down "e" in phonetic transcription. (B.J.6) Bernice's linguistics class had alerted her to this regional and cultural phonetic variation. Without instruction it is unlikely she would have noted it. Yet, the importance of this anecdote rests on its strength as an indication of the extent to which Bernice's ear is becoming attuned to the more subtle nuances of oral expression. As Bemice continued with her journal entry for March 13, she provided further insight into her level of comprehension and her analytical style. Anyhow, back to Philippe. I visited Mme. Soloniac's apartment and just wandered around. It doesn't look too bad. Since I had nothing better to do, I decided to meet Philippe. I said that I didn't hear the phone messages because I wanted to see if I could pick up on what Philippe would say to M. Jacot that would "disqualify" him for the apartment. M. Jacot is still practically incomprehensible when he describes the apartment. It doesn't help me when I can't even see his mouth move. I think that seeing him speak would at least help me out a bit. However, I did pick up on the line where Philippe explains his job situation, therefore changing his chances of renting this apartment. (B.J.7) Not only is Bemice analytical and meticulous in her attention to detail, she is persistent. She is determined to discover what information was transmitted (and how it was transmitted) to dramatically alter the outcome of this sequence the last time she went through the program. Finding one small piece of information embedded in the context of a whole scene is a veritable exercise in listening comprehension. However, Bemice revealed in the first interview that her understanding was contingent on grasping the context of the scenes as well. When I did [choose] M. Richard that changed the whole storyline because he made that phone call to the boss and the apartment became... like "This is your apartment; you can have it," because he had a job full time now. And I picked that up on the last session 80 because I had chosen the one where I said I did not hear the phone messages, so I don't know who called. And then when he goes in to look at the apartment, I picked up the line where he said that "I'm only part time". And then I said, "Well, that's what changed the storyline." Because I think everything was the same up to that point. Before he said full time or part time and that's what influenced what the agent said next. (B.I1.13) Bernice had to understand that the choice she made to tell Philippe that Mr. Richard, his boss, had called was pivotal. As a result of this message, Philippe returns the call. During this conversation Philippe receives the job offer. When Bernice hears the line, "I'm only part time," in the following scene, she makes the connection. Comprehension is contingent on a host of factors emanating from the context and the mind of the listener. In multi-layered real life situations these factors interact in complex and subtle ways. For the second language learner understanding is not based uniquely on the oral comprehension of a series of utterances, no more than it is for native speakers. Bernice, for example, believed that seeing the rental agent's mouth move would help her understand what he was saying. Elsewhere, Bernice recounted how in school she would watch the teacher's mouth during diction exercises. This suggests a form of synaesthesia in which her hearing is also dependent on her sight. Bernice was not necessarily applying a formal knowledge of phonetics; she had not taken a phonetics course before the current academic year. This anecdote not only underscores the importance of the physical aspects of context to Bernice's listening comprehension but illustrates how the body functions systemically, forging multiple links to the environment in order of make sense of both language and the world. In the next paragraph of her journal entry, Bernice gave an example of the cultural aspects of context enhancing her reading comprehension. When we returned home, I listened to the phone messages again and wrote down the addresses of the apartment rental agencies.... Most of today's session was spent writing because I was reading Le Figaro for possible apartments for Philippe. Basically, I wrote 81 down the whole ad, even if some of the apartments were not in Philippe's spending range. I was able to figure out some of the initials but others are still mysterious to me, such as : s/pl in the We ad, ss, asc in the 12e ad, tt. eft. in the 16e ad, and Asc. Terr, in the 19e ad, although I think the Asc. stands for ascenseur. (B.J.7) Not being familiar with the physical aspect of the context or the cultural aspects (in terms of what the French would consider important to know regarding a prospective apartment), Bernice cannot decipher the meaning of these abbreviations in the advertisements. Using her knowledge of vocabulary and the situation, Bernice can guess that Asc. probably means asceneur (elevator) but she is uncertain of its meaning in this context. The role of context and her sense of engagement with the program figure prominently in the conclusion of her March 6 entry in which Bernice recounted a rather disappointing visit to one of the rental agencies. She wrote: After leaving a phone message for Dominique, I decided to go to the Agence Immobiliere to see if I could get some more addresses. I was surprised to see just a whole bunch of signs; I thought that there would be an agent or someone there. It took me a while to figure out how to read the signs and in the end, I only got one address that I could look into. I wonder if I could visit those other apartments that are for sale... Next time, I think I'll either go see Dominique or do some apartment hunting. (B.J.7) The overall tone of this paragraph (e.g., "go see Dominique") and the act of leaving a phone message for Dominique convey a sense of the degree to which Bernice felt herself to be a part of this world. Had she been acting from her role as Bernice the analytical student she probably would have realized that the message would not have any impact on the story. However, her sense of engagement seems disturbed when an element of the program's design runs contrary to her expectations of a particular context. Her understanding of the context of a visit to a business office is that there is someone present to offer service. Indeed, there could have been a rental agent present to converse with Bernice. Having an agent there would have enhanced the program by giving learners an opportunity to hear yet another speaker with a different style of speech as 82 well as experience French spoken in a more formal business setting. Her final journal entry on March 20 is special because after 6 hours of working with the program, Bemice saw an important scene for the first time. She had not come across this scene because it takes place at the same time as Philippe's visit to his aunt's apartment. Philippe expected Bemice to be at the meeting, so each time Bemice went through the program she kept her 2:30 appointment with Philippe. To see the other scene, the meeting between Dominique and Elizabeth during which Dominique attempted a reconciliation, Bemice would have had to make a deliberate decision not to do as Philippe asked. In others words, she had to step outside of her role as Philippe's friend, ever ready to do his bidding. It is important to keep in mind that this is a scene Bemice hasn't seen before; it presents a new situation and context for interaction. In addition to this, Bemice has had only minimal exposure to Dominique and Elisabeth as speakers. Therefore, Bernice's discussion should provide some insight into her listening comprehension after seven hours work with the program. In her journal Bemice wrote: I think that Elisabeth and Dominique are the easiest characters to listen to in the whole program. I understood almost everything that they said and the only things that I really didn't understand were the slang. I even understood what was happening when Elisabeth said that she had a date that night with Pierre, Dominique's brother. They may have also been easier to understand because there were a lot of close-ups of them, so I could see them speak.... Even later in this session when I started another run-through, I still had to pay careful attention to pick up everything that the guys were saying. (B.J.8) Although this would appear to be evidence of improved comprehension, Bemice is cautious, suggesting that she understands because Elisabeth and Dominique articulate more clearly than the other characters, especially Philippe and Antoine. More intriguing than the possibility of improved comprehension is the suggestion of Bernice's engagement with the program. Reflecting on this session, she writes, "Now that I think 83 about it, I didn't even go to Aunt Amelie's. I wonder if Philippe would have gone to see her. He didn't say anything about my not meeting him at her house" (B.J.9). Not only is there the suggestion that Bemice expected Philippe to reprimand her for missing their 2:30 appointment but she writes of these characters as though they were alive and doing things in another part of town. There is equally the suggestion that Bernice's sense of engagement is related to the convention of time in the program. First of all, one possible reason for Bernice's missing the scene with Dominique and Elisabeth is because it takes place at exactly the same time as the visit to the aunt's apartment. Having the two scenes take place at the same time reinforces the illusion that the characters are alive. When they're not on the screen, they are going about their business elsewhere. Secondly, there is the suggestion of a division between real time and time in the story. Bemice cannot be in two places at the same time. Because of her engagement in this Active community, she neglected to realize that she could cheat time in the story. She could do this by simply making a different choice the next time she went through the story. However, in order to do this, she had to shift her awareness to Bemice the student, disengaging herself from her role in the story. Only when she, Bemice the student, analysed and explored in real time, did she find a way to access the new scene. Bemice had one more session on March 29, during which she spent her time with the program looking for an apartment. A number of factors intervened to prevent Bemice from continuing her work with Philippe. First of all, she was under pressure to meet deadlines for final course assignments. This was followed by the examination period. Bemice, a high achiever, liked to study hard before exams. Also, Bemice had already passed the French competency test for admission into the secondary teacher education programme. In other words, she had achieved her 84 immediate goal for working with Philippe and doing well in her courses had become her top priority at this time. In spite of this, Bemice expressed her intention to continue working with the program after she had finished her exams even though it meant travelling from a neighbouring municipality for this express purpose. However, it was during this time that Bemice found a summer job, making it impossible for her to continue. Bernice's Experience Bernice's experience with Philippe can be described in terms of her movement within two interrelated contexts. The first context is the learning situation in which Bemice assumes the role of learner in a specific physical environment interacting with a particular piece of technology. The second context is created by the drama or video itself. Bemice is asked to take on the persona of a friend of Philippe and engage in a fictive community of French language speakers. Recurring features of Bernice's experience, e.g., engagement with the microworld, motivation, correction, comprehension, and second language competence, fall into either context or somewhere between the two. Bemice liked the exposure the program provided to French spoken in real-life situations. When I asked her what this program offered her that a teacher in a classroom couldn't, she answered, "I think this is more like realistic situations than in class. Even when we do exercises or homework or whatever, it's all made up, and with the program it's all realistic, like this is actual stuff that's happening" (B.I2.20). The tone of Bernice's response suggests a strong sense of identification with the context of this microworld. Throughout her journal Bemice provided glimpses of her degree of engagement with the microworld and identification with her role as Philippe's friend. She referred to the characters in the video as though they were real people living actual lives. Bemice appeared to have "bought 85 into" this microworld. At one point during the second interview, Bernice referred to Philippe's place of residence as "home." She said, "I went to check all the apartments that were available and went back home" (B.I2.28). More than indicating Bernice's sense of engagement with this Active community, this quote suggests a key element in creating and sustaining her sense of belonging. Bernice needed a place to call home—a "physical" place with which she was familiar and to which she could return again and again. She could anchor herself to this "physical" space and from there comfortably explore the new environment. In order for learners to actively engage with this world, the context must first provide a space for them as well as a possible identity they can assume. Once the learners have started to take their place in this context, they can then explore not only the "spatial" but the linguistic and cultural terrain. Context appears as a constituent in a variety of Bernice's learning situations. For example, Bernice found the oral Spanish classes to be a very strong reinforcement to the grammar classes, because they provided a context for purposeful language use. Likewise, she felt that context played a role in her performance on the language tests she took as a part of the research project. She believed she performed better in the role play situation on the second test because she could relate better to the situation. As for her actual work with Philippe, the narrative furnishes an overall context which provides a use for the language elements she is learning, as well as a simulation capable of engaging her on an emotional level. Commenting on how important the plot of the story was to her learning, Bernice said, I think because there is a story line, then the vocab, the grammar they use—there's a use for it. Because if it was just there giving a lesson, it would be pretty boring.... I think it's important there is a storyline to keep you interested, because if it was just grammar exercises you would be just repeating exercises and it wouldn't be interesting at all. (B.I1.12) Surprisingly, Bernice, who attached a fair degree of importance to learning the grammar, 86 would not include a grammar component in a future program, because, as she explains, ...the vocab is there for you. This program I think is mainly for vocab. Because they're natural Parisians, I guess they already have their grammar. So, it's the vocab they would be using in grammatical structures. And, I know some of the notes do give grammatical notes for some of the cultural notes. Sometimes they say this is a grammatical note or even in the vocab they'll say this is a grammatical note like [they give] the structures for this. (B.I 1.12) Bernice's experience suggests grammar instruction can be provided by using a combination of technological options and pedagogical techniques that not only make grammar learning contextualized but available to users when they feel the need for it. It seems ironic that Bernice, who places so much importance on correction, would promote what amounts to implicit grammar instruction as opposed to an explicit grammar component in a program such as this. Bernice did, however, suggest a modification to the program enabling it to offer a limited form of oral correction. Bernice would add an audio component that recorded her voice as she repeated utterances. She could then compare her voice with the original, enabling her to self-correct. Bernice said that in the future given a choice between a program like Philippe and a teacher in a classroom—all things being equal—she would choose the classroom approach "because there is a teacher that can correct you" and "supply you with more information." Clearly, in Bernice's mind for this type of program to be more effective, it must be able to perform more like an expert teacher. On the other hand, what the teacher usually can't provide in a traditional classroom is access to a context in which the language is used to function in everyday situations. Bernice also proposed a technical suggestion regarding this cultural context. When learners replay a scene in the program, they have the option of replaying it utterance by utterance. However, the video clip only shows the characters speaking. The bits of video in between are lost. Bernice wrote, "There 87 is a kind of flow that is missing from the verbal replay because you can't see the parts in which the characters do not speak. Therefore, you don't get a feel for the whole conversation" (B.J.3). Her comments suggest that having utterances segmented and isolated removes them from the context and possibly interferes with her comprehension. In other words, Bemice would like to see the program operate like a VCR, which it can do. However, the transcriptions are only available when you stop the replay and click on the buttons for each individual utterance. In spite of her initial computer anxiety and apprehensions concerning the program's ability to help her improve her speaking skills, Bemice was generally pleased with her experience working with the program. When I asked her to rate her personal satisfaction on a scale of 1 to 10, Bemice replied, "I think it would probably be like an 8" (B.I2.28). Explaining why she gave it this rating, she said, "I guess it's just going back to the oral thing, it's not, it hasn't helped me in the oral. Like I learned a lot of vocab, I learned about Paris itself but I didn't think there was much oral" (B.I2.28). In addition to expanding her knowledge of culture and vocabulary, Bemice felt that her comprehension may have improved. Attempting to recall some incident or event that would suggest a change in her French since she started working with the program, Bemice said, Maybe some of the vocab that was in the program itself. I think... arroser, the watering of plants, that one. I don't know if it came on the first day, or if it came first sitting for the test, but since seeing that on the computer I've always remembered that... and I think the oral test I took just this Saturday, I think it was a little bit easier to understand. I don't know if that was because it was my second time through or the program. (B.I2.21) The interviewers for the oral test were from France and while the test format was the same, the material was different. If nothing else, this anecdote would suggest that Bernice's ear has become more attuned to continental French. However, perhaps even more interesting is Bernice's reference to the word arroser. For some reason this word seems to have become fixated in her mind. During the first interview 88 when I asked if she noticed any changes in her French since she started working with the program, Bernice answered, "I think I picked up some of the vocab because I remember there's one word arroser and I don't know why but I've remember it ever since I've seen it" (B.I1.16). Although the word appeared a couple of times in the program, it was first used metaphorically in an unusual context in the opening scene. This anecdote raises some important questions about the power of context and media, which can re/create these socio-cultural contexts, to influence acquisition and retention of the target language. Pursuing this line of questioning, I asked Bernice if she had more of a tendency to think in French since she started working with the program. She gave the following response: Maybe a bit more, sometimes. When I plan to talk to a teacher in French, then I'll think of my whole conversation in French first. And then now that I've gotten used to Philippe, every time I go in there I start talking to myself with the program. Like the last session, I couldn't find the microphone but I was just talking to myself anyhow. But I think I read the stuff [transcriptions, glossary and cultural notes] in French, then sometimes I think of it in French but sometimes it would be in English. (B.I2.22) In her cautious way, Bernice gives a tentative answer. Yet, there is a dramatic change in her behaviour. During the first sessions she hardly spoke. Her journal entries for these sessions suggest that she was feeling anxious or ill at ease in the context of the learning environment and in the context of the microworld she was invited to join. Obviously, during the last session Bernice was feeling very comfortable in both. Bernice's lack of anxiety was accompanied by an increase in her self-confidence to speak French. When I asked if she thought that her confidence to speak French had improved since she started working with the program, Bernice answered, "Yeah, I think so. I think it's a combination of the program and I think I mentioned to you that I'm taking on Saturdays a conversation course" (B.I2.23). Increasing her confidence to speak French was an important goal for Bernice. 89 She concluded her personal narrative by writing, "The more time that I spend in a French environment may be just what I need to increase my confidence in my own French abilities" (B.N.5). This statement hints at Bernice's beliefs regarding the role of self-confidence in target language use, the notion of "ability to speak French," and the importance of submersion in target language contexts. Bernice's beliefs determined to a large degree how she approached the experience of working with A la rencontre de Philippe. When I asked Bemice if this experience taught her anything about how she learns a second language, she replied, "I think I still leam better reading, seeing the language. Just hearing is not enough; that's how I've always learned" (B.I2.23). Bernice's belief that she learns and understands better by seeing the language prompted her to rely heavily on the transcriptions. Use of the transcriptions reinforced her focus on the form of the language. From there, Bemice proceeded to use strategies she had acquired over years of classroom second language instruction. Bernice's meticulous, analytical style of learning, her beliefs in how she best learns, and her need to reinforce her self-confidence played important roles in shaping her experience with the program. Bemice approached this learning situation accompanied by her perceptions of herself as a language learner, her personal learning style, her beliefs about languages and how she best learns them, her repertoire of learning strategies, her motivation, and her personality. All of these interrelated variables played a part in shaping her experience. In Bernice's mind, this experience did not net her any appreciable gains in her French language competency. A comparison of her pre-test and post-test results confirm her assessment. Yet, her experience, documented by her journal and the interviews, hints at subtle changes in her competency as well as in her perception of herself as a French speaker, i.e., her self-confidence. The post-test does suggest slight changes 90 in her sociolinguistic and discourse competence. Indeed, many of their features cannot be taught but only acquired through participation in a community of target language speakers. A la rencontre de Philippe offered Bernice the opportunity to participate to a limited degree in such a community. Her willingness to engage in this community and identify with her role in it not only made the experience enjoyable but may have enhanced the development of her sociolinguistic and discourse skills. The value of this experience for Bernice appears to have depended on her willingness to suspend her identity as Bernice the learner and become immersed in this fictive world. 91 Jean "I'm a bit of a shy person actually" (J.I 1.12). Jean made this comment as she sat across from me in my cramped office. Very articulate, Jean spoke softly with a mellifluous English accent. Finding herself on her own with her four children now young adults, Jean had returned to university to do a degree in French in preparation for her new career. She had done well enough on the language competency test to be admitted to the elementary French teacher education programme for the next academic year. Unfortunately, her spoken French was not adequate for her to achieve her original goal, "I wanted to get in immersion but that didn't happen... but then that's alright. I'm happy where I am" (J.I1.2). Jean's desire to improve her oral French in the hope of becoming an immersion teacher was a key factor in her decision to participate in the study. Jean's Language History As one might expect of a shy, private person, the narrative Jean wrote was brief, seldom digressing from the specific theme of her French language learning. It started out with an explanation of why she wanted to leam the language. As soon as I began to study French at the age of eleven, I loved the language, just as I have loved Latin. I enjoy studying these languages and writing, translating, reading and singing them. I am fascinated by language in general: messing about with words in English is great too, poetry, writing, etymology, word games. I wish to leam French, therefore, because I love the language. (J.J.I) As to what she would attribute her love of language, Jean was at a loss: I really don't know. My father was a quite clever man and my sister, my oldest sister, she was always very into the academic world. I don't know if it was their example. I don't remember particularly being read to as a child but I do remember stories. I must've 92 been....Well, it's just like a love of music, I guess. Can it be innate? (J.I1.12) For Jean, language learning was not merely an interest but something felt emotionally. Her love of language is so much a part of who she is that she wonders if it isn't inscribed in her DNA. In spite of her love of language as something affording private pleasure, Jean viewed language as being social. Explaining why it was important to her to learn French, she said, I really want to be able to speak well, not just write. I don't want it to be like the Latin I know. I want it to be a living language. So, I am really making efforts to learn to speak well and fluently, but also so that I can understand Francophones, wherever they come from—a variety of accents—whenever they speak fast in movies and things. (J.I 1.1) Jean wanted to be able to interact with French speakers and to participate in cultural events. To do this, she realized she had to work on her listening and speaking skills. In her narrative she wrote, I am about to graduate from [name of university] with French as my major, but feel that orally and aurally I am deficient. As I am hoping to teach French, it is very important to me to speak fluently and to comprehend fast native speakers. (J.N.I) For this reason Jean was ready to embark upon another sort of language learning experience. Jean had tried other ways of improving her oral skills. The previous summer she had taken two five-week immersion courses. In her narrative she had this to say about the experience: Immersion courses are the ideal way to learn to understand and to speak French. However, the degree of practice taking place is dependent on many variables. The size of the group of students in the session is very important, as the larger the group the fewer are the opportunities, both for one to speak and for one to hear French spoken by a native speaker, instead of by students like myself. The scenes in Philippe are invaluable as the characters are all native speakers of French. (J.N.I) Jean had been working with Philippe for nearly a month when she wrote her narrative, enabling 93 her to compare the two in terms of exposure to native speakers of French. Perhaps Jean's immersion experience would have been different if she had taken these courses in a French-speaking milieu. Jean had been on student exchange visits. Interestingly, she spoke of these in response to a query about what working with Philippe taught her about how she learned a second language: I'd been on little exchanges when I was a high school student. But certainly when I was in that stage of learning, I didn't have much exposure to native speakers. And I think that now I look back on it, it really is vital. I think, if you're learning the language, you leam the whole language, not just what's written to read a literature but to converse, to understand other people speaking. That I didn't have. (J.I2.2) Jean implies that to leam the whole language one needs the kind of exposure that comes from being a part of the community. If one places the answer in the context of the question, she also seems to be suggesting that Philippe provided this kind of exposure to a degree. Still, Jean's learning style was well suited to the second language classroom. In her narrative she wrote, My usual learning technique is painstaking. I need to know every detail of what I am reading or hearing, and will spend hours, if necessary, looking up vocabulary and trying to find the perfect expression. Probably this hinders me, for I get bogged down in minutiae. (J.N.I) Jean illustrated this point by recalling a high school experience: I remember earlier on in my French learning career when I was a student in high school that our teacher said that we should read for comprehension. It didn't matter if we didn't understand every word.. ..I could rarely bring myself to do that. I had to stop and look up every word which of course really slowed me down. So, that's the kind of person-learner I am, that I have to know every detail. (J.I 1.11) Jean would like to be able to follow the advice she has been given, "Listen to people, get the 94 general idea, and keep listening, keep listening and keep reading and not getting all the words" (J.I 1.11). She concluded, "It would probably make me more fluent" (J.I 1.11). In spite of the fact that Philippe gave her an opportunity to do just this, Jean found that old habits die hard. Jean's Work with Philippe Jean's movement through the program during her first session on February 19 was careful and thorough. She began by watching the video preview of the first scene, twice. Then she read the textual preview. After having viewed the first scene, she explored the "auto-tester," designed to help learners self-assess their comprehension. She relied heavily on the transcription feature and the glossary to understand what was being said. She made detailed notes in the on-screen notepad. In her journal Jean described her session as "most interesting," adding, "No doubt I spent much of my time familiarizing myself with the mechanics of the program, but it was quite 'user friendly,' so I soon succeeded" (J.J.I). Jean experienced a couple of technical problems. When the dialogue menu appeared at the end of the first scene, Jean made her choice and the program moved forward to the next scene. In order to review the first scene, Jean had to start a new game.2 Attempting to review the scene utterance by utterance, Jean had another difficulty. Rather than use the hypertext features especially designed for this task, Jean relied on the VCR-type controls to rewind and play the video, stopping on each utterance. This approach was not very efficient. When Jean clicked on the stop button, the utterance she wanted to see had already been spoken; so, when she hit the 2 The program refers to a "run-through" the video drama from the first scene to one of the endings as a "game." Participants commonly referred to their "fourth game," for example. 95 transcription button, the program displayed the next utterance. This meant that she was constantly rewinding, stopping, and activating the transcription feature. Jean's experience demonstrated that an introductory tutorial (in this case, a demonstration) is not sufficient; learners need to be reminded of the features as they work with the program. In spite of successfully accessing the suggestion button when she felt she needed guidance, Jean could have benefited from a "smart" suggestion feature which would have helped her use the program more efficiently. Despite these difficulties, Jean made frequent use of the transcription and glossary features. She would sometimes repeat words and phrases, especially those she looked up in the glossary. In her journal entry, she remarked, "I was very grateful to find that I could call up the conversation on the screen, for certain expressions eluded me, but, when I read them, I found that I knew all the vocabulary, it was just a question of being able to pick out the words in rapid or unenunciated speech" (J.J.I). Jean's problem was aural recognition in the context of everyday speech. Outlining her general strategy for the use of transcription feature, Jean commented on this problem again in her journal entry for the second session: I still need to call up the transcripts of the conversations. I read the conversations, make sure that I understand (they have been relatively straightforward today, though with some interesting colloquial expressions that I was unfamiliar with), then I play back the scenes to see if I can pick out all the words in the conversations. Comprehension is usually much better, but sometimes I can see why I have trouble as the words can be 'swallowed' and therefore indistinct. (J.J.2) Jean felt that one of the major advantages of the transcription feature was that it helped her make the connection between written form which she understood and the spoken form which squeezed 96 out certain syllables. Jean continued to use this strategy as she worked her way through her first and subsequent games. Jean's first game which spanned three sessions took over three hours to complete. Yet, she noted in her journal entry for the third session, "I was very surprised to find that the game ended when I advised Philippe to stay at his aunt's for a while. I was expecting the game to continue as I tried to find him a permanent apartment" (J.J.3). Jean's surprise would seem to be indicative of her engagement with Philippe's world and her commitment to help Philippe. Other indications of Jean's sense of engagement with the story emerged over the next two sessions. At several points for brief intervals, Jean spoke aloud to herself in French as she explored apartments and the Figaro, the interactive newspaper. Later, prior to the meeting with the rentals agent, when Philippe asked her who called, she chose M. Richard, but not before she moved the pointer between Mme. Soloniac and Dominique, as possible choices. This hesitation seemed to indicate a temptation to choose one of these in the hopes of accessing a scene she hadn't viewed before. Possibly her engagement with the story and her empathy for Philippe encouraged her to choose the answer she knew would have a positive impact on Philippe's circumstances. As Jean said later in an interview, she was there to help Philippe. In a notable shift from her established strategies, Jean copied all the information from the on-screen notepad into her own personal, paper notebook. In a subsequent interview Jean explained, I didn't always use the cahier on the screen. At first I did. But then that became an exercise in typing French and I didn't feel that that's where I needed improvement so I 97 just had this little list beside me and I didn't need to keep notes of the apartments and the prices. (J.I2.5) Jean was also becoming frustrated because of the amount of time she spent looking for apartments. She cited "going around the apartments" after the first time as the least motivating aspect of the entire experience. The repetition of this activity did nothing to enhance her engagement with Philippe's world and actually detracted from it. The way in which Philippe's world unfolds is very much reliant on the learner's sense of engagement with the story and identification with Philippe as a Active person. This sense of engagement influences the choices learners make which in turn influences the outcome of the plot. In the current session, had Jean thought to take the time to return Dominique's phone call she might very well have triggered access to the alternate scene with Dominique and Elisabeth and succeeded in reuniting the two lovers. As it turned out, this happened two months later. It is possible that Jean's growing frustration at this point with the repetition of time consuming tasks, unrelated to her goal of listening to French used in everyday contexts, diminished her sense of engagement with the microworld. As she hastened in the pursuit of her secondary goal, i.e., finding new scenes, she neglected to take action that might have brought this about sooner; the point being, that her impatience engendered by the repetition of tedious tasks and familiar scenes caused her to miss opportunities to access alternate paths and scenes. In other words, Jean's locus of engagement with the program shifted from the story itself and her accompanying role as Philippe's friend to the pedagogical context and her role as a learner. Jean commented on this situation in her journal entry for the sixth session. She wrote, 98 I felt that the time spent listening was what I could get the most out of. I seem to be stuck now; are there other avenues to pursue? I have had him stay at his aunt's, found a new apartment for him and followed Elisabeth to Dominique's, but can't seem to get on a new track? Is there one? (J.J.4) In her typically polite way Jean seems to be saying that she is wasting her time. Indeed, the video tape of this session gives the impression that it must have been terribly boring for her. The only scene she had an opportunity to listen to was the first one which she reviewed with the transcription, utterance by utterance. Because the presentation of events, i.e., the various scenes comprising the video drama, is governed by "time in the program" or "time in Philippe's world," she spent the rest of the session waiting for the next appointment—in other words, waiting for time in the program to progress to the hour of her next meeting with Philippe—and doing things she had done before. At the end of this 90-minute session, Jean had spent most of the time without hearing any French at all. Jean's predicament could also be examined from the point of view of learner autonomy. The program, at least from Jean's perspective, was controlling her movement through it and, in so doing, placing constraints on her autonomy. When I asked Jean what limitations or restrictions the program placed on her autonomy, she replied, "Well, you couldn't pursue what interested you, really, in some ways" (J.I1.10). She thought the program could have been improved for some one learning on their own by providing "enrichment," i.e., more opportunities to explore and interact, at least aurally (J.I 1.10). For example, when Jean went to an apartment or bakery, she would have liked there to be interaction among target language speakers that she could have engaged in, if only as an observer-participant. 99 Jean felt the program only afforded her "a small degree" of control over her learning, "because what you learn is there and fixed" (J.I1.8). In other words, the curriculum, in terms of the language to be learned, was previously determined by the authors of the program and, more specifically, by the writer of the screen play. It was the writer after all who determined the social situations to which she was exposed and established the contexts behind these situations. For those learning a language in a second language setting, it is the varied contexts of their everyday lives and the resulting social situations which comprise their curriculum. Had Jean actually been in Paris, she would have determined to a large degree the situations in which she wanted or needed to engage. In this way she would have established her own personal curriculum. Jean suggested in the interviews that she would have attempted to resolve this problem by providing more opportunity for exposure to target language speakers interacting in a wider variety of situations. Jean found that another important consideration for someone working on their own with this type of program was motivation: You'd have to be motivated and independent; it's just like doing a correspondence course. That can be a challenge and it's the same way working on your own with Philippe; [the challenge] is finding—making the time and keeping to it. (J.I2.6) Although Jean came across as a highly motivated learner, she missed a number of sessions. Jean began her journal entry for the sixth session by explaining that she "had to miss several sessions due to the pressure of term papers and exams, which are still ongoing!" (J.J.4). (At this point she had only missed two sessions.) She offered some insight into her autonomy as 100 a learner and her motivation as she elaborated on her sporadic attendance during an interview: I needed to get good marks in order to get into the teacher education programme. And so, my course studies were the things uppermost on my mind. And if I were late with an essay, then that would have priority, to get that in and to work on translation, because I needed to be up there to get into Education. (J.I1.2) Philippe was not her top priority. Discussing what she had learned from working with the program, Jean said, "I work much better when I have a deadline. I give priorities to things. Had this been a priority and I'd set time then I would probably have worked harder at it" (J.I2.6). By harder, Jean seemed to mean increased hours and regular sessions. She thought "twice a week or maybe even to have done it every day, if one had the time, would be the best thing" (J.I 1.2). Were she to have the experience to do over, Jean said, I would be more dedicated. I would go at it more. I would probably spend longer sessions, if possible, to get the maximum benefit. But I think the thing to do is to not spread it out the way I spread it out. Get the maximum within a certain amount of time so that I'm flooded with hearing Francophone speech. (J.I2.8) However, other things got in the way of her work with Philippe. To remedy this, Jean would have like to work with Philippe in conjunction with a class. This would have been better, because then I would've got the continuity that I've chosen not to give myself, basically. And that would've been something that I would've been determined to complete rather than putting aside in favour of other things that were more pressing. (J.I1.9) Jean needed external constraints. On the other hand, as a student, Jean had plenty of external constraints acting on her world. Her personal autonomy as demonstrated by her desire to work with Philippe succumbed to the pressures of these constraints from other areas. Jean only had so much time and energy, so she placed her needs ahead of her "wants". Jean's experience would 101 suggest that self-study requires a great deal of motivation. It requires a desire to learn strong enough to sustain a commitment to the endeavour and to make this commitment a priority in the face of all the pressures of everyday life. Jean could not keep the pressures of these other commitments at bay. Not the least of these was her family. There was a three-week gap between her sixth and seventh sessions and another three-week break between her seventh and eighth sessions "due to family affairs" (J.J.4). After this hiatus, Jean started a new game rather than complete the previous one. She reviewed each scene extensively using the transcription for nearly every utterance. It was as though she were starting over, but with one significant exception. It was in this session that she started to make "erroneous" choices, or "wrong answers, answers that I knew were not correct" (J.I 1.4), in an attempt to access alternate paths and scenes she hadn't viewed before. This did not set well with Jean. When I asked her why she would rate her satisfaction with the experience of working with Philippe a "7" out of a possible 10, she cited these reasons: "Because I was hoping to speak more. Because I had initial frustrations with it that I ironed out. And because I think... it was a bit frustrating to find that I could only access all the scenes when making mistakes" (J.I2.5). Thinking that "maybe 'mistakes' is too strong a word," she clarified by saying, "For example, not knowing where the check was for the plumber.... You knew full well where it was and, yet, in order to get a different scene, you had to say you didn't know" (J.I2.5). Jean's sense of engagement with the story is connected to the frustration she was 102 experiencing in this instance. True to the manner in which she had experienced the story, Jean had made choices which altered the course of events and the contexts in which she found herself. Going back and deliberately making choices that conflicted with her beliefs with the sole purpose of accessing new material, reduced her involvement with the program to an academic exercise. The frustration Jean was experiencing was a reflection of the tension between the two worlds: Philippe's world and the learning environment. That Jean felt frustration was probably an indication of the strong degree of engagement she felt with the Active world. The search for new material caused her to suspend her belief in this world as a place where she could go and interact, and to subsequently disengage herself from it. Of course, another possible explanation is that she was frustrated by the limitations of the program. In her last session on June 6, Jean continued the strategy of giving erroneous answers. It paid off well, yielding her two new scenes. Jean continued the game she had started during the previous session, reviewing the scenes using the transcription feature. Oftentimes, she reviewed segments again with just the sound, a strategy she had employed regularly. She concluded the game by finding an apartment for Philippe. Apparently, satisfied there were no more avenues to pursue, she ended her work with the program. Jean's Experience Throughout her life, most of Jean's experience learning a second language and, indeed, her exposure to the language itself has been in the classroom. Therefore, it is not surprising that when asked to describe the experience of working with Philippe her immediate reaction was to 103 compare it to classroom learning: I enjoyed it a great deal. It was challenging because it's different from French-in-Action2 and it seems it was geared to the way people really speak rather than towards the student. So it was a challenge to me because they spoke as Parisians speak. I found it was more real in that way. And I also enjoyed reading the historical notes and the notes about Paris in general. And also being able to rerun was good. Because, in French-in-Action, we had to present [it] in class, I couldn't rerun.... To call up transcripts was great. Well, I spent too much time on the transcript probably [laughing], trying to figure out exactly which word was which. But that gave me an idea of how language runs together when it's really spoken by Francophones instead of precisely by a teacher. (J.I 1.3) Jean's answer touched several themes which characterized her experience: exposure to "authentic" French as opposed to "teacher talk," her exploration of the cultural context, her autonomy as a learner, her use of the technical features, and her metacognitive insights. For Jean, the main thing that Philippe offered her was exposure to French as it is spoken by one group of native-speakers. In addition to this, it provided technical support to help* her understand the language used and the context in which it was used, e.g., the cultural notes and glossary explanations. The theme of exposure to "authentic" speech reappeared frequently during our discussions. For example, responding to the question, "If you were given the choice of taking a French course classroom style, including conversation classes,4 or working with a program like -French-in-Action is a video based language learning programme that Jean had been exposed to in a classroom setting. Jean and several other students I've talked to who had an opportunity to work with both Philippe and French-in-Action reported liking Philippe better because they felt the language was more natural—more the way they thought people really talked. In French-in-Action, the characters take great care to enunciate well and slowly, sentences are complete, and the use of slang or colloquialisms is practically nonexistent. 4Jean had been enrolled in a Saturday morning conversation class during the months she worked with Philippe. 104 Philippe, which would you choose and why?", Jean said, I thought Philippe had it over the conversation class because with Philippe you're always listening to Francophones speaking. And in a conversation class setting, you maybe have the prof who is Francophone and then the rest are Anglophones speaking French. And so, although your ear is hearing French all the time, only when the teacher is speaking do you actually hear correct French, I mean with all the imperfections, but anyway, as spoken by a French-speaking person....I thought Philippe was a much better medium for getting your ear tuned to French spoken. But on the other hand, I didn't have the opportunity to speak myself. (J.I2.9) Although Philippe occasioned the listening practice which Jean felt was so crucial to her learning, the lack of an opportunity to directly practice her speaking skills was a great disappointment. Jean had expected to interact verbally with the program as well. As she remarked, "It said interactive so I thought that meant not just hands but it meant speaking as well, you see" (J.I2.3). Her shyness prevented her from using one strategy that could have at least provided a form of speaking practice, "I suppose I could've repeated everything but then the people listening and if I'd been on my own in the room [laughing] it actually could've been alright. I could've done it, but that - it wasn't geared for that anyway" (J.I2.9). What Philippe was geared for was interaction with speakers of the language in the contexts of various situations. Jean also recognized the importance of the role of context both in her work with Philippe and in her language learning in general. If she were involved with a group designing a similar-type program, Jean said, "It would be much longer but I would not confine it solely to finding an apartment, I think. I would like to see more aspects of everyday life, if I could" (J.I2.1). Later, when I asked her how the program might be modified to make it better for 105 somebody learning on their own, she replied, "For me, more avenues to explore....other aspects of daily life" (J.I2.1). It wasn't just exposure to the language which was important to Jean but exposure to the language as it is spoken in a variety of everyday social situations. Philippe offered the one thing that a teacher in the classroom couldn't, "the everyday situation. That's impossible for a teacher to give you, unless [in] a video... but still, it's not the same thing really" (J.I2.1). Comparing the program to the classroom, Jean said, "Philippe is more natural and presented more natural situations, and the classroom is rather artificial, even if you're talking about everyday things and the prof is talking in French" (J.I1.9). The classroom is not necessarily an artificial context, but it is only one context. It became artificial when it was made to be something it is not. It was important to Jean to see how the language was used in "real life" contexts. She reported that the most motivating thing about the program was "the scenes where they were talking, interacting" (J.I1.6). On the other hand, the least motivating thing was going around to the apartments after she had done it the first time. Jean would have remedied this by exploiting the potential of the activity for social interaction. She noted, "A person could've shown you the apartment and talked to you about it and you could've, as you were looking, enriched your ear as well as seeing the written word and exploring the apartment" (J.I1.6). Jean wanted to be a participant in a social context where the language was being used as a means of communication. Jean felt the plot of the story was very important to her learning because of the information it provided about the social and cultural context. Asked how she thought the plot had 106 an impact on her learning, she replied, "It gave you a lot of insight into life in Paris and of how young people find an apartment, what apartments are like...and what people are doing for jobs and why.... I have visited Paris. It's been purely artificial.... I've never lived there as a native, you see. And this gives me an insight on what it's like to live there as a native" (J.I1.5). More than language, Jean was learning how these people lived. These insights were important to her understanding of the social context which in turn played a role in her understanding of the action and dialogue. Perhaps the most striking thing about these comments is the suggestion that Philippe offered Jean a feel for what it would be like to live in Paris, hinting at her degree of engagement with Philippe's world. Jean found the first scene "quite appealing", because it established the ambience and drew her into the story. She felt it was "a good one to have strong because then people's interest piqued" (J.I2.4). Applying her well developed literary skills, Jean was quick to analyse why this was so, "You had Elisabeth storming off in a fit of pique and you wanted to know why. And the two friends talking.... The ambiance where you are, the cafe on the sidewalk and the waiter, discussing how to find an apartment and the characters were portrayed in that scene. I think that was the best scene for me" (J.I2.4). Jean was introduced to the multi-layered web of social contexts that constituted the characters' lives. The richness of this complexity intrigued Jean and lured her into their world. There were other suggestions of Jean's engagement with these characters and their world. Her shyness did not prevent her from liking people. Explaining what it was about her personality 107 that made Philippe work for her, she said, "I enjoy helping people" and added with a tinge of tenderness, "Here I am, helping poor old Philippe" (J.I2.6). Earlier Jean had reported being able to identify with Philippe because "I have four children of my own in the same kinds of situations, trying to find jobs, trying to find apartments, and you know, it's difficult in [City] too" (J.I1.6). Jean's appreciation of Philippe's difficult situation was illustrated in her discussion of the scene where the realtor, M. Jacot, showed Philippe an apartment, "The scene with the realtor was painful when I decided not to tell Philippe that the journal had called. So, he didn't know he had a job and the realtor was being very difficult. That was a bit painful because you empathized with poor old Philippe" (J.I2.4). Jean added with a touch of stoicism, "But that's fine. People suffer that way." I asked her if it was painful because she got him in this situation. She answered, "Well, actually, I hadn't thought of that but — but yes, that could be. But it was painful because you can imagine what you were feeling, being Philippe, subject to this slimy guy asking all these questions" (J.I2.4). Jean's empathy for Philippe demonstrated not only her identification with him but her understanding of the social context. In this way Jean's engagement with the characters and the plot had an impact on her second language learning. Even though Jean said she couldn't recount any incident suggesting a change in her French language competency since she first started working with Philippe, our discussions in the interview setting pointed to several noteworthy phenomena. For example, during the first interview when I asked if she had noticed any changes in her French that she might actually attribute to her work with the program, she had this to say: 108 Yeah, I think some phrases. For example, the plumber's vous me preparer un cheque. It always seems to stick in my mind and I don't know why. Ridiculous, isn't it? So, this business of putting in me in meaning/or me, you will prepare a check for me. I would probably have said pour moi. But since it was in there, and then I got that.... And there are other expressions that I picked up. (J.I 1.10-11) Jean appeared to have been learning grammar items as she worked with the program. Her experience in this instance may offer some insight into how people "pick up" languages while living in a second language milieu. How does one account for the phenomenon where a semantic or grammatical item "seems to stick in [one's] mind"? In Jean's case this occurred after repeated exposure in the context of a social situation. Although Jean was participating in this situation from the periphery, she was nonetheless a participant with an interest in the outcome. It was important to Jean to fulfil her promise to help Philippe. Jean spoke of a similar phenomenon when I asked her if she thought she had more of a tendency to think in French as a result of working with the program. Before she related an anecdote to indicate she had, Jean reminded me that she had also been in a conversation class for two weeks, both morning and afternoon. In other words, it was sometimes difficult to attribute anything specifically to Philippe. Nonetheless, responding to the question, Jean said, "I did find in the summer that I would begin to say something or think of what I was going to say [and] how simply French would pop into my head. And you realize you're speaking to your family, so you change. So I think Philippe certainly helped me with that" (J.I2.7). Jean's work with the program, especially the transcription feature, gave her insight into how people actually speak, whether in French or in English. She noted "how language runs 109 together when it's really spoken by Francophones instead of precisely by a teacher" (J.1.3). This awareness, stimulated by her work with the program, prompted her to pay more attention to the way people spoke around her on a daily basis. As Jean explained: It [Philippe] did make me more aware of how English speakers also have a lot of variety and also throw away words. I became much more aware of that as well; so, that would improve my speaking to my students when I'm a teacher, in English and in French. Of course, I'm aware of how to speak well, so people can understand [as opposed to] the way we speak in our family situation. But it was fascinating. I really enjoyed it. (J.I2.8) Jean was reminded that the way we speak and the registers we use vary depending on the context of the situation. This awareness and, especially, the sense of knowing which form of language to use, and when to use it, can only be developed through exposure to a variety of social situations in different contexts. Although learners can be taught about this in the classroom, they can only experience it in the various contexts of the second language milieu. The program also enabled Jean to glean some metacognitive insights more directly related to her second language learning. She reported, "It's shown me where my deficiencies are and... it showed me avenues to improve on those deficiencies, i.e., speak with French speakers [laughing]" (J.I2.4). It is interesting that she made these comments in an affirmative response to the question, "Has working with the program affected your motivation to learn French in any way?" (J.I2.3). It would seem to be an indication of Jean's desire to learn the language that she found knowing what she had to improve, and knowing how to improve, motivating. These comments also offer some insight into her autonomy as a learner in that they suggest she was monitoring her language competency and taking charge of her learning. Moreover, it is important 110 not to overlook the metacognitive insight itself. Through her work with Philippe, Jean had a clearer notion of what she needed to do in order to improve her French language competency. In terms of her competency, Jean felt that her "listening skills must've improved quite a bit [in order] to decipher what they said [in the video]" (J.I1.12). Commenting on the post-test, Jean said, "It was easier to understand then. I didn't have to ask them to repeat [during the oral segment]. I think once or twice in the first test, I did. But I think I had a bit more of an ear" (J.I2.8). I followed up by asking if she thought Philippe had played a role in this. She replied, "I'm sure it did" (J.I2.8). Jean's perceived improvement in her listening comprehension was reflected in a slightly higher score on the post-test than on the pre-test. Unfortunately, Jean could not be so certain that her speaking skills had improved. Summing up her experience working with Philippe, Jean said, "I really enjoyed it. I got a lot out of it despite the fact that it wasn't quite what I was looking for in the sense that I wasn't able to speak" (J.I2.9). Nonetheless, it is interesting to note that Jean scored noticeably higher on the post-test in the category "intonation, delivery, pronunciation". Perhaps Jean's work with Philippe to improve her listening skills had an influence on her oral skills that she was unable to detect. However, this change could have been due to the conversation classes she was taking. It is important to note here that Jean was doing other things to improve her French, in addition to her work with Philippe. Besides taking courses in the French department all term, Jean had registered for a momings-only three-week immersion course in June and had signed up for a two-hour weekly conversation class with one of her professors. There were only three I l l students in this class. Yet, Jean felt that Philippe had it over the conversation classes because of the opportunity it presented for listening: I thought Philippe had it over the conversation class, because with Philippe, you're always listening to Francophones speaking. And in a conversation class setting, you maybe have the prof who is Francophone and then the rest are Anglophones speaking French. And so, although your ear is hearing French all the time, only when the teacher is speaking do you actually hear correct French.... the Anglophones speaking make a lot of mistakes. I thought that Philippe was much better a medium for getting your ear tuned to ah French spoken. But on the other hand, I didn't have the opportunity to speak myself. I suppose I could've repeated everything but then it wasn't really geared for that anyway. (J.I2.9) As for speaking, the conversation classes didn't offer her a lot of occasions to speak and Philippe offered her none. Perhaps the difference in Jean's "intonation, delivery and pronunciation" between the two tests is an indication of the important role listening plays in the development of oral skills. This suggests a need for research documenting experimentation which offers learners intensive and extensive listening opportunities from the early stages of their second language learning. Jean's experience suggests these listening opportunities should revolve around exposure to the language as it is spoken by target language speakers as they engage in situations in the various contexts of everyday life. (J.I2.9) If one were to judge from a comparison of the overall oral scores on Jean's pre- and post-tests, there was very little to show for all her hard work. In fact, she scored one point less on the post-test. Although she had gained points for her listening skills and her intonation, delivery and pronunciation, she had lost points in the areas of her discourse competency and her vocabulary during the role play segment of the test. In her discussion of the post-test, Jean 112 suggested that her shyness and a lack of familiarity with the social context might have conspired against her performance. As she explained: But once again, speaking to a stranger as though she's my best friend is a little difficult. In the role acting that we had to do, I had to try and prevent her from going home when she had three glasses of wine and I thought she couldn't drive. So I try and persuade her but, of course, I don't know this woman and I'm not that familiar with using tu, because, you know, I speak to strangers or people in authority, so I use vous. But I had to use tu and that was a challenge. (J.I2.7) The only contexts in which Jean regularly used her French were in the university setting interacting with people in authority. Being in situations where she would use another register had not been a part of her experience. It seems little wonder that Jean was so eager for exposure to French as it is spoken by Francophones in everyday situations. 113 Andrew Andrew might well have given George Bernard Shaw cause to reflect on his glib pronouncement that youth is wasted on the young. Self-assured and thoughtful, Andrew actively seeks out experiences. He delights in people and social interaction. With warmth, charm, and at times a lighthearted cynicism, he shares his thoughts on life and learning. For Andrew, it seems life is learning. Moreover, he has made it a game. He embarks upon an experience, he learns what he can including "how to play the game," and he moves on. Although he displays qualities that Shaw might have viewed as characterizing insouciant and impetuous youth, Andrew believes life is short and has no intentions of wasting any of it. Andrew saw one of the notices posted on bulletin boards in the Arts building. I can only imagine what he was thinking as he read it; yet, I suspect something about it appealed to his sense of play and adventure. Andrew told me later that he associated language learning with social interaction and play. Certainly, the practical considerations must have crossed his mind. He was missing all the labs scheduled for his introductory French course because of his tight timetable. When he telephoned me to get more information, he had already made up his mind to participate. Andrew started immediately with intensive two hour sessions and had finished working with the program when most of the participants were only getting started. Andrew's Language History Andrew "was bom in 1974 to Anglo-Canadian parents" and raised in a middle-class intercity suburb (A.N.I). He hated school and took delight in being "the toughest guy" in his 114 neighbourhood. The first question I asked Andrew in the interviews was what he disliked so much about school: School? It was just something that I had no interest in doing. I'm not a person who likes to sit around. Really. And there's a lot of sitting around in school. I don't know, it just wasn't the thing for me. I would much rather be playing basketball than be sitting in a classroom. And it was always that way pretty well. (A.I1.1) School denied Andrew movement and, hence, personal freedom. He would have preferred an activity requiring a more physical form of expression. On the other hand, Andrew did labour intensive work from a young age. It was this experience that showed him not only the value of a university education but the necessity of doing well in school. "French was a necessity" (A.N.I), because he needed his grade 11 credit in order to gain admission to university. Despite his lack of interest in school, Andrew maintained good marks in French, probably because the class was devoted grammar study. He saw grammar as logical concepts, noting, "I have no problems with [logical concepts], never did. What I see as the only thing you're doing in high school French...is the simple a, b, c, put 'em together, there you go, there's the answer. [I] never had a problem with that" (A.I 1.1). Commenting on his grade 8 experience, Andrew said, "I had the best marks in the class and the most hours in detention" (A.N.I). It would seem his school experience failed to provide the challenge he needed. In grade 10 for reasons totally unrelated to language learning, Andrew decided along with a group of friends to participate in an exchange programme with Quebec. In his narrative he described the experience this way: I spent two weeks in Thetford Mines with a Quebecois (with whom I still correspond) 115 and spoke five to seven words of French in this time-span. The experience was great. Great people, great fun. I, in return, of course, only spoke English with my billet when he was in [my home town]. The theory behind the exchange failed to some extent in the language department, but otherwise met every criterion I had wished. The exchange had little impact upon my learning of the language, but perhaps other parts of my psyche were positively affected. (A.N.I) Later, in the first interview, Andrew explained what he meant by this: When you go and actually see people speaking another language, you do actually realize it wouldn't be bad if I could have a conversation.... Although I didn't leam any French on the exchange, that's the first time I'd ever been in a foreign language situation; I mean, anywhere where it would've been useful to have another language. That's what I mean by that. It affected me but not in increasing my French language abilities. (A.11.2) Commenting on the effect the experience had on his motivation to leam French, he remarked that "just meeting fun people, whom you could do more things with if you'd spoken the language is motivating in itself (A.I 1.2). The exchange experience, which spoke to Andrew's sense of play, might have influenced his decision to take on another language in grade 11. Andrew claimed to have started studying German because he "drove Volkswagens and this seemed (and still seems) to be reason enough" (A.N.I). In this class Andrew was up against a new method of language learning, "an attempt to give one the skills to function within a language without 'learning the language"' (A.N.I). In his journal Andrew noted that this made him uncomfortable because of his love of logic, rules, and order. Commenting on the frustration this method caused him, Andrew said he didn't understand why or how what he had said worked, therefore, he couldn't generalize these structures to other contexts. The following year, Andrew dropped French to take grade 12 German through a correspondence course. Recounting the experience in his narrative, Andrew wrote: 116 This was for the simple reason that it gave me a free block to do as I wished. Theoretically, the free hour was for doing my correspondence work but sports often managed to gain priority. I handed in the first assignment a few weeks late and that was the end of correspondence. I believe I was still a little too wild for a self-controlled work environment. (A.N.2) Reflecting on the experience, Andrew said, "First off, you have to have real motivation. You have to have some way of curbing people, to say, 'Okay, you are going to do this.' And then, they can do it themselves" (A.I1.4). For Andrew 'real motivation' appeared to be some external force which acted as a control on the learner. After the correspondence course fiasco, Andrew stayed away from languages until his second year in university, when he enrolled in a German course. It was during this time that he became interested in the idea of studying abroad and spent his third year in Bonn. In Germany I took many hours of German language courses. Not only did I try and learn German in the classroom but also in life. I avoided the English clique. In the time I lived in Germany, I went from looking up the word 'pillow' to handing in essays about German literature. I could speak German by the end of it all. I can speak German. I am happy to say that. I can speak German. (A.N.3) The experience had a profound effect on him as a person as well as a language learner. In the first interview he talked about how the experience had changed his perception of himself as a language learner: I realized that I could [laughing]. I mean, I never saw a second language as something that you could actually use. I'll admit that. I thought they were joke things where you kind of put them together. They're kind of neat and cute, but in Germany I was able to talk to people. (A.11.7) The experience enabled him to see language learning as well as other things from a different perspective: 117 It changes one, because one then has a whole new view on everything, even the little things. You realize these people are in a foreign language setting. You can see people in a different way and you realize what they're doing. Just being a year in a foreign country opens your eyes to everything. And I also realized that I have the choice to do anything. Anything you ever wanted to do, I mean... You could go across the ocean and do whatever you want. There are really no boundaries anymore. (A.I1.8) Being in the environment where the language is spoken can be a powerful experience. Andrew's comments suggest this type of immersion is crucial to understanding the language and how native-speakers use it to conduct the business of everyday life. Moreover, for Andrew the experience was personally empowering. It offered him a new way of seeing the world as well as a new understanding of how he might interact with it. During his year abroad Andrew studied the language intensively in the classroom and continued to work on it in real life situations. As a result of his newfound self-confidence as a language learner, Andrew returned to Canada and enrolled in an introductory French class. In his narrative he wrote about his reasons for wanting to leam French: Now that I have realized that I am not language inept, I want to leam Canada's other official language. While in Europe it was almost embarrassing to say that I was a Canadian and my French was almost nonexistent. Perhaps on patriotic grounds I decided that I must at least leam enough French to understand my Prime Minister in his native tongue. (A.N.3) Besides, Andrew explained, "I hope to go to Quebec next year. And, I'm just interested in French in general" (A.I2.19). Having had the successful experience of learning German by immersing himself in the language and culture, Andrew intended to leam French the same way. After all his years of classroom study, Andrew's French was not very good. In his narrative he wrote, "By the end of my high school French learning, I had had verb conjugation 118 and a small sum of vocabulary ingrained onto my brain. The backs of cereal boxes still posed threatening vocabulary" (A.N.I). When he started working with Philippe, he had just completed one semester of first-year university French. He concluded his narrative by writing, "To say the least, my present exposure to French is far from exciting" (A.N.3). Andrew hoped this would change through his exposure to Philippe. Andrew's Work with Philippe On January 19, Andrew had his first two-hour work session. Despite problems getting around in the program as quickly as he wanted and forgetting how to use the glossary function, Andrew had no serious technical difficulties. He reviewed each scene using the transcription. In his journal entry he gave this assessment of his comprehension: My French is poor. This does not come to me as a surprise, but understanding even the gist of the segments is sometimes difficult. I am very unused to the French spoken on the video....The only French I ever hear is my French professor and sometimes news on Radio Canada. (A.J.I) Andrew came to the end of his first game early in the second session. His reaction was one of surprise and disappointment. He said, "It's a lot shorter than I thought. I thought it was going to be a lifelong story. I'm going to start again. That was too easy. Did I just pick the wrong ones [choices]; therefore, it was too easy" (Andrew, audio-tape, session 2)7 Perhaps the reference to "game" created the expectation that he would have his problem-solving skills challenged to the extent that the more sophisticated video games would challenge their players. In his journal entry for the second session, he wrote: By the end of the session I finished the program a second time (I finished the original 119 game and a second game) and felt very comfortable with the program. Now that I am comfortable with the technical part of the program, I think the program will be more useful for language learning. I am now more interested in listening to the French and exploring the program's possibilities.... I think I am ready to 'play' with the program rather than continue 'working' with it. (A.J.2) Explaining what he meant by "play," Andrew said: Well, when you first get there, you have [to] figure out what you're doing.... You're worrying about the technical part of it. And you're not so much getting to the point where you're saying: "Okay, leam in the manner that you want to." You're being forced to do things. Where, as time goes by, working with anything you start to feel comfortable and you're able to do what you want to do. And so, you start to play instead of work. (A.I1.9) Andrew's comments suggest a war of the wills between him and the program. He associated "play" with taking charge, doing what he wanted to do. Play also refers to the creative process by which he shaped the material to suit his agenda, and the subsequent learning. Having this control, or autonomy, was an important aspect of Andrew's engagement with the program as a means of learning. In his journal entry Andrew again reflected on his comprehension: I am now rather used to the accent used by the actors (the plumber's remains a mystery). I find that I do not have nearly as much trouble understanding the French without the transcripts. I am not saying that my French has made a great advancement, but my understanding of these particular accents has increased. (A.J.2) He concluded his journal entry by writing, "I am looking forward to my next session, but I am not sure how many more times I will be interested in coming. I am starting to think that the 7 possible endings will quickly be reached. We will see" (A.J.2). Andrew's engagement with the program appeared to be limited to conceiving it as a game in which the goal was to reach as many of the endings as quickly as possible. Throughout the session Andrew had been making use 120 of the transcription feature. Although he reviewed the scenes utterance by utterance, he went through them quickly, establishing a brisk "read and click" pattern. The video tape of this session conveyed a sense of his growing restlessness. His restlessness and waning interest appeared to be related to the business of finding an apartment. At one point near the beginning of the session, he said, "I'm wasting my time writing down all these addresses and I'm going to get bored doing it" (Andrew, session 2, tape notes). Near the end of the session as he was visiting apartments, he muttered, "Boredom is slowly setting in here." This might have been overcome to a degree by having the renter present to show the apartment. For example, intrigued by Mme. Soloniac's voice on the answering machine, Andrew went to see the apartment she had for rent. As he performed the necessary operations at the keyboard, he said, "I want to go meet this lady who has such a great accent." It seemed as though he expected her to be there to show him the apartment. Once in the apartment he exclaimed, "Doesn't she want to say 'hello' or anything?" Andrew was counting on the possibility of social interaction with this woman or at least of hearing her talk. This moment of blossoming interest and its potential to engage Andrew was lost. After he started a new game, Andrew spent most of his third session going through the Figaro, telephoning numbers he found there, and visiting apartments. He would have liked to cut and paste information from the newspaper onto the pages of his notepad. Certainly, this would have speeded up the process and relieved the tedium. With growing frustration, he listened to the telephone ring with no one to answer it and read the repeated messages on the screen, telling him 121 that access had been denied to certain streets. Perhaps he had the address down wrong or on his journey he had failed to trip some mechanism which would have allowed him access. The video data revealed that Andrew was not particularly methodical or thorough in his search. Nonetheless, he appeared to take it seriously and kept at it as though he were performing the steps of some logical operation: Do A, then B, etc. Finally, Andrew stumbled on the addresses for a couple of the rental agencies and bakeries. The mild excitement Andrew expressed as he commenced exploration of this new possibility may be an indication of his sense of engagement. Certainly, his concern for time in the program would suggest engagement. As he typed the addresses of the rental agencies, he said excitedly, "I have to go there! What time is it? [He looked at the clock in the program.] We still got lots of time" (Andrew, Session 3, video tape notes). Awhile later, he said, "What time is it? Oh, 20 minutes" [until the meeting with Philippe]. A few minutes later he remarked, "Time's flying here. It's a very swift clock now." Then, he found a bakery. Upon seeing the notices, he exclaimed, "Oh, I can look here too!" As he started to write down the information about the apartments to rent, he glanced at the clock, "Time...ohh...I hope it's not pulling me away. I'm supposed to be there at eleven." His concern that the program might automatically take him to the next meeting with Philippe was realized when he clicked on the map to go somewhere else. This incident was noteworthy because it illustrates the tension between engagement with the program as a drama and engagement with the program as a technology which provided as well as controlled the pedagogical environment. 122 Throughout this session there were a number of clues regarding his listening comprehension. For example, as he listened to one scene, he snickered a couple of times in appropriate places. During another, he laughed as Philippe read the poem accompanying the flowers left at Elisabeth's door. When Philippe's aunt told him to be sure to turn off the water and electricity before he left her apartment each time he came over to water the plants, Andrew said, "Yes, Mother." His journal entry confirmed that he was understanding more: During this session I only used the transcripts so that I could write down the addresses and phone numbers. This does not mean that I understood every word which was said, but I understood what was said to the point that I know what was happening and [this] enabled me to make the choices I needed to. I have also memorized much of the program. (A.J.3) Andrew has progressed from needing the transcription to being comfortable enough with his understanding to forego its use. Moreover, he is relaxed enough about his learning to be satisfied with getting the gist of the conversation. In our conversation at the end of the session, Andrew talked about how he felt the program was helping with his oral comprehension. That first scene, I can understand all the words now without the transcript. I have no problems; it's mainly perhaps because I've memorized what they're saying. Anyway, when I came in here, I did not understand anything they said in that first scene. I've learned scenes, and the accents are a lot easier to understand now. Even if they are saying new things, the accents are a lot easier to understand just because I'm used to them. With anybody in a second language, if you hear their accent over and over again, you get used to it. Even the simplest of verbs, you get used to [them]. (Andrew, Session 3, video tape notes) Repeated exposure to the language was instrumental in Andrew's learning. His work with the program suggested that he was content to rely on implicit learning rather than go back to the 123 beginning of a scene and study it word for word using the transcription and the glossary. Commenting on the latter approach, he said: Yeah, that's what I was doing the first few times. Today I didn't do that at all...many of the scenes I had already seen also. So I didn't need that at all, but at the end I've gone through one where the aunt, when you tell her the truth and she starts complaining. I mean, I didn't get everything but it's obvious she's complaining: you're not supposed to smoke, you're not allowed to listen to a lot of music. You know what she's going to be saying also, it's living off cliches, of course, she's the typical upper-middle-class.... (Andrew, Session 3, video tape notes) Andrew has described an instance in which the context was crucial to his understanding. By identifying elements of the context and relating them to his own lived experience, Andrew got the gist of the conversation and that was enough for him to be able to function in the situation, i.e., advise Philippe. Andrew's journal entry for the fourth session began with the announcement that he was terminating his work with the program: Watching the same scenes is beginning to bore me. The program's time is coming to an end. I plan to return to finish my last game but that will be the end. If one could skip the scenes that one has seen already, one would be more likely to investigate further. I have listened to the beginning a few times too many!... I find I spend far too much time writing down notes and playing with the computer. I would prefer to be spending more time listening to French. (A.J.3) Andrew had spent most of his time in the last two sessions looking for an apartment for Philippe. At one point near the end of this session, he used the suggestion button. This was rare for him. It must have been an act of quiet desperation, because he said, "I've no where else to go. What do I do now?" (Andrew, Session 4, tape notes) A moment later he sighed audibly and said, "I'm just waitin' for time to pass....Sounds silly." The clock showed time in the program to be 10:35 a.m. 124 It appeared that Andrew thought he had to wait until 11 o'clock before he could go to join Philippe at their next appointment. Was this because Andrew had "bought into" the notion of time in the program, or because he suspected the computer would deny him access if he went too early? He had never gone to any of the meetings much before the arranged time. Andrew's dilemma points to the notion of tension between engagement with the program as a microworld and engagement with the program as a pedagogical environment. Despite reaching his satiation point, Andrew still displayed evidence of engagement with the program. For example, he continued working until I had to come over to remind him that the Centre was closing for the day. He came back for one more session in order to finish the game he had started near the end of this session; he was under no obligation to do so. At one point the telephone appeared not to be working. His concern appeared to be indicative of involvement with the program. In addition to this, his choices reflected his sense of engagement. When he had to advise Philippe whether or not to go to the reconciliation meeting with his girlfriend, Elisabeth, he pondered the choices. He moved the mouse pointer from one choice to another, sometimes hesitating on one, moving to another, then returning to the previous one. This vacillation could have been an expression of the tension between his desire to find a new path and his concern for Philippe's destiny. Finally, he settled upon a neutral choice, telling Philippe, "C'est a toi de decider."5 Even with his interest in the program dissipating, it appeared that Andrew could be engaged momentarily by specific situations. What is noteworthy about this session is that his 5 Translated this means "It's up to you to decide". 125 flagging interest highlights those aspects of the program which reinforce his sense of engagement. Clearly, operating according to time in the program, using interactive tools such as the telephone, and making decisions which implicated his values heightened Andrew's sense of engagement and drew him back one last time. Andrew's final session only lasted long enough for him to finish the game he had started in his fourth session. Later, he explained why he stopped when he did: I'd got to the point where I was going, "I don't really want to listen to this [laughing] anymore." Once you've heard it so many times you get to a point where you say, "This is pointless. This is not gonna be useful to me anymore." It's a short life and there's lots of other ways [to learn]. You can go and hear other French people speaking and what not. You just get repetitions. It gets boring. (A.I1.9) Nonetheless, Andrew would have been prepared to consider learning French with other programs like Philippe. In his journal he wrote, "I would be interested in doing the same kind of program with a new theme. Perhaps, Le voyage de Jean ou L 'Amour de Monique" (A. J.3). What was it about Andrew's experience with Philippe that would interest him in doing another program of this type despite the restlessness and boredom he experienced? Andrew's Experience Andrew's work with Philippe was coloured to a large degree by his language learning experiences in Germany. In other words, Andrew knew what it was like to learn a language in the everyday contexts of an environment where it is the principal means of communication. Although he felt that Philippe was "kind of like a watered down, tame version of what it's really gonna be like" (A.I1.11), in his final journal entry Andrew wrote, "The program was enjoyable 126 but, in my eyes, will never quite compare with actual interaction with French native speakers" (A.J.4). Yet, Andrew saw Philippe as being able to afford him a degree of interaction. In an interview he said, "You can get a feeling of T am actually in here interacting and I have some control.' And, you feel, 'It does actually make a difference what I do'" (A.I1.16). Andrew gave the impression that having the control he required in order to interact as well as a sense of agency enhanced his engagement with the program. His engagement also "depended a lot on daily mood" and first "getting comfortable with the program" (A.I 1.16). Getting comfortable with the program as a techno-pedagogical tool enabled Andrew to make decisions based on what he wanted to do. Unfortunately, the opportunities for interaction had a down-side: This interaction brings about an inconvenience as I found myself spending plenty of time fiddling around with writing down addresses and phone numbers and less time listening to French. Another time-wasting problem I encountered was having to listen to the introduction every time I began the program. If it is meant that one finishes the program more than once, then there should be a possibility to skip the sections which were already viewed repeatedly. (A.J.4) Not only did the repetition of these tasks become monotonous but they took Andrew away from his goal of listening to French in real-life situations, eroding his sense of engagement. The notions of utility and time-well-spent were directly related to Andrew's motivation to work with the program. As Andrew explained, I'm there by choice.... There were very few other things pushing me to leam. It was my own choice and I'm not a person who... I'd feel really badly if I'd spent 2 hours here and gone away thinking, 'That was pretty useless.' (A.I2.30) 127 Andrew had already made it clear that he was a person of action. Moreover, his desire to learn French was related to the kind of person he was, i.e., a very social person who saw language learning as a means to expand the horizons of his world and interact in it more fully. He was also very conscious of his personal autonomy. As he told me, if he thought his time were not being well spent, "I'm not a person who would be afraid to say, 'Okay, my time is precious, I'm leaving'" (A.I2.28). Therefore, wasting time was not just a question of boredom for Andrew but very much related to his perception of who he was as a person. It is also noteworthy that the activities which Andrew considered a waste of time were those which he perceived as impeding social contact with the characters in the microworld. When Andrew was not being exposed to social interaction, he felt his opportunities to learn were minimized. Despite these concerns, Arthur felt he had benefited from his work with Philippe. Assessing the outcomes, Andrew wrote in his journal, I doubt that my French has improved greatly. As all learning, I have improved in particular areas. My understanding of the segments has greatly improved. Some of the vocabulary in the segments I now have added to my knowledge, and the accents of the performers are more easily understood. (A.J.4) In the second interview Andrew explained he knew that his comprehension was improving because when he got to a new scene he understood it better than new scenes he had encountered in previous sessions. As a related benefit, he reported, "You feel more relaxed in not understanding everything" (A.I2.22). When I asked him if he would consider his work with the program a success, Andrew responded by saying, "I definitely learned how people say such and such when they want to do things" (A.I2.27). Elaborating on this statement, he said, 128 I learned a lot of the ideas of dropping syllables and letters which I was not familiar with. I did not realize really.... Just listening even, not so much to French but to language in general. I don't see a transcript and I don't realize how many sentences don't really get finished. They're just kind of hanging...and it's true of all languages....And I found that interesting, the idea that people just kind of say a jumble of words and that's the answer already, even though they're not full sentences. (A.I2.27) Andrew was able to gain these insights because of the transcription feature which enabled him to compare the language as people use it in everyday communication situations to a more standardized written form. All in all, the transcription feature played a pivotal role in Andrew's learning. He reported "not [being] able to just hear it and understand what they're saying fully without at least seeing it once, usually" (A.I 1.13). Moreover, he noted, "There's also a point where I want to know 'how do I actually write that'." The transcription feature not only met these needs but illustrated the discrepancies between standard and conversational French. As Andrew explained, "What I do like about the transcript is it shows you where they're dropping the syllables off... because you realize that, okay, although he's not saying it, it's supposed to be there" (A.I 1.13). Another noteworthy aspect of the transcription feature was that it acted as scaffolding. In fact, from a Vygotskian perspective, Andrew appears to be operating in his "zone of proximal development" (Vygotsky, 1978). As scaffolding, the transcription feature is helping him to operate in the zone beyond his level of proficiency. Andrew looked forward to a time when the scaffolding could fall away; he remarked that "getting everything transcribed was hopefully not going to be necessary" (A.I2.30). While the transcription feature helped him understand and leam about language use, 129 narrative features also facilitated his comprehension. Speaking of the context of the main story line, Andrew said, "It's also simple enough and superficial enough that you don't have to worry about not understanding the really deep concept of what's happening here" (A.I 1.12). Having chosen thematic elements which transcended cultural differences, e.g., relationships, employment problems, and living arrangements, the developers increased the likelihood of users understanding, because they already possessed a lot of the contextual background knowledge, given that these problems are common to young people in most western societies.6 Commenting on the benefits for his listening comprehension, he added, That is definitely a plus. I mean, you can work on cliches and... you know what's going to happen, almost. You obviously have the decisions and choices, which you also get to make, but you know what they're going to be. You know he's goanna either have problems getting this place or that.... It's all very foreseeable. (A.I1.12) Andrew's comprehension was enhanced because his own experience provided the clues he needed in order to understand the general context. Notwithstanding his perceived gains in listening comprehension, Andrew was not quite convinced that a program like Philippe was exactly what he needed at this stage of his French language learning. In his journal Andrew concluded his reflection on his work with the program by writing: Looking back upon the time I spent in front of the program, I am not sure if it is the most effective learning form for myself. I believe that the program would probably be more beneficial to people at a higher language level. At this point I could probably benefit greatly from simple vocabulary and grammar learning. I would at this point prefer to learn 6Perhaps non-western cultures would benefit from programs sensitive to their understanding of the world. 130 a clearer French and avoid slang and 'lazy speech'. I agree that recognizing this type of speech is important but it may be more important in the future than at the moment. (A.J.4) Although it sounds as though Andrew would have preferred the classroom at this point, one advantage Philippe had over the classroom was that the listening opportunities it afforded "enable[d] him to associate the words with the sounds" (A.I1.10). Unfortunately, neither Philippe nor the classroom measured up very well when it came to providing speaking opportunities. As for the introductory course he was currently taking, Andrew remarked, "I've never had to say anything.... I have just because at points I've waved my hand and spoken French just for the heck of it" (A.I2.32). On the other hand, Philippe hasn't afforded Andrew any opportunities to work on his speaking skills. As Andrew explained: If I compare this [Philippe] to the idea of me going to Quebec in the summer, the big thing is my having to construct a sentence on my own. You just don't have to do that [with Philippe]. It's extremely difficult there [in Quebec], impossible to do with Philippe. But that was the only thing that's really missing from the experiences you can have on a very superficial level in a foreign language situation. (A.I 1.8) Yet, for learners working on their own this is a major lacuna. Andrew saw a solution but it would not benefit learners who for a variety of reasons must work independently: I'd recommend [the classroom and Philippe] parallel to each other. I wouldn't recommend either one on its own because, once again, [in the classroom] you get the streamlined how to make a sentence. You know, the a + b and move it around and how to do that. Whereas with Philippe, you're actually using it. You're hearing and comprehending what the sentence is and new situations and what not.... I've found with Philippe you get more of a 'learn how to get to what ends you want to get to'. You get a feeling of what it might be like to be in a French community, which I'm interested in. I'm not all that interested in being able to learn how to create a sentence and the correct 131 relative pronoun or what not. I mean it's an important part. You can't skip over it entirely but it's a lot more interesting to listen to Philippe and his stories. (A.I1.10-11) One way for future programs, based on the Philippe prototype, to address the needs of autonomous learners would be to include a teaching system offering a grammar component. In a discussion of learner autonomy, Andrew once again described the experience of working with Philippe by comparing it a classroom situation. Commenting on the degree of control he experienced with the program, he said, "Total opposite from classroom situations where you're going with the slowest person in your class, usually.... A very big plus in my eyes is not having to wait. I'm used to waiting in learning situations, everybody is" (A.I 1.14). With Philippe Andrew can progress at his own pace as well as tailor the learning to suit his own needs. As he remarked, You can make this program go back over things as many times as you want and you're not gonna annoy the teacher and you're not gonna be annoying the other thirty people in the class.... On the other side, you don't have the other people saying, 'Can you repeat that again, and again, and again, and again.' It really drags you down. (A.12.20) At various times Andrew has hinted at the importance he placed on his autonomy as a learner. Here he suggested that not being able to proceed at his own pace could have a negative impact on his motivation. Curiously, Andrew, a highly motivated second language learner who prized his autonomy and personal freedom, felt the need for external constraints to motivate him to learn in classroom settings. Andrew reasoned, You can't avoid the fact that this motivation is: You have to get the marks, you have to take the test, you have to learn, which is missing in this case.... If you would've said, 132 "You're going to write a test on Philippe, not on general comprehension but on Philippe," I would have learned more. (A.I1.15) Andrew compared the situation to watching a movie as a leisure activity as opposed to watching a movie in a lecture. He concluded, Motivations are obviously different....Plus you focus on different things....You purposefully realize things that people say and drop them into your memory.... I would notice Philippe has problems with such and such and I would've drawn it down in my memory a lot more. (A.I1.15-16) Andrew would have been learning more content but would he have been learning more language? Andrew also noted that an extrinsic form of motivation like tests can have a negative impact on interest. He gave the example of people who will read a book for fun but, if they know they will have a test on it, it's a different matter. Andrew made a distinction between the kind of learning he did in the classroom and that which he did with Philippe. Speaking of the introductory French course which he was taking, Andrew said, "I think that [classroom] learning...is far different from the learning that it takes to understand Philippe, to be able to sit down and actually listen to everything and continue on through the program. They're very different things" (A.I2.32). The major distinction is that with Philippe he was learning the language in the context of everyday situations. If he were to interact, he had to have some understanding of what was happening. Moreover, as Andrew put it, "It was a way to leam that I couldn't really do in any other fashion" (A.I2.25). The classroom presented another context, one with which Andrew was familiar and in which he could engage rather successfully. He complained about his course being elementary, but reasoned, "Maybe I'm like a 133 senior student so I know how to do this.... It's not a difficult thing" (A.I2.32). In other words, Andrew had learned how to do school; he knew what was expected of him in the classroom context and had developed a repertoire of successful strategies through experience. Philippe, on the other hand, was similar to learning in the second language environment and called for a different approach. At various times throughout our discussions Andrew alluded to yet another distinction, one between language learning and other kinds of learning. First of all, Andrew believed languages are social things best learned in social situations. Nonetheless, learning the grammar, the logic and rules, was still very important to him. He reported saying something in conversations with native-speakers and not understanding how or why it worked. He would then go back to the grammar book and figure it out. Reflecting on his need for logic, rules and order, he said, "When I think of language learning...it doesn't seem as logistical7 as the learning I do in the superior fashion" (A.I 1.6). Andrew seemed to be saying that the process of learning a second language in the environment doesn't seem to as reliant on understanding the logic as is learning sciences and engineering in a formal institutional setting. For Andrew, language learning could be accomplished in large measure through 7Andrew uses the word "logistical" to refer to rules and order, i.e., the grammar. He also uses it to refer to the logical processes involved in applying the rules to understand the workings of language, i.e., how to put elements of the language together in order to express meaning. For Andrew it seems to be almost a mathematical algorithm in which if he follows the steps in the logical order he gets the answer. He generalized this notion of "logistics," or "logistical learning," to apply to learning in classroom settings, especially in the sciences where you leam rules and their logical application within a system. By the "superior fashion" he seemed to mean not only study in a formal instructional situation but studying the sciences. 134 interaction with native-speakers in a community of which he was becoming a part. Andrew saw this kind of learning as "a way of life [in] that you're dealing with people...you're interacting., .you're opening a more social door than lots of other learning that I know" (AI.1.7). As Andrew explains, he found this kind of learning to be fun, "You're learning in the leisure fashion. You're learning about leisure in my eyes rather than learning about work.... I just don't see it very much as work in general" (A.I1.7). Moreover, this kind of learning nurtured Andrew's sense of freedom and personal autonomy. Speaking of his experience in Germany, Andrew said, "You get this idea [that] all barriers are pretty well fallen now, even languages" (Ail.8). What Andrew liked about Philippe was that it gave him an opportunity to engage in this kind of learning — to a degree. He could at least participate on the periphery of Philippe's personal world. In the final analysis, this was Andrew's ultimate second language learning goal, to participate as a member of a second language community. 135 Diane and Katelyn Diane and Katelyn decided to work together. Both students in the French department, they not only had been in the same classes from time to time but had collaborated on various course assignments. Both wanted to become French teachers. For this reason they attended an information session on a French language teacher education programme where they first learned about Philippe and this research project. Philippe interested them immediately because they hoped it would offer them the exposure to spoken French which they felt they desperately needed. They signed up for the research project before they left the room. In addition to the desire to become teachers and improve their spoken French, Diane and Katelyn had other things in common. Both had a parent whose mother tongue was French. Both were fluent in French in their early childhood but subsequently lost the language after moving to an English-speaking area. Both had been studying the language ever since in the hope of once again being able to speak it fluently. Katelyn summed up the language learning experience by saying, "It's hard, it's really hard. You almost have to grow up there and that be your first language" (K.I1.4-5). Yet, they persist. Diane's Language History Diane was bom into a French community in Alberta. Her mother's first language was French, while her father's was English. In spite of the fact that her father was "not very fluent [in French] at all" (D.N.I), Diane's parents decided to speak only French to her. Her mother has told her that by the time she was three-years-old she spoke the language fluently. It was around this 136 time that the family moved an English-speaking environment. Diane wrote, "[After the move] I began to have much difficulty in speaking, so my parents decided to drop French" (D.N.I). When I asked Diane to talk about her difficulty, she gave the following explanation: I started to stutter in French and she [her mother] figured I wasn't getting enough exposure to French, basically. My dad just spoke a very elementary French; my mom did all the speaking. When we moved out here, then there was nobody else to speak French to. Because back there, there were all of her relatives and in Alberta there were quite a few French regions, too. So, there were a lot of French influences. When they stopped the French...I quit stuttering altogether and picked up English no problem. (D.I 1.4) Ironically, Diane has spent the rest of her life re/learning her first language as a second language. After having lived in an English-speaking environment for approximately eight years, when Diane was going into grade 5 and her brother, grade 4, her father took the initiative to have them enrolled in Programme cadre. This programme offers schooling to children from French-speaking families in their mother tongue in areas where numbers do not warrant the establishment of a French school. The problem was that Diane and her brother no longer spoke French. In the community where Diane attended school, the programme was small with grades 1 to 7 in the same classroom taught by a teacher and a teacher's aide. Diane and her brother were enrolled in Grade 1 of the programme. As Diane explains, "The first three months we worked with the grade ones, then another three months were spent with grade two, followed by grade three. The following year I worked on grade five material and by my grade seven year I had caught up to my grade level in French" (D.N.I). So their children would not miss a year and have to repeat their grade levels, Diane's parents had them do their normal grade level material by correspondence at home. 137 Starting over in grade one was difficult for Diane both from a social and linguistic point of view. When I asked her to talk about the experience, she said: It was very hard. Because, the kids didn't understand it at the time. I remember one little grade 1 saying that she thought I had failed my grade, so I was back to grade 1. [Laughs] And they spoke the language better than I did, 'cause they had been in kindergarten in French, so they understood it. And, I couldn't understand what was being said. So, I knew often that the kids were speaking about me in French, but I could never figure out what they were saying. It felt really nice then as we moved up grade levels but the first few months were probably the very hardest. Because, you're totally immersed in this foreign language, and you don't understand a word of what's being said. (D.I 1.6) In addition to the challenges Diane faced in Programme cadre, she had the demands of home schooling. Discussing this experience, Diane said, "It was a lot of work. Constantly, you're always doing homework and stuff... [laughs] way more than what a kid at that age would be doing at home, so it was really hard" (D.I 1.8). Obviously, having their children speak French was important to the parents. They were, after all, willing to risk their children's social and academic well-being in order to attain this goal. But, how did the children feel about this, given the sacrifices they had to make? When I asked Diane to talk about her motivation or interest, she responded: Well, I really wanted to learn French. I'd always regretted having lost it. So, I saw it as an opportunity to learn French, because I knew that if I didn't take this opportunity, I wouldn't... There wasn't late immersion at that time...And I knew that FSL didn't do wonders for most people. Often, by the time they were in grade 12, they still weren't fluent in French, so... I thought I should take advantage of the opportunity. (D.I1.7) Underlying Diane's motivation to learn French is the desire to maintain what she sees as a "part of [her] culture" and her contacts with her mother's family. I asked Diane what it felt like to be re/learning her first language. Did she feel some sort 138 of affinity to the language or did she feel as though she were regaining a part of herself? I guess a bit. I feel because I speak French again there's more to the French culture that I can know and understand, that I probably wouldn't if I didn't speak French. And because my mom's side of the family all speak French, if it's like a Christmas get-together or something, then if I didn't speak French, I wouldn't feel part of it so much. (D.I1.3) While the desire to feel a part of her family has strengthened Diane's motivation to leam French, having French-speaking relatives has been a help in her efforts to re/learn the language. Speaking about the role of family ties in her learning, Diane wrote, "I believe I benefited immensely from my French-speaking mother especially, as well as from my Francophone relatives" (D.N.I). Diane tries to speak French with her mother but it isn't easy. I'm trying to speak more French with my mom, 'cause I find that's very, very helpful since French is her native tongue. But, it's really hard, again, because the language habit is to speak in English. And then, when I do speak in French with her, and, of course, she knows that I'm doing it to improve my French, she'll correct me. [Laughs] So then, it kind of takes the fun out of just communicating 'cause then it's more like work.... But I'm trying hard, we speak French sometimes now, but it's taking a lot of effort. (D.I 1.9) Another aspect of Diane's motivation to leam French and, more specifically, to work with the programme A la rencontre de Philippe, was her career aspiration. Diane switched from Science to the Arts faculty after her first year, because she had "decided to major in French literature with the intention of becoming a teacher" (D.N.2). What Diane really wants is to be able to speak and understand French in everyday situations with her relatives and her future students. Writing about the level of competency she has achieved through her course work and her goals for working with Philippe, Diane concluded her language learning narrative by stating, I have remarked that my essay-writing skills have improved a lot, but that my oral and 139 comprehension skills have not improved at all, so I am hoping that this program will help increase my French vocabulary as well as my comprehension of every-day French speech, and not literary French, such as what I am learning in my classes. (D.N.2) Katelyn's Language History Although Katelyn was born in Mexico and lived in French Canada from four until the age of seven, English was her first language. Discussing her linguistic history, Katelyn wrote: My background also includes French because my father grew up in Montreal where French was his family's first language; although he speaks English equally well, in the home they spoke French. Whenever his parents come to visit French is spoken in our house but otherwise we speak English because my mother does not speak French. (K.N.I) When Katelyn started school her parents enrolled her in a French school. Although she lived in a French neighbourhood at this time, she had no recollection of the language she spoke with her friends outside of school but on the playground she definitely conversed in French with her classmates. In her language learning history she wrote, "Until the age of seven I was therefore fluent in the language, but then we moved to BC where my involvement in the language, became limited to French courses in high school" (K.N.I). When I asked Katelyn what happened to her French after the move, she responded, "I just never used it... so it just... petered out" (K.I1.2). Elaborating on this point, Katelyn said: My mother doesn't speak French. She's an American and so we never spoke French in the house. My mom would try to get my dad to speak French with us but it's hard, you know. It was my younger brothers and sisters too, they didn't really speak French as I did because they weren't as old as I was when we were living in Montreal, so they weren't in school and I was. They were at home speaking English with my mother, so it just petered out basically. (K.I 1.2) After the move her only real contact with the language was in French second language courses in 140 the public school system and her university courses leading to a minor. Speaking of her competency after years of course work, Katelyn wrote, "My French is not so fluent any more and it's difficult for me to carry on conversations all the time in French. It easier and so much faster to just speak English" (K.N.I). Once outside of a French-speaking environment Katelyn gradually lost her fluency in the language which she never regained even after years of study. When I asked Katelyn how she would describe her ability to speak French now, she answered, "I'd say limited. I'd say that I could definitely, if I was in France, I could definitely get along. I could make myself understood, but I'm not fluent by any means. Depends on what I'm talking about. There's some vocabulary words I don't know...." (K.I1.4). During the second interview she recounted an incident which illustrated this point, "Even with the restaurant, I was at a French restaurant last night and I know how to ask for a glass of water but I wasn't exactly sure of the proper way to say it. You know, just little things like that" (K.I2.42). Like Diane, Katelyn felt her vocabulary was particularly deficient in the area of everyday lived experience. As for her course work in the French department, Katelyn saw this more as a step in achieving her career goal of becoming a French teacher than as a means of regaining her fluency. I'm taking courses but that's to get my French minor, not necessarily to improve my French....I never took any conversation courses, which would have been great, just because I didn't have room for them in my minor.... The only thing I can really see improving my French now is, as I said, going to live in a French community where I can only speak French. That's the only thing. (K.I1.4) For Katelyn improving her French appears to mean improving her oral fluency. There is no suggestion that she sees her course work as being able to offer this opportunity. 141 In her language learning narrative Katelyn addressed the question of why she wanted to re/learn French and devote a considerable portion of her course load to studying the language. My interest in French is because: I like the language, I desire to know another language than English, and I wish to make it one of my teaching fields. I have wanted to go into Secondary Education for a long time and would greatly enjoy teaching French in the classroom. Having French as a teachable subject could also help me to achieve entry into a teaching position. (K.N.I) In addition to this, she reminded me that part of her desire to learn the language is to identify with her father's side of the family. Katelyn concluded her language history by outlining her goals for working with Philippe. My wish for the interactive video program is that it could help improve my vocabulary and comprehension in the language. Being that [City] is largely an English city, I hardly get any French influence outside the classroom, and even in the classroom, my vocabulary is not generally expanded. Spending an hour a week with the video and another classmate will at least give me a good chance to speak French, when I otherwise would not have. (K.N.I) Diane and Katelyn's Work with Philippe Diane and Katelyn had their first work session with Philippe on January 29. They had opted to come on Mondays around noontime, spending an hour with the program between classes. With Katelyn at the keyboard and Diane seated by her side, they went to work. Katelyn had no trouble accessing the technical features of the program. The speed with which she clicked on buttons to perform various functions suggested ease and adeptness. Diane's journal entry, on the other hand, suggests she was experiencing some computer anxiety. She wrote, "I found it easier working with a friend because otherwise it would be too overwhelming to run the program with all the options to pick from" (D.J.I). During the session, however, Diane offered 142 suggestions to Katelyn when she was uncertain as to which option to use or how to use it. For example, when Katelyn didn't know how to get out of Elizabeth's apartment, Diane correctly suggested that they use the map. As the quote from Diane's journal implies, one of the advantages of working in pairs is having someone else to rely on when it comes to dealing with the technical features of the program; in other words, working in pairs has the potential of reducing computer anxiety. In her journal entry, Katelyn made reference to another advantage of working in pairs, the opportunity to practice speaking French. She wrote, "So far what I find the most interesting is conversing with Diane in French about what we should do next, because this way we both are given a chance to improve our conversational French" (K.J.I). Later during the first interview, Katelyn described the experience of working with a partner: Really good. I think that should be a key to the program because when you're working with a partner then you're speaking French.... Diane and I would work off each other. She'd ask me, "Oh, what does that mean?" and then maybe I'd know and then other times I'd ask her, "What does that mean?" She'd tell me. So we were able to help each other by providing our own knowledge about vocabulary or different things. And it was just nice to have someone there when you got stumped; you could decide together what you wanted to do and then you're constantly speaking French. Otherwise, I wouldn't have been speaking French. I would have just been watching and listening to French. So I think it helped because it was at least an hour during the week where I'd speak French. (K.I1.15) Besides providing speaking practice, working in pairs offered the benefits of cooperative learning. They were also able to negotiate meaning. Negotiating meaning was an important aspect for Diane. Commenting on the experience of working with Katelyn, Diane said, " Even just for figuring things out and for helping each 143 other's comprehension. Like, 'Well, what just happened?' 'What did he just say here?' Stuff like that really helped too" (D.I1.20). With the possible exception of understanding a word in isolation, comprehending the language is dependent upon understanding the context and vice versa. Diane's examples suggest that mutually they constructed their understanding of the context as well as the language. Although Diane appreciated the benefits of working with a partner, she did not appear to count the opportunity to speak French as one of them. During the first interview when Diane discussed the experience, she didn't mention speaking. Asked to comment on the opportunity to discuss in French, she replied, It worked okay. Sometimes, I found it a bit more frustrating though 'cause we knew we couldn't say it right away in English. [Laughs] And then, we had to think more about what we were saying. Sometimes, we had to kind of go around in circles [Laughs] a little bit to get to the point [Laughs], 'cause we couldn't think of the direct way to say it in French. (D.I 1.20) Her comment points to a shortcoming of pair work as a means of practising oral skills. While learners working in pairs can put their oral skills to use, the benefits of this activity are often restricted by the language proficiency of the participants. A good language model is lacking. Common pedagogical sense would suggest that having students work in pairs is one way of extending the usefulness of a program such as this to include oral as well as listening comprehension skills. Yet, watching the video tapes of Diane and Katelyn's work sessions, I began to question this notion on two grounds, and made this entry in my journal: I wonder if working in 2' s is a good idea-the focus of the interaction shifts amongst three points. I wonder what this does for engagement with the context of Philippe's world. Do 144 they or are they able to situate themselves in it? Yes, they speak/practise their French but at a very elementary, utilitarian level. They certainly aren't providing good language models for each other. Diane appeared to have greater facility with the language than Katelyn and at times corrected her pronunciation. Yet, in general, their use of vocabulary and syntactical structures was limited and at times simply incorrect. On the other hand, the program was there to provide the language model. Furthermore, this situation raises the question of the relationship between the effectiveness of the program as a language model and the sense of engagement the users feel towards it. The locus of the interaction in this case seemed to be between the two learners. Their focus seemed to be primarily on the context of the learning situation as opposed to the context of Philippe's world. Rather than engage in Philippe's world, Diane and Katelyn seemed to keep at a distance. Nonetheless, the first thing Diane wrote in her journal was "I really enjoyed following the plot of Philippe's life" (D.J.I), suggesting she found the story engaging. However, there were no other references to indicate engagement with the microworld. Katelyn's comments pertained to the context of the learning situation, especially comprehension and the use of the technical options. Both Katelyn and Diane had difficulty understanding the dialogue. Diane summed it up when she wrote, "I find it difficult to keep up because the characters speak so fast in an unfamiliar accent, using slang and other words that I am not familiar with" (D.J.I). To overcome this difficulty they used the transcription, reviewing scenes utterance by utterance and looking up 145 unfamiliar words in the glossary.8 Their comprehension difficulties provided an opportunity to learn new vocabulary. Katelyn seemed quite excited by this possibility, writing in her journal, "After first working with the program I can say that it could definitely improve my vocabulary" (K.J.I). Later in the same entry Katelyn noted, "I also like the fact we are learning a little about Paris (since I have never been there)." The first session seemed successful in that it gave Katelyn and Diane a chance to work on their goals of vocabulary development and oral comprehension. Approximately half way through the next session, Diane and Katelyn finished their first game. Diane wrote in her journal, "I was disappointed when we reached the conclusion of the story" (D.J.I). Katelyn expressed disappointment as well, writing "the program should maybe be more complex so that we would not have been allowed to solve the problem so easily" (K.J.I). Later in the first interview, Katelyn suggested that reaching an ending so soon had a detrimental impact on her engagement with the program. Describing her engagement with the program, Katelyn said, After a while I didn't really get too caught up in the story. When I first went into the program I imagined finding an apartment [was] really hard and you're gonna have to look hard and go to all these different apartments and then I realized, that like, it was solved so easily. You know, you just told him to go stay with his friend who was leaving for three months and that was the end of the story. So, then, I wasn't as involved 'cause I realized it was so easily solved. (K.I 1.8) The context of the microworld did not sufficiently challenge Katelyn's problem-solving skills; subsequently, her interest and engagement waned. 8They did not review the first scene, which may be a clue to their engagement. At the end of this scene, they responded immediately to Philippe, possibly without realizing this would take them on to the next scene denying them the opportunity to review the previous one. 146 Diane's journal entry for this session discussed another frustration. I enjoy listening to the characters speak, as I find it benefits me more. I find it time-consuming to constantly be copying down notes and addresses.... I was frustrated when the game ended because then when we started a new game, we had to write down the same addresses all over again (which I found to be a waste of time as it didn't teach me anything). It would be better if we didn't have to copy them, or at least be able to have them go directly to the next game. (D.J.I) Diane implied that time spent doing things other than working toward her goal of improved comprehension skills was a waste of time. Her point is valid. It is difficult to see the pedagogical value in repeating a tedious and possibly mindless task. Of course, these tasks only became tedious and mindless through repetition. Yet, this anecdote sends a clear message to program developers. It is important that all the activities and materials be directly related to the pedagogical goals of the program, especially if they are to be repeated in subsequent work sessions. In her journal entry for the second session Diane suggested the program was helping her meet her goals in a general way. I enjoyed the game and felt like I was understanding the Parisian accent better as well as becoming more familiar with the vocabulary [for] buying a house and other everyday conversation.... So far, I understand the general content of the conversations, but not the particular details; thus, the transcription key is very useful. (D.J.I) The video tape of this session offers an example of Diane's comprehension. After they watched the scene between Dominique and Elisabeth, Diane paraphrased what had transpired in the scene, apparently seeking confirmation from Katelyn that she had understood correctly. After each statement, Katelyn responded in the affirmative. Apparently satisfied with their comprehension 147 of this scene, they decided not to review it using the transcription but rushed on to the end of the game. This anecdote is noteworthy for two reasons. First, it suggests that Diane did not completely trust her understanding or comprehension. This points to a gap between understanding and trusting that understanding, i.e., knowing. In other words, there is the suggestion that at some point self-confidence plays a role in listening comprehension as well as cognition. However, rather than listen to the scene again she turned to Katelyn for confirmation. This points to what may be another pitfall of working in pairs. Rather than turning to the program and benefiting from hearing the scene again in order to validate and expand their comprehension, partners might rely on each other's understanding. Secondly, it hints at Diane and Katelyn's approach to working with the program. The video tapes of their work sessions indicate a concern for time and efficiency. They seem to be rushing through the program. The interview transcripts support this notion of concern for time-on-task and value in terms of goal-related outcomes. In their fourth session Diane and Katelyn rushed through two games in the pursuit of scenes they hadn't heard before in order to work toward their listening comprehension goal. As Diane explained in her journal, Each time we play a new game, we like to try out new options so we can hear conversations that we haven't heard previously. I find all the writing in the "carnet", such as addresses, etc. is not very educational and is time-consuming. I find hearing the characters speak, however, increases my vocabulary and helps me to understand different French accents better. (D.J.2) In order to move through the games quickly in search of new scenes, Diane and Katelyn used the 148 "teacher mode" to jump to the end of scenes they had already viewed. In one instance, this strategy caused them to miss the opportunity to write down the address of Philippe's aunt. This presented a problem later when they wanted to go to her apartment but couldn't because they didn't have the address. At one point, however, they decided to visit Olivier's apartment. Once in the apartment Diane exclaimed her dismay at finding nobody there. Ironically, inadvertently visiting Olivier's apartment led them to their short-term goal of finding a new scene and a different ending. Once again they were surprised and disappointed to reach an ending so soon. At this point they complained to me about losing all their notes when they started a new game, so I showed them how to print them. Their next game was very much a repeat of the first; they jumped through the scenes until they came to another different ending. Not only did they not access any new scenes but the ending came with a message reminding them that they hadn't found a solution to Philippe's problem and wishing them better luck next time. Surprisingly in view of their race through the program, Diane wrote in her journal entry for this session, "I still find I am learning some new vocabulary and my comprehension of spoken French is increasing, although I still find the characters speak very rapidly" (D.J.2). She continued by making a comparison between her French courses and Philippe in terms of the opportunities they offered to meet her goals. Diane wrote, I am frustrated that in my French classes I don't have much opportunity to improve my oral French. The only improvement I've seen from my classes is in literary French, whereas this program exposes me to everyday spoken French. I would like it if I could hear the characters speak more in Philippe. (D.J.3) Diane was starting to show signs of disappointment with the program. 149 Both Diane and Katelyn were concerned about developing their everyday vocabulary. As the fourth session opened they were discussing the French competency test. Neither felt they did that well on the oral segment because they didn't have the vocabulary for computers, bicycles or hockey games. This lack of vocabulary, which is perhaps best acquired through everyday lived experience, could have a direct impact on their career choices. In the interview Katelyn lamented not knowing the vocabulary for a bicycle, because she never had to leam it. I quipped, "You've never ridden a bicycle in French?" Katelyn's response was emphatic, "Exactly.... I knew how to say bicycle but that's it. So, with this program you're hearing a lot more everyday stuff which is what you don't hear in the classroom so that was really good" (K.I2.29). Perhaps it was the desire to acquire more everyday vocabulary which has prompted Diane to speak more French with her mother. In her journal entry for this session Diane wrote, I am trying to speak more French with my mother who is a Francophone, so I can improve my French language speaking skills. Since the only way I can communicate with Philippe is through writing and not speaking, I don't find it as effective as speaking with my Mom. (D.J.2) In the second interview Diane gave credit to her work with Philippe for motivating her to work harder to improve her speaking ability as well as to converse with her mother in French. She said, "If I hadn't worked with the program, I don't think I would have been speaking in French at all with my mom, as I am now" (D.I2.7). She also reported that Philippe motivated her to tap into other resources (e.g., her "French speaking relatives") in an effort to improve these skills. Over the course of the next two sessions Diane and Katelyn seemed to be making more of an effort to work toward their goals of vocabulary and listening comprehension development. 150 Although finding new scenes and alternate endings was still a priority, they slowed their pace. They were reviewing more scenes with the aid of the transcription and the glossary. The frequent use of these strategies marked a change in their approach. In one combined journal entry for these sessions, Diane offered some insight into the use of these strategies and her listening comprehension. I am enjoying the game better as I am understanding how to play it better. We used the transcription key quite a bit and found it useful. As well, we found the playback option that slows down the conversation to be useful. Often, just slowing down what the characters were saying was useful because I then could understand it better. I find I don't need to read what they are saying because I understand them fine when their speech is slowed down. I find I don't know most of the Parisian idiomatic expressions but I can always understand the context of what they are saying. Sometimes though, the finer details are more difficult to understand, especially since in everyday conversation they frequently skip certain syllables. Now that I've played the game several times I'm finding I'm understanding the characters better because I'm starting to get used to their accent and I've heard the same conversation several times. (D.J.3) It's important to clarify that Diane could not slow down the conversation, i.e., have the characters speak more slowly. What she could do was play the utterances one by one. Diane means she could understand the utterances when she heard them as isolated units. Then she no longer needed to read the transcripts. In a discussion with Katelyn during their last session, Diane commented on this, adding that even without the words she could understand the context but when the characters spoke quickly she had difficulty ["sans les mots, je peux comprendre le contexte mais quand ils parlent a la vitesse c'est difficile"9]. Perhaps she meant even without the specific words that she didn't transcribed from videotape labelled Katelyn and Diane: Tape 3, Session 6.1 have used the word "even" here. Diane did not use this word but it was implied in the way she spoke. 151 understand. What does she mean by context here? It would appear she uses the word to connote the gist of the conversation. However, it's not just the conversation, i.e., the utterances she is hearing. There is the context of the immediate situation as well as the context of the overall plot. To be understood, the utterances must be related to these constructs and understood in terms of them. That Diane understands when the utterances are presented one by one through the medium of video which conveys at the same time a myriad of contextual detail is noteworthy. Perhaps when she hears the utterances one by one she has an opportunity to grasp the context of the situation in which they were made and to relate them to the overall context of the plot or story. On the other hand, when the dialogue flows uninterrupted, there is simply too much to take in. It would appear that listening and understanding the words is only a part of what we commonly refer to as listening comprehension. Our eyes play an important part in so-called listening comprehension (Rost, 1990). Other sensory organs play a part as well. Certainly our overall sense of physical well-being in a situation plays a role in our assessment and subsequent understanding of what is being said and happening. This would suggest that in order to learn to understand everyday speech learners should be exposed to whole contexts (Goodwin & Duranti, 1992); in other words, they need to be exposed to everyday situations in which native speakers use the language. Ideally, learners should be immersed in the situations, in order not only to be exposed to the various forms of language and ways communication (Bakhtin, 1986) but to engage in activity in which they can master the culturally prescribed ways of communicating and thinking in 152 particular contexts (Bakhtin, 1986; Vygotsky, 1978). At the end of one session, Katelyn lamented the impossibility of memorizing all the idiomatic expressions in order to be able to understand. The only solution, she concluded, was to go and live in Paris. Katelyn realized that only by being physically present in the discourse community and engaging in the spheres of acitivity, comprising the daily lives of its members, would she learn these words or expressions and come to understand them in the contexts of their use. As Bakhtin (1986, p. 78) noted, "The forms of language and... speech genres enter our experience and our conscience together, in close connection with one another." Katelyn's experience would appear to have led her to the same conclusion as Bakhtin, that language learning is mediated by activity. Diane's experience and Katelyn's comments suggest that the concept of context and the notion of activity within various contexts bear closer examination in relation to second language acquisition and pedagogy. In their efforts to learn new vocabulary and understand more fully, Diane and Katelyn made greater use of the glossary during these sessions. A close look at these instances reveals a number of considerations which must be taken into account when preparing materials for people learning on their own. On one occasion Diane and Katelyn were looking up the word verrou, which means a bolt on a door. The glossary relied on an illustration to convey the meaning; yet, the drawing was so vague that these learners concluded the word meant "cupboard." On another occasion they looked up the word evier, meaning kitchen sink. From the illustration they concluded it meant the cabinet as well as the sink. When program developers are using illustrations to convey meaning they must be very precise so as not to include misleading detail. 153 Nor should idiomatic expressions be given as the meaning of words in the glossary. Katelyn and Diane looked up oil j 'en suis only to find another idiomatic expression, oil j 'ai la tete, given as the definition. Being unfamiliar with this expression, they were no further ahead. In other instances when the word only appeared once in the video, only the definition of the word as it was used in that particular context appeared in the glossary. If the word is commonly used with a different meaning in other contexts, it could be misleading for learners to have only the one definition. Particular attention should be paid to such detail in the preparation of courseware, especially when it is intended for use in self-instructional situations. Furthermore, the glossary in this program is little more than a dictionary or picture book page on a computer screen. There is one major difference in that users can click on examples of the word as it is employed in utterances in order to access a video clip of its use in different contexts. Yet, one can only wonder how effective this might be in view of the fact that the utterance is isolated from the context of the scene or conversation. In other words, users can't access the previous or following utterances. Multimedia technology could be applied to create glossaries which contextualize definitions, situating them in lived experience. Although in these two sessions Diane and Katelyn went through the scenes more methodically, reviewing them with the transcription and looking up words in the glossary, there is no particular evidence to indicate they were experiencing any sense of engagement with the microworld presented by the program. As they went through the games looking for options which would lead them to new scenes, they oftentimes chatted with each other while the scenes, they 154 had already viewed, played. Mostly the topics were of a personal nature; however, they sometimes discussed choices related to the story, an occasional irony originating from the story, or the meaning of a vocabulary word. All of their exchanges with the exception of one, as they settled in to work, were in French. During one discussion about endings, Diane suggested that finding a suitable apartment for Philippe might lead to one they hadn't found. During the next game they visited a rental agency and copied down some addresses posted in the window, but they chose not to visit any of the apartments. (As a matter of fact, Diane and Katelyn never visited any apartments, except Antoine's which they went to see in the hopes of finding Philippe.) This route had to be aborted when it was time to tell Philippe about the apartments they found and they could not provide adequate or correct information. Their lack of engagement appears to have had a negative effect on their search for new scenes. They had taken shortcuts to rush through the program in their attempts to find scenes they hadn't previously viewed. However, in their haste they neglected to collect information which might have helped them in this regard. Their lack of engagement coupled with their quest for variety appears to have had a negative impact on their interaction with the program and subsequent learning. Moreover, the notion of engagement appears to be linked to that of learner autonomy. The locus of control is diffused when two learners are working with the program. In fact, the locus of control shifts among three points: the two learners and the program. The computer program outlines the parameters and provides the structure for the learning experience. Any structure imposes a degree of control over those operating within it. In this case the control mechanisms of 155 c the program forced the learners to view certain key scenes over and over. Diane and Katelyn reported that this repetition impeded their engagement with Philippe's world. In addition to this, they recount instances in which the program wouldn't let them do what they wanted to do, or in which choices they made were false choices or led to "deadends." These instances fed a growing frustration on the part of the learners which over time effected their interest in the story and their motivation to work with the program. Their strategies designed to outwit the program and find new scenes, while on one level indicative of their apparent lack of engagement, could also be viewed as an attempt on the learners' part to assert their control of the learning situation by manipulating the program in order to achieve their goals. Diane and Katelyn's last work session on March 18 closely followed patterns set in the two previous sessions. They commenced with a new scene which they reviewed with the transcription. Katelyn clicked through the dialogue utterance by utterance pausing only long enough to read the screen. They seemed to have no problem understanding the utterances when they heard them one by one accompanied by the transcription. They continued in this fashion through the following scene which led them to an ending they hadn't previously found. This was their fifth ending; they had been keeping count. As they started a new game, Diane and Katelyn began to discuss the possiblity of going to live in a French-speaking environment. This launched a lengthy conversation covering a number of personal topics. They chatted as they went through the game apparently not listening to the scenes. At one point they simply stopped playing for several minutes. It appeared that they had totally lost interest in the program. Nonetheless, they 156 finished the session discussing what they would do next time, but there wasn't to be a next time. Diane and Katelyn never got back for another session with Philippe. As for Diane, she was moving home to a summer job. Later in a brief telephone interview, Katelyn explained why she stopped when she did: I think basically because it was the end of the school year and I was heading home for the summer. That's really about it and also we pretty much finished the program as well. I felt anyway that I had fooled around with it enough that I didn't really feel like it had anything else to really offer me. (Member check interview tape) As far as Katelyn was concerned, she had exhausted the potential of the program to help meet her goals. Judging from the video tape of the final session, this realization was accompanied by a profound lack of interest in the scenes already viewed, if not the entire program. Diane and Katelyn's Experience Video tapes of Diane and Katelyn's work sessions suggest that they gradually became disinterested in A la rencontre de Philippe over a two month period. Their discussion of the experience indicates their dissipating enchantment with the program was accompanied by a growing realization of its limitations as a means to meet their goals, i.e., listening comprehension and vocabulary development. Their perceptions of the program as lacking in complexity and variety appear to have negatively influenced their degree of engagement. These factors influenced their use of the program as well as their perceptions of the outcomes or benefits they derived. Yet, in spite of what they see as Philippe's shortcomings, Diane and Katelyn did not speak negatively of the overall experience. Describing the experience of working with Philippe, Diane said: 157 It's been interesting, I guess. Like, hearing the Parisian French and a bunch of expressions that I'm not familiar with, more idiomatic expressions and stuff. So, I found that's been useful. I would've liked to have heard more speaking probably. That's probably my only frustration. Just because, then, I think it would've even benefited me more. (D.I1.12) Although Diane is tentative about the experience, she feels the program has helped by providing her exposure to French. As for her listening comprehension goal, Diane wanted more. On the other hand, Diane's satisfaction with this experience was in large measure due to the opportunity she did have to hear the language as it was spoken by the different characters in the various scenes. She didn't like the parts where she was left on her own to explore Philippe's environment. Diane found activities like going through apartments and the newspaper "tedious and not quite so useful" (D.I2.8). Claiming to have monitored her learning in an attempt to optimize it, Diane explained, Whenever I was going through it [the program], I was always trying to think, "How can I best leam from this, or which options should I pick so I will leam more?" Which is probably why I didn't go through the apartments so much, because I didn't think I would leam so much that way. (D.I2.6) Diane avoided visiting apartments because she couldn't see how this activity related to her goals. Describing her experience with the program, Katelyn indicated that exposure to a greater variety of speakers and scenes would have provided her with a better opportunity to meet her goals and sustain her interest: I found it interesting. I could see what it was trying to get at... it wasn't as fun as I thought it could have been. I felt you got to an end point too quickly and then you had to start again but starting again meant watching everything you'd already seen. So, after you do that about five times you're just getting bored. And you just want to see new stuff. (K.I1.5) 158 Nonetheless, when I asked her to rate her satisfaction with the experience on a scale of one to ten, she gave it a seven, offering this explanation: I found I had to go through things that I'd already seen too many times. I didn't get the exposure to the French language and the culture as much as I would've liked to. I would have enjoyed always being confronted with different things and new things and not having to watch the same things over and over again....I liked what it had to offer but I wanted more of it. (K.I2.36) Like Diane, Katelyn wanted lots of exposure to the French language in a variety of contexts. Ultimately, the repetition of the scenes impeded her engagement with the program. As.it stands, Katelyn's assessment of her experience in terms of benefits or outcomes is not particularly glowing: Again I am not sure whether this video was able to improve my French in any way. Yes, I was able to understand the dialogue between the characters more easily but I feel that was only because I had heard that particular dialogue upwards of five times. It just like a child who can't really read but because his mother has read him a particular book so many times he can essentially sit down and read the book himself. (K.J.2) As for her goal of increasing her vocabulary, Katelyn was again uncertain of the benefits. In the first interview she said, The only thing that I was really learning from the program was more vocabulary words, and I did get kind of a taste of the culture of Paris....so I did learn, you know, limited vocabulary words but even now I don't know if I'd be able to remember them. But if I heard them, I'm sure I would. (K.I1.17) Diane's reflection on her experience was more promising. Although she conceded a possible gain in her oral comprehension, what is remarkable is the suggestion of increased metacognitive awareness. The following is Diane's final journal entry: I would say that working with Philippe has helped me realize that my French vocabulary 159 is more lacking than what I first thought. As well, I don't understand the conversations as well as I thought I would, because of the pace the characters speak at. I have made more of an effort to speak French with my mother since then. I think my comprehension skills are improving. I still find that my vocabulary is somewhat lacking which makes it frustrating when I speak in French. I don't think my spoken French has actually improved at all since I've started Philippe, but I think I'm understanding more spoken French as a result of the program. (D. J.4) Diane's assessment of her French language proficiency in view of her work with Philippe has given her reason to revise previously held perceptions of her proficiency and to employ an alternative strategy in her attempt to improve her skills. Diane's desire for more oral interaction in the target language harkens back to her beliefs about language learning. Discussing how the experience of working with Philippe might have reinforced a belief she held about how she best learned a second language, Diane noted, "I think it really made me want to make more of an effort to hear more French, like watch it on TV, and also speak more French with my mom or other people" (D.I2.4). Implicit in this statement is the belief that in order to learn the language one must have lots of opportunities to hear and speak it. Throughout, Diane and Katelyn's beliefs about how they learn a language influenced their experience with the program. These beliefs appear to have been moulded by their experiences learning a language in an environment where it is spoken. For example, there is the suggestion that both believe it possible to learn the language without the toil of classroom instruction. Diane recommended Philippe for high school French immersion or FSL students, because "kids would be really stimulated to work with it and they would end up learning and probably not realize it so much" (D.I2.2). Katelyn made a similar observation, "So this could be really good for a lot of 160 kids that hate French and only take it because they have to. You know, this way they could be kind of pulled into it and learn without realizing they are" (K.I2.31). Katelyn expanded on her belief in implicit learning in a discussion of the impact she believed reading in French could have on her writing and speaking skills. If I was to read a lot more, I would improve both my writing and my speaking, because you'll remember when you start writing or speaking. You'll know how to say something, not because it says in the grammar book but because it just sounds right, and the reason it sounds right is because you either heard someone else say it, or because you've read it that way in a book or something like that. It starts becoming intuitive to you.... (K.I2.32) Katelyn believed that exposure to the target language enabled the development of a type of intuition which governed usage. Katelyn also hinted at this notion of implicit learning in a discussion of how she used the program to improve her French. She reported, "I just went into it thinking this is going to improve my French when I use it" (K.I1.6). Katelyn suggested the program offered a better "way of learning" vocabulary, for example, compared to the school approach which she viewed as a form of drudgery: I think writing down vocabulary words that you learn~and you kind of look into them every now and then to keep them fresh in your memory.... But it's so hard. It's such an awful way to learn a language. You know, it's so much better just to go to where they speak that language and then just submerse yourself into the culture. (K.I1.25) Diane shared Katelyn's belief in linguistic and cultural immersion. Talking about how she best learns a second language, Diane explained, "I think just hearing it more, being immersed in it and stuff helps out the most. Like, hearing other people speak in French even. Not even necessarily talking with them in French but just hearing the language a lot. I think it really helped" (D.I 1.29). 161 Although both believed that the best way to learn a language is to go and live where it is spoken, neither was in a position to do so at this point in their lives. Unable to immerse themselves in a French-speaking environment, Diane and Katelyn believed that the second best option was exposure to the language and culture, which was why they were interested in Philippe in the first place. Answering the question, "What have you learned about the way you leam languages from working with the program?", Diane mused: I guess maybe just how powerful hearing it spoken [is] and how much that helps. I guess just being immersed in it, 'cause I don't feel like I'm really immersed in the language even in my courses anymore so that really frustrates me. [Laughing] But hearing more of the everyday spoken, and seeing too, it did remind me that I'm more of a visual learner. I really need to see the characters speaking if I want to understand it. (D.I 1.31) Diane's comments suggest this exposure must be situated in some context that can be seen as well as heard. Seeing the language used in context is important to her oral comprehension, because, as Diane noted, "You can get ideas too from like their hand gestures and stuff, and even their location, and tone of voice and their facial expression stuff (D.I 1.21). Both Katelyn and Diane stress that these contexts must be varied. Katelyn said she would improve the program by including "a lot more everyday situations, maybe interactions with the family in the household, a lot of everyday stuff that may be considered boring, but for me that's important" (K.I2.30). They stressed the importance of learning practical everyday French as opposed to the literary French they were exposed to in university classes. Diane remarked, Compared to my university lectures, I found I probably actually learned more French [chuckles] working with Philippe, because it was like more of a practical French, it was more hands-on-experience. So, I think in that sense it was probably more beneficial to my actual French learning. (D.I1.23) 162 Diane and Katelyn appear to equate learning French with learning everyday life vocabulary. Diane and Katelyn want to be able to speak as well as understand fluent French in everyday contexts. What has A la rencontre de Philippe given them that study in a regular classroom can't? Katelyn said, "I guess contact with the French culture and a lot more vocabulary words, and being confronted with different situations" (K.I2.29). Answering the same question, Diane said, "I think it's offered me more interaction in French, in more practical French" (D.I2.1). Yet, ultimately, Philippe failed to meet their expectations; they were hoping for something more complex which would have engaged them for a longer period of time. At the end of the second interview, I asked both Diane and Katelyn, if, in the future, they were to have the opportunity to take a classroom-style course or work with a program like Philippe, which they would choose and why. I also added that the goals and intended outcomes of the regular course and the interactive computer program would be the same. Both said they would choose the computer program, because they felt it would have a more beneficial impact on their learning. Diane responded, "I would probably choose to work with a program like Philippe... because I think it would give me more direct interaction. I think I would leam more French as a result, more useful French anyway" (D.I2.11). Giving her response, Katelyn chose to neutralize the outcomes, or amount of learning, variable; instead, she focused on her autonomy: I guess I'd probably do a program like Philippe, if they both have the same goals and they would both help me as much.... I guess just because it does let you leam at your own pace and, if you don't understand something, you don't have to bother the class. You can just go back and do it on your own and parts that are easy for you, you don't have to wait for the class. You can just jump ahead. It really allows you to work on an individual basis 163 which is good for a lot of people because a lot of times the classroom either hinders you or bores you or doesn't allow to learn properly. So just for that reason, I guess. Plus it's more interesting too. (K.I2.43) In the end Diane and Katelyn would choose to work with a program like Philippe because of the potential it offers to tailor the learning to their individual interests and needs. In spite of the frustrations they experienced and their subsequent criticisms of this particular program, they recognized its potential to provide them with exposure to and limited interaction with contexts in which the target language is spoken by everyday people in everyday situations. Their main complaint about A la rencontre de Philippe was that there wasn't enough of this. In a word, they wanted more—more exposure, more contexts, more variety, more interaction, more control. 164 C H A P T E R FIVE P H Y S I C A L BODIES, V I R T U A L W O R L D S : L E A R N I N G W I T H PHILIPPE Synopsis This chapter presents themes emerging from an examination of the experiences of all those who participated in the research project. These themes are identified under the umbrella categories of environment, exposure, engagement, embodiment, and evaluation. It might be helpful to refer to "Table 1: Profile of Learners " located in the methodology chapter in order to have some additional information on the identity of the participants quoted in this chapter. In the section entitled Environment, autonomy and the two-worlds motif are discussed. Learners appreciated their independence and being able to work at their own pace. Although they were highly motivated, their personal identities (e.g., mother, student teacher, etc.) and the responsibilities these roles entailed often interfered with their work with the program. Because they were there of their own volition and faced with the demands of their lives, efficiency of learning was an issue. Learners needed to see how activities were advancing their goals; otherwise, these activities were perceived as a waste of time. While the interactivity the program afforded enabled the participants to make choices, it also served to structure their experience and impose constraints. The other salient feature of the environment was the two-worlds motif, i.e., suggestions that the participants experienced the program as two interrelated contexts. The video drama, or Philippe's world, was one context; the other was the computer program, or the techno-pedagogical world. Engagement looks at the extent to which the participants allowed themselves to become a part of these contexts, or worlds. Many reported the feeling of subjective presence in Philippe's world. This required a suspension of disbelief and eventually implicated the participants' 165 emotions and values. Interactivity and narrative played key roles, enabling the participants to experience a sense of agency which enhanced their motivation as well as their sense of engagement. The engagement that learners experienced seemed to have an impact on their learning. For example, some learners appeared "fixated" by particular scenes or expressions, that "stuck" in their minds. Exposure refers to opportunities to hear French as it is spoken by target language speakers as they perform everyday-life activities. The participants were seeking this kind of exposure. They wanted exposure to a variety of situations. Exposure included both opportunity and necessity for language use. In this case exposure meant being immersed in the second language environment. This type of exposure provided a lot of contextual information which facilitated the participants' listening comprehension. The data suggest the participants were learning through exposure to the language. For example, repeated exposure to language items used in context appeared to facilitate their acquisition. Simultaneous exposure to the written script and the spoken dialogue through subtitles enabled the participants to comprehend rapid, authentic speech as well as learn about the features of oral language use. Evaluation explores primarily the techno-pedagogical world and examines the participants' assessments of outcomes, the technology, and their experience. Most perceived some degree of improvement in their listening comprehension and four even noted an improvement in their oral competency. Several remarked an increase in their self-confidence accompanied by a decrease in their performance anxiety. A couple of the participants felt the program helped them overcome the gap between learning the language and using it. Several reported a shift from a focus on detail to a more relaxed focus on the gist of the communication. As one learner said, he was more relaxed not understanding everything. 166 Embodiment pertains to the notion that language learning, in addition to be being a cognitive endeavour, is both a situated and embodied activity. The desire to learn French often correlated with a love of language and the pleasures afforded by language, either directly (e.g., literature, word games, etc.) or indirectly (e.g., social interaction). Whether the source of desire or pleasure, language was seen to be felt in and by the body. There is also the suggestion that because understanding relies so heavily on contextual information coming from all the senses, one needs to be immersed in the target language environment in order to fully learn to understand and communicate in the language. Yet, simply "being there " is not enough. Ideally, one should interact with members of the target language community as one carries out the activities of everyday life. 167 PHYSICAL BODIES, VIRTUAL WORLDS: LEARNING WITH PHILIPPE This chapter identifies themes in the data which characterized the learners' experiences as they worked with A la rencontre de Philippe. These themes fall under the categories of environment, exposure, engagement, embodiment, and evaluation. While these categories may seem artificial and even contrived, the "five e's," that's the way they emerged from the data, the only exception being "evaluation." This seemed to be the best word to cover aspects of the learners' experience in the areas of self-assessment, monitoring, outcomes, and appreciation of the technology. Although five categories have been isolated and themes assigned to these categories, at times some themes appear to spring up in different categories or to be everywhere at once. Despite their rebellion against categorization and linear treatment, they have been wrestled into place in order to fulfil the requirements of the genre [read dissertation] and, of course, logical discussion. Still, the themes as well as the categories from which they emerge are interconnected in many different ways. Interpretation of the data means unravelling narratives, the story of each learner's experience working with Philippe. Like all good stories, these draw on a rich and deep web of interrelated contexts. An act of learning cannot be isolated from the context in which it occurs, nor from the identity of the learner. An examination of these elements — learner, context, and action — as a system yields layer after layer of themes, some appearing to be only peripherally related to the participants' work with Philippe. Nonetheless, I believe that the themes presented here not only illustrate the learners' experiences but sketch an outline of the kind of language learning programme we might enjoy in the new millennium. Once again, I attempt to let you hear the words of the participants. Therefore, I include 168 extensive quotes and detail in order to enable you to formulate your own ideas and conclusions. However, it is also my intention to convey a sense of the multiplicity of voices. As language learners we bring to the learning situation backgrounds, beliefs, motivations, and expectations of amazing diversity. These aspects of our identity determine how we experience events and the environments in which they occur. Environment Two salient aspects of the learners' experiences come under the category of environment. First and foremost, these participants were operating in a computer-generated learning environment. It was through interaction with this environment that they experienced the features of this particular piece of technology. Secondly, according to Holec's model (1981) of learner autonomy, participants were interacting with this environment as autonomous learners. In other words, they were acting as independent learners who had language goals they wanted to meet and who were devising means in order to meet these goals. As a part of their programme to meet their goals, these learners had chosen to work with A la rencontre de Philippe. Autonomy While for us, the consumers of this research, autonomy serves as a lens through which to view the learners' experiences, for the participants, autonomy as a concept was neither a visible, nor necessarily a conscious, aspect of this experience. In other words, autonomy, in and of itself, was not an issue for these learners. Yet, it manifested itself in the form of issues of control and responsibility. One learner, Connie, who was highly autonomous as far as her French language learning was concerned, touched on most of the issues, when asked how it felt to be self-directed: Well, it feels great. I've just done six years of on-and-off school and... it's really nice to be independent. And, doing this at my own pace, I'm really enjoying it. I don't feel 169 pressure to have homework assignments in, to worry about marks. And, to some degree, that's kind of too bad, because I'm not devoting myself to this as much as I might. But, on the other hand, you know, [hesitation] I'm continuing with it, I'm enjoying it. When I have time, I come in and do a bit more. (C.I1.11) Although Connie was enjoying working at her own pace without the worries of assignment due-dates or marks, she didn't feel she was putting forth the effort she could. Her comments touch on several issues or themes. "It's really nice to be independent." Connie was in control of "her" time and how she chose to spend it; she was "doing this at [her] own pace." However, the "down side" is the suggestion that when the onus is totally on her, she doesn't put as much effort into it as she might. Being autonomous means being in a position to establish priorities as we attend to the activities in a busy life. In spite of her desire to learn, Connie has other responsibilities and demands placed on her. In our society desire to learn is pitted against two precious commodities: Time and energy. It bears noting that Connie had "dug up" all her old French textbooks with the idea of doing additional study at home. When she made this statement, Connie was probably feeling a bit guilty about not having made the time to even look at them. When one is working autonomously, how does one set standards in order to judge things like adequate effort or achievement? Autonomous learners have to establish these criteria on their own. Perhaps they have a tendency to be too hard on themselves. Oftentimes, they have no past experience upon which to establish expectations; in this case, they risk basing their judgments on the expectations of others, imposed on us in radically different situations, i.e., other-directed contexts, not unlike traditional learning situations. One possible criterion for the assessment of an autonomous learning activity is the degree to which it hastens us toward our goals. Andrew, addressing the issue of choice, said, "I'm there by choice.... I'd feel really badly if I'd spent 2 hours here and gone away thinking, 'That was 170 pretty useless'" (A.I2.30). The participants chose to be there in order to pursue the goals of improving their aural/oral competency; therefore, they felt time spent performing tasks apparently unrelated to these goals was time wasted. The message to program developers is clear. If the aim of the program is to develop listening comprehension, then the activities proposed had better provide opportunities to improve listening comprehension. These learners were metacognitively astute enough to know the difference. Although there was some frustration amongst learners over time wasted in this way, they noted that they were spared the frustration of being held back by others, as they would be in a classroom situation. For example, Andrew remarked, You can make this program go back over things as many times as you want and you're not gonna annoy the teacher and you're not gonna be annoying the other thirty people in the class.... On the other side, you don't have the other people saying, 'Can you repeat that again,' and again, and again, and again, and it really drags you down. (A.12.20) These were also concerns for Katelyn, who said, "[Philippe] does let you leam at your own pace and if you don't understand something you don't have to bother the class" (K.I2.43). Echoing these comments, Elizabeth explained why she would recommend Philippe to a friend: I know that, for the most part, the reason why, in a classroom situation, people are hesitant to ask questions and to go at their own pace is because they feel like they're holding back the rest of the class. And, in this program, you could just sit there and do things at your own pace. So, you wouldn't have to feel that hesitation. (E.I2.11) The measure of autonomy afforded by the program offers learners a dual advantage. It prevents learners from experiencing the discomfort of having to interrupt the class; while, as Andrew so aptly puts it, the program also spares learners the boredom and frustration of "going with the slowest person in the class" (A.I 1.14). Working with Philippe also offered freedom from another type of discomfort, performance anxiety. Patty, who reported high performance anxiety, said, "I would choose 171 Philippe [over a regular classroom course] because it doesn't scare me as much [laughing]" (P.I2.13). Earlier, she had reported the experience of learning French on her own without the benefit of a teacher or classmates was "a good one." As Patty explained, "There's almost no pressure" (P.I1.15). For Connie, working autonomously with Philippe not only eased the pressure of homework and marks but also lent a certain joy to the activity, It [A la rencontre de Philippe] offered me the opportunity... to not feel any pressure, to enjoy the learning experience in a way that I think I often wouldn't in a classroom, because it is so flexible and open for me to decide how I want to learn, as opposed to an instructor in classroom situations...." (C.I2.1) However, this freedom raised concerns about motivation and, more specifically, self-discipline. Laura voiced the thoughts of several of the participants when she said, "With Philippe you really have to be 'Yes, I want to be here. Yes, I want to learn.' You have to be really motivated and determined to learn French" (L.I1.2). Where does one get an infusion of self-discipline or desire-to-learn? Tom, who was already in the teacher education programme and grappling with a gruelling schedule, admitted that his "[motivation] was high at the beginning and it flagged near the end because of other commitments" (T.I 1.10). Tom said, "It's something that I want but I guess I don't want it enough to commit myself (T.I 1.11). The experience of "life intervening" was common to just about all of the participants. Andrew, for example, thought he would learn more if there were a test. However, the kinds of things he saw himself learning were content or theme related details. Moira who did well in classroom situations liked the competitive edge. On the other hand, even Andrew admitted that the down side of tests was that they tended to raise anxiety which interfered with learning. While most of the participants revelled in the autonomy the program afforded, some felt a degree of external pressure was desirable in that it eased the burden of responsibility. 172 Connie, who had given this tension between desire to learn and the need for external pressure some thought, shared her ideas with me in an interview: I think that I do need to be pushed to some degree. It's easy for me to be a bit lazy with it. But I also need to have a motivation. I can't just be pushed if it's just push, and I'm not wanting to do it. It won't work.... I'm not going to leam that way. So, I guess, what I find really good about this Philippe program is I'm not being pushed at all. I have to push myself. A-a-and, that has to be because I want to. (C.I 1.16) Later in the second interview, Connie called for a balance between controls, which she equated with structure, and autonomy. She said, "I know that the classroom experience... at least that I've been in, doesn't work for me very well, because it is too structured. But I also know from doing Philippe that it isn't quite structured enough, that I need to have a balance between the two" (C.I2.6). She later elaborated, saying: Structure. I keep talking about how wonderful it is that Philippe had so little structure compared to the courses I've taken; and yet, on the other hand, I keep saying it would be interesting to have some more structure provided with it on the side. So, it's a bit of a contradiction.... It's nice to have a balance.... I would not want to sacrifice the freedom that comes with the Philippe program. I would not want structure to override that freedom. I would only see it as being beneficial as something on the side to supplement without getting in the way of, something for people to do if they want to but not in any way feel that is a necessary part of the program. (C.I2.9) Connie points to a challenge for designers, i.e., providing structure for learners without undermining their personal freedom. Connie's comments suggest that one way to do this is to integrate more options and choice. "Choice" is the backbone of interactivity which is already used as a means of structuring the learner's experience. As Andrew noted, "[Philippe] is far better than normal video tapes or cassettes in that one knows that the segments must be understood well enough to choose the next step" (A.J.4). In this instance interactivity acted as a control mechanism, not unlike final examinations, to ensure a certain degree of comprehension. As in any learning situation, the participants wanted and needed structure. Interactivity served to structure the learners' 173 experience as well as enable them to structure their experience within this framework. While Connie's suggestion of providing structure and at the same time enhancing personal freedom may seem paradoxical, it is possible. Because autonomy is a highly personal and individual construct, the challenge facing program developers is to create programs which enable learners to operate at the degree of autonomy with which they are comfortable. Philippe did offer learners opportunities to exercise their autonomy, but it also had built in constraints. When I asked Connie what Philippe offered her that learning in a classroom could not, her reply stressed her independence, "It offered me the opportunity to be self-motivated..." (C.I2.1). However, wherever there is structure there will be control and this program was no exception. When I asked Joan if she felt the program afforded her some degree of control over her learning, she responded, "A small degree because what you learn is there and fixed" (J.I1.8). The parameters of the curriculum as well the possibilities of the narrative action had already been defined. Tom described the experience of working with Philippe by saying, "I'm sort of playing God, but in a world where there's some higher God above it" (T.I 1.1). Whether in our own world or a computer-generated world, our degree of control or personal autonomy is tempered by our relationships with the people and contexts that make up our environment. Two-worlds Motif Bernice was one of the first participants to begin work with the program and, as I read her journal, I noted that the language she used to talk about her work session supported Murray's (1992) visit metaphor. For example, at one point, Bernice wrote, "I had thought that Philippe would choose to go house-hunting for a while, thereby showing me more of Paris, but I guess that option is up to me" (B.J.2). Her words convey the impression of a tourist relying on a friend to introduce her to a strange city. Implicit in the visit metaphor is the notion of moving between 174 two places or contexts. As more of these references caught my attention, I gradually became aware of two contexts within the program itself. Eventually, the word "program" became problematic because the learners seemed to be using it to refer to two different, though at times barely distinct, things. They used the word to refer to the computer or videodisc program as an educational tool (i.e., computer program). They also used the word to refer to the video drama, or, more specifically, to the Active Parisian world of the young freelance writer (i.e., video program). As learners, they were invited into this second world and offered an identity, that of Philippe's friend. Philippe took them into his home and gave them leeway to make it theirs. At this point, they not only had an identity but a physical space where they could hang their cyber-hats. This space became a place from which they ventured out to explore Philippe's world, as well as one to which they could return in much the same way that a weary tourist returns to a friend's apartment after a day of sightseeing. On the other hand, there is the techno-pedagogical world or learning environment generated by the program, in which participants played themselves as second language learners. In this instance, I'm not referring to the physical location of the multi-media work station but, rather, to the environment created by the interactive video program as a learning tool. Constituting this world are the technical features (e.g., transcription, glossary, hypertextual/video features), the keyboard and the mouse which become instruments of communication with both worlds, and the interface acting as a window to both worlds, a place where these worlds fuse. The participants, as they sat at the work station seemed to be in the space between these worlds. As I delved into the learners' experiences, the notion of the players moving through various situations and their accompanying contexts in the different worlds became increasingly 175 apparent. I came to see situations as closely linked to conceptions of time and space, in that they arise in a specific place and play themselves out over a specific time span. The stuff of situations appeared to be generally-shared activities, those with the potential for being common to most people, if not all. Examples would be taking refreshment, visiting an apartment, making a phone call. Gradually, I related my understanding of activity-mediated situations to Bakhtin's (1986) notion of spheres of activity. Obviously, for the situation to be communicative in nature there had to be two or more participants interacting within a particular context. Context is more pervasive than situation in that it relates to society and shared understandings. It is also comprised of the physical setting and the personal history of the participants, including their socio-economic status, education, sex, etc., and the experiences these attributes have engendered. Context informs their understanding of the way the world is and how they and others interact in it. In this sense, context and situation are mutually determinate, or share a dialogic relationship (Bakhtin, 1986). An actor's words or actions in any situation can alter the context. Likewise, a perceived change in the context will influence what an actor says or does in a situation. Talk, it would seem, "both invokes context and provides context for other talk" (Goodwin & Duranti, 1992, p. 7). Through this language- and /or activity- mediated interaction or exchange between the actors within the situation and its accompanying context, the energy is generated which sustains this social world or community. Engagement Stemming from the two-worlds motif, this theme is indicative of the extent to which the learners allow themselves to become involved in the microworld. It is related to their participation in the situations and contexts of this community. Engagement has an emotional aspect; in other words, there is a form of emotional involvement on the part of the learner. 176 Engagement means that learners suspend disbelief and "buy into" this world in much the same way that movie-goers or people watching a soap opera permit themselves to be drawn into the Active world of the drama. Being There Many of the participants reported the experience of being "transported" into the microworld, the Parisian community of Philippe Vitaz, and of actually becoming a part of this community. Within their comments is the suggestion that this feeling of "being there" had an impact on their learning. Rose, for instance, explicitly correlates engagement in the sense of being there with her learning. In terms of being able to suspend disbelief and enter into Philippe's world, she said, "You feel like you're there with the video and being able to interact with the characters" (R.I 1.5). Later, I asked her, "Compared to all the other things you are doing to learn French, how do you think Philippe is helping you? Is it giving you something that all these other things you've just listed off aren't?" This was how she replied: I guess it's just part and parcel of the fact that I get so involved~I feel like I'm in Paris which is kind of fun. I get to go exploring Paris.... And I kind of enjoy it, if you're given the map you can go anywhere.... I was just in Europe this past summer so it sort of makes me feel like I've gone back. (R.I1.5) Rose suggested Philippe helped her feel a part of this world by enabling her to manipulate it. Most of those interviewed echoed Rose's claim of feeling as though she were there. When I asked Elizabeth what impact the video might have had on her learning, she replied, "It was very detailed in the locations and the addresses and everything. I think that did help a lot because it made you feel like you were there, I guess, in Paris. And seeing all the scenery and everything was really neat too; so it made it more interesting" (E.I1.8). Her comments suggest another aspect of engagement, i.e., interest, and hint at the relationship between engagement, 177 motivation, and learning. Connie compared Philippe to the immersion experience, saying, "The Philippe program is probably the closest thing to the immersion experience that I've had, especially if Philippe was to be used in conjunction with an organized course of study. I think that would provide a bit of the balance that you get in an immersion programme." (C.I2.1) Commenting on what it was about Philippe that reminded her of an immersion-type experience, Connie said, "Partly because the technology is so interactive it's almost like you're there [my emphasis], you're part of the group, one of the characters, going through everyday life doing ordinary daily sort of things, which is what you do in an immersion experience, it's part of your everyday life" (C.I2.1). While other participants' comments supported Connie's remarks, it is interesting to note that all of the comments have one thing in common-they qualify the experience of "being there" as tentative. For example, Laura said, "You are almost indirectly [my emphasis] placing yourself within Paris- within the city" (L.I 1.2). Similarly, comparing what Philippe had to offer with what a teacher in a classroom had to offer, Moira said, "I did get a feeling somewhat [my emphasis] of being in Paris.... so you get a feeling somewhat as if you are in the French environment, whereas you are not when you are sitting in a classroom at [University] studying" (M.I2.1). Andrew, who had learned a second language in the target language community, thought Philippe was "kind of like a watered-down, tame version [my emphasis] of what it's really gonna be like" (A.I 1.11) He provides a clue as to what makes it a "not-quite" experience: The inability to communicate with the characters through speech. He quickly added, "But that was the only thing that's really missing from the experiences you can have on a very superficial level in a foreign language situation" (A.I1.8). 178 Emotional Involvement and Values As a part of the experience of subjective presence in this simulated environment (Heeter, 1992), the participants experienced emotional involvement. This aspect of engagement often manifested itself as a combination of the participants' emotional reactions and their values. By emotional reaction I mean the degree to which the participants empathized with the characters in the particular situations in which they found themselves. In order to experience empathy the participants had to be able to identify with the characters' personalities and/or the various situations and contexts of the narrative. As we saw earlier, Jean explained how she could empathize with Philippe because she had children his age and knew how hard it can be for young people starting out. The participants' emotional reactions and feelings of empathy were, therefore, very much related to their values and their personal identity. Helen displayed an awareness of her engagement on the level of values. Commenting on how important the plot of the story was to her learning, she said, I would have to say for the first few weeks of my working with Philippe it was very important, because that's when I was trying to determine what were the correct answers and what I should be doing right. But once I got past that I don't think the plot really had much to do with it. It was more of a discovery tour. (H.I1.6) Helen explained that correct answers were what she felt Philippe should do according to her "morals," which she was "imposing" on him through the decisions she made on his behalf. In the final analysis the choices one makes rely heavily on values and belief systems. Therefore, when learners are asked to make choices, especially choices which will have an impact on the life of another human being, they are being asked to engage on the level of values. Although the characters were Active, they represented "human beings" for many of the participants. There are also examples of the participants' desire to impose their will or values on the characters and subsequent outcome of the plot. Although a part of her task was to reunite 179 Philippe with his girlfriend, Elisabeth, Rose remarked, "I don't think I would want to get them back together at this point" (R.I2.10). Gail, who took this one step further, reported trying to get Philippe and Dominique together (G.I 1.9). When one of Gail's attempts to apply her values to Philippe's life wasn't as successful as she had hoped, she said, "I ended up screwing up his life and I felt really bad" (G.I1.8-9). Obviously, Gail was feeling a strong sense of engagement. On the other side of the coin, Connie's values prevented her from identifying with Philippe. "I really can't identify with him a lot," Connie said. "He's young, I can identify with that. Relatively similar age group, having to look for a place to stay and having to look for work... I can identify with all that. He does tend to come across to me as a bit [chuckling] of a loser. I like his friend a bit better" (C.I1.8). Explaining why she thought he was a loser, Connie hinted at the values underlying her conclusions, "I guess because his girlfriend is kicking him out and... he hasn't had steady work. I mean, yeah, he's a free-lance journalist, but, you know, surely he could get some income some other way. I don't know, maybe I have too high an expectation [laughing]..." (C.I1.8). Connie and her husband are an industrious, newly married couple. Connie was working and studying languages between jobs while her husband was finishing medical school. Her values would appear to include high expectations for herself, as well as others. Connie's high expectations for Philippe had a negative impact on her engagement with the program. When I asked Connie if she felt a sense of involvement or engagement with the story, she responded: I did to some degree. I think it actually varied. I did at first I think because I was really eager and interested in it. There was a point where I was kind of annoyed at Philippe because he is kind of pathetic in some ways. And I found that was a bit distancing in some way but not in a serious way; it was just kind of stand back and laugh at him a little bit. But half the fun is being involved and I really wasn't as involved as I would have liked to have been. (C.I2.1-2) While not completely off-putting, Connie's inability to identify with Philippe did have a negative 180 influence on her sense of engagement with the program. Her comments also serve as a reminder that engagement does not remain constant but rather fluctuates with the situations and the character's actions. Tom wanted to be engaged at the level of values but found that the program's limited interface prevented him from doing this. He complained that the range of possibilities presented in the choice menus did not permit self-expression: Who you are as a person doesn't really play into it. You can't really be yourself in the video, like in the interaction. For example, when they give you a bunch of choices of things you can do, there's a right answer according to the video. Or, according to the program.... And so, you can't really put yourself into it. And, as far as being stifled.... I found that more stifling than my relationship with the characters. (T.I 1.4-5) Tom's experience illustrates how the choices offered and the interface can limit engagement with the program. Yet, perhaps more striking is Tom's desire to identify with the various situations and to have his values influence the interaction as well as the overall narrative structure. Interactivity and the Role of Narrative Combining these two themes, in a sense, pulls together the two worlds. On the surface interactivity appears to be primarily related to the techno-pedagogical world whereas narrative is part and parcel of the world of the video drama. Yet, the technical features enable learners to interact with both the narrative and the pedagogical worlds. These "worlds" overlap, mingle, and fuse. Both interactivity and narrative played a strong role in Gail, Connie, and Laura's experience of engagement with the program. Interactivity was the link between the participant and the narrative. Through the interactive features, learners could interact with the characters and have a degree of control over the narrative structure. When I asked Gail to identify the most 181 motivating aspect of the program, she replied, "Probably being able to affect the story, like have an actual impact on what was going on" (G.I1.9). Answering the question, "What do you think it is about your personality that makes Philippe work for you?", Connie noted the opportunity to listen to people's stories and to interact: I like people. I'm interested in people. I don't have a problem listening to their stories. I like to help people even if they are sort of silly people like Philippe. I like that sort of personal contact and personal contact was very much a part of Philippe. You are a part of the story. As a player, you are a character. Philippe is asking you personally to help him, and for your opinion. (C.I2.10-11) In response to the question, "How did you like the experience of working on your own with Philippe?", Laura drew a link among autonomy, interactivity, and narrative: And you're kind of like the third character within a certain vignette. It's kind of like those novels that you either take this path or the other path. So, yeah, it was neat but you have to take the initiative. Because if you are just clicking here, clicking there, watching the vignettes, you don't get anything out of it. If you just sit there, it's like watching TV5.... (L.I 1.2) It is noteworthy that in response to questions pertaining to motivation, autonomy, and personal identity, the participants' answers turned on the role of interactivity and narrative structure in their engagement. The common denominator seems to be the opportunity to have some degree of control over the environment or microworld. A pervasive quality of the learners' experience was this sense of "agency", i.e., "the satisfying power to take meaningful action and see the results of our decisions and choices" (Murray, 1997, p. 126). It is interesting to note that autonomy sets the stage for agency by providing a structure which empowers the learner to make decisions leading to meaningful action. The notion of agency could explain the motivational appeal of autonomy for some learners. Discussing these issues, Tom noted that while interactivity can enhance motivation by enabling the learners' sense of agency, limited interactivity can hamper engagement. For Tom, 182 both the most and least motivating aspects of the program revolved around its narrative structure and the role he could play in shaping it: The most motivating part is to be able to affect the future in the program. So, at every point you can affect what's going to happen and, after you've done it enough, you know where certain choices are going to take you, so you're playing God again...So, that was motivating, I like that, I like being able to construct how the story would go. The least motivating is that... you never find out what Pierre looks like and why Elizabeth is into him so much, and you never find out why Dominique thinks she is a bit of a sleaze. And, you never find out what it was like between Elizabeth and Philippe. You never find that out and, I don't know, you never really get that into the characters. I'm thinking sort of being involved with who that person really is. (T.I 1.11) Tom's motivation was stifled by the fact that he couldn't interact or engage the characters on a deeper level. In his journal he wrote, "I would like to have more latitude to interact with the characters in a more meaningful way... a way that doesn't feel like an if/then choice when I say or do it" (T.J.2). Interaction with the main character takes place through dialogue menus; in other words, choices. Tom felt choice was limited and false choices were frustrating. "Why give us all these choices when there really is no choice?" he huffed (T.I 1.6). Tom's experience supports the contention that choices on a dialogue menu limit agency and reduce the transparency of the technology (Murray, 1997), thereby, diminishing learners' engagement. Certainly, this was Rose's experience. Discussing what it was about the program that enabled her to become so involved or engaged with it and the people in it, she said, "Limited as it may be, you do have interaction with the characters. But just plainly the video component does a lot. Just the fact that it's a story" (R.I1.5). Elaborating on the role of interactivity, Rose said, "I guess it makes you feel like you're more a part of what's going on, because you do have a say in what goes on." Rose's sense of engagement was enhanced by the degree of control and the subsequent agency she experienced; however, the limited interface negatively affected all three. Describing the overall experience working with the program, she said: 183 You feel almost a part of it. A part of what's happening to a certain extent, at least the first few times. Then it got a little bit more problematic because then problems arose where you weren't able to always tell him exactly what you wanted to tell him. Because, for instance, there's a number of phone calls that come in the morning. When you meet him, you can only tell him about one of them. So, at that point it's like "Wait a minute, there's these other ones as well. What happens with those?" They're not important. So, you have to pick and choose, so that leaves the realism behind a little bit, because, if you were actually talking to him, you would be able to tell him about all of them. (R.I 1.1) In a discussion of aspects which might have stymied her motivation, Rose again referred to this technical limitation: I enjoyed working with it because it does have the interaction. And I understand that you can't put the full range of possible interactions into a computer program but I think it's partially due to the fact that I do get so into it that all of a sudden I'm frustrated, because I can't do what I would like to do. Or, to phone somebody... I'll type in the message because they're not there, into their answering machine, but they don't react to that. They don't call me back. Like they give me the opportunity to do that part, but it hasn't been set up so that... and I understand that that would probably not be possible but... it gets frustrating, because I do get so into it and I feel like I'm there, that when these limitations do arise, I get a little frustrated because it takes me back to reality. (R.I1.2) Paradoxically, the interactivity which appears to fuel Rose's engagement also serves to undermine her sense of being there. Connie also reported feeling involved or engaged with the program because the decisions (choices) she was making had an impact on the story. However, she noted, "I felt sometimes I had to really force myself to be interested in it or to work with it... but I think that was around the time when... I had to start answering it the way that I wouldn't, according to my beliefs" (H.I1.18). Jean, you'll remember from the last chapter, reported a similar experience. The necessity of making choices which were contrary to their beliefs and values in order to access new material had a negative impact on their engagement with the program. The experience of agency seems to be reliant on the learners' value systems. Programs meant to be used repeatedly, as learners explore alternate paths could diminish learners' sense of agency and engagement by forcing them to make decisions which conflict with their values. 184 Learners would have preferred one long narrative with branching paths rather than a shorter narrative requiring them to repeat scenes as they attempt to experience an alternate version. Several of the participants suggested that the lack of complexity and temporal duration of the narrative structure had a negative impact on their engagement. Most expressed surprise when they reached the end of the story as quickly as they did the first time they went through it (i.e., first game). Patty, whose first "run-through" lasted almost four sessions, never seemed to recover her sense of engagement or interest for subsequent sessions. We saw in the last chapter how reaching the end of the first game as soon as they did had a negative impact on Diane and Katelyn's engagement. Soon their interaction with the program was a race through it in order to find new scenes. It was almost a war of wills between these two women and the techno-pedagogical side of the program. By and large, the participants wanted more narrative. As Andrew said, "I thought it was going to be a lifelong story" (Andrew, audio-tape, session 2). Learning and Engagement Diane and Katelyn's lack of engagement thwarted their learning as well as their efforts to access new material. Theirs was the first case to hint at the relationship between engagement with the microworld and learning. However, others followed. Comparing the experience of working with Philippe to watching a TV programme, Rose explained how engagement incited by interactivity might encourage learners to focus more on the language and the situation, thereby enhancing learning: Well, there is the computer component where you can interact, even though it is limited, that changes it from just the TV. So, that makes it a little bit more involved. You have to keep sort on your toes more because you're going to have to answer questions or do something with the information given in the video. Whereas if it's just the straight video course which do exist, you feel like you don't have to keep up that much on what's going on. (R.I1.5) Interactivity engenders both opportunity and necessity to use the language. 185 Bernice also saw a strong relationship between engagement, narrative structure, and language use. During the first interview, I asked Bernice how important the plot of the story was to her learning. She responded, "I think because there is a story line then the vocab, the grammar they use, there's a use for it, because if it was just there giving a lesson, it would be pretty boring" (B.I1.12). The story line stimulated Bernice's interest, while interactivity deepened and sustained that interest by giving her the opportunity to use the language in simulated contexts. For Gail, Philippe has "personalized" her learning by providing cultural background and this has enhanced her motivation to learn the language. Gail explained that "being able to go into all the different houses... just added a real cultural thing because—I don't know if this is weird-but I love to look at houses and the different ways things are set up. And to me that says a lot about culture and just the different ways things are done" (G.E.5). Philippe enabled Gail to learn about aspects of the culture that were of interest to her. She explained that this aspect of her work with Philippe affected her motivation to learn French, "It sort of personalized it by giving the cultural background and stuff. It just seems more—how would you say it?—more natural, I guess. Like, you want to get into it more, the more you do it" (G.I2.5). In another example, Tom suggested that being engaged and, more specifically, being engaged emotionally, influenced his learning. In his second journal entry, he wrote, "I like the plombier and learn more by listening to his brusque off the cuff manner than I do by listening to Philippe speak really quickly" (T.J.I). In the same entry he wrote, "I like to repeat words that sound nice to me. For example, bouche a oreille or phrases said with feeling like j 'en ai marre" (T.J.I). Not only did he like to repeat words or phrases that sounded pleasant, or that were uttered with an emotional impact, but he liked to repeat the utterances of characters he liked. For this reason Tom made this technical suggestion: 186 Here's a thought... it might be neat from a language acquisition standpoint to be able to take on different personalities in the program. For example, I think I'd like being Antoine's friend more than Philippe's... I like his manner more... and find myself more inclined to repeat his words in the first scene" (T.J.I). Elaborating on his suggestion in an interview, he explained, You know how sometimes in video games where you can select what character you're gonna play. If you want to play the ogre, or you want to play the dragon slayer or whatever, you pick these different characters and they appear different on the screen and have different powers or something. It might've been interesting if that were an option. That would be much better 'cause you could see the conversations from the other stand point. (T.I 1.5) In a later journal entry, Tom returned to the theme of emotional engagement, I found myself today repeating a lot of what was said not because I needed to say it but because it just sounded nice rolling off the tongue. Especially the part where the plumber comes in and says not to tell him that you've been waiting three weeks, he knows. I like the realism of this and also the fact that it makes me laugh. Philippe rarely makes me laugh. The only example I can think of is when he makes verbal digs at the apartment agent. I also like repeating what Dominique says. She has such an endearing voice. (T.J.2) In the first interview, describing the experience of working with the program, he referred to a "kind of personal involvement with certain characters" (T.I 1.1). He noted the Plumber, Antoine, and Dominique, saying, "I liked sort of hanging out with them and it was a pleasure trying to say what they were saying" (T.I 1.1). For Tom, repeating after these characters seems to be an expression of the affective aspect of engagement. According to the reported experiences of these participants, their engagement with the video drama had an impact on their learning. Their engagement was heightened by interactivity which created situations necessitating language use. This required them to focus on the language. Tom's experience illustrates how emotions and even humour come into play. To quote a Yiddish proverb, a lesson taught with humour is a lesson learned. 187 Fixation The term "fixation" refers to three different, yet possibly related, phenomena. Sometimes it refers to being drawn repeatedly to a particular scene. Another manifestation of this theme is having bits of French "just pop into one's mind," so to speak. The third facet of fixation is akin to the experience of having a song in one's head that just won't go away. Several participants reported having a word or phrase that "stuck in their heads." Bemice noted remembering the word "arroser" (B.I1.16). Jean also had phrases "stick" in her mind (J.I1.10). Patty reported, "After I've gone through a session with Philippe and next day, generally in the shower or whatever, I'll be madly repeating one sentence that I tried to repeat the day before" (P.I 1.17). Tom compared the experience to hearing a song on the radio and having it stay in mind: I'm a auditory learner, that's how I leam best. Like, I know song lyrics, for example. I pick them up really easily and this kind of stuff. I may not be able to repeat it straight back to you after it has been said but it circulates in my brain and sometimes totally out of the blue it will just come up. You know, like you'll just start humming a song for whatever reason and it drives you crazy, but there it is. (T.I1.25) I asked Connie pointedly if there were certain things that sort of stuck in her head, to which she replied emphatically, "J'en ai marre desparasites!"1 Explaining, she said, With that particular one, because it was spoken with such emphasis, and because it made absolutely no sense to me at all, so I watched it over and over, over and over again, I read it, I listened to it, I said it, until I really felt that I knew it, and understood it and I don't think I'll ever forget it. [Laughing] It's very internalized. (C.I2.10) I then asked if she was intrigued because she didn't understand or because of the emotional impact of the opening scene. Connie answered: Well, I don't know that it was so much the opening scene. The emotional impact, the way that she delivered it was very emotional and it really did not make any sense to me at all, 'Translated in this context, it means "I'm fed up with people that live off (or take advantage of) other people." 188 at first. In fact, I couldn't even understand what she was saying the first few times. I had to listen to it a couple of times to really get it. (C.I2.10) Even if Connie understood the expression, it wouldn't have necessarily made any sense to her at this point because of the reliance of its meaning on the context of the plot. What seems to have made an impression on Connie was the emotional impact. Tom had one especially intense experience of engagement which had a powerful emotional quality. He began his journal entry for February 14 by writing, "Had an awesome experience today. Was in the right mind frame to be doing what I was doing" (T.J.2). He concluded by writing, "Overall I felt as though I am coming to engage with the program in a way perhaps not quite real but real enough for the moment."(T.J.2) In the interview I asked Tom to talk about this statement. He offered this explanation: I think that was that one particular day where I just came in and everything was ~ and it was hot. It was the week after the pre-test. And that really got me rolling ~ like the pre-test. I think I did lousy but that's beside the point. [Laughing] It just sort of got my French rolling. And it just kicked me off.2 So, when I sat down at the program, I'm into this. And [pause] I don't know if you've ever, you know, you put those earplugs in, the ones you screw up and shove in your ears.... You're there and you've got them in, and everything's loud and then all of a sudden it just sort of fades out. It was kind of like that. All of a sudden, everything just faded out and I was happening with the program. It felt weird. And I don't really know how to describe it. And I think I hung out there for quite a while, because it was me.... I was engaged. (T.I1.6-7) The language Tom uses to describe his experience suggests a period of intense engagement. I asked him if he ever felt that engaged before or after. He responded by describing other instances in which he felt he was more "fixated" than "engaged": 2In retrospect Tom thought that perhaps his excitement about the test was generated from having the opportunity to practice his French language skills. As Tom explained, it was important to him to have the "opportunity to practice and to see some kind of change in the way [he] interacted]" (T.I 1.22). He added, "Maybe that's why I got such a thrill out of the pre-test. 'Cause actually somebody was there and I was interacting with the man. I was communicating which is the goal of this whole mission." 189 Not engaged, more fixated. [Laughter] Like, I was engaged there and I went from transition to transition, from scene to scene. And it was cool. I was there for it. But... like in different sessions, it was more like I would become fixated at a certain scene. And I'd play that scene over and over again.... the idea was that I just got into certain scenes. And I would just sort of hang out there 'cause I maybe felt safe. It's like, do you ever read books over and over again that you've read before? I guess what I'm saying is, sometimes, like I have a series of books, a group of books, at home that are safe books for me. I can go into them. And, I know exactly what's gonna happen. It's all defined, you know, it's sort of a safe haven. The ultimate escapism or whatever. In the program, I would get fixated on certain scenes. 'Cause I know exactly what's gonna happen, and I like what happens. (T.I1.7-8) Tom appears to have been experiencing a very profound level of engagement which involved not only his emotions but his very sense of who he was as a person. Research into the affective aspects of language learning would suggest that this sort of emotional engagement has an impact on learning (Schumann, 1992, 1994). Future research will need to explore the interdependence of learners' sense of engagement with the microworld, its narrative structure, and their learning. The participants' sense of engagement is, first and foremost, their sense of subjective presence in the microworld. They showed signs of involvement at the level of emotions and values. Interactivity heightened the sense of engagement by offering some control over events in this world, i.e., a sense of agency, as well as interaction with its inhabitants. Conversely, limited interactivity can dampen learners' sense of engagement. Video data triangulated with interview data suggest the participants' learning was related to their sense of engagement. Exposure The theme of exposure is related to opportunities to listen to spoken French. All the learners felt they needed more exposure to spoken French. They felt they didn't get enough listening in their academic programs, either in the public school system or at the university level. But it wasn't just listening practice they wanted-they wanted exposure to French as it is spoken by native-speakers in everyday-life situations. The frequent appearance of the theme of exposure 190 in journals and language histories, as well as in answers to a variety of interview questions, is an indicator of its importance to the learners. The Importance of Exposure At one time or another all of the participants made an unsolicited comment about their belief concerning the importance of exposure to their language learning. Like many of the participants, Helen wanted to work with the program in order "to get exposure to spoken French as it is in the streets, between friends, between colleagues, whatever" (H.I2.15). This is what Philippe could give her that classroom study couldn't (H.I 1.17). Comparing the experience of working with Philippe to learning French in the classroom, Gail says, French in a classroom stresses more grammar and things like that and it's all very technical. You don't see it at work, and situations, and Philippe was more situational. And they both have their places but I think there needs to be an emphasis on the actual day to day sort of thing. So, I think that Philippe did that and I was really impressed with that part of it. Like, you could see different contexts and how people actually use the language instead of learning this tense, sort of thing. (G.I 1.12) The general consensus was that Philippe offered participants exposure to the language as it is used in everyday situations by a variety of people in a variety of contexts. Variety is an important aspect of exposure. Patty described the experience of working with Philippe as "exhilarating" because of the exposure it provided to everyday French. She felt that the plot of the story was important to her learning because of the exposure it afforded to "the variety of emotions and the forms of communicating" (P.I 1.10). Yet, Laura and others thought that Philippe could be improved in terms of variety. She summed up their thoughts on the matter when she said, "If you put more of an adventure into it, different plots, different settings, you get different words rather than words on just how to buy an apartment" (L.I1.3). Similarly, Connie said, "I think it's nice to be exposed to a variety of different characters. We get to hear a variety of different speeches. We get a broader cross section, even though it is still very narrow. But 191 nevertheless a broader cross section of French society and life." (C.I1.6-7) She continued by explaining what the benefits might be for her language learning: For instance, with Philippe, his pronunciation is difficult to understand, so we have to have an extra little key on the computer where someone else speaks his lines. But the other characters, obviously, speak differently, somewhat differently than he does, and differently than each other; so, it's nice to hear different voices. I have worked with some programs before, in Russian, not on the computer, but just oral. Listening to them. And you can get used to a voice. You can accustom yourself to a voice. But then you hear another voice! And, you're in trouble! [Laughing] (C.I1.7) It is interesting that there seems to be no automatic transference of the aural recognition of a word from one speaker's voice to another. Recognition only comes after we've heard the word spoken by a variety of characters in a variety of contexts. Tom, who the year before had attended a language school in Chambery, France, described it as "ridiculously ineffective," because the staff didn't take advantage of the social contexts offered by the everyday situations of the community. Tom, probably a low intermediate learner at the time, said, "I found that I learned more just being out on the streets, and going to the bars and, talking to people there.... If I were to do it again, I wouldn't bother going to a language school. I'd just sort of set up shop and start to move around" (T.I1.2). Tom found exposure to everyday social situations more helpful than attending class. Although being there is important, it was not just being there that helped Tom. Tom was acting as a peripheral participant in the community. He appreciated Philippe because it afforded him this type of exposure. In the experience of these learners, exposure to the target language as it is spoken by target language speakers in everyday contexts is crucial to their learning. Variety is important. They stress exposure to a variety of speakers in a variety of situations. Finally, Tom's experience reminds us that the emphasis on exposure does not imply a passive state on the part of the learner. Exposure serves best as an opportunity for language use. 192 Opportunity and Necessity as Aspects of Exposure As a murder mystery fan, I have realized that language learners and murder suspects have something in common — they both have to have motive and opportunity. This thought came to me as I mused over Laura's comment, "I really felt like the little Sherlock Holmes, clicking here, clicking there, finding things out about this, finding things out about that" (L.I1.2). Philippe provided her with the opportunity to explore this environment as well as a reason to use the language. Addressing the question of how she perceives herself as a language learner, Elizabeth talked about the role of exposure and opportunity to use the language: I guess it would be the more I'm around it, or the more I'm able to practice it, the better I learn; and I get discouraged when I just start, or when I just learn rules and don't have a chance to apply them, because then I forget them and I just don't see the point.... I benefit a lot more when I use all my grammar rules to write an essay or do an oral presentation or carry on a conversation or something along those lines. (E.I1.15) Elizabeth has had the experience of learning Croatian by being situated in a small community of which she was a member (her family) and having access to a variety of everyday activities in that language. In an interview she told me how she learned to write the language by writing letters to family members who couldn't speak English. Obviously, opportunity, desire to maintain contact with family members, and the necessity of finding a common language conspired to give Elizabeth the impetus to learn to write in Croatian. For Moira, her lifelong desire to become a fluent speaker of French had not been realized because of a lack of opportunity and necessity. Moira wrote in her narrative, "I have always regretted that I have not had a reason or the opportunity to develop proficiency in French. If I had lived in a place in Canada where there was reason and opportunity to use French, I am sure I would have been fluent now" (M.N.I). She also suggested that opportunity is dependent upon 193 desire: I could have spoken all the languages [I studied] well, if I had had—not exactly if I'd had the chance, because I wouldn't say I didn't have the chance. If I'd set that as my goal, there are ways that one could achieve it. Now I had three kids and I was teaching full time at a university and so there were many reasons why it wasn't easy to take up. (M.I1.1) In other words, creating opportunity can be a question of priorities. For Moira, opportunity meant access to an environment where the language is spoken as well as time to devote to study. In addition to a demanding career, she had to consider the needs of her family. Moira implied that given the lack of necessity, she could not justify the familial upheaval and time required to fulfil her dream. In addition to opportunity one needs to have a "reason... to develop proficiency in French." As an example of "reason" or "necessity", Moira cited the possibility of her working at a bilingual university: I went for a job interview to the University of Ottawa once, for example. Now there, there would've been strong pressures on me to become bilingual. If I had got that job and gone there, then I'm sure that I would have had reason, that I would've been embarrassed not to be fluent in French. And I would've been embarrassed not to speak good French, you see. So, I'm quite sure that if I had taken that job.... I would've been a respectable French speaker. (Mil.3) So, there is the necessity to be in the second language environment in the first place, but there is also the necessity for interaction in the target language within this environment. As Moira said, "I think that to be a fluent speaker of a language, you have to be in a situation that calls on you to use the language for real purposes. And I can't see it as being likely that I'm going to be in a environment where that's going to occur" (M.I 1.3). Both instances of necessity are linked to opportunity. First, you must have the opportunity or create the opportunity to be in the second language setting. Then you must have the opportunity for interaction. Moira's concern was that these opportunities would not present 194 themselves at this stage of her life, because the necessity would not be there to interact with a retired foreigner whose sole purpose in being in the second language environment was to leam the language. I wonder if people will treat seriously a sixty-five year old woman who's coming to leam to be fluent in French. There are certain expectations of retired people that instead it might not be treated seriously by others. It's hard to say. But that's just the feeling I have.... Who would talk to me? Could- would I find people who would talk to me? I can go to the store and buy butter and bread and wine but it would be hard to have conversations. (M.I1.2) For Moira, opportunity meant becoming a member of the target language community, albeit marginally. Still, opportunity must be accompanied by necessity. The exposure Philippe offered combined both opportunity and necessity to use the language, if participants were to proceed with the activity. As Moira noted, "I think that I have always wished that I could be in an environment where is was necessary for me to speak French.... Doing the program put me somewhat in that environment" (M.I2.4). The Role of Context in Listening Comprehension One aspect of the learners' experience which emerged repeatedly was the importance of context in listening comprehension. Many of the participants in this study acknowledged, discussed, or at least hinted at the role of context in their listening comprehension. From the outset Moira was aware of the role context played in her comprehension. Assessing her language proficiency in her narrative as she started working with the program, Moira wrote, "Of the remaining three language skills, I am least proficient in understanding spoken French. I understand odd words, but have difficulty getting even the gist of what is being said unless I have good support from the context" (M.N.2). In her first journal entry, Moira, whose experience as an educator enabled her to use the terminology of language learning, acknowledged, "Often I could figure out the meaning from the context and checked the glossary 195 only to confirm my prediction" (M.J.2). Moira's work with Philippe helped her understand better the role of context in listening comprehension: I can read pretty easily but can understand little of what is said. However, there is the odd word I can hear and that encourages me. For example, I heard the woman on the answering machine... say "desolee" and another word I don't recall, and it makes me realize that this is what would happen if you were in a foreign language environment— you would hear the odd word here and there (at the start) and would use the context to figure out what is going on and gradually you would be able to hear more and more. Quite the problem solving exercise! I regret that I have never been in such a situation. (M.J.6) The topic came up again during the second interview in a discussion of what the experience taught her about how she learned a second language: It was an interesting indicator to me... of the way that one does read a context in trying to follow what's being said. Now I know that very well academically and I know little children read contexts. But this I suppose—well, it wasn't my first experience because I have been in language environments in other situations where Hungarian and German were... my language knowledge is very, very, very limited, much more limited than French and I would notice that I could sometimes read the context to at least get the drift of what's being talked about. But it was more pronounced here and that was an interesting thing to me. (M.I2.2) Moira also talked about how the context enabled her to use a "guessing" strategy in order to make predictions or inferences about meaning: I mentioned it in my journals, how one would use context and a little bit of the few words you can understand to get the drift of something.... Then I realized well, yes, of course, this a strategy that one would use if you were in a language environment. You'd be watching the gestures, you'd be listening to the words, you'd be reading the context, which of course is what little children do. But that was the first experience I'd had of it and that—well that was quite interesting. Now it was very prominent at one or two points when the plumber was there.... And it was the context I was reading and very few words. And then, when he went to an apartment and a real estate agent was showing him the apartment to some extent, there; what I don't know [is] whether I interpreted it correctly-this is always a danger also—what the real estate agent was saying. But I was sort of guessing at it, anyway, "which, of course, is what one does when one is trying to get language. So that was interesting because I think that would be a strategy I would be using more deliberately and consciously, if I'd go on with Philippe. (M.I1.6) Although she "knew" the role context played, being in a situation where she had to rely more on 196 it than her speaking ability underscored the extent to which context informs our understanding. Tom recounted a similar experience in which he made inferences about the context in order to understand what was being said: You're inferring stuff from what goes on. So, in the first scene, a bunch of stuff would be said, "Blah, blah, blah," and I catch word, word, word, and I put it together using my own... reasoning powers. "What do you think these guys could be talking about after the big spat with Elizabeth and looking for an apartment? Oh well, they could be talking about this or they could be talking about that... I think it's this." (T.I 1.13) Context provides us with the information we need in order to piece together what might be happening. Yet, the ideas expressed through spoken language play a role in determining the context, so we can never wholly rely on context in our attempts to understand. As Tom pointed out concerning his language learning experience in France, "I was more willing to rely on my own inferences and that got me in trouble" (T.I 1.14). Our understanding of language and the context in which it is used also informs our subsequent use of language items. As Patty remarked, "When I was in Quebec and people were calling each other 'chum' or 'blonde,' these are things that you don't necessarily find in a book. You can't read a book and find out that the normal way of talking about a friend of yours is like this" (P.I 1.14). Before she could use a word, Patty needed a clear understanding of the context of its use. Actually, this was one way she thought the glossary feature might be improved, "I think there isn't a long enough description sometimes about the context of the word and why it's used in this situation. Sometimes I understand why they used it there but I would never, ever try to use that word because I don't know where it's supposed to go really" (P.I1.17). Patty's comments are a reminder of the importance of understanding the language items and their accompanying contexts as a precursor to use. Gail developed the complex relationship between context, comprehension and usage into 197 a learning strategy. She would try to determine in what other contexts she could use the vocabulary words and expressions she was encountering through Philippe. She said, "I would also do little things with myself, imagining that I was carrying on a conversation with somebody, and I would try to see where else I could use that sort of thing [vocabulary item]" (G.I1.3). Gail found this strategy to be highly beneficial to her learning: I found that helped a lot with the integration of it, because then I'd get it in my head. It would be more of a natural thing then. Like, for a lot of the time I would memorize little quips like j 'en ai des parasites, but a lot of the other ones, you can fit it into a lot of different contexts other than the one that's on the tape. (G.H'.4) In real life situations these vocabulary items would be repeated in various situations that the learner would encounter in the course of a day in the second language environment. Philippe has helped by providing a glimpse of how people use the language in day-to-day contexts. Context and Memory Besides helping us determine meaning, context serves to help us remember. When I asked Patty if there was some evidence that she was actually learning French by working with the program, she answered, "I guess playing with French more in my head" (P.I2.2). Responding to my question of whether she thinks in French more now since she started working with the program, she said, "Yes, I'll be in the middle of a conversation with someone, and the next word that wants to come out is in French and I can't think of an English equivalent [laughing] and that's bad" (P.I2.10). Explaining why she thought that happened, she said, "French was stimulated in my brain somewhere" (P.12.10). The question remains, "What stimulated French in her brain?" Could it be that something in the context was similiar to the context in which she had heard the French expression used before? Elizabeth reported having had the same kind of experience. Recounting an incident that 198 suggested some change in her French since she started working with the program, she said, "There's been a few times in class that I've recognized a vocab [item] that I hadn't known before. And I had known it through that program. I could recognize it and kind of think of the phrase in my mind or the situation where I'd heard it before" (E.I2.2). Recognition of the vocabulary item was accompanied by memories of the situation in which she had heard it, suggesting context plays a role in memory. Gail, who had a similar experience, offered an explanation for this phenomenon. When I asked her if she had an increased tendency to think in French, she answered, "Probably more so than I did before... I found it a lot in the last little while, that even when I'm thinking in English, like speaking in English, sometimes the first things that'll come into my head will be in French. And then I'll have to translate and I think that's kind of neat" (G.I2.9). Gail had commented on this in her journal entry of March 13, writing, "I tend to call up the idiomatic expressions in my head in response to everyday things now (i.e., not just when working on French)" (G.J.3). Explaining why she thought this happened, Gail said: I'm not sure. It could be that I was making an effort to memorize the phrases and so when I'm thinking about something, like I find that when I'm talking in English and something comes up, one of the phrases will come into my head and it might just be that I had repeated it over and over in my head, like, under these circumstances you can say this and it might just come that way, I don't know. (G.I 1.17) Two things seem to be at work here. First, there is repetition. Gail said she had been repeating the phrases over and over. Later, in the second interview, Gail said, "I think just the repetitiveness of it did a lot. Like, it ingrained things in my head so that they did come up in my conversation. I saw it so many times that it was natural" (G.I2.2). (Repetition played such a key role in these learners' experiences that it will be treated as a separate theme.) Secondly, there is context. Gail said she had been repeating these phrases in a particular set of circumstances or context. Gail's 199 recall appeared to be triggered by context. As Gail noted, transference seemed to take place between different situations with similar contexts. According to the experience of these learners, the environment appears to have acted as some sort of "cybernetic device" serving to extend their memory. In other words, as science has worked to enhance the capacity of the human body through the development of various devices, elements of our physical and/or cultural environment serve to enhance our recall or memory, or quite simply store the information for us (Clark, 1997), for example, as dictionaries do. Or, perhaps, it's in the nexus of relationships that connect us to the situation and its context, and/or the social activity they engender, that we have this virtual, or extended, memory. Although this remains conjecture, the physical environment and circumstances which comprise the context play a role in both determining meaning as well as subsequent recall. Thus, context would appear to play a powerful role in language learning. Learning through Exposure All of the participants who had learned a second language outside of the classroom believed in the possibility of learning the language through exposure. To varying degrees they shared the belief that language learning in the classroom was drudgery. To add insult to injury, in spite of the pain, there was precious little gain. As Katelyn remarked, "It's hard, it's really hard. You almost have to grow up there and that be your first language" (K.I 1.4-5). Elizabeth's first language was English but she learned Croatian in her home. As she explained, "My parents are both Croatian so I just grew up with it in the home" (E.I1.3). I asked her to compare how she had been learning French to how she had learned Croatian. Elizabeth had this to say: I think it was totally the opposite. I learned Croatian just because I heard it all the time and I could just speak it and I didn't really have to work at it. Whereas French, it was the 200 opposite, because I learned all the grammar and everything but I never spoke it, so it was totally different. And my French teachers all the way through schooling, like elementary school and secondary school, we spoke English, so it was a little different. (E.I1.3) Elizabeth intimated that in the home they did not do school type exercises. As a matter of fact, when she told me about learning to write Croatian by writing letters to relatives, she said her mother would help her with the grammar and spelling. It would appear that Elizabeth learned Croatian as the language was required to carry out the daily business of family life. Rose learned Spanish, German and English at her mother's knee, and, therefore, claimed them as her three first languages. French was her only second language. As she explained, "I grew up with three so I mean those have been a part of my life, my whole life. The only one I've learned after the fact where I actually had to leam it as a second language would be French" (R.I 1.6). Rose explained the difference between growing up with three languages and making a concentrated effort to leam a fourth, French: The other ones came naturally. I don't have to make an effort to speak, to think about how to use the language. Sure, I'll make mistakes but I mean you do that in any language, like in grammar, [it] isn't always perfect when you're talking. So, they're a natural part of me, whereas the French isn't yet.... It's getting there but it isn't yet. (R.I1.6) I later pressed the point by asking her what she saw as the big difference between learning her "three mother-tongues" and French as a second language. She answered, "I think probably the big difference was that I didn't have the daily exposure to it except for in the classroom for that one hour a set number of times a week" (R.I 1.10). Rose specifically spoke about the role of exposure in learning grammar, noting that "here [with Philippe] it's sort of pick up the grammar as you go" (R.I2.2). When I said to Rose, "It doesn't really give you any help with grammar, does it?", she replied: No. Ah, the only thing is you do see the grammar in usage. Like, when you go in and see it all written out you see... a sentence properly structured. 'Cause especially when they 201 write it out, they'll put in everything that might've been missing in the speech, because you don't necessarily say everything when you're talking naturally. They'll put everything back in. If it hasn't been said, they'll put it in brackets. But they'll put everything back in. So, it is grammatically correct when you read it. And so, I mean, just the exposure to grammatically correct sentences helps your grammar usage. (R.I1.16) To support her explanation she gave this example: I mean that's the way kids learn grammar. They don't learn—when you're learning a language "neededly", kind of thing, as a child, you don't leam the direct object is such, this is the verb, this is—you just the sentence... by parroting, by whatever... by just exposure to the correct usage. So, it's the same sort of thing. You're exposed to correct usage. Thus, you should pick up something of the correct grammar usage.... (R.I1.16) Explaining how Philippe helped her, she said, "My guess is those things, just getting a wide variety of exposure to different usage, vocabulary, accents, and stuff (R.I1.2). The experience of other participants supported Rose's comments. Andrew, for example, credited a combination of classroom instruction and environmental exposure for his successful language learning experience. He stated, "Not only did I try and leam German in the classroom but also in life" (A.N.3). Andrew felt languages were to be learned through contact and social interaction (A.I1.7). Jean (as noted in the last chapter) offered a prime example of learning grammar through exposure to correct usage. She reported these items sticking in her head after repeated exposure in the context of a social situation. Repetition as Repeated Exposure Repetition entered into everyone's experience with the program. Because there was only one program like this and because it had seven different endings, the participants would start a new game as soon as they had completed one. This meant there were several scenes they would see over and over. Eventually, this repetition resulted in boredom. Yet, there is evidence that repetition as repeated exposure to the language as it was used in the contexts of various situations was helpful to the learners. 202 Andrew made reference to the theme of repeated exposure when I asked what he learned about himself as a language learner from working with the program: One thing I did learn is if you repeat things often enough, no matter how strange they sound, you remember the lines. You find yourself mouthing what people are saying. Which has it's bonus, but it means a lot of time, I mean to hear something that often.... Because I never really do it where I continuously repeat the exact same line over and over again. (A.I 1.18) This sounds as though Andrew had memorized the dialogue through listening repeatedly to the scenes. However, it is possible that something more profound was at work here. Andrew was not merely engaging in the mindless repetition of words or phrases out of context. Rather, he was hearing them and seeing them in the contexts of the scenes which he viewed repeatedly. Perhaps this is one of the advantages of learning a language in a foreign language setting: This repetition is provided as we engage in everyday situations. Because we are caught up in the context of these situations, we do not realize that we are hearing the same words, phrases and structures repeatedly. In this way, repetition plays a key role in language learning in the second language environment. Rose believed repetition to be a key factor in second language acquisition. Somehow this isn't surprising, once you've heard how she learned her first three languages: My Mom, she tells me [that] at the stage where I was learning how to talk, she would say, "Okay, this has three names. One name is [for] when you're talking to your Dad." That would be a Spanish usage. The German was when I was talking to my Grandma and English was when I was talking to friends. So, she'd say everything has three names and you use it in different moments. (R.I 1.7) As well as repetition, it's noteworthy that Rose's mother provided contextual information for the use of the word. Speaking about repetition in relation to her learning with Philippe, Rose said, "Well, a lot of language acquisition is just repetition and repeating it over and over again until it sort of sticks. And so, watching it all in context shows you how it's used and stuff, and let's you 203 see it in a natural setting..." (R.I1.3). For example, "just the repetition gets you accustomed to the vocabulary" (R.I1.3). Like Andrew, Rose notes the importance of contextualizing repetition in "a natural setting." Simultaneous Exposure to the Spoken Dialogue and Script The program offered another kind of exposure. Thus far the discussion has been oriented to the program as a video drama with the capability of providing exposure to a microworld. However, there is also the program as a pedagogical tool, which offered simultaneous exposure to the text of the drama in both its oral and written forms through the use of the transcription feature. Simultaneous exposure to the spoken dialogue and the script figured prominently in the experience of all the participants. First of all, the transcription feature aided in the aural recognition of the words. Andrew, who railed against classroom instruction because of the lack of listening opportunity, claimed Philippe helped him learn by enabling him "to associate the words with the sounds" (A.I 1.10). Similarly, Jean noted, "I was very grateful to find that I could call up the conversation on the screen, for certain expressions eluded me, but, when I read them, I found that I knew all the vocabulary, it was just a question of being able to pick out the words in rapid or unenunciated speech" (J.J.I). Elizabeth worked on her aural recognition skills by using a strategy which turned Philippe into an elaborate dictation machine. She would play the scenes utterance by utterance, writing down the dialogue as though it were a dictation exercise. To check her work all she had to do was review the scene using the transcription feature. On March 12, she wrote in her journal, I continued with the program by doing a dictation, checking by referring to the transcription, then repeating the phrase a few times. I found it helpful to do this because I could see how the words were spelled on the screen, then hear the corresponding sound when I repeated it. This helped my audio perception a lot. (E.J.2) In addition to helping with aural recognition, the transcription device facilitated learners' 204 abilities to make insights into the spoken features of the language. In the transcription, letters or syllables which were not heard in the spoken French were enclosed in brackets. As Jean said, "That gave me an idea of how language runs together when it's really spoken by Francophones instead of precisely by a teacher" (J.I1.3). When I asked Connie what her reliance on the transcription device did for her, she answered: Well, I guess my reading and writing knowledge of French is better than my listening and speaking knowledge. So, it's a bit of a boost or a crutch maybe. After I've read it, I know what to listen for. And, also with the words... well, not everything that's written is always pronounced. And so, with some parts in brackets, I find that very useful. And those are the parts that I especially like to practice in speech. Because I probably wouldn't've realized it was pronounced that way if it wasn't written up that way. I would've thought: "What are they saying!" Or, I would've pronounced it myself, using, you know... with everything that was written without having the brackets there. (C.I1.3) In spite of what they perceived as the benefits of using the transcription device, many of the participants couldn't help but suspect they were perhaps relying on it too much as a crutch. The notion of the transcription feature being a crutch was enhanced by the learners' lack of confidence in their listening comprehension proficiency. Time after time, the participants indicated their doubt that they had in fact understood what had just been said. Patty, for example, felt she spent too much time "making sure that my impression was correct, that what I heard was in fact what they were saying or what was written is in fact what I'm reading" (P.12.2). Describing what it gave her to use the transcription device, Helen said, "It's probably just mainly confidence, that I was comprehending what I was hearing" (H.I1.3) For Tom, the transcription feature eliminated the "guess work." As he said, "When I had the stuff [transcription] in front of me... I didn't have to do that inductive stuff so I wasn't guessing..." (T.I1.13). The transcription device confirmed the learners' guesses and, thereby, gave them confidence that they were indeed hearing and understanding what was said. Of course, as Moira noted earlier, context plays a role in our "guessing;" we make 205 inferences based on contextual information. But, what happens when we aren't in the everyday context? Connie saw the transcription device as making up for aspects of the context which could not be easily transmitted by the video programme or easily perceived by the learners. In her journal on June 11, Connie wrote: I think that the use of the transcription and the glossary is somewhat of a replacement for the body language and two-way communication which is not and cannot be present in the game, but which naturally would be present in real life. For example, I can ask a character to repeat what they have said, via the playback and review, but I cannot ask them to clarify or explain what they have said. Likewise, they cannot observe when and to what degree I am or am not understanding them. Therefore, they cannot alter their speech to suit my needs. But the transcription and glossary, while somewhat of a crutch for my inferior listening skills, perhaps more importantly serve as a substitute for these areas that lack, allowing me to choose when and to what degree I need the spoken information clarified or explained. I like it. It works for me. (C.J.3) Connie's comments provide an alternative way of looking at this feature. Framed as a cybernetic device which facilitates communication with the inhabitants of this virtual world, the transcription feature acts as a substitute for those areas of context, as well as interaction within the context, which the technology, in its present state, cannot replicate. The transcription feature, or subtitling, offers a powerful tool for language learning. References to this feature appeared repeatedly in learners' assessment of their learning and the technology. Evaluation As human beings we are constantly evaluating and re-evaluating situations. We are purposeful creatures. We have reasons for doing things. These reasons, and, oftentimes, the means we employ, become our goals. We often ask ourselves: Is this (means) getting me any closer to what I hope to achieve? Bruner (1996, p. 37) refers to this type of evaluation as a "ubiquitous feature of selfhood." This section examines how the participants evaluated their language learning experience and the program in terms of their goals. In other words, it is time to examine more closely the learners' experience in the techno-pedagogical world. 206 Comprehension All of the participants wanted to improve their listening comprehension. Tom, for example, wasn't sure that his French had improved given the limited time he had to work with the program (T.I 1.25). Moira felt that she understood "a few more words" (M.I 1.15). Most of the participants thought that their listening comprehension had improved to a degree. When Ithe participants were asked for some anecdotal evidence to support their perception of improved comprehension, they gave answers similar to Connie's: The first time I listened to the first scene almost all of it was way over my head. I had some idea of what was going on. I could catch snips of conversation here and there. And, of course, I could see what was going on but I had to look up almost everything, if only to make sure. Maybe I did actually know it but I had to make sure. But, I found towards the end of it when I was watching I'd get to a new scene that I hadn't seen before, I had a much better idea of what was going on. I could hear and understand a lot more of it than the first time I had gone through the program. (C.I2.13) In spite of this evidence, many of the participants had a niggling doubt. They weren't sure whether their comprehension was improving or whether they were memorizing the program. In Katelyn's mind there was little doubt: Again, I am not sure whether this video was able to improve my French in any way. Yes, I was able to understand the dialogue between the characters more easily but I feel that was only because I had heard that particular dialogue upwards of five times. It's just like a child who can't really read but because his mother has read him a particular book so many times he can essentially sit down and read the book himself. (K.J.2) Others also wrestled with this notion. Asked if her comprehension was improving, or if she was merely memorizing the scenes from repeated exposure, Elizabeth answered, "I guess I can see that to some extent [memorization] but I know that even outside of the program I've heard some of the phrases and now I'm familiar with them" (E.I1.14). Gail took a similar view: Well, parts of it, of course, you memorize 'cause you just see it all the time, like the first scene or whatever, but I think it is a genuine comprehension thing because it transfers over into other things. As I was saying, with the radio and stuff I find that I can comprehend that much better. (G.I 1.16) 207 Although repetition figured predominantly in Rose's improved comprehension, she thought something more profound than memorisation was at play: With Philippe at the beginning it was really hard to understand what they were saying.... But the answering machine, it was like "What the heck was that?"... But then... I guess with the repetition of hearing it over and over again... by the last few times I didn't need the transcription to be able to read the messages. Like, I was able to understand what they were saying, like, the individual words.... I guess maybe partially it could be I'd almost have it memorized. But I think a lot of it was just the fact that I'd got used to the accent and to their way of speaking and to the people that were a part of the whole — like all the different characters and their different accents and voices and what have you all, intonations and the way they kind of chop t