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LINGUIST List 24.2199

Mon May 27 2013

Review: Applied Ling; Discourse Analysis; Language Acquisition: Alcón Soler & Safont-Jordà (2012)

Editor for this issue: Monica Macaulay <monicalinguistlist.org>

Date: 15-Mar-2013
From: Erhan Aslan <erhanaslan1yahoo.com>
Subject: Discourse and language learning across L2 instructional settings
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Book announced at http://linguistlist.org/issues/23/23-4234.html

EDITOR: Eva Alcón Soler
EDITOR: Maria Safont-Jordà
TITLE: Discourse and language learning across L2 instructional settings
SERIES TITLE: Utrecht Studies in Language and Communication 24
PUBLISHER: Rodopi
YEAR: 2012

REVIEWER: Erhan Aslan, University of South Florida

SUMMARY

The aim of the present volume is to establish a connection between discourse
and language learning, integrating various factors affecting discourse
structure in the foreign language classroom. As expressed in the introduction
of the volume (p. 1), Eva Alcón Soler and Maria-Pilar Safont-Jordà emphasize
the need to conduct more research that brings together discourse and language
learning from different perspectives, such as information processing,
conversation analysis, and socio-cognitive and ethnographic approaches. The
studies included in the volume explore discourse patterns in different
instructional settings ranging from computer-mediated, classroom,
multilingual, primary, secondary, and university contexts. The volume is
comprised of four parts consisting of thirteen chapters. The book is organized
in a fashion that displays the interface between discourse and different
instructional settings including a variety of target foreign languages.

Part 1 (Discourse in L2 Learning Contexts) presents studies which focus on the
analysis of the discourse strategies and tools used by teachers in primary,
secondary, and university level instructional settings. In the first chapter,
“Primary school teachers’ language practices: A four year longitudinal study
of three FL classes,” Elsa Tragant and Carmen Muñoz report the findings of a
study conducted over a period of four years in a foreign language immersion
context. They examined the classroom discourse features in a primary school
context in Spain, particularly how the change of teacher throughout four
grades reflected on students’ attitudes, perceptions, and linguistic progress.
Case study findings from three different schools suggest that different
teaching practices lead to different classroom discourse patterns such as
elicitation or elaboration moves, student output, and teaching style. The
study strengthens our understanding of how discourse patterns are dynamically
co-constructed by both teachers and students in different primary school
settings and subject to change and reorganization.

In Chapter 2 of Part 1, “Lexical scaffolding in immersion classroom
discourse,” Nathalie Blanc, Rita Carol, Peter Griggs, and Roy Lyster present a
study that investigates the instructional discourse patterns displayed by a
French teacher and an English teacher in a French immersion primary school
context in Montreal. The study focuses on the impact of different lexical
scaffolding strategies executed by the two teachers through bilingual
read-aloud sessions on lexical processing of French dominant, English
dominant, and bilingual eight-year old pupils. The pedagogical significance of
the study lies in its potential contribution to raise teachers’ awareness of
the interplay between language and content through metalinguistic,
cross-linguistic, and experiential connections established during the
instructional interactions between teachers and students in the classroom.

Rita Tognini and Rhonda Oliver, in Chapter 3, entitled “L1 use in primary and
secondary foreign language classrooms and its contribution to learning,”
investigate the context, nature, and purpose of the use of L1 in foreign
language instruction in primary and secondary classrooms in Australia. The
authors report findings from audio and video recorded lessons in both primary
and secondary schools. The findings suggest that L1 use is dominant in all
instructional contexts, and L2 use seemed to be restricted to simple and
predictable exchanges. In addition, most learning was found to take place in
teacher-learner interaction rather than in peer interaction. In line with the
purpose of Part 1, this chapter informs the reader of the various discourse
strategies employed by teachers in L1 and L2 exchanges, and how and to what
extent these exchanges contribute to learning, thus offering potential
research venues in bilingual education, classroom discourse analysis and
classroom interaction.

In the last chapter of Part 1, “Repair in Japanese request sequences during
student-teacher interactions,” Yumiko Tateyama focuses on the types of repair
sequences encountered during student-teacher role play activities and the dual
role played by the teacher both as interlocutor and teacher. The conversation
analysis of three request role plays from two audio and video recorded
sessions of a low-intermediate Japanese as a foreign language (JFL) class at
an American university revealed that the teacher organizes the interactional
repair trajectories in the classroom by initiating repair and providing
feedback when students encounter trouble. The author states that the shifts
between the two roles enable the teacher to assess student forms, make
corrections as needed, and adjust interaction during class activities. Along
with the first three chapters in this part, this study also offers insights
into classroom discourse with particular emphasis on teacher-student
interaction from a conversation analytic perspective in a JFL higher education
context.

The second part of the volume (Discourse in Content and Language Integrated
Contexts), which focuses on the interaction and language use in content and
language integrated learning (CLIL) contexts, starts with Chapter 5 on “Social
perspectives on interaction and language learning in CLIL classrooms.” Ana
Llinares and Tom Morton present an overview of two social perspectives, namely
the socio-interactionist approach based on conversation analysis and situated
learning theory, and systemic functional linguistics. According to the
authors, this approach helps identify the lexico-grammatical features that
CLIL students exhibit. Furthermore, the chapter stresses the importance of
combining the two social approaches and elaborates on how such a combination
contributes to the understanding of the interrelationship between content
pedagogy, language learning, interaction, and the discursive structure of the
CLIL classroom communities. Finally, the authors suggest implications derived
from the fusion of social perspectives for CLIL research from both theoretical
and methodological aspects.

Tarja Nikula, in Chapter 6, reports the results of the study entitled, “On the
role of peer discussions in the learning of subject-specific language use in
CLIL.” In line with the theme of the volume, this chapter approaches language
learners’ discourse in CLIL environments from a discourse-pragmatic and
social-interpersonal dimension. Specifically, the author focuses on the impact
of students’ peer discussions in group-work situations on their
subject-specific language use. The data derived from the recordings of 7th
grade history lessons in secondary schools in Finland revealed that joint
meaning construction through peer discussions in group-work situations enabled
learners to be aware of the historical terms and concepts and use discourse
patterns related to the content. This study brings forth a new perspective to
CLIL research, stressing the socio-constructivist underpinnings of CLIL.

The effects of CLIL on higher education contexts are explained in the last
chapter of Part 2. Ute Smit, in the study entitled “English as a Lingua Franca
(ELF) and its role in integrating content and language in higher education: A
longitudinal study of question-initiated exchanges,” investigates the impact
of ELF on the discourse-pragmatic structure of question-initiated exchanges
with particular emphasis on the teacher-student interaction in an Austrian
post-secondary program in international hotel management. The dataset
collected during a period of four semesters, comprised of 50 semi-structured
interviews, informal conversations with students, teachers, and
administrators, and 33 audio-recorded and transcribed lessons was both
quantitatively and qualitatively analyzed. The findings revealed that as the
course progressed, initially teacher-centered question exchanges were
gradually replaced by whole class and more student-generated exchanges that
involved referential questions which focused on reason and explanation rather
than facts (‘why’ vs. ‘what’ questions). Clearly, the study highlights the
importance of how CLIL promotes student involvement in the classroom and
informs teacher education programs of the discourse structure of ELF higher
education contexts.

Part 3 (Discourse in New Language Learning Contexts), which focuses on the
analysis of discourse in new language learning settings, begins with Chapter
8, “Identity and face in institutional English as Lingua Franca discourse.” In
it, Juilane House presents a study conducted in a German university. The study
looks at the institutional pedagogical interactions in ELF during academic
advising sessions between advisors and their students coming from different L1
backgrounds, particularly the discourse structure pertaining to identity and
face related issues. The author reports how code-switching and the I-plus-Verb
constructions ‘I think’ and ‘I mean’ are primarily used as identity
construction strategies. Academic advisors’ automatic switch to their L1
during their interactions with students is purported to be a connection with
their L1 identity. Also, I-plus-Verb constructions are identified as an
expression of a speaker’s opinion rather than mere discourse markers usually
characterized as semantically empty fillers in native English speaker speech.
The study concludes that the mode of interaction, either L1 or ELF, factors in
the hierarchical perceptions and interaction in a language other than the
mother tongue and might pose challenges for the institutionally sanctioned
position of the academic advisor.

In Chapter 9, “The voices of immigrant students in the classroom: discourse
practices and language learning in a Catalan-Spanish bilingual environment”,
Josep Maria Cots and Laura Espelt present the findings of a case study that
focuses on the social environment and language learning process of a female
teenage immigrant student. Following a linguistic ethnographic approach, the
study looks at the discursive means afforded to the student faced with three
languages (Catalan, Spanish, and English) different from her L1 in the
Catalonian educational institution, and the process in which her experiences
feed into her identity construction and self-expression. Mainly comprised of
observational data, the study also includes semi-structured and informal
interviews with other students and teachers. The findings suggest that the
student made use of the interactional negotiation of meanings to construct
knowledge and displayed agency that resists the structure or adapts it to
relevant goals. Unlike other studies included in the volume, this one
emphasizes the macro analysis of the discourse structure of the learning
environment, and offers insights to the understanding of the contextual
factors of learning from a socio-cultural standpoint.

The focus of Chapter 10 in Part 3, “Email openings and closings:
Pragmalinguistic and gender variation in learner-instructor cyber
consultations,” by César Félix-Brasdefer is on the discourse practices in
emailing in computer-mediated communication (CMC) environments with particular
emphasis on greetings and closings. The author analyzed a natural corpus of
320 email messages sent from US undergraduate learners of Spanish to their
instructors. The findings suggested that while the students displayed more
informal and conversational features in the openings, they used a formal style
in the closings. In addition, the type and frequency of the opening moves was
influenced by the gender of the writer of the email message. For instance, the
frequency of the use of the greeting word only (e.g. ‘Hola’, ‘Hello/Hi’) in
the female L2 Spanish and L1 English data was significantly higher than in the
male data. Overall, the study offers significant implications for the
development of learners’ L2 pragmalinguistic and sociopragmatic knowledge and
competence in academic settings. Equally important is that the study informs
the reader of the particular discourse conventions that are exemplified in a
CMC environment and encourages further attention to and research on these
fast-growing technology-mediated language learning contexts.

Finally, Part 4, “Issues for further research on discourse and language
learning” presents three chapters that touch upon the effect of gender,
corrective feedback, and codeswitching on language learning. Chapter 11, “Does
gender influence task performance in EFL? Interactive tasks and language
related episodes” by Agurtzane Azkarai and María del Pilar Garcia Mayo,
focuses on differences that males and females exhibit in their conversational
interaction and the effect of various tasks learners are engaged in during
production. The context chosen for the study was an English as a Foreign
Language (EFL) context. The authors investigated the interaction between
matched and mixed gender pairs of Basque-Spanish bilinguals learning English
during their engagement in both information-gap (picture description and
picture placement) and collaborative tasks (dictogloss and picture story). The
results indicated that the gender pairings did not affect the language related
episodes (LRE). However, it was found that the type of task, especially the
tasks that required written language, led to the production of a higher number
of LREs. The authors suggest that future research can integrate other
individual variables such as motivation, attention, working memory, etc., to
see their relative effects on task-based interaction.

Patricia Salazar, in Chapter 12 on “Exploring learners’ reaction to corrective
feedback through stimulated recall interviews,” explores how foreign language
learners notice explicit and implicit corrective feedback (CF) on their
written production through a stimulated recall (SR) interview. In the study,
eight Spanish university students majoring in English philology were required
to write an assignment for one of the subjects of their degree. The students
who received both explicit and implicit feedback from the teacher during an
interview were then asked to verbalize their thoughts about this interview in
a second stimulated recall interview. The findings revealed that students
noticed and reported both versions of feedback, and that 80% of the mistakes
reported were corrected in the tailor-made posttests. The most prominent
implication of the study is that SR is a useful methodological tool in
second/foreign language learning to reflect the effectiveness of CF for
grammar learning.

The concluding chapter of the volume, “Code switching in classroom discourse:
A multilingual approach” focuses on cross-linguistic influence and code
switching in an English as a foreign language (EFL) context. In their study,
Laura Portolés Falomir and Sofia Martín-Laguna investigated the code-switching
patterns in the English oral production of 25 Catalan-Spanish bilingual
children in a Spanish primary school. The data consisted of recordings of
daily English lessons in which the oral tasks were completed by the students.
The results suggested that code-switches mainly had a pragmatic function in
the sense that they were intentionally manipulated by the students to convey
meaning in specific contexts. The study sheds light on the interaction among
languages in multilingual learning environments and informs classroom
discourse research of how multilingualism affects the learning process and
contributes to the learning of additional languages.

EVALUATION

The topic and purpose of this book emphasize the interface between classroom
discourse and foreign language learning, describing the particular discourse
patterns, strategies, and tools exploited by both learners and teachers in
various educational contexts. The intended purpose is successfully achieved in
the first three parts of the volume with clear focus on and relevance to the
specific topics such as teacher, learner, and classroom discourse,
teacher-learner interaction, and newly arising language learning contexts.

Of the various themes the studies display, the impact of the teacher in the
language classroom with regard to the dynamics of interaction is pivotal. The
first part of the book is dedicated to how teacher-student interaction affects
the discourse structure of the classroom at different levels. Teachers,
indeed, play an important role in providing feedback ,and students expect
interventions from teachers with regard to their performance in the classroom
(Lyster and Ranta,1997). To this end, the teacher constitutes an important
segment of the classroom discourse and facilitates negotiation of meaning by
providing corrective feedback in the form of elicitation, metalinguistic
feedback, clarification requests, teacher repetition of error, etc. Therefore,
as elaborately described in the studies in this part of the volume, the
teacher-student interaction is more influential than student-student
interaction, facilitates learning more, and appeals to students’ needs and
expectations.

Content and language integrated learning (CLIL) forms the basis of the second
part of the volume and the studies presented in this part offer several
implications for language learning and teaching. CLIL seems to change the
interaction type in the classroom and offers a more student-centered learning
environment which is not generally observed in traditional classrooms where
teacher-centered teaching practices are more prevalent. In addition, CLIL
affords students enough discourse space to participate, discards the barriers
between the teacher and the students, and gives them equal opportunities to
interact in the classroom (Nikula, 2010). Thus, CLIL brings forth a new
approach to classroom pedagogy and discourse. Equally important is the
academic language CLIL displays and the discourse functions that are
demonstrated by the contextualized interactions that take place in the
classroom, such as explaining, defining, or hypothesizing (Dalton-Puffer,
2011). Finally, the theoretical foundation of CLIL is rooted in social
constructivist approaches (Lantolf & Thorne, 2006). The immediate learning
situation and context enable students to engage in social encounters and help
them co-construct knowledge in a collaborative fashion.

The main theme of Part 3 of the volume is the interface between classroom
discourse and sociolinguistic phenomena such as identity construction, gender
differences in communication, and the social learning practices of immigrant
students. The display of a wide range of social and cultural roles and
identities by language teachers and students in various instructional contexts
has been noted by Duff & Uchida (1997). These roles and identities play an
important role in changing the dynamics and the structure of the classroom.
The identities and beliefs are co-constructed, negotiated, and undergo change
through the use of language. In addition to voice and identity, this part of
the volume demonstrates how the gender variable causes pragmalinguistic
variation in the email openings and closings of students in computer-mediated
learning environments. Identity construction, voice, and gender are the most
commonly studied variables in computer-mediated communication (CMC) (Pfaffman,
2007). Thus, this part of the volume could have included more studies on how
these variables in CMC learning settings affect the discourse practices of
both teachers and learners. Nevertheless, the manifestation of identity,
voice, and gender by means of different discourse elements in the language
classroom is clearly demonstrated.

The topical unity and coherence in the previous three parts of the volume is,
unfortunately, not maintained in the final part. This part includes and
highlights some issues (e.g. gender and EFL task performance, corrective
feedback, and codeswitching) that are either touched upon in previous parts or
lack a clear connection to discourse and language learning settings. For
instance, Salazar’s study in Chapter 12 does not offer any explicit
implications as to how stimulated recall interviews and corrective feedback
tie into discourse features of the learning environment, thus it falls outside
of the scope and purpose of the volume. In addition, some of the chapters in
this part could have been included in one of the previous three parts
according to their topic of relevance. For example, Chapter 11, which focuses
on gender (a sociolinguistic aspect) in EFL task performance, could have been
included in Part 3, whose focus is on sociolinguistic phenomena and discourse.
As mentioned above, a new part that would include studies on the discourse
features of online language learning communities (e.g. Second Life, Wehner,
Gump, & Downey, 2011) as newly arising language learning contexts could have
been integrated into the volume.

Overall, though, this book is a great source for language teachers, teacher
educators, language policy makers, and those who want to familiarize
themselves with classroom discourse in language learning. In addition,
researchers and scholars interested in the interface between discourse
analysis and language learning across various settings will find several
issues deserving of further research in each chapter of the volume.

REFERENCES

Dalton-Puffer, C. (2011). Content-and-language integrated learning: From
practice to principles? Annual Review of Applied Linguistics, 31, 182-204.

Nikula, T. (2010). On effects of CLIL on a teacher’s language use. In C.
Dalton-Puffer, T. Nikula, & U. Smit (Eds.) Language use and language learning
in CLIL classrooms, pp. 105-124. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

Lantolf, J. P., & Thorne, S. L. (2006). Sociocultural theory and the genesis
of second language development. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Lyster, R. & Ranta, L. (1997). Corrective feedback and learner uptake:
Negotiation of form in communicative classrooms. Studies in Second Language
Acquisition, 20, 37-66.

Pfaffman, J. (2008). Computer-mediated communications technologies. In J. M.
Spector, M. D. Merill, J. V. Merriënboer, M. P. Driscoll (Eds.) Handbook of
research on educational communications and technology (third edition), pp.
225-231. New York: Routledge.

Wehner, A. K., Gump, A. W., & Downey, S. (2011). The effects of Second Life on
the motivation of undergraduate students learning a foreign language.
Computer Assisted Language Learning, 24(3), 277-289.

ABOUT THE REVIEWER

Erhan Aslan is a doctoral student in the program of Second Language
Acquisition and Instructional Technology at the University of South Florida,
where he also teaches Academic English in the English Language Program. His
research interests include individual differences in second language
acquisition, the interface between language learning, socio-pragmatic
competence, discursive accordances of language learning contexts, teacher and
learner beliefs about language learning, and native vs. non-native dichotomy
in second language teacher education.
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