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Is E-mail an effective tool for telecollaboration? An exchange between Chinese and Spanish students

Rocío Blasco García The University of Hong Kong

Rocío Blasco García (MPhil [Nebrija, Spain], Med [Liverpool, UK], BA [Seville, Spain]) has been the Spanish Programme Director at The University of Hong Kong (HKU) since its inception in 1993. She teaches in the Major and Minor programme for undergraduates. Her research interests are in the area of telecollaboration and intercultural communicative competence, Chinese learners and the development of Spanish studies in Hong Kong.

The geographical situation of Hong Kong makes it difficult for Chinese learners of Spanish as a Foreign Language (ELE) to have access to native speakers in order to develop not only their language skills but also their intercultural competence. The same situation applies to Spanish students learning Chinese. Byram (1997) suggests that success in communicating does not depend exclusively on the efficiency of information exchange, but also on the establishment and maintenance of relationships with others. With the advent of internet, fast and easy communication with people far away became a reality and over the years young and old have become proficient users. Today’s youngsters are digital natives and teachers have taken advantage of this by integrating internet into the foreign language classroom as an inexhaustible repository of information and resources. Among these online resources are various communication tools such as email, chats or videoconferencing which can be a viable option for establishing contact between learners and native speakers of the language. This paper looks at how email, one of the less modern online tools, can be a valid resource for telecollaboration. The paper will present the findings of an online exchange carried out between students of Spanish at The University of Hong Kong and students of Chinese from CSIM (Centro Superior de Idiomas Modernos) at Universidad Complutense in Madrid.