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Using Twitter for Language Learning


In a non-compulsory, non-assessed project named 'The Linguistic Landscape' within her class 'Sociolinguistics', Raquel Navas invites her students to post photos of any Spanish text they witness on the streets of the UK on a dedicated Twitter page, as well as engage with their peers' similar posts. This is done to encourage students to pay attention to the use of Hispanic text in a non-Hispanic locale and reflect on how that contributes to the formation of an image of Hispanic culture, as well as simply engage them beyond the limits of the classroom. Every now and again, these Tweets are discussed in a class setting, with students prompted to reflect on the sociolinguistic implications of the photographed texts. Despite the fact that the project was neither mandatory nor graded, Raquel found its participation to be very high, which makes similar forms of student engagement done via the use of social media an opportunity for other courses in other languages or disciplines.

Lesson plan

  1. Students are invited to participate in a non-graded, non-compulsory project where they are asked to make Twitter posts containing photos of Spanish text they come across around the UK. The photos must be captioned and feature relevant hashtags to make them easier to find and categorise, and students are prompted to interact with posts made by their peers via the commenting function.
  2. The tutor invites their students to create a dedicated Twitter account where they could make relevant posts. Some students prefer to use their personal accounts, which they are also allowed to do.
  3. When a student makes a relevant Twitter post, the tutor re-Tweets it onto the main account of the project. This way, all the student Tweets can be compiled in one source.
  4. In the beginning of every class, several recent Tweets are displayed to the students, and they are invited to discuss them. Some of the guiding questions are: Where was this text found? What does it say? Why is it written in Spanish, and not English? What representation of Hispanic culture does it create?

Tutor's observations

We had interaction with people outside the class, and it ... was something that worked quite well, because all the students of Spanish in other universities or in other countries, all the teachers of Spanish, or even just Spanish people just living here in the UK interacted with the project, because it was open [to everyone].

Twitter was the first introduction to the pictures and to the world of Linguistic Landscape, so that [the students] could get to know all the people working in the same field.

The students ... were really surprised to see there was this much Spanish around them, and for me it was very important, because I wanted to connect the Spanish that they learn in the class with the one around the world. And, obviously, because we are not in a Hispanic country, I was finding that very difficult -- for them to connect what they learn with the real world. ... The students told me that they were really surprised that there was so much Spanish around us, that we don't really pay attention to it; and also they liked the connection with the real world. ... They seemed really encouraged to participate; they participated a lot more than was required. ... It was not compulsory or assessed, but 90% of students participated.

Examples of student work

The dedicated Twitter page of the Linguistic Landscape project can be found here. Examples of student Tweets are provided below.

A screengrab of a Tweet written in Spanish with a photo of Spanish text encountered on UK streetsA screengrab of a Tweet written in Spanish with a photo of Spanish text encountered on UK streets

1_Using Twitter for Language Learning
2_first_Raquel Navas
5_second_Raquel Navas
HP103: Language, Text and Identity in the Hispanic World