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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.

Volume 2 Issue 1 2010


Demonstrations of pedagogical content knowledge: Spanish Liberal Arts and Spanish Education majors' writing

Second language teachers’ pedagogical content knowledge (PCK) is a sophisticated combination of pedagogical and content knowledge. This study explores the acquisition and articulation of PCK, highlighting the question of whether teacher education programs add to language teachers' knowledge base. Data was gathered using a performance assessment that incorporated teacher writing tasks in Spanish with a reflective paragraph to explain decisions made while writing. Areas of interest were language awareness, knowledge of effective teaching, and knowledge of learners. The study’s primary purpose is to reveal whether PCK differed in preservice Spanish teachers’ writing, as compared to Spanish Liberal Arts majors’ writing. Qualitative analysis revealed differing stages of PCK between the groups, suggesting teacher education’s influence on the preservice teachers’ performance.

Using Online Forums to Scaffold Oral Participation in Foreign Language Instruction

According to sociocultural approaches to second language acquisition (SLA), participation in communicative practices in the target language is the goal of language learning and a fundamental part of the acquisition process. One role of language instruction is to provide scaffolding that enables language learners to participate in communicative practices while their competence is still developing. This paper focuses on a particular communicative practice, oral discussions of assigned readings in a second-semester Spanish class at the university level, and explores the use of online forums to scaffold student participation in this communicative practice. Using a combination of qualitative methods, I show how an instructor used forums to prepare her students for class discussions while also increasing and diversifying student participation during those discussions. This outcome problematizes the assumption that only synchronous (e.g., chat) as opposed asynchronous (e.g., forums) modes of text-based computer-mediated communication (CMC) can be beneficial for oral communication in foreign languages. Furthermore, it indicates that learning outcomes may depend more on the way in which CMC is integrated into instruction than on the specific characteristics of the technologies used.

L2 French Learners’ Processing of Object Clitics: Data from the Classroom

The purpose of this study was to assess whether the well-documented paucity of object clitics in L2 French production reflects difficulties learners have comprehending these forms in classroom input. To this end, an aural French-English translation task was used to determine the extent to which university-level L2 learners of French (N=152) were able to process and encode the meaning of the object clitics me, te, la, l’, les, lui, leur, y and en. An analysis of the translations revealed variation in performance across clitic types (19-75% accuracy) and as a function of learners’ proficiency level and educational background. There was a positive relationship between L2 proficiency and clitic processing. Post-French immersion learners were better able to process and encode clitics than their post-core French peers. As a group, the learners were only 54% accurate, with their mistranslations of object clitics indicating incomplete use of gender, number, animacy and case markings to link these forms to their co-referents. An under-reliance on animacy and agreement cues by these L2 learners suggests the need for explicit instruction on the importance of syntactic and discourse-pragmatic information in clitic comprehension.

Conceptual Blends and Critical Awareness in Teaching Cultural Narratives

Bringing conceptual blending into foreign language classroom discussions of cultural narratives can lead to critical language awareness and a deeper and broader understanding of cultural narratives, which the MLA promotes in its (2007) conceptualization of transcultural and translingual awareness. Using the fall of the Berlin Wall and German unification as example narratives, this paper seeks to show how political humor can unpack and illuminate complex, blended narratives that infuse everyday linguistic expressions and ways of making meaning. It will then offer suggestions for using conceptual blending to analyze cultural narratives in the classroom.

Foreign Language Teachers’ Struggle to Learn Content-Based Instruction

Research has shown content-based instruction (CBI) to be effective in various language settings, yet this promising curricular approach remains rarely implemented in mainstream foreign language educational contexts. While the existing body of research has identified important barriers to the implementation of CBI, it has neglected the problem of meaning which is essential to understanding educational reforms. This phenomenological study explores the meaning that the experience of learning CBI had for in-service foreign language teachers in traditional teaching contexts who were once enrolled in a year-long professional development program specifically designed to help them become familiar with CBI core principles and create CBI curricular materials. Findings suggest that teachers struggle mainly with the idea of teaching language through content, a concept they have difficulty grasping or even accepting as a possibility. Professional development programs must be designed to respond to this specific challenge if they are to help teachers explore new instructional possibilities.

Exploring the Feasibility of a Pedagogy of Multiliteracies in Introductory Foreign Language Courses

The 2007 MLA Report calls for large-scale reform in university foreign language (FL) departments to integrate the study of language, literature, and culture and move beyond the the language-content dichotomy that has characterized the undergraduate curriculum for decades. This article explores the implications of these recommendations for introductory FL courses, arguing in favor of a pedagogy of multiliteracies (New London Group, 1996; Kern, 2000) as one pathway toward curricular reform. The adoption of a multiliteracies framework in response to calls for curricular change is not entirely novel, yet most scholarship to date has focused on the need for more explicit attention to students' linguistic development in advanced-level content courses rather than on pedagogical models for integrating textual content into introductory language courses. To support our position, three challenges to realizing curricular change and fostering literacy in introductory FL courses are discussed – pedagogy, course content, and departmental buy-in – and strategies to address each challenge are proposed. We conclude that in light of the changing landscape in U.S. higher education today, a pedagogy of multiliteracies represents a means of keeping the introductory FL curriculum relevant to students as well as the broader intellectual mission of the university.