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Do you speak Emoji | Q&A with Shaun Wilden


Mobile learning with emojisFirst of all, ๐Ÿ™ย to those that attended my webinar. I hope as well as learning a few things about emoji, you had as much fun as I did! The webinar was heavily reliant on audience participation and you certainly all got stuck in with your sharing, answering and questioning. There were a few things that I didnโ€™t quite have the time to go into more detail with, so Iโ€™ll try and address them now.

Watch the recording

Are ambiguous emojis good to use in class?

The hands together emoji is a good example of one of the main talking points that came up in the chat box during the sessions โ€“ the ambiguity of meaning. Is it โ€˜thank youโ€™, โ€˜thankfulnessโ€™, โ€˜prayingโ€™, or โ€˜two hands high fivingโ€™?

A number of you felt this ambiguity might be a disadvantage in using them in class, but actually that is one of my drivers for using them. The fact that they can be used with both an โ€˜officialโ€™ meaning and one given by a peer group makes many of the activities workable.ย  If you think about words, they have a dictionary meaning and often have a meaning given by use. Take the word โ€˜sickโ€™ for example, which, as well as meaning โ€˜illโ€™, is used by teenagers to mean โ€˜coolโ€™. Emojis are the same in this respect and this is why, in my opinion, they work well for the โ€˜agree a meaningโ€™ type activities that we did in the session. The more ambiguous an emoji might be, the more the students have to discuss and agree.

Arenโ€™t some emojis too hard to understand?

In answer to this question, just look at how much language generated during the webinar. Is it a name badge? A tulip? Or something on fire? The point is not what it means, but what it could mean, and how that encourages the students to put forward justification of use and negotiate with their classmates to reach consensus. Contrary to what a couple of you said there is every point in โ€œusing those which are hard for understandingโ€. Additionally, how do we decide what is hard for understanding? Like words, some students will know the meaning of some, and others wonโ€™t. While, roughly speaking, the 2600 Emoji are the same the world over, different nationalities and different cultures use them with different frequencies. Again, for me this is something to be embraced. Whether I am teaching a monolingual or multilingual group, there is a lot that can be gained from asking about what emoji they use. There is a personal engagement into wanting to tell the teacher something about themselves. This why activities like creating a โ€˜user guideโ€™ can be successful, a chance for the students to show knowledge in areas they might be โ€˜wiserโ€™ in than their teachers.

Can gifs or small videos be used for similar activities to those with emoji?

As we touched upon towards the end of the webinar, emojis are evolving thanks to new technology such as Appleโ€™s Animoji. This led some of you to ask whether gifs or even small videos could be used for similar activities to those we did in the session. As I said then, the Emoji is the โ€˜hookโ€™ on which to hang a number of activities. For example, we used pairs of them to create sentences as a way of practicing grammar. An activity like this is not dependent on the emoji themselves, but a stimulus for the sentence. As such it doesnโ€™t really matter what the stimulus is as long as it can be used to produce language. Certainly, many gifs carry the ambiguity needed for negotiated meaning type activities and, as they are often devoid of language themselves, could be a catalyst for grammar production. I think though developments such as Animojis are in themselves more akin to using an avatar than an emoji. Since they are animated and can contain voice they are somewhat different to the two-dimensional static image of an emoji. Like emoji, there is a lot written about avatar use in language learning, not least in the psychological aspects of students being able to take on a new identity. At the end of the session we saw quick examples of how we can use Animojis โ€“ and even with augmented reality – for developing character description, clothes vocabulary, and to create โ€˜where am I type activitiesโ€™. Hopefully in a future webinar we can address such avatar activities in more detail.

Donโ€™t emoji erode the quality of language?

Iโ€™ll end by addressing those of you concerned about death of language. Whenever I do such a session there is always at least one person concerned that things such as emoji are eroding the quality of language. In my first blog post I mentioned the fact that it used to be text messages that got the blame.ย  I think it is well documented that language is always changing, and language always finds way to shorten itself or adapt to be effective in the chosen form of communication.ย  However, I wasnโ€™t suggesting that we should use emojis as a replacement for language or even writing. At the end of the day we are language teachers, it is not teaching the meaning of emojis that is key but tapping into images that can help students generate and retain language.ย ย  We use pictures in our coursebook to help us teach meaning, and we use things such flashcards to help reinforce and produce. For me, emoji are simply another image that we can use. If they help students remember a word, produce a sentence or get them engaged in a piece of writing then they have done their job.

Anyway, I set the challenge for the webinar of getting you to speak emoji. I hope now that the session is over, you can happily say that you do.

Until next โณ, ๐Ÿ‘‹.

Shaun Wildenย is the Academic Head of training and development for the International House World Organisation and a freelance teacher, teacher trainer and materials writer.ย  He currently specialises in technology and language teaching, especially in the area of mobile learning. His latest book โ€œMobile Learningโ€ was published in 2017 by OUP.ย  He is a trustee of IATEFL and also on the committee of the Learning technologies special interest group.ย  He makes the TEFL commute podcast for teachers.

Author: Oxford University Press ELT

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3 thoughts on “Do you speak Emoji | Q&A with Shaun Wilden

  1. I think emojis are a great way to get studentsยด interest and the classes more updated.

  2. Great read. How about an activity where Ss write an emoji message to a partner who must decode it into written English. Sounds fun.

  3. Maybe add pictures and signs of the real emoji!
    ๐Ÿ˜€๐Ÿ˜ƒโ˜บ๏ธ๐Ÿ˜‰๐Ÿฆ„๐Ÿ‘‘๐Ÿณ๏ธโ€๐ŸŒˆ๐ŸŒˆ๐Ÿ˜โค๏ธ๐Ÿถ๐Ÿ’œ๐Ÿ‘ฉ๐Ÿปโ€๐ŸŽค๐Ÿ‘’๐Ÿ‘ ๐Ÿ‘ก๐Ÿ‘•๐Ÿ‘š๐Ÿ‘™๐Ÿ‘š๐Ÿ‘˜๐Ÿง๐Ÿฆ๐Ÿจ๐Ÿท๐Ÿฐ๐Ÿผ๐Ÿฌ๐Ÿณ๐Ÿ•๐Ÿ‰๐ŸŒธ๐ŸŒบ๐ŸŒท๐ŸŒน๐ŸŒผ๐Ÿ’๐ŸŒ•๐ŸŒ—๐ŸŒ›๐ŸŒž๐ŸŒˆโ„๏ธ๐ŸŒŠ๐ŸŒชโ˜ƒ๏ธ๐Ÿ๐Ÿฅ•๐Ÿฅ”๐Ÿ“๐ŸŒญ๐Ÿฅ“๐Ÿ•๐Ÿฑ๐Ÿ๐Ÿฒ๐Ÿง๐Ÿก๐Ÿฌ๐Ÿซ๐Ÿฐ๐Ÿญ๐Ÿฆโšฝ๏ธ๐Ÿ‘๐ŸŽพ๐Ÿˆ๐Ÿ€๐Ÿ„๐Ÿป๐Ÿšด๐Ÿปโ€โ™€๏ธ๐Ÿšต๐Ÿปโ€โ™€๏ธ๐ŸŠ๐Ÿปโ€โ™€๏ธ๐Ÿฅ‡๐Ÿฅˆ๐Ÿฅ‰๐ŸŽท๐ŸŽผ๐ŸŽจ๐Ÿคน๐Ÿปโ€โ™€๏ธ๐ŸŽฎ๐Ÿš‘๐ŸšŽ๐Ÿšจ๐Ÿš™๐Ÿšƒ๐Ÿš๐Ÿš„๐Ÿšฅ๐Ÿ—ฟ๐Ÿค๐Ÿจ๐Ÿฃ๐Ÿญ๐Ÿš๐Ÿœ๐ŸŽ‘๐ŸŒ…๐ŸŒ„๐ŸŒ‡๐ŸŽ†๐ŸŽ‡๐ŸŒƒโŒš๏ธ๐Ÿ“ฑ๐Ÿ’ป๐Ÿ“ท๐Ÿ’ฟ๐Ÿ’ฝโฑ๐ŸŽ™โฐ๐Ÿ”ฆ๐Ÿ’ต๐Ÿ’ด๐Ÿ’ถ๐Ÿ’ท๐Ÿ’ฐโ›“๐Ÿ—ก๐Ÿบ๐Ÿ› โš’โš”๏ธ๐Ÿ’Š๐Ÿ›€๐Ÿป๐Ÿ›‹๐ŸŽŠ๐ŸŽ๐Ÿ“ฅ๐ŸŽŽ๐Ÿ“ˆ๐Ÿ“œ๐Ÿ“ƒ๐Ÿ—‚๐Ÿ““๐Ÿ“•๐Ÿ“ฐ๐Ÿ“š๐Ÿ”–๐Ÿ“Ž๐Ÿ“–๐Ÿ“๐Ÿ”๐Ÿ“Œ๐Ÿ”’โค๏ธ๐Ÿ’›๐Ÿ’š๐Ÿ’™๐Ÿ’œโœก๏ธโ™๏ธโ™Ž๏ธ๐Ÿ”ฏ๐Ÿ›๐Ÿˆบโœด๏ธโ˜ข๏ธ๐Ÿˆถ๐Ÿˆน๐Ÿ…พ๏ธ๐ŸˆตใŠ™๏ธ๐Ÿ“›โ›”๏ธ๐Ÿ”ž๐Ÿšญ๐Ÿšฏโ‰๏ธ๐Ÿ”…๐Ÿ”†๐Ÿšธ๐Ÿˆฏ๏ธโ‡๏ธโŽ๐Ÿ”ฐ๐Ÿ”ฑ๐Ÿงโ™ฟ๏ธ๐Ÿˆณ๐Ÿšผ๐Ÿšฎ๐Ÿ›„1๏ธโƒฃ8๏ธโƒฃ0๏ธโƒฃ๐Ÿ†’๐Ÿ†•๐Ÿ”โ†ฉ๏ธโœ–๏ธโž•๐ŸŽต๐Ÿ”š๐Ÿ”™๐Ÿ”›๐Ÿ”๐Ÿ”œ๐Ÿ”ด๐Ÿ”บ๐Ÿ”ปโ—พ๏ธ๐Ÿ”Š๐Ÿ”•๐Ÿ€„๏ธ๐Ÿ•š๐Ÿ•–๐Ÿ•™๐Ÿ•ฃ๐Ÿ• ๐Ÿ‡ฆ๐Ÿ‡ด๐Ÿ‡ฆ๐Ÿ‡บ๐Ÿ‡ง๐Ÿ‡ฆ๐Ÿ‡ฐ๐Ÿ‡ญ๐Ÿ‡ง๐Ÿ‡ผ๐Ÿ‡ฐ๐Ÿ‡พ๐Ÿ‡จ๐Ÿ‡ฐ๐Ÿ‡จ๐Ÿ‡ฟ๐Ÿ‡ธ๐Ÿ‡ป๐Ÿ‡ช๐Ÿ‡ท๐Ÿ‡ง๐Ÿ‡ณ๐Ÿ‡จ๐Ÿ‡ณ๐Ÿ‡ฌ๐Ÿ‡ฆ๐Ÿ‡ฌ๐Ÿ‡ช๐Ÿ‡ฌ๐Ÿ‡ถ๐Ÿ‡จ๐Ÿ‡ผ๐Ÿ‡ฌ๐Ÿ‡พ๐Ÿ‡ฌ๐Ÿ‡ฌ๐Ÿ‡ฌ๐Ÿ‡ฉ๐Ÿ‡ฏ๐Ÿ‡ต๐Ÿ‡ฏ๐Ÿ‡ช๐Ÿ‡ฑ๐Ÿ‡ฎ

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