Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department

Secondary Education

Major Professor

Camilla Vasquez


Chinese as a foreign language, effect, Facebook, language functions, social communication, writing


With Facebook widely embraced by college students, exploring its educational uses has piqued both educators' and researchers' interest (Mills, 2011; Reinhardt & Zander, 2011; Thorne, 2011). Drawing on a functional perspective of language use, this study explored what kind of language functions intermediate-level Chinese language learners performed when they conducted social communication in Chinese on Facebook and whether conducting weekly social communication in Chinese on Facebook impacted their writing ability. A mixed methods design was adopted. A qualitative approach addressed discourse functions of student communication on Facebook. The qualitative data were mainly collected from nine students' Facebook posts during one semester. A quasi-experimental design was employed to examine whether there was any difference in the quantity and quality of the written texts produced by two groups (N=18) of intermediate-level Chinese language learners. Over the semester, students in the experimental (E) group wrote weekly comments and updates in Chinese on the designated Facebook group page, while students in the control (C) group did not post on the Facebook page. Three writing tasks were administered at the beginning, middle, and end of the semester. These tasks were brief essays which asked students to use Chinese to write about personal information, university life, future plans and goals.

Qualitative findings revealed that the participants used 22 types of discourse functions during their social communication on Facebook. The highest percentage of discourse function was asking questions. The next two frequently used discourse functions were expressing opinions and describing events or activities unrelated to campus. Other discourse functions listed among the top 10 were sharing similar experiences or perspectives, expressing likes and dislikes, expressing wishes, making explanations and expressing thanks. When asking questions, the participants mainly used Q-word or Wh- questions and polar questions during their communication and interaction. Alternative questions were seldom used. With regard to question functions, findings revealed that more than half of all the questions were asked to request information. Rhetorical questions were the least and rarely used. In addition, more than half of the total questions were not responded to. All these findings demonstrated that Facebook provided the students with an optional platform to practice situational and functional use of the target language.

Quantitative results revealed that there was a significant difference in writing quantity (i.e. the number of Chinese characters produced) between the two groups. While there was no significant difference between the two groups in the first writing task, the E group produced significantly more Chinese characters than the C group in the later writing tasks. In terms of the writing quality, results indicated that both groups showed an improvement from the first to the final task, but no significant differences were found between the two groups in all three writing tasks. In view that the small sample size might have some impact on the outcome of the participants' writing quality, the results are somewhat more promising in the area of quantity.