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 8, Issue 1, 2016
This paper contributes to the much debated yet still largely unanswered question of how second language (L2) learning is anchored and configured in and through social interaction. Using a socio-interactional approach to second language (L2) learning (e.g., Hellermann, 2008; Mondada & Pekarek Doehler, 2004; Pekarek Doehler, 2010), I examine students’ search for the meaning of a lexical item and subsequent use of the same item. This study is longitudinal in design and attempts to understand how participants orient to a lexical item as an object of learning to co-construct locally enacted and progressively more complex interactional repertoires in the target language. The data consists of recorded interactions between learners of German as they work on a project outside of the classroom for several days during a two-week period. The analysis involves tracking multiple episodes where a vocabulary item is used and attended to by the group of learners. Learners engage in learning practices and create opportunities for L2 learning through interaction, employing strategies such as timely peer assistance and appropriation of new conversational meanings.
Despite the number of articles devoted to the topic of content-based instruction (CBI), little attempt has been made to link the claims for CBI to research in cognitive science. In this article, I review the CBI model of foreign language (FL) instruction in the context of its close alignment with two emergent frameworks in cognitive science: connectionism and constructivism. I show that these frameworks offer powerful support for the features of CBI that make it an attractive alternative to textbook-based learning. In addition, I argue that the general principles associated with connectionism and constructivism suggest further avenues for development within CBI, especially in the areas of pattern recognition and speech processing.
To describe connectionism and constructivism as emergent frameworks in cognitive science is perhaps misleading. They would be better described as landmark theories that have in recent years experienced a revival, in large part due to the influence of research associated with increased brain imaging capabilities and large-scale computational modeling. Connectionism and constructivism originally stem from separate disciplines (mathematics and psychology, respectively). Conceptually, however, they are sufficiently broad as to have implications for many different fields. Taken separately or together, connectionism and constructivism have been especially influential in fields that deal with behavioral phenomena. Where there is an intersection between biology and culture, connectionism and constructivism provide the kinds of insights on learning that are otherwise difficult to untangle from the standpoint of a purely nature or purely nurture perspective.
The individuals listed below served as referees for the L2 Journal in the calendar year 2015. We wish to express our sincere gratitude for their important contributions to the quality of the articles published in this journal:
Adam Mendelson; Andrew Cohen; Anne Whiteside; Anthony Liddicoat; Batia Laufer; Chantelle Warner; Chika Shibahara; Dave Malinowski; Ellen Rosenfield; Emily Linarus; Frank Brooks; Fred Dervin; Geraldine O’Neill; Glenn Levine; Heather Allen; Karen Møller; Hiram Maxim; Jane Jackson; Jane Stanley; Jaran Shin; Jason Vivrette; John Levis; John Plews; Karen Risager; Kate Paesani; Juergen Kurtz; Katie Bernstein; Maggie Sokoli; Marie-Françoise Narcy-Combes; Mark Kaiser; Mark Nelson; Melinda Dooly; Niko Euba; Noah Katznelson; Pisarn Chamcharatsri; Patricia Duff; Paul Quinn; Peng Yin; Richard Donato; Richard Feldman; Robert Blake; Rod Ellis; Teresa Kennedy; William Heidenfeldt; Yoko Hasegawa
Cultural and literary texts are used in the foreign language classroom to support learners’ language development, cultural awareness, and reading comprehension. While classroom activities frequently facilitate a literal understanding of facts and events, these texts offer another potential level of analysis: symbolic dimensions, which focus on how meaning is constructed in the texts in relation to their historical and political contexts, to the readers’ own positionality and subjective experiences, and to the cultural values and beliefs that are attached to these meanings. This paper explores how to teach these symbolic dimensions through an exploration of the notion of symbolic competence. Using personal experiences teaching the legend of La Llorona in a university-level Spanish classroom, I explore two interrelated questions: 1) Can the legend of La Llorona offer insights into theorizations of symbolic competence?; 2) Can theorizations of symbolic competence be applied to the teaching of La Llorona in order to facilitate learners’ critical reflections on its symbolic dimensions? Three project-based classroom activities will be discussed to illustrate teaching for the development of symbolic competence.