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Open Access Publications from the University of California

L2 Journal

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The L2 Journal is an open access, fully refereed, interdisciplinary journal which aims to promote the research and the practice of language learning and teaching. It publishes articles in English on all aspects of applied linguistics broadly conceived, i.e., second language acquisition, second language pedagogy, bilingualism and multilingualism, language and technology, curriculum development and teacher training, testing and evaluation.


"You used 'elle,' so now you're a girl": Discursive possibilities for a non-binary teenager in French class

Non-binary individuals comprise one third of the transgender population and may be especially vulnerable to marginalization. The study of languages such as French, grammatically based in a binary gender system, offers unique challenges to non-binary learners for representing themselves in accordance with their identity. Grounded in a poststructuralist understanding of identity (Butler, 1990; Norton Peirce, 1995; Weedon, 1987), this exploratory case study employs discourse analysis (Blommaert, 2005) to delve into the experiences of a non-binary high school student of French. What subject positions are imposed on the student through the discursive systems of English and French, and how is the student able to assert alternative positions? Findings demonstrate the varied and strategic linguistic constitution of the student's identity based on factors including linguistic resources and social positioning, illustrating the student's agency, creativity, and resilience. Implications for teachers are discussed, including the harm caused by misgendering and recommendations for gender-expansive pedagogies.

Lessons from a distanced stage: embedding a Zoom-mediated drama workshop in a language classroom

This paper will share the design and implementation of a Zoom-mediated theatre workshop in an undergraduate advanced Spanish language course and explore how this type of activity can support the development of a range of learners’ competences whilst generating virtual presence through playfulness and engagement.  Our aim is twofold: to provide practitioners with a sample of a drama-based activity adapted for the distanced language classroom that can be adopted in any synchronous online environment, and to reflect on how we believe this workshop and its related assessment enabled creative and critical forms of engagement with the original material through students’ performance of their own dramatic transpositions. We will discuss the role of technology, appraising the affordances it provided for creative multimodal interactions and online togetherness despite the pandemic-imposed separation between participants.

The Implementation of Collaborative Dialogues in a Literary-Cultural Course

Several researchers (e.g., Allen & Paesani, 2010; Maxim, 2009; MLA Report, 2007) argue that the language-literature divide limits language development in many foreign language departments and that the speaking skill is the most affected by this common two-tiered curriculum (Swender, 2003). This study investigates the implementation of the concept of collaborative dialogues in an upper-division Francophone literature and culture course to support the oral proficiency skills of the participants. It addresses research questions pertaining to how they constructed their group conversations in terms of language and content. Both whole-class discussions and weekly group dialogues, which took place outside of class, were video-recorded. The participants took an oral proficiency test at the beginning and at the end of the study and shared their opinions about the dialogues in two questionnaires. The analysis of the data sources shows that the majority of participants focused heavily on content during their conversations. This finding differs from previous research on collaborative dialogues, which fostered many interactions about language and supported language learning. Based on their analytical abilities and proficiency levels, the participants of this study either reviewed previous class discussions or extended them by exploring additional material and adding prior knowledge to their arguments.

For Critical Language Awareness and Against the “Exclusive-use-of-the-target-language” Myth: The Effects of Sociolinguistic Content in English in an Elementary Spanish Classroom

Scholars have advocated for critical approaches to language education (e.g., Del Valle, 2014; Leeman & Serafini, 2016), including those that promote the development of Critical Language Awareness, CLA (e.g., Alim, 2010; Leeman, 2018). The goal is to develop students’ critical knowledge of the cultural, political, and social dimensions of language. To this end, Del Valle (2014) suggests the inclusion of language-related content units taught in the first or shared language from the early stages of language learning. This proposal entails revising strong beliefs such as the use of the non-target language in the new language classroom. The purpose of our research is to investigate whether including language-related content in English (the shared language) in an elementary Spanish language course helped students develop CLA without hindering class performance. Additionally, we explored if providing this content increased learners’ investment in the language. Results revealed that incorporating the CLA units did not influence overall class performance. Qualitative analyses indicated that students connected the content with their own social experience, which led to greater investment in the language. Finally, the content contributed to developing students’ critical awareness of linguistic ideologies and their impact on the construction of inequality as well as in enabling social change.

It Works in Theory and in Practice: A practical guide for implementing a TBLT beginner course

Task-based language teaching (TBLT) has been at the center of the debates on which approaches are most effective for structuring, planning, and implementing language courses. Several articles have focused on its effectiveness (Bryfonsky & McKay, 2017; Long, 2016; González-Lloret & Nielson, 2015), but few have shared specific implementation experiences in the classroom (Long, 2015; Torres & Seratini, 2016). The limited array of articles that address TBLT course creation focus on language courses for specific purposes, but little is known about the challenges and solutions found when designing and implementing a TBLT course that is part of a large general education language program. This article shares the authors’ experience in developing and teaching such a course. Based on these experiences, realistic and actionable examples are offered of how to surmount the challenges encountered when developing, integrating, and teaching a TBLT course in an otherwise traditional grammar-centric First-Year university language program at a large US university.

From learning to interacting: the experience of Perezhivanie in a beginner Italian student’s use of the Schemas of a Complete Orienting Basis of Action (SCOBAs)

This case study explores the cognitive and emotional development of a university student using the schema of a complete orienting basis of action (SCOBA) in her learning of Italian as a foreign language. The article follows Marie, a 19-year-old undergraduate student, as she used a SCOBA that illustrated the concept of Genre and Register in typified situations. Marie’s lived emotional experiences and how she overcame her struggles while learning and using Italian are analyzed through the concept of Perezhivanie. Framed in sociocultural theory, the analysis of different data sources from classroom instruction and study abroad demonstrates how the student’s use of the SCOBA was an essential aspect of her cognitive and emotional learning process. The data analysis shows how the SCOBA, as graphic representations of orienting activity inlaid in a concept-based instruction pedagogy, guided Marie’s oral interaction from a dependence on the tool to her independent use and transformation of the tool. This article contributes to the sparse empirical research on SCOBA use by documenting Marie’s progress in language learning as an example of Perezhivanie, a lived experience, of the SCOBA.

Gender neutral and non-binary language practices in the Spanish language classroom: Tensions between disciplinary and societal changes

This paper is motivated by growing, inexorable tensions between societal impetus to advance inclusive (non-binary) linguistic change across many Spanish-speaking communities, and the seemingly removed reality of the Spanish as a world language classroom. As a first step in reconciling these tensions and breaking free from apparent disciplinary inertia, we set out to map out extant scholarly literature around these complex matters. This critical appraisal inspired by and rhizomatically anchored in queer and decolonial theories and guided by the urgent need for radical (re)alignment of our language teaching praxis to advocate for diversity and inclusion beyond violently oppressive, colonial, cis-heteropatriarchal norms. We begin by tracing the genealogy of inclusive language change in Spanish, and various attempts across Spanish-speaking communities to broaden understandings of grammatical gender in ways that reflect inclusion of gender-diverse and gender nonconforming people. We then explore these linguistic changes in relation to the views of scholars and governing institutions, who may be seen as custodians of the language’s standardisation, stability, and correctness. In so doing, we consider critically the traditional reliance of the (Spanish) language teaching field on prescriptive norms that may ultimately impair teachers’ agentic responses to the realities of the classroom. Finally, we consider extant research across a variety of language teaching contexts and how this growing body of work may help inform renewed pedagogical praxis in the Spanish language classroom. We conclude by posing reflexive questions which we hope may prompt deeper, generative conversations around these matters.

Gamification as a Course Organizing Principle in Second Language Curricula

Gamification within courses has offered great opportunities for students to engage further into the course material. Traditionally, gamification is used with one or two elements of a course. This study investigated full course gamification of a Second Language (L2) classroom, which has not been explored heavily within research. The researchers used a constructivist grounded theory methodology to deepen the understanding of the student perception and possible impact of a full course gamification. Course curriculum, including textbook and assignments, remained the same for the 71 students enrolled in the L2 classes. The pedagogical approach to the course organization was gamified. Participants responded to open-ended questionnaires at the beginning and end of the course. The data from the questionnaire was coded line by line to deduce categories and then themes. Overall, students experienced higher levels of mastery learning, engagement, motivation, and lower levels of stress. This study demonstrates successful implementation of gamification as a course organizing principle, which should continue to be explored in future research.

Teachers' Forum

Racialized Experiences of Language Identities: Spanish Heritage Learners Studying Spanish in a Non-Heritage Country

The most recent Open Doors report by the Institute of International Education (IIE, 2020) indicates that the number of non-white U.S. study abroad students has been steadily growing over the past 10 years, and now it accounts for 31% of all students pursuing part of their education abroad. This study focuses on four Spanish heritage language learners (SHLLs) of Dominican, Mexican, Peruvian, and Colombian/Venezuelan descent with differing Spanish proficiency who enrolled in a short-term study abroad (SA) program for Spanish in Quito, Ecuador during May-June of 2017, 2018, or 2019. This SA program was sponsored by a four-year college in the southeastern U.S. This study included a closed-ended questionnaire, semi-structured interviews, (classroom) observations, e-portfolios, journals, and e-mails. A poststructuralist lens and Norton’s theory of investment were employed to explore the identities of these four undergraduates, their social networks, language, and culture learning opportunities, and how these experiences shaped their individual development. Considerations will be offered in terms of how a social justice-oriented curriculum can be a powerful approach to support the emergence of heritage language identities abroad in socially situated contexts. Civically oriented SA programs have the potential to help SHLLs construct global identities, increase communication skills, and gain global understanding, compassion, and tolerance for social change.



Theatre Clowning in L2 Teacher Learning: An Example from Waldorf /Steiner Education

This article explores the role of theatre clowning with scaffolded reflection in Waldorf (Steiner) teacher learning in enabling L2 teachers to develop important teaching dispositions. Waldorf schools require their L2 teachers to be creative, imaginative, skilled in narrative and presentation as well as being responsive to student needs and teaching situation. Theatre clowning has been previously studied in teacher development and this study affirms the outcomes of that research and adds the contribution of structured reflection to transformative learning both in initial teacher education and in continuing professional development. The study suggests that theatre clowning can be a valuable artistic approach in L2 teacher learning, especially when supported by scaffolded reflection.

Dialogic Learner and Identity Changes

This is an action research report about the making of three dialogic learners, Cindy, Yori, and Leo at an arts-oriented university in China. It draws inspiration from Gao’s dialogical communicator (2014), which is constructed on Bakhtin’s dialogic theory (1981). These students, with their struggles and efforts, will hopefully become open-minded dialogical communicators (Gao, 2014) with the possibility of engaging in life-long self-education (Gao, 2001).


Poetry as Design in Community-based Adult ESL Classrooms: Meaning-Making with Creative/Aesthetic Texts

Though an abundance of academic literature supports the inclusion of aesthetic activities in university and K-12 L2 learning contexts, less attention has been focused on aesthetic approaches in community-based adult ESL contexts. Inspired by a pedagogy of multiliteracies / Design (New London Group, 1996), this paper explores creative meaning making in community-based adult English as a Second Language classrooms, focusing on how Design can illuminate teachers’ understanding of what adult ESL learners are doing with language through poetry. I will present collaboratively-produced texts from adults in community-based adult ESL classes, considering how learners employ the Available Designs afforded by poetry and discussions about poetry to engage in the Design and Redesign processes in their ESL classes.

Beyond the crime scene: designing a criminalistics module in a Legal Spanish course

One of the major challenges for any L2 teacher is to integrate vocabulary components into a course. Determining what words to select in order to satisfy the goals of the course and what instructional methodology best suits the purpose of vocabulary learning are not easy tasks. Even more difficult is dealing with the formulaic terminology of a domain-specific vocabulary that students have not previously encountered. In this paper, I describe a criminalistics module within a Legal Spanish course that has a mock trial as a final assignment. In order to learn the terminology for the final assignment, incidental vocabulary learning through reading, watching a movie, and listening to a talk was seen as complementary, but not sufficient. Instead, intentional vocabulary learning has proven more effective because it reinforces retention of novel vocabulary and leads to its eventual production in the final task.