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.
Volume 10, Issue 2, 2018
Living Literacies: L2 Learning, Textuality, and Social Life
Preface and Introduction to the Special Issue
It is my great pleasure to present to our readers this Special Issue of the L2 Journal on Living Literacies: L2 Learning, Textuality, and Social Life, guest edited by Chantelle Warner and Kristen Michelson.
This special volume on “Living Literacies” is an addendum to an existing body of work in L2 education that has amassed over the past few decades, which makes a collective case that literacy ought to be a central pedagogical objective for language and culture curricula. This has been a particularly predominant discourse in collegiate foreign language teaching, where the calls for a paradigm shift are often directly coupled with critiques of the bifurcated curricular models that have long shaped foreign language departments (e.g., Allen & Paesani, 2010; Kern, 2000, 2003), though interest in L2 literacy over the past couple of decades has also been associated with broader discussions around advanced linguistic development (e.g., Byrnes, 2005; Byrnes, Maxim, & Norris, 2010; Maxim, 2009) and in particular, language learning for specific or academic purposes (Hyland, 2007; Yasuda, 2011).
The articles in this volume contribute to these ongoing discussions by focusing more specifically on the complexity of L2 literacy, not merely as the interpretation and production of material texts, but also as lived experience: as practices that manifest across multiple languages, cultural contexts, and social ecologies; as a means of accessing and of developing identities, for example as a speaker of a new language, a researcher in a new field, or a language teacher working within a particular approach; as constituent of social sites, within which texts and text-based activities unfold.
Graded readers, simplified versions of literature and other texts at graduated levels of difficulty, are widely employed in contexts of foreign language pedagogy and are widely considered to be a form of written-language input ostensibly suitable for a wide array of developmental stages. However, the efficacy of graded readers is not unchallenged, among which criticisms is that the language in a graded work of literature is, by nature, aesthetically inert and inauthentic, in comparison to the original. Still, from an L2 literacies-development perspective, could one not justifiably accept that aesthetic impoverishment and inauthenticity are reasonable, perhaps also unavoidable, compromises? Practically, what, for example, could a typical intermediate-level learner of EFL be expected to glean from a nineteenth-century English novel? Would the language-learning needs of this learner not be better addressed through engagement with an appropriately graded version of the same novel, facilitating optimally fluent—and, therefore, assumedly more enjoyable and motivating—reading practice?
This article reports on research that addressed precisely these questions, focusing specifically on Japanese university students’ involvement with and interaction around George Eliot’s (1861) Silas Marner. Applying comparative textual analysis and qualitative case-study methods, and viewed through a social semiotic conceptual lens, the researchers investigated the relative meaning-making affordances of graded-reader and original versions of the novel and examined turn-by-turn the semiotic work performed by a group of Japanese university students as they collaboratively unpacked this challenging piece of fiction. Findings suggest that the authentic text, however difficult, afforded rich meaning- making possibilities that would have been unavailable through engagement with graded readers. Importantly, too, the results indicate that active peer collaboration, a process that entailed the individual contribution and cooperative synthesis of a diversity of textual and extra-textual semiotic resources, was vital to actualizing these learning opportunities. On the basis of this analysis, the paper concludes with a preliminary argument for the pedagogical efficacy of promoting collaborative dysfluency in L2 literacies education—over and above the individually oriented aim of reading fluency as conventionally defined.
This exploratory study analyzes the digital literacy practices that resulted from learner-learner interactions within a virtual environment when collaboratively reading eighteen Spanish poems via a digital annotation tool over a four-week period in a college-level Hispanic literature course. Using an ecological theoretical perspective and centering on the affordance construct (van Lier, 2004), we investigate how linguistic characteristics of the poems affect the nature of learners’ annotations and also analyze how learners’ written comments/annotations change over time when engaging in L2 social reading. Findings suggest that when the lexical diversity of the poems increased, the number of literary affordances that emerged in learners’ annotations decreased. Statistical analyses also revealed that the total number of errors and the lexical diversity of learners’ written annotations did not change when looking at the class as a whole. However, change in writing was noted at the individual learner level. We conclude with a number of pedagogical suggestions regarding the incorporation of digital social reading in L2 environments and offer future avenues for research in this nascent area.
Designing Meaning and Identity in Multiliteracies Pedagogy: From Multilingual Subjects to Authentic Speakers
This essay examines textual engagement of two students during a Multiliteracies lesson on a French poem (Liberté, Paul Eluard) in terms of the multilingual subject (Kramsch, 2009) and the authentic speaker (Van Compernolle, 2016). The case studies are based on personal data: (1) the students’ autobiographies written on the first day of the course; (2) the transcript of their annotated comments about the poem; (3) their essays comparing the French poem to an English translation; and (4) their retrospective analysis about the effects of the multiliteracies lesson and course. The essay begins with a review of the Multiliteracies Framework, and the concepts of the multilingual subject and the authentic speaker. Next, the essay turns to a description of the subjective experiences of the two learners. Finally, the essay illustrates how the two students filtered the poem through their own subjectivities to arrive at a new sense of multilingual authenticity.
This qualitative study explored the impact of reading on writing in a collegiate French culture course that emphasized genre-based writing pedagogy. In particular, the study focused on how 19 advanced collegiate learners of French used model text resources in writing a letter-manifesto and what their perceptions were of participation in genre-based writing instruction. Based on this study's findings, the authors make an argument for how genre-based pedagogy can facilitate advanced literacy development in a FL. They also highlight challenges of this pedagogy and directions for future research and implementation in collegiate FL programs.
Literacy-based Curricula in University Foreign Language Instruction: Perceptions from Non-Tenure-Track Faculty
Recent scholarship has underscored the need for a new paradigm in university foreign language programs and put forward literacy as a necessary curricular goal (e.g., Byrnes, Maxim, & Norris, 2010; Kern, 2000; Paesani, Allen, & Dupuy, 2016; Swaffar & Arens, 2005). In light of the high percentage of courses they teach, non-tenure-track faculty (NTTF) are instrumental to implementing new curricular paradigms. As such, knowing how they understand literacy and its role in foreign language education is essential to advancing the implementation of literacy-based pedagogies. This study reports on how non- tenure-track faculty conceptualized literacy during a 2.5 month Professional Learning Circle (PLC). Sociocultural and cognitive dimensions of literacy dominated the ways in which participants conceptualized literacy and its associated pedagogies; linguistic dimensions were backgrounded. Findings suggest that in order for a literacy turn to take hold, NTTF need opportunities to define relationships between language, culture, texts, and cognitive processes, and to differentiate literacy pedagogies from Communicative Language Teaching practices.
This paper presents a narrative account of teaching-researching-learning processes in practice, in the context of a language teacher development program at the Louvre Museum in Paris, France. Approaching L2 literacies as the interplay of intersubjective, sensory, and embodied experiences of language users in their situated encounters with symbolic forms at the art museum, the paper explores pedagogical pathways towards multiliteracies through encounters with art at the museum, as teachers walk, talk, learn and design together. It illustrates the implementation of a pedagogy of multiliteracies, as viewers/readers engage deeply with museum texts.
Developing Academic Literacy and Researchers' Identities: The Case of Multilingual Graduate Students
A growing number of bilingual and multilingual national and international students are enrolling in graduate programs in the United States, creating an urgent need to understand how these writers build knowledge of unfamiliar academic genres and become part of their disciplinary academic communities (Selony, 2014). Such students struggle with specific-to-the-discipline composition of written texts, exerting their agency in new academic tasks, and research identity issues. Following an activity theory framework, this case study investigates how three graduate students with diverse educational, cultural, and linguistic backgrounds (Spanish as L1, L2, and heritage language and English as L1, L2, and dominant language) experienced these processes and overcame obstacles by examining (1) the goals as students’ understanding of the research project evolved, (2) the construction of students’ identities as researchers, and (3) the impact of goals and identity on their investment in learning. Two end-of- semester interviews and 19 reflections over two semesters were collected. The results of a bottom-up content analysis illustrate how the situated and negotiated nature of the writing process aids multilingual writers’ transition to more sophisticated academic writing and builds in them a sense of identity as researchers. These findings can serve as a point of departure for developing instructional frameworks that better guide multilingual writers to successfully navigate academia in the United States.
Ivan (pseudonym), the son of Mexican migrant farmworkers, rarely spent more than six months in the same school and by high school was still classified as an English language learner. This article traces Ivan’s experiences as a language learner and writer, telling his story in his own words through his writing and ethnographic data collected during his junior year of high school and his first year of college. I examine how literacy sponsors (Brandt, 2001) helped or impeded his reading and writing as he worked to change his life. Through Ivan’s writing and oral reflections, I argue that rather than solely supporting their reading and writing development, literacy sponsors for immigrant second language writers support learners as a whole. Central to Ivan’s evaluation of his literacy sponsors is the role of caring relationships—or lack thereof—that endured longer than the technical literacy skills he learned from any one sponsor.
This paper repositions McLuhan’s (1964/1965) extension theory of technology in the context of mobile (-assisted) language learning (MALL), and explores whether and how the medium (i.e., the mobile device) impacts the message (i.e., the target language) and the means by which it is taught in MALL. A survey of recommended commercial MALL apps generated four top-ranked apps, which were reviewed, then trialed in an autoethnographic study of learning Italian to explore how language, communication, and language pedagogy were theorized, enacted, and assessed in each app. On the whole, MALL apps were found to repackage outdated language teaching pedagogies, and failed to capitalize on the affordances of mobile connection apart from piecemeal incorporation of gamification strategies and social media links. The article concludes with a call for professional educators to harness, not just consume, mobile technologies towards informed design-oriented MALL pedagogies.