Language Learning in the Virtual Wild

  • Iwona B. LechEmail author
  • Lindsay N. Harris


Evidence suggests that incidental foreign language contact in unstructured, virtual environments (the “virtual wild”) can enhance second language (L2) learning (Sockett G, The online informal learning of English. Palgrave Macmillan, Houndmills, 2014), and that the use of online informal learning of language activities with students learning English as an L2 results in higher fluency, lower error rates, and greater engagement compared to learning that occurs in a traditional classroom setting only (e.g., Cole J, Vanderplank R, System 61:31–42, 2016; Kusyk and Sockett 2012). This chapter describes the research on and characteristics of online informal learning of English (OILE) as an application of the theoretical framework of usage-based linguistics, and argues that OILE is, contrary to some researchers’ claims, transferable to languages other than English. Finally, a program of research that would establish the viability and efficacy of implementing OILE in non-English foreign language classrooms is proposed.


  1. Barlow, M., & Kemmer, S. (2000). Introduction: A usage-based conception of language. In M. Barlow & S. Kemmer (Eds.), Usage-based models of language (pp. 7–28). Stanford: CSLI Publications.Google Scholar
  2. Behrens, H. (2009). Usage-based and emergentist approaches to language acquisition. Linguistics, 47(2), 383–411.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Benson, P. (2001). Teaching and researching autonomy in language learning. Harlow: Pearson Education.Google Scholar
  4. Benson, P., & Reinders, H. (2011). Beyond the language classroom. Houndmills: Palgrave Macmillan.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Bybee, J. (2008). Usage-based grammar and second language acquisition. In P. J. Robinson & N. C. Ellis (Eds.), Handbook of cognitive linguistics and second language acquisition (pp. 216–236). New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  6. Bybee, J. (2010). Language, usage and cognition. New York: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Candy, P. C. (1991). Self-Direction for lifelong learning. In A comprehensive guide to theory and practice. San Francisco: Jossey Bass Higher & Adult Education Series.Google Scholar
  8. Center for Applied Second Language Studies (CASLS). (2010). How many hours of instruction do students need to reach intermediate-high proficiency. Available at: Accessed 2 Feb 2018.
  9. Chomsky, N., & Halle, M. (1965). Some controversial questions in phonological theory. Journal of linguistics, 1(2), 97–138.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Clark, B., Wagner, J., Lindemalm, K., & Bendt, O. (2011). Språkskap: Supporting second language learning “in the wild”. INCLUDE 2011, London.Google Scholar
  11. Cole, J., & Vanderplank, R. (2016). Comparing autonomous and class-based learners in Brazil: Evidence for the present-day advantages of informal, out-of-class learning. System, 61, 31–42.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Cross, J. (2007). Informal learning. San Francisco: Pfeiffer/Wiley.Google Scholar
  13. Duckworth, A. (2016). Grit: The power of passion and perseverance. New York: Simon and Schuster.Google Scholar
  14. Duff, P. A., & Talmy, S. (2011). Language socialization approaches to second language acquisition. Social, cultural, and linguistic development in additional languages. In D. Atkinson (Ed.), Alternative approaches to second language acquisition (pp. 95–116). New York: Taylor & Francis.Google Scholar
  15. Ellis, N. C. (2003). Constructions, chunking, and connectionism: The emergence of second language structure. In C. Doughty & M. H. Long (Eds.), The handbook of second language acquisition (pp. 63–103). Malden: Blackwell Publishing.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Ellis, N. C. (2006). Cognitive perspectives in SLA. AILA Review, 19, 100–121.Google Scholar
  17. Ellis, N. C. (2008). The dynamics of second language emergence: cycles of language use, language change, and language acquisition. The Modern Language Journal, 92(2), 232–249.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Gettys, S., & Lech, I. (2013). Cognitive perspective in SLA: Pedagogical implications for enhancing oral proficiency in foreign languages. Journal of the National Council of Less Commonly Taught Languages, 13, 51–69.Google Scholar
  19. Goldberg, A. E. (2009). The nature of generalization in language. Cognitive Linguistics, 20(1), 93–127.Google Scholar
  20. Graddol, D. (2004). The future of language. Science, 303(5662), 1329–1331.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Holec, H. (1981). Autonomy and foreign language learning. Oxford: Pergamon (First published 1979, Strasbourg: Council of Europe).Google Scholar
  22. Hutchins, E. (1995). Cognition in the wild. Cambridge: MIT press.Google Scholar
  23. Ibbotson, P., & Tomasello, M. (2016). Evidence rebuts Chomsky’s theory of language learning. Scientific American, 315(5). Available at Accessed 27 Feb 2018.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Kusyk, M., & Sockett, G. (2012). From informal resource usage to incidental language acquisition: Language uptake from online television viewing in English. ASp. la revue du GERAS, 62, 45–65.Google Scholar
  25. Langacker, R. W. (1987). Foundations of cognitive grammar, Vol. 1: Theoretical prerequisites. Stanford: Stanford University Press.Google Scholar
  26. Little, D. (1991). Learner autonomy. 1: definitions, issues and problems. Dublin: Authentik Language Learning Resources.Google Scholar
  27. Little, D. (1994). Learner autonomy: A theoretical construct and its practical application. Die Neueren Sprachen, 93(5), 430–442.Google Scholar
  28. Long, M. H., Gor, K., & Jackson, S. (2012). Linguistic correlates of second language proficiency: Proof of concept with ILR 2–3 in Russian. Studies in Second Language Acquisition, 34(1), 99–126.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Madlener, K. (2015). Frequency effects in instructed second language acquisition. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Ortega, L., Tyler, A., Uno, M., & In Park, H. (2018). Usage-inspired L2 instruction: Researched pedagogy. Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing.Google Scholar
  31. Reinders, H., & White, C. (2011). Learner autonomy and new learning environments. Language Learning and Technology, 15(3), 1–3.Google Scholar
  32. Roed, J. (2003). Language learner behaviour in a virtual environment. Computer Assisted Language Learning, 16(2–3), 155–172.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Schunk, D. H. (2012). Learning theories. An educational perspective. Boston: Pearson.Google Scholar
  34. Sockett, G. (2013). Understanding the online informal learning of English as a complex dynamic system: an EMIC approach. ReCALL, 25(01), 48–62.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Sockett, G. (2014). The online informal learning of English. Houndmills: Palgrave Macmillan.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Sockett, G., & Toffoli, D. (2012). Beyond learner autonomy: A dynamic systems view of the informal learning of English in virtual online communities. Procedia-Social and Behavioral Sciences, 34, 212–215.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Stickler, U., & Emke, M. (2011). Tandem learning in virtual spaces: Supporting non-formal and informal learning in adults. In P. Benson & H. Reinders (Eds.), Beyond the language classroom (pp. 146–160). Houndmills: Palgrave Macmillan.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Taylor, J. R. (2008). Language in the mind. In 33rd International LAUD Symposium, Cognitive Approaches to Second/Foreign Language Processing: Theory and Pedagogy, Prepaper, Series A (pp. 856–882).Google Scholar
  39. Toffoli, D., & Sockett, G. (2015). University teachers’ perceptions of online informal learning of English (OILE). Computer Assisted Language Learning, 28(1), 7–21.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Tomasello, M. (2009). Constructing a language: A usage-based theory of language acquisition. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  41. Towle, A., & Cottrell, D. (1996). Self directed learning. Archives of disease in childhood, 74(4), 357–359.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Tyler, A. (2012). Cognitive linguistics and second language learning: Theoretical basics and experimental evidence. New York: Routledge.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Vygotsky, L. S. (1978). In M. Cole, V. John-Steiner, S. Scribner, & E. Souberman (Eds.), Mind in society. The development of higher psychological processes. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  44. Wagner, J. (2015). Designing for language learning in the wild. In T. Cadierno & S. Eskildsen (Eds.), Usage-based perspectives on second language learning (pp. 74–104). Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Northern Illinois UniversityDeKalbUSA

Personalised recommendations