Saturday, January 03, 2009

Twitter and languages.

How much knowledge of a foreign language is enough to make a fellow Twitterer a good follow? And is a good follow the same thing as a reasonable follow?

In going through emails re: new followers, I came across one person who tweets in Portuguese. (This isn't the first one, either.) I studied several languages as an undergraduate, French was my language in graduate school, and I did some brushing-up of my German not long ago. I follow a few people who tweet in French, Spanish, and German occasionally. Portuguese, however, is not on the radar despite my brief encounter with Spanish in middle school.

Does Twitter make it easier to pick up language and/or meaning from context? IM can be difficult if one is at a stage earlier than the two-year point, I think; message boards, just as with posts in English, contain jargon, slang, typos, and other difficulties. But Twitter might provide the right combination. Since Twitter is just now moving out of the early-adopter stage, it's still got people on it who are smart, clear thinkers and whose tweets reflect that.

Inasmuch as we can standardize language acquisition, I don't think this is one of those individual pace things. I can see how Twitter could become a huge boon to the learning of foreign languages: an instructor could create a group with people tweeting at levels appropriate to students, who could then follow the group members. Real-time interaction improves language acquisition like nothing else, but it requires a certain level of fluency in order for it to work.

So far, my preliminary answer to the question of meaning acquisition--which isn't language acquisition--is yes. If anyone has experience with this, please comment.

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