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Open Access Publications from the University of California


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.

Special Issue on L2 Writing and Personal History: Meaningful Literacy in the Language Classroom


Preface to the Special Issue

It is my pleasure to introduce to you the guest editor of this third Special Issue of L2 Journal on L2 Writing and Personal History: Meaningful Literacy in the Language Classroom.

Introduction to the Special Issue

The premise of this publication and collective exploration is that through literacy, and in particular L2 writing, personal phenomenological experience can be reflectively inspected, explicated and presented for interpretation by others and as such can be used as an important resource within the language classroom. Kramsch (2006) persuasively describes how second and foreign language pedagogy and research have lost sight of “the flesh and blood individuals who are doing the learning” (p. 98). I proposed in response that meaningful literacy instruction be at the center of second and foreign language learning (Hanauer, 2011). The aim of the research presented here is to humanize the language classroom. Collectively the papers presented facilitate access to different methodologies and pedagogies from around the world and provide a variety of ways and contexts within which meaningful literacy can be applied. Together these papers both change and define in concrete pedagogical and methodological terms what it could mean to work meaningfully with student literacies and personal histories in the language classroom.

My Autobiographical-Poetic Rendition: An Inquiry into Humanizing our Teacher Scholarship

In this paper, I highlight four distinct but interconnected areas of my life history that I refer to as autobiographic poetic waves. These waves are layered with the complex underpinning of racial, linguistic, gendered, classed, and professional identity politics that continue to not only liberate but also subjugate me at times. These autobiographic poetic waves highlight my experiences as a hyphenated Korean-American woman living in the midst of discourses that continue to privilege dominant ideologies that contradict my lived experiences, yet permeate through every fiber of my being as a member of the academic community. Hence, I focus on two questions: In what ways, do I perceive and understand my lived experiences as a Korean-American, second language writer, English teacher, teacher-scholar, and Mama PhD? And, how can my understanding of these lived experiences further influence the work I do as a teacher-educator? Learning from and moved by the work of Hanauer (2012a, 2012b, 2013), my autobiographical-poetic rendition is an epistemological and ontological revolution that involves understanding my life history as four distinct but interconnected waves: (1) Immigration and Emergence of Hyphenated Identities; (2) Legitimization of the Hyphenated Identities in Higher Education; (3) Epistemological and Ontological Revolution; (4) Perception of Mama PhDs. These waves are interspersed with an extended version of the poem, Untitled, I wrote in 1984.  I focus on the loss, divide, privileges, disenfranchisement, and identity that have permeated my life history since my family’s immigration. I conclude with implications for the field of TESOL teacher education.

ESL Teachers/ESL Students: Looking at Autoethnography through the Lens of Personetics

This qualitative, naturalistic study examines thoughts expressed in autoethnographies and accompanying notes written by ESL teachers/learners who are enrolled in a graduate teacher education program in the US. These data are then juxtaposed with the Freirean idea that English learners can be empowered if they analyze their personal paths critically. The authors illuminate the practical aspects of autoethnography as a method of introspective, critical analysis, where personetics (Brudny, 2003) can be defined as the process of looking at one’s own identity and learning. ESL learners/teachers are thus illuminated as “personal linguacultures” (Risager, 2008, p. 3) who are unique but have something in common with L2 writers from around the world. The process of writing an ESL autoethnography helps them evaluate their own objectives and goals, we postulate, and enables them to become aware of their own ESL writing as an L2 learning and teaching tool. Specific practical ramifications for the ESL writing classroom are mentioned.

Meaningful Writing in the Heritage Language Class: A Case Study of Heritage Learners of Spanish in Canada

This article reports on a classroom-based experience that draws from the critical approach to heritage Spanish language teaching and Hanauer’s concept of meaningful writing. Participants were three students enrolled in a first-year course for heritage Spanish speakers at a major Canadian public university. The writing component of this language course was fulfilled through online discussions and individual compositions that revolved around social, cultural and personal topics relevant to the linguistic experience of students. This study will demonstrate that placing meaningful writing at the core of heritage languages course not only encourages students to reflect on their own language identity and the role of Spanish in the Canadian society, but also fully engages them in the process of writing in Spanish.

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Emotionality and Second Language Writers: Expressing Fear through Narrative in Thai and in English

Writing to express emotions can be a challenging task for second language (L2) writers, especially because it tends to be a process that is less addressed in language classrooms.  This paper aims to expand thinking on L2 literacy and writing by exploring how L2 writers can express emotion (fear) through narratives both in their first language (L1) and second language (L2). With a small number of participants, the study reports that narrative writing can be helpful in creating venues for L2 writers to become aware of linguistic and cultural aspects of their first (Thai) and second (English) languages. By providing personally significant writing prompts, L2 writers can reflect on their personal experiences and gain understanding about themselves linguistically, culturally, and emotionally. The paper concludes with pedagogical suggestions for how writing teachers can introduce both positive and negative emotions in L2 classrooms.


Researching Chinese History and Culture through Poetry Writing in an EFL Composition Class

This article describes a pedagogical project designed to optimize opportunities for individual, creative expression in L2 academic writing. Conducted in four EFL Composition classes in a university in mainland China, a writing project using poetry as a research methodology, first introduced by Hanauer (2010), was implemented and assessed for effectiveness. The writing activities for this project were designed to empower individual voices, advance L2 research writing skills, and provide “opportunities to construct deeply ‘local’ meanings” (Blommaert, 2005, p. 390). Following a genre-based approach to classic English poetry, students researched personal memory of Chinese history and culture through poetry writing. The second language writers/poets created a body of over 200 poems that both informed and individualized personal understandings and cultural identity. In this paper, I argue that the use of poetry as a research methodology is an effective tool for exploring personal memories and knowledge of national history and culture. I further argue that creative writing in L2 academic contexts equalizes linguistic inequities, establishes a unique space for personal identity negotiation, and promotes second language development.