This paper reports on a small-scale ethnographic pilot study using think-aloud verbal protocols (TAPs), which was carried out with novice distance learners of French. The study aimed to extend knowledge of the distance language learner experience through allowing learners to talk freely about the positive and negative emotions they were experiencing as they tackled two designated language tasks, and the strategies they used to manage these emotions. The study was prompted by the lack of research into affect in the distance context, despite a growing view that affective control may have special importance in this setting, given the isolation and the need for learners to exercise greater self-regulation than their classroom colleagues (White, 2003; Harris, 2003). Think-alouds were selected for their potential to ‘tap’ processes that are normally hidden, among learners that are hard to reach. The findings from the pilot, despite its small-scale nature, gave useful insights into affect and strategy use by this group of learners. With regard to the research tool, the paper concludes that while there are limitations to the use of TAPs, they nevertheless provide a unique method of gathering data from learners in a distance setting who are rarely given a voice
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