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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.


From the Editor

In this issue, we are pleased to include four contributions on a topic that is currently the object of heated debates in Germany and that we feel should be of interest to our readers – the concept of Bildung, or general education, in an era of globalization.  Two of these contributions are authored by two German doctoral students in Applied Linguistics who visited the Berkeley Language Center during the academic year 2013-2014: Irene Heidt, from the Hellenic American University in Athens, Greece, and Julia Campos, from the University of Munich. While at UC Berkeley, Irene and Julia participated in a graduate student reading group on neoliberalism in language education (see L2Journal Special Issue 2015), and they researched in depth the history and the current debates surrounding the quintessentially German concept of Bildung this quintessentially German concept. The two papers that appear in this issue are the result of their research. I decided to invite two German senior scholars in Applied Linguistics to write a response to each of these papers. Prof. Dr. Adelheid Hu, from the University of Luxemburg, responded to Irene Heidt, and Prof. Dr. Jörg Roche, from the University of Munich, responded to Julia Campos.  This unusual pairing of a young and a more senior scholar, for which I was inspired by my colleague Prof. Jabari Mahiri from the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Education, will give our readers a multifaceted perspective on this complex topic. We hope you find it fruitful for your own research and practice.

Exploring the Historical Dimensions of Bildung and its Metamorphosis in the Context of Globalization

In this article, I endeavor to explore the historical dimensions of Bildung by first focusing on the German linguist and philosopher Wilhelm von Humboldt and his theory of Bildung. The article then addresses the transformation of Humboldt’s neo-humanistic ideal into a government-run institutionalized Bildung aimed at managing and controlling the citizens. This historical transformation of Bildung in the late Enlightenment paves the way for a concept of Bildung attached to neoliberal ideals, propagating principles of the free market such as efficiency, measurability, and self-entrepreneurship. Although neoliberal principles became so integral to today’s everyday practices that thinking outside the neoliberal box is nearly unthinkable, we can observe a metamorphosed kind of Bildung that goes beyond the neoliberal parameters. This new kind of Bildung is constituted by multimodal, ironic, playful, serious, critical, local, and transgressive forms of expression that are not to be found in textbooks or educational standards but on walls of cosmopolitan cities or diverse social networks. In this article I shall make the case that the conditions in today’s age of globalization offer alternative avenues for Bildung, which is inherently collaborative, interactive, and social, as once envisioned by Humboldt.


The Idea of Bildung in the Current Educational Discourse: A Response to Irene Heidt

It is surprising that there is a young academic in 2015 working intensively on the German philosopher and linguist Wilhelm von Humboldt (1767-1835) and his concept of Bildung. In times where – as the author states herself – educational systems globally tend to follow neoliberal principles and where the visibility, commodification, and instrumentalization of knowledge produce a “culture of performativity” (Masschelein & Simons, 2006, p. 19) within a so-called knowledge society, Humboldt’s ideas about Bildung seem very far away from the current mainstream thinking and policy making. But maybe it is just because of this current dominance of neoliberalism in education that it is worth remembering a philosopher and linguist who developed a neo-humanistic concept of Bildung which emphasizes a process of holistic growth, self-realization of the individual as an entirety, freedom, and self-understanding as well as a sense of social responsibility, and which puts the development of the individual’s unique potential and self at the center of educational processes. In her paper the author not only analyses Humboldt’s philosophical concept of Bildung itself but traces the process of its institutionalization in which Humboldt himself, having become a Secretary of Education under Frederick III, was actively involved. Heidt analyses how the concept of Bildung lost the impetus of freedom and autonomous agency and became an instrument for selection and an agent for social and cultural reproduction, discipline, and control. Today’s concept of Bildung is very much – according to Heidt – influenced by neoliberal thinking and so much altered as to become hardly recognizable. For Heidt, Bildung – similar to Humboldt’s concept but at the same time radically transformed – can only be found outside of educational institutions, e.g., in social networks or street art in cosmopolitan big cities. Bildung, according to the author’s main hypothesis, paradoxically no longer takes place in globally stratified educational institutions, but in a kind of alternative counter world and very much through the medium of language.

Bildung Reloaded–Educational Challenges for a Globalized World

Worldwide, education promises a better future for aspiring generations. However, our current educational landscape has been shaped by neoliberal thinking, and is thus often oriented toward economic objectives. In Germany Bildung is a notion coined by philosophers representing a broad liberal and critical education, and the cultural and historical context of this ideal dictates how scholars and society defend educational values. However, in a so-called ‘knowledge society,’ education and language proficiency become parameters to assess the economic value of members of society vis-à-vis employment. In particular, immigrants are required to prove their merit in the labor market by learning German and acquiring educational qualifications. The influx of immigrants into German society thus requires a new approach to Bildung. This article explores the impact of economic reasoning and globalization on the discourse surrounding Bildung.


Lost in Translation? Bildung between Ideological Debate and Pragmatism: A Response to Julia Campos

The term Bildung is notoriously difficult to translate. Though it is often translated as “education,” this does not entirely convey its meaning nor entirely explain its use in a myriad compounds such as Bildungssprache (language of/for education), Bildungsweg (path to education), Allgemeinbildung (general education/knowledge expectations), Ausbildung (education for professional purposes), Halbbildung (semi education). Richard Rorty (2009) attempted to transfer this term into English more fittingly by coining the term “edification” as a portmanteau of education and qualification; other translators have focused on its meaning as a formative process (for an individual’s personality).

Spanish for You: Student-Centered and Languages for Specific Purposes Methods in Lower-Division Spanish

This article investigates a project that used student-centered teaching and languages for specific purposes to increase university students’ motivation to study Spanish and willingness to communicate. After reflecting on their personal goals and interests, students were required to choose a purpose or context in which they might use Spanish in their future. Then students were encouraged to seek opportunities to foster their own language and culture learning related to the unique purposes that each student had selected. Data sources included an anonymous online survey with Likert scale responses and open-ended written responses, plus personal observations of the teacher. Results indicated that many students’ perceptions of Spanish speakers and their cultures changed in positive ways and that students were more willing to communicate with native speakers. However, students reported only a marginal increase in their motivation to continue studying Spanish. The author concluded that student-centered teaching and languages for specific purposes can be effective in lower-division Spanish but may require adjustments on the part of students and more guidance than anticipated from instructors.


Introducing Genre into Japanese-as-a-Foreign-Language: Toward a Genre-Specific Approach to Elementary/Intermediate Writing

Despite the social turn in views of language and the increasing attention to an application of genre theory in teaching languages, the field of Japanese-as-a-Foreign-Language (JFL) has not yet found genre a valuable resource for approaching learners’ writing ability. Writing is still practiced as a psycholinguistic space to check learners’ understanding of grammar structures and kanji, and writing assignment prompts are often designed to fit into the corresponding grammatical units. Part I of this paper, by employing a functional linguistics-oriented genre theory, maps elementary/intermediate JFL grammatical units into register, which is the primary contextual parameters that construe social meanings, and illustrates the process of transferring grammatical resources into genre so that language instructors can make their own model texts and can approach their learners’ writing from a genre-specific perspective. Part II of this paper illustrates a practical implementation as the form of pedagogic report. It illustrates how the constructed model text was used in an actual JFL classroom and argues its potential for a curricular context. In essence, the present study intends to lay the groundwork for creating an applicable genre approach in a JFL curriculum that contextualizes elementary/intermediate learners’ writing as a way to represent their social views.


Teachers' Forum

Using a Corpus-Informed Pedagogical Intervention to Develop Language Awareness toward Appropriate Lexicogrammatical Choices

The corpus-informed pedagogical intervention described in this article was developed for an advanced English as a Second Language (ESL) course designed for prospective International Teaching Assistants (ITAs) and implemented over the course of two class periods. Its primary goal was to offer students opportunities to gain language awareness of “smallwords” (Hasselgren, 2002b), with the broader goal of developing their ability to make pragmatically appropriate lexicogrammatical choices and to enhance their communication as ITAs. The article situates this pedagogical unit vis-à-vis the goals of the class in which this unit was implemented, describes the progression of activities, and provides an appraisal of the unit.


  • 3 supplemental files

Sociocultural Theory and a Pragma-linguistic Pedagogical Intervention

L2 pragmatic instruction in grammar and writing is an area of second language acquisition that is underutilized by many teachers. This paper follows the process of one teacher as the instruction of the pragmatic speech act of requesting is integrated into a low-level grammar class. First, an argument is made for the importance of including explicit pragmatic instruction in an ESL classroom. Then, a recent pedagogical model based on Sociocultural Theory is utilized as a basis for the development of new materials and adaptation of existing materials. Also, the theoretical frameworks of both speech act theory of requesting and politeness theory are examined to inform the materials presented to the students. Finally, the teacher reflects on this process and gives recommendations for others who would integrate pragmatic instruction into their classroom.