LINGUIST List 24.963

Sat Feb 23 2013

Review: Applied Ling.; Language Acq.; Sociolinguistics: Fogle (2012)

Editor for this issue: Joseph Salmons <>

Date: 11-Jan-2013
From: Amanda Temples <>
Subject: Second Language Socialization and Learner Agency
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AUTHOR: Lyn FogleTITLE: Second Language Socialization and Learner AgencySUBTITLE: Adoptive Family TalkSERIES TITLE: Bilingual Education and BilingualismPUBLISHER: Multilingual MattersYEAR: 2012

REVIEWER: Amanda Lanier Temples, Georgia State University

INTRODUCTIONLyn Fogle’s “Second Language Socialization and Learner Agency: Adoptive FamilyTalk” offers a window into the daily bilingual interactions of families thathave adopted children from Russia and Ukraine and opens up importanttheoretical space in regard to learner agency. She draws on conversationanalysis of daily interactions in these transnational adoptive families andinterviews in order to demonstrate the negotiated and bidirectional nature oflanguage socialization. In each of three separate but thematically andcontextually related case studies, she offers evidence that the ostensiblyless-powerful participants, the children, achieve agency through a range ofstrategies and thus shape their interactional context. Further, she arguesthat as parents and children negotiate participation and power through the useof English and the children’s native Russian at home, they also engage in theconstruction of an identity as a cohesive family unit and lay foundations foreffective interactions in other contexts including school. The volumeconcludes with implications for parents, teachers, and adoption professionalsas well as scholars interested in social and cultural aspects of secondlanguage acquisition.

SUMMARYThis monograph hews close to the content and structure of Fogle’s dissertation(2009), though significant changes have been made in the published volume. Thevolume opens with an introduction (Chapter 1) and a general literature reviewthat effectively locates this research in regard to language socialization andparticularly agency and identity construction in language learners (Chapter2). These chapters are followed by a discussion of issues and empiricalfindings regarding language, bilingualism, and transnational adoption (Chapter3). While this discussion of current literature is somewhat shorter and lesstechnical than the comparable sections of the dissertation, it is neverthelessthoroughly grounded and clearly articulates complex concepts and issuesrelating to agency, identity, and adoption.

The following three chapters each focus on a different family case andspecific L2 socialization practices that were apparent in that individualfamily’s data: Ch 4 on narratives, Ch 5 on languaging or metalinguistic talk,and Ch 6 on codeswitching. Likewise, each chapter focuses on a differentaspect of learner agency: resistance, participation, and negotiation.Beginning in 2004, Fogle recruited families in one large metropolitan area inthe eastern U.S. who had decided to adopt older children from Russia andUkraine. Here “older” is defined as children about 4 years old and above whohad learned to communicate in their first language and most of whom began toacquire English as a second language upon arrival in the U.S. Her three focalfamilies are similar in that their adoptees had arrived in the U.S. shortlybefore or even after data collection began and that they had all adoptedsibling pairs. She asked each of these families to record instances of familytalk from mealtimes and other gatherings at their own discretion over thecourse of several months, and she conducted concomitant interviews with theparents and, in one family, the adoptees themselves. This process yielded 56recordings and several hours of interviews, excerpts of which appearthroughout the results chapters with bilingual transcription helpfullypresented in Cyrillic script, transliterated Russian, and English.

In Chapter 4, “‘I Got Nothin’!’: Resistance, Routine and Narrative,” theanalysis focuses on narratives in the recorded family talk, and specificallyon the 7- and 8-year-old brothers’ resistance to a practice that Fogle labelsthe “Bad Thing/Good Thing Routine.” Fogle demonstrates that the children’sachievement of agency through resistance led to the gradual abandonment of aroutine initiated by their father but also opened up a greater breadth oftopics in parent-child interactions. Through more spontaneous narratives,Fogle proposes that the two boys “gradually begin to construct life stories”(p. 68) that link the transnational trajectories of their lives from theirearly experience in Ukraine to their current life in the U.S.

Chapter 5, “‘But Now We’re Your Daughter and Son!’: Participation, Questionsand Languaging” attends to languaging (as defined by Swain, 2006) and the roleit played in English learning for the 3- and 5-year-old adoptees. Theinteractional routines on which this analysis centers involved parent- andchild-initiated “what-questions.” A brief table comparing their frequency atmealtime, while reading books together, and during homeschooling sessionsprovides one of the few quantitative elements of this study. This routineinitially allowed the parents to ascertain what vocabulary and concepts thechildren knew and allowed the children to gain further knowledge. However,over time the children took up this practice as a means of requestinginformation and also appropriated it as a means of gaining the floor and vyingfor their mother’s attention.

Ch 6, like the previous chapters, is titled with an evocative quote: “‘We’llHelp Them in Russian, and They’ll Help Us in English.’” This chapter discussesa family who differed from those in Chapters 4 and 5 in that they had adopteda total of six children from Russia and their two most recent adoptees,sisters aged 15 and 16, were much older than the children in previouschapters. As this family used a higher proportion of Russian at home, Ch 6focuses on patterns of codeswitching in various family groupings andhighlights the role of language choice in communicating subtle shifts inalignment and power among family members. Drawing on interviews conducted withthese teen girls in Russian, interviews with the parents in English, andconversation analysis of interaction in various family groupings and settings,Fogle claims that the older girls were attempting to negotiate more dominantroles in the family through persisting in their use of Russian and encouragingtheir siblings to use it. In response, the parents began to view Russian useas a disruption and to discourage bilingual interactions. As they drewattention to the power that children can wield in language socialization, thisfamily’s patterns of communication led Fogle to attend further to learneragency in the other two cases.

Following these case study chapters are “Conclusions and Implications” (Ch 7)and an “Epilogue” (Ch 8), which includes reflections from the parents in thesethree cases taken from additional interviews conducted some years after theinitial data collection. Among the conclusions are Fogle’s assertions that“the affordance of individual agency makes a difference in learning processesfor children” (p. 170) and that children undergoing L2 socialization in herstudy “construct discursive identities” through three sets of practices:“through taking on different speaker roles, through the repetitions of theseroles and stances in everyday interactions, and through reference to distanttimes and places” (p. 171). All of these processes, she proposes, contributeover time to a “unified adoptee self identity that can have benefits inschooling and post-school careers” (p. 172).

EVALUATIONIn this monograph, Fogle sets out to make two important contributions to theincreasingly prominent and expansive field of social and cultural approachesto second language acquisition. First, she seeks to offer insights into aparticular context of second language socialization, that constituted byfamilies that have adopted children from Russia and Ukraine. Second, in sodoing she seeks to extend and add theoretical heft to the construct of agencyas it is used in research that follows the language socialization paradigm.Each of these aspects will be discussed below.

Adoptive Family TalkThis study instantiates an important characteristic of language socializationresearch in that it “looks not at discrete linguistic items at the level oflexis and morphology, but at interactional or sociolinguistic routines thatbecome part of language learners’ and users’ communicative repertoires” (Duff& Talmy, 2011, p. 96). In my view, the monograph’s greatest strength is theclarity with which Fogle identifies such routines in the interactions betweenthe adoptive children and their parents in these separate but harmonized casestudies. In the conversation that yielded the title of Chapter 5 (pp.125-127),for example, Fogle analyzes several fragments of a family discussion aboutThanksgiving cumulatively to explain how a straightforward series of“what-questions” eventually opens the way to building a shared family historylinking past to future. Explaining that Thanksgiving occurs annually, theparents recall the prior Thanksgiving, when they were thinking of the childrenbut had not yet adopted them. Their 4-year-old daughter then makes theconnection that they can expect to celebrate Thanksgiving together in thefuture, because “now we’re your daughter and son!” This metalinguisticdiscussion not only defines the lexical item “Thanksgiving” but also“constructs the significance of Thanksgiving as an event closely related tothe children’s membership in the new family” (p. 126).

This excerpt, among others, illustrates Fogle’s argument that family identityis constructed discursively through everyday conversations and offers anexample of the emotional power that this work sometimes wields. While theanalysis is rigorous, Fogle does not let us lose sight of the fact that theseindividuals, adoptive parents and children who have crossed national,cultural, and linguistic borders, are not only learning to communicateeffectively but also negotiating how to be a family unit.

At the same time, she stops short of painting more ethnographically richportraits of the families and the contexts in which these interactions takeplace. Though this investigation does not purport to use ethnographic methods,greater reliance on thorough content analysis of interview data and a morenarrative approach in the writing of the report would help the readerappreciate the trajectory of each family’s recent history. The epilogue, inextending these families’ narratives, sheds light on and expands the precedinganalyses. Drawing on interviews conducted some years after the primary datacollection, it delves further into the tensions that arose between each set ofparents and their adopted children. Thus the epilogue may also reveal some ofthe tension that the researcher herself apparently faced between opening awindow on these intimate and sometimes fraught family interactions anddemonstrating that the challenges inherent in constructing a family throughtransnational adoption are not insurmountable.

Fogle explains that she did not focus on the parents’ reasons for adoption orthe children’s backgrounds prior to adoption because she “did not want toperpetuate stereotypes that circulate about transnational adoptees that mightinfluence the parents’ practices” (p. 56). Perhaps analyzing and discreditingthese stereotypes would be the task of a different study. Nevertheless, agreater effort to present each family not only as participants in this studybut as participants in their own emerging narrative would lend further supportto Fogle’s conclusions and implications. Additionally, it might increase theaccessibility of this work to the broader audience who might look to thisvolume for insight and guidance in regard to transnational adoption.

L2 Socialization and Learner AgencyFogle does not attempt to define the parameters of agency, as do Bucholtz andHall (2005), for example, in regard to related constructs, identity andinteraction. However, she does attempt to illustrate three modes of achievingagency in the three results chapters: resistance, participation, andnegotiation. In each case study, she demonstrates that children are not merelythe subjects of L2 socialization; rather, they actively seek and achieveagency in their interactions with adults. Thus, they are able to change theirlearning contexts through encounters with experts (their parents) and even tochange those experts’ beliefs and practices. Importantly for scholars,adoption professionals, and parents alike, these analyses show how parents’intentions and ideologies play out in ways that defy their own expectationsand shift in response to children’s agency. Although the assertion that L2socialization is bidirectional and that children’s agency plays an importantrole in their language learning processes is not new (Hawkins, 2005; McKay &Wong, 1996; Willett, 1995), Fogle’s work contributes significant evidence tothis discussion.

The differences among the three focal families rendered comparison difficultand may raise questions about generalizability and the theoreticalimplications of this work. However, Fogle explains that she “resist[ed]comparisons of the three families as an analytic tool” (p. 52). As a result,she proposes that these analyses should be interpreted “as ‘possibilities’ ofwhat can happen in transnational adoptive families, but not what does happenin all families or what all adoptive families do” (p. 53). This collectivecase study structure allows the reader to grasp the thematic similarities inthe children’s achievement of agency across these three families despite thevariation in the specific patterns that instantiate this overarching theme.

While Fogle’s treatment of “agency” and “identity” as constructs arewell-grounded in the literature and well-developed in the analysis, she makesfrequent use of other terms, particularly “transnational” and “heritage”,without addressing the growing body of potentially relevant research that hasused these concepts in regard to language learners. In this volume,“transnational” is most frequently used to refer to “transnational adoption”or “transnational adoptees,” functioning as a modifier to express that theseadoptees have been born in countries other than the U.S. and adopted byU.S.-based parents. Other scholars, in contrast, use “transnational” to referto people and practices that remain rooted in multiple nations or that involveongoing movement across national boundaries (Kanno & Norton, 2003; Risager,2007; Warriner, 2007). There is room here to argue that these learners’ livesare transnational and that this will be important for their identityconstruction, as does Yi (2009), for example. However, the reader should notexpect this volume to address transnational theory (in the sense of Basch,Glick Schiller, & Blanc, 1994).

As for “heritage language”, it can be argued based on prevailing definitionsof heritage learners (Carreira, 2004; Valdes, 2005; Van Deusen-Scholl, 2003;Wiley, 2001) that these children are heritage learners in that their familiesof origin use Russian and their adoptive parents may view preservation ofRussian language skills as a means of strengthening ties to these children’sfamily and national heritage. The Implications section in Ch 7 focuses almostexclusively on arguments for maintaining and promoting the “heritage language”of older adoptees as a means of helping them negotiate the transition to theU.S. and develop stable bilingual or transnational identities. While herarguments are tenable and may be beneficial to parents and educators, they doconstitute an inductive leap from the empirical data in her studies. They arealso presented with little reference to the growing body of literature onheritage learners (e.g., Brinton, Kagan, & Bauckus, 2008; Peyton, Ranard, &McGinnis, 2001; etc.). Given that most heritage learner research focuses onchildren of immigrants and few researchers in this area use similar methods,particularly conversational analysis (with the notable exception of He, 2006,2010), Fogle’s work nevertheless can and should contribute to ourunderstanding and characterization of heritage learners and their language useat home.

In summary, “Second Language Socialization and Learner Agency: Adoptive FamilyTalk” makes important contributions to the field of bilingual education andbilingualism: it deals with a little-studied context and population(transnational adoptees and their families), and it offers a rigorous analysisof family talk and interviews from three families that links everyday routinesto parents’ and children’s perceptions of their language use. Furthermore, itengages with, clarifies, and argues for the construct of agency in languagelearning research. In so doing, Fogle generates truly poignant accounts thatreflect the challenges of crossing linguistic, cultural, and nationalboundaries as these adoptees and adoptive parents develop family identitiesthrough everyday talk.

This lucid account of an ambitious investigation may also serve well to informemerging researchers in PhD programs and more senior scholars who wish toengage in comparable projects. In gathering the many hours of familyinteraction and interview data that she discusses here, Fogle clearlynegotiated a range of methodological challenges in regard to recruitment,recording, scheduling interviews, bilingual transcription, maintaining accessover time, and moderating her own influence as a researcher on her informants.Her response to these challenges, as revealed explicitly and implicitly here,would make this volume a stimulating supplemental text in a graduate course onqualitative methods, bilingualism, discourse analysis, or language learneridentity. This work will be most accessible to readers with a solidtheoretical background in second language acquisition and particularly socialand cultural approaches to SLA, but it also offers valuable insights andsuggestions to parents, teachers, social workers, and other professionals whomay encounter such families.

REFERENCESBasch, L., Schiller, N., & Blanc, C. 1994. Nations unbound: Transnationalprojects, postcolonial predicaments, and deterritorialized nation-states. NewYork: Routledge.

Brinton, D.M., Kagan, O., & Bauckus, S. (Eds.). 2008. Heritage languageeducation: A new field emerging. New York: Routledge.

Bucholtz, M., & Hall, K. 2005. Identity and interaction: A socioculturallinguistic approach. Discourse Studies, 7(4-5), 585-614.

Carreira, M. 2004. Seeking explanatory adequacy: A dual approach tounderstanding the term ''heritage language learner''. Heritage LanguageJournal, 2(1), 1-24.

Duff, P.A., & Talmy, S. 2011. Language socialization approaches to secondlanguage acquisition: Social, cultural, and linguistic development inadditional languages. In D. Atkinson (Ed.), Alternative approaches to secondlanguage acquisition (pp. 95-116). London: Routledge.

Fogle, L.W. 2009. Language socialization in the internationally adoptivefamily: Identities, second languages, and learning. (Unpublished doctoraldissertation). Georgetown University, Washington, DC.

Hawkins, M.R. 2005. Becoming a student: Identity work and academic literaciesin early schooling. TESOL Quarterly, 39(1), 59-82.

He, A.W. 2006. Toward an identity theory of the development of Chinese as aheritage language. Heritage Language Journal, 4(1), 1-28.

He, A.W. 2010. The heart of heritage: Sociocultural dimensions of heritagelanguage learning. Annual Review of Applied Linguistics, 30, 66-82.

Kanno, Y., & Norton, B. 2003. Imagined communities and educationalpossibilities: Introduction. Journal of Language, Identity & Education, 2(4),241-249.

McKay, S.L., & Wong, S.C. 1996. Multiple discourses, multiple identities:Investment and agency in second-language learning among Chinese adolescentimmigrant students. Harvard Educational Review, 66(3), 577-608.

Menard-Warwick, J. 2008. The cultural and intercultural identities oftransnational English teachers: Two case studies from the Americas. TESOLQuarterly, 42(4), 617-640.

Peyton, J.K., Ranard, D.A., & McGinnis, S. (Eds.). 2001. Heritage languages inAmerica: Preserving a national resource. McHenry, IL: Center for AppliedLinguistics and Delta Systems.

Risager, K. 2007. Language and culture pedagogy: From a national to atransnational paradigm. Bristol, UK: Multilingual Matters Limited.

Swain, M. 2006. Languaging, agency and collaboration in advanced secondlanguage proficiency. In H. Byrnes (Ed.), Advanced language learning: Thecontribution of Halliday and Vygotsky (pp. 95-108). London: Continuum.

Van Deusen-Scholl, N. 2003. Toward a definition of heritage language:Sociopolitical and pedagogical considerations. Journal of Language, Identity &Education, 2(3), 211-230.

Warriner, D. 2007. Transnational literacies: Immigration, language learning,and identity. Linguistics and Education, 18(3-4), 201-214.

Wiley, T. G. 2001. On defining heritage languages and their speakers. In J. K.Peyton, D. A. Ranard & S. McGinnis (Eds.), Heritage languages in America:Preserving a national resource (pp. 29-36). McHenry, IL: Center for AppliedLinguistics and Delta Systems.

Willett, J. 1995. Becoming first graders in an L2: An ethnographic study of L2socialization. TESOL Quarterly, 29(3), 473-503.

Yi, Y. 2009. Adolescent literacy and identity construction among 1.5generation students: From a transnational perspective. Journal of AsianPacific Communication, 19(1), 100-129.

ABOUT THE REVIEWERAmanda Lanier Temples recently defended her dissertation on investment,identity, and literacy in young learners of Arabic at Georgia StateUniversity, where she is a fellow in the Language & Literacy Initiative. Herresearch focuses on social and cultural aspects of second language learningand teaching, particularly in regard to less-commonly-taught languages, andshe has a secondary interest in discourse and communities of practice inonline learning environments. From 2002-2006, she taught EFL and theatreseminars in the Czech Republic and Serbia, and she continues to teach coursesin English for academic purposes and applied linguistics.

Page Updated: 23-Feb-2013