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Open Access Publications from the University of California

L2 Learner Talk-about-Language as Social Discursive Practice


The purpose of this article is to explore the discursive and social functions of talk engaged in by language learners about language in natural settings, to raise awareness of the benefits of such practice, and to discuss some of its pedagogical implications. Authentic interactions between study-abroad students and native speakers of German that deal overtly with aspects of language are analyzed. These conversational events are labeled “Talk-about-Language” and are distinguished from focus-on-form (Long, 1991) because they do not relate directly to the acquisition of particular forms, and because they do not occur in the classroom, but rather in naturalistic settings in Germany. The research questions for the analysis are (1) how do L2 learners engage in Talk-about-Language?, (2) what conversational or discursive functions does Talk-about-Language serve?, and (3) how is Talk-about Language to be understood as social practice? Employing some of the tools of conversation and discourse analysis, several conversational excerpts are analyzed in order to categorize Talk-about-Language events into a taxonomy and explore Talk-about-Language as a component of L2 learners’ socialization as legitimate peripheral participants in the L2 culture (Lave & Wenger, 1991). Implications for issues of language program articulation, curriculum design, and classroom practice are also discussed.

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