Twitter and language learning

twitter logoUnless you’ve been living under a virtual rock recently, you’ll know about the so-called microblogging service Twitter.  It allows businesses, news media, celebrities, and individuals to broadcast their thoughts in 140 character tweets, as well as keep up with all manner of other people and organisations.  Best of all, you don’t have to be connected to a PC, or even the internet.  Most functions can be accessed by mobile phone (depending on what country you’re in), and communicating is as easy as sending a text message (SMS).

After skimming over Online Colleges’ extensive collection of 50 Ways to Use Twitter in the College Classroom, I started thinking about practical uses for tweeting in the language classroom (or, more specifically, outside the language classroom).

From the Communication section:

  1. Direct Tweet. [Teachers] and students can contact each other through direct Tweets without having to share cell phone numbers.
  2. Get to know your classmates. A class Twitter group will help facilitate [teachers] and students getting to know each other, especially if the class is part of a more intimate setting such as a seminar.
  3. Collaborate on projects. When working together on projects, set up a group using an app like Tweetworks to facilitate communication between everyone working together.
  4. Make announcements. [Teachers] can send out reminders about upcoming tests, project due dates, or any news that needs to be shared via Twitter.
  5. Share interesting websites. Both [teachers] and students can post interesting websites that are relevant to their class.
  6. Daily learning. Twitter feeds happen much more frequently than the two or three times a day a student is in class, therefore using Twitter in the classroom means there is a daily opportunity for learning.

More specific to language learning:

  1. Practice a foreign language. Language classes can take advantage of the opportunity to communicate in the target language of the class by finding native speakers on Twitter.
  2. Follow mentors. If [teachers] or other key figures in your field of study are on Twitter, follow them to keep up with their research and activities.
  3. Follow an idea, word, or event. Send “track ___” with whatever word, event, or idea you want to follow in the blank, and you will receive Tweets that contain that keyword.

Teachers can set students short assignments that they have to complete in 140 characters or less.  Students can post interesting new words or points they learn, and can learn from peers around the world.  Post interesting news stories or websites about your chosen language.

The length restriction is a bit of a double-edged sword in that what you will see from native speakers will often be informal abbreviations, or internet slang, but at the same time, because communication is key, learners won’t have to worry too much about spelling and grammar.

It could be worth finding out if your language teacher or fellow students uses the service, or look up a few interesting people who tweet in your target language.  There are a lot of possibilities out there for this kind of thing, and I’d be interested to hear about your experiences.