Distant Voices: Learners' Stories About the Affective Side of Learning a Language at a Distance

Hurd, Stella (2007). Distant Voices: Learners' Stories About the Affective Side of Learning a Language at a Distance. Innovation in Language Learning and Teaching, 1(2) pp. 242–259.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.2167/illt020.0


Learning a language at a distance has its own special challenges. The remoteness of the learning context can mean isolation for the learner, communication difficulties for the teacher and problems of access for the researcher. Yet distance language learners are likely to be no more skilled in self-regulation than classroom learners, and to require high levels of support. Research tools are needed, therefore, which allow them to talk freely about their learning in order to help distance educators target support appropriately. This paper draws on data from two pilot ethnographic studies of distance language learners using think-aloud protocols to access their thought processes as they tackled two designated language tasks. They were carried out as part of a wider study in each case to investigate aspects of affect including beliefs, motivation and anxiety. The audio-taped voices provided rich insights into the advantages and disadvantages, pleasures and frustrations, comforts and anxieties of learning a language at a distance, and the strategies learners use to manage in a distance environment. The studies underlined the importance of listening to students and using their voices as a basis for discussion on improving aspects of the design and delivery of distance language courses.

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