Date of Award

8-1-2015

Degree Name

Master of Arts

Department

Applied Linguistics

First Advisor

Charkova, Krassimira

Abstract

Online Social Networking Sites (OSNSs) have become an essential part of human communication and interaction all over the globe. They have also offered numerous opportunities to language learners across geographic borders, paralleled by a new research interest in their potential. The present study joins this relatively new line of research as it adds data from a sample of Yemeni English language learners about their use and perceived benefits of using OSNSs in English. The data were collected through an online survey distributed to undergraduate Yemeni learners of English at two universities in Yemen. The final sample included 60 participants (37 female and 23 male), between the ages of 19 and 33. The survey consisted of 31 questions, 28 of which were Likert scale questions and 3 were open-ended questions. The data were analyzed using descriptive statistics and multiple t-tests for independent samples to examine potential gender differences. The open-ended responses were subjected to content analysis to identify common themes and categories of responses. These were grouped, tabulated in tables, and illustrated with quotes from the data. The main conclusion of the study is that Yemeni college students are actively participating in OSNSs and are aware of the language benefits these online sites carry for developing their English skills. Moreover, the participants reported that OSNSs are helpful for building various aspects of their English proficiency, but found them most useful for their writing and reading skills, expanding their vocabulary, having access to authentic materials, and communicating with English speaking friends, both native and non-native speakers. They ranked their usefulness in the following order: Facebook, WhatsApp, Google Plus, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Additionally, the results reveal that both men and women have equal access to OSNSs and perceive OSNSs as equally beneficial for their English skills. There was only one statistically significant difference concerning the frequency of using Facebook as men reported higher frequency of use than their female counterparts. The study offers insights into the potential of using OSNSs in the language classroom. The majority of the participants believed that OSNSs can be a valuable teaching resource if used effectively by their English teachers. They saw the role of OSNSs as supplementary to the usual classroom procedures, mainly in providing authentic contexts for learning, assessment, and facilitating the communication between students and teachers. The findings also suggest that to take advantage of these new opportunities, Yemeni teachers need to have adequate training and regular access to resources, which appeared to be lacking at the time this study was carried out.

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