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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Issues in Applied Linguistics

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ial is a refereed journal managed by scholars in the field of applied linguistics. Our aim is to publish outstanding research from faculty, independent researchers, and graduate students in the broad areas of second language acquisition, language socialization, language processing, language assessment, language pedagogy, language policy, making use of the following research methodologies (but not limited to): discourse analysis, conversation analysis, critical discourse analysis, critical race theory, and psychophysiology. ial publishes articles, book reviews, and interviews with notable scholars.


Communicative Competence: A Pedagogically Motivated Model with Content Specifications

This paper argues the need for an updated and explicit description of language teaching areas generated with reference to a detailed model of communicative competence. We describe two existing models of communicative competence and then propose our own pedagogically motivated construct, which includes five components: (1) discourse competence, (2) linguistic competence, (3) actional competence, (4) sociocultural competence, and (5) strategic competence. We discuss these competencies in as much detail as is currently feasible, provide content specifications for each component, and touch on remaining issues and possible future developments.

"Aw, man, where you goin'?'': Classroom Interaction and the Development of L2 Interactional Competence

The interactive practices of foreign language (FL) classrooms are significant to the development of learners' L2 interactional competence in that these practices are often the only exposure to FL talk that the learners get, especially in the early years of language instruction. To gain some understanding of the varied paths that individual development of this competence can take we must take into account the discursive structures and linguistic resources of these interactional environments. This article reports on a study with such a purpose. Of specific concern is how topics are discursively established and managed in an interactive practice whose pedagogical purpose is to provide speaking opportunities for a group of students in a first year high school Spanish class. The findings indicate that the way in which topics are developed in this practice differs significantly from how they are typically developed in ordinary interactive practices outside of the FL classroom. It is concluded that learners are getting less than what they need to fully develop their interactional competence in Spanish. The analysis makes clear our need to give more thoughtful consideration to how we define the comprehensibility of FL classroom interaction and the role that it plays in developing L2 interactional competence.

Teachers' Answers to Students' Questions: Problematizing the Issue of Making Meaning

This paper analyzes how three university ESL teachers answered students' requests for help in understanding unknown vocabulary items during lessons that were mediated via a task-based, small group methodology. While considerable individual variation was observed, it was found that teachers rarely answered students' questions directly. Instead, they tended to answer learners' referential questions with display questions of their own, a strategy that is called here a counter-question strategy. It is argued that the use of this strategy for making meaning problematizes issues in the second language acquisition literature on the social construction of comprehensible input and output. Alternative interpretations of the implications of this meaning making strategy for second language acquisition theory are offered as a basis for further research.

Applying Sociocultural Theory to an Analysis of Learner Discourse: Learner-Learner Collaborative Interaction in the Zone of Proximal Development

SLA research in the tradition of sociocultural theory examines the dynamic relationship between interaction and acquisition, exploring how language, cognition, and culture are acquired through collaborative interaction. This paper presents an analysis of teacher-fronted and pair interaction involving two learners of Japanese in an intermediate language class, showing learner-learner collaborative activity between two students of differing levels of proficiency to result in creative interaction where scaffolding creates a positive environment for L2 acquisition. Learner use of Japanese in pair work is strikingly different from that in teacher-fronted practice, with learners becoming highly interactive and using the L2 for a variety of purposes, including 1) hypothesis-testing through language play, 2) talk about the here-and-now, 3) lexical experimentation, 4) modulating the pace of interaction, 5) repair, 6) negotiating roles 7) managing tasks, and 8) humor. Contribution of learner strengths and weaknesses results in refinement of both learners' L2 use, with both students learning and progressing through collaborative interaction in the zone of proximal development (ZPD).

Conversations with Vovo: A Case Study of Child Second Language Acquisition and Loss

This paper examines a series of naturally-occurring phone calls between a young child and his grandmother in the child's second language. During these calls, the child's second language production first appears to increase in complexity, but is subsequently abandoned. It is argued that while the acquisition of the second language can be viewed as a product of expert-novice interaction, the subsequent abandonment of the second language can be understood only by examining its role in the larger socio-cultural activity in which the L2 is used.