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Introduction to the Special Issue

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The initial ideas for this special issue transpired from an invited symposium panel, “Interdisciplinary Approaches for Language Teaching and Learning in Contemporary and Transnational Spaces,” that I organized for the 2014 AILA (Association Internationale de la Linguistique Appliquée) World Congress in Brisbane, Australia. With the acceleration of globalization, mobility, technological change, and the continued rise of youth with transnational identities and complex linguistic practices, I was compelled to talk about the need for interdisciplinary approaches that would inform language education in transnational times. Two years later, through several drafts and deliberations that went into this issue for L2 Journal, and with sensitivity to the current shifts in the field of applied linguistics, I have found that transdisciplinary represents a more appropriate fit for language learning and teaching in contemporary times.

Building upon the recent article by the Douglas Fir Group (2016), “A transdisciplinary framework for SLA in a multilingual world,” and taking account of some of the current initiatives in the literature that seek to open up the teaching of national standard languages to sociolinguistic variation, translation practices, multimodal activities, and translanguaging (e.g., Canagarajah, 2011; García & Wei, 2014 Kern, 2011; Kramsch & Malinowski, 2014), this special issue seeks to broaden these efforts further. This increase in scope is achieved by weaving together a unique, integrative conceptualization of transdisciplinarity—one that not only seeks to foster critical reflexive awareness (Byrd Clark & Dervin, 2014) of the tensions that exist among the real life complexities in our learning and teaching experiences, but that additionally makes visible the unpredictable, multidimensional, and multiple ways in which we make meaning (including the varied ways in which we, the authors, have come to make sense of transdisciplinarity). Accordingly, this special issue embodies a postmodern, ecological, and relativistic stance when it comes to transdisciplinary approaches concerning interculturality and the study of language in use. Such a stance is highly relevant as the global realities of our times continue to put into question claims of belonging to ‘imagined communities’ (see Anderson, 1991) of clearly demarcated nation-states unified through a national language (one language=one nation=one culture), with native speakers representative of a homogeneous speech community.

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