In the article, Lam (2000) examines how texts are composed and used to present and reposition identity as well as develop the literacy of the learner in online communication. In the beginning of the article, the author introduces constructs from L2 literacy research and communication studies to develop a conceptual basis for the study. A case study of a Chinese immigrant teenager is then presented to show how his written correspondence with a transnational group of peers on the Internet relates to his identity in the use of English.
In the case study, Almon (a Chinese immigrant teenager) felt frustrated owning to his insufficient English skills. Also, he revealed a sense of his marginalized position in society and was afraid that it would hinder his prospects in life. However, one year later, the author found that Almon’s English improved dramatically, especially the written English. Almon explained that he had become actively involved in learning internet and started to make personal homepages and conduct online chat. It is believed that the electronic media helped him a lot. Writing online made him feel more at ease.
The results of the study show actually Almon designed a textual identity. He designed his personal homepage about young Japanese popular singer and chatted with people all around the world. Thus, he discursively constructed his new identity as a member of the global J-pop community. Almon’s preference for female pan-pals demonstrates the gendering aspects of their written exchanges, which proves dramaturgical view of social interaction.
This case study suggests that writing on the Internet could make people gain understandings and supports from a transnational group of peers so that people may feel confidence in expressing themselves in L2. Lam (2000) also proposes that we need to rethink the significance of identity formation in the process of learning to read and write in an L2. And it should be noted that the English acquired may not be Standard English by this way, but people develop a sense of belonging to a global English community. Therefore, it is recommended that ESL classroom should not only teach Standard English but also provide the opportunity for the students to get access to multiple target languages and cultural communities.
Many students in China are frustrated in English and indulge themselves in Internet. Maybe the teachers and parents should encourage them to use Internet to enhance their English learning instead of forbidding them to use the computer. In the class, the teachers could give the students some guidance on how the utilize the Internet resources and help them to build their own personal home pages by using English. After class, the students could work on their personal home pages and design the websites as they like. They could post anything and chat with their pen-pals freely. As the students could pretend to be anyone and create alternative self on the Internet, they may become more confident in expressing themselves. And it will motivate them to study English.