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 3, 2016
Symbolic competence (Kramsch, 2009, 2011) has been proposed as a crucial addition to world language learning, as it enables a language learner to negotiate the complex symbolism of words, expressions, and discursive events from the target culture in order to reference them effectively and in the appropriate contexts. However, fostering symbolic competence is still a challenge within the day to day reality of the world language classroom. Moreover, there is still little research on what symbolic competence looks like in interaction. In this article I examine a peer tutoring context as one possibility for examining symbolic competence in interaction. Using a close discourse analysis of one peer tutoring session, I explore the intersections between interactional resources and the performance of symbolic competence. I show how the peer tutor’s enthusiastic and lengthy descriptions of a Mexican television program from the 70s constituted what I term a symbolic performance of her knowledge of this cultural artifact. At the same time, the peer learner’s reactions to these explanations, particularly her increasing lack of alignment, revealed resistance and interactional asynchrony between the two individuals. I examine reasons for this asynchrony, focusing on the difficulties of fostering symbolic competence in traditionally communicative-based language learning environments despite the potential richness that a peer tutoring environment could provide for transformative language learning. I suggest ways in which symbolic competence could be cultivated in peer tutoring and other additional language learning contexts.
Pragmatics is an underrepresented area in L2 instruction, in spite of disciplinary emphasis on communicative skills (de Pablos-Ortega, 2011; Eisenchlas, 2011). Films have been shown to be capable of mitigating this lack of pedagogically prepared materials (Abrams, 2014; Kambara, 2011; Fernández-Guerra, 2008; Grant & Starks, 2001; Washburn, 2001), and may provide scaffolding for teaching pragmatics as a dynamic, context-dependent phenomenon. In line with current research in pragmatics, wherein participants’ motivations, communicative purpose, and social context play significant roles in communication (Boxer, 2002; Kecskés, 2006, 2012; LoCastro, 2011; Scollon & Wong-Scollon, 2003), the present study compares how authentic filmic materials—in contrast with textbook models—help participants develop pragmatic skills that reflect a locally contextualized, emergent view of interaction. Collaborative dialogues of thirty first-year learners of German at a U.S. university were analyzed using interactional sociolinguistics (Piazza, Bednarek, & Rossi, 2011; Tannen, 2005, 2006). Results indicate that film-based dialogues prompted more pragmatically nuanced interactions than did textbook tasks.