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In terms of the perception of pressure on students who normally dislike speaking directly to the teacher, as also observed by Flowerdew (1998) in research in Hong Kong, there has been a marked trend among most students to more readily express themselves in group work with classmates. This form of interaction was clearly helpful in lowering anxiety in a content-based class with a foreign lecturer. Of some note here was the contribution of the mixture of Japanese, Chinese and English used in class which has taken the emphasis away from the forbidding ‘English only’ focus as in EFL lessons or ‘Japanese only’ in other content-based lectures. In this sense, multi-lingual collaboration represents an “affective strategy” in learning (Oxford, 1990), one which admittedly was not intended as a new strategy, but as a practical means to enable students to converse with each other. In retrospect, this leads to the course being seen as “sheltered content-based” (Brinton, Snow and Wesche, 1989), one which has accommodated linguistic weaknesses among the students, yet has simultaneously yielded greater student input than a class limited to one language of communication.

Finally, for most students, according to the end of course questionnaire feedback, this specific sociolinguistics focus has been more motivating in comparison with general EFL courses at the college and has embraced more student input into the lesson than other content-based courses. It can argued that the collaborative approach has encouraged stronger students to provide “cognitive-related assistance” to weaker students (Mohamed, 1997, p.166), and has helped all towards a verbalization of knowledge in “collaborative dialogue” (Swain, 2000, p.97). This has led to a sustained high level of comprehension among most students for the duration of the course.

5. Conclusions

This paper has illustrated how multi-lingual collaboration in a sociolinguistics course has created an active atmosphere where the discussion and negotiation of content- based meaning, or “collaborative dialogue” (Swain, 2000, p.97) in “communities of learners” (Miller, 2002, p.149), have been evaluated as being motivating to the students. It is argued here that such interaction is necessary in the teaching of


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