In this post our author, Rémi A. van Compernolle, tells us a bit about his work in the field of SLA.
My recent book, Sociocultural Theory and L2 Instructional Pragmatics, published this month in paperback, represents the first coherent conceptualization of second language (L2) instructional pragmatics from the perspective of Vygotskian sociocultural theory.
Since the mid 2000s, I have been particularly interested in social meaning in language, and how adult learners of L2 come to understand the ways in which speakers of the language create social meanings and index identity-relevant information through the choice of linguistic forms. In particular, I have been fascinated by the possibility that we can teach language learners how to use L2 resources as part of a flexible system for meaning making that does not rely on prescriptivist rules for “proper” social and linguistic behavior. Drawing on the Vygotskian sociocultural theory, I have found the notion of mediated action especially useful in describing the complex, dynamic interplay of self, identities, and agency that drives learners’ appropriation of variable speech forms for meaning making, an idea I developed in collaboration with my colleague, Lawrence Williams (see, for example, our 2012 article in the Modern Language Journal). The study reported on in the book extends this work by incorporating a powerful approach to teaching: concept-based instruction (CBI).
CBI is an approach to teaching that focuses on holistic concepts that are used to guide L2 use in communication. In the study, learners of French were taught the concepts of social indexicality, self-presentation, social distance, and power. These concepts were illustrated by exploring three variable features of French discourse in order to show how the meanings represented in the concepts played out in communication: the second-person pronouns tu and vous ‘you’, the first-person plural pronouns on and nous ‘we’, and the absence versus the presence of the particle ne in negation. A variety of tasks, including verbalized reflections (reflecting on the meaning of the concepts), appropriateness judgment tasks (using the concepts to solve hypothetical communicative problems), and strategic interaction scenarios (putting the concepts into play in spoken communication) were used to foster the internalization of the concepts and to promote control over relevant L2 forms in communication.
The book includes in-depth theoretical discussions, especially of the notion of appropriateness as it relates to L2 teaching, many illustrative examples of how the approach to teaching works in practice, and recommendations for adapting the approach for a variety of contexts, languages, and language features.
I am delighted that Multilingual Matters is publishing my book in paperback this month. I wrote the book with individual researchers, teachers, and students in mind, and I hope that the reduced cost of paperback will give my audience greater access to the work.
More information can be found on the book on our website here.