Experiential Learning in Second Language Contexts

29 March 2017

This month we published Creating Experiential Learning Opportunities for Language Learners edited by Melanie Bloom and Carolyn Gascoigne. In this post the editors explain what inspired them to put the book together.

The idea for Creating Experiential Learning Opportunities for Language Learners grew out of the frustration we both experienced when we researched supporting articles and publications for the internship and externship programming we were designing for second language learners. In developing our own programming in this area, we were expecting that we would be able to find models or ideas from which to work, but instead we found a paucity of information. At the same time, Melanie was conducting research on the research on students’ development in intercultural sensitivity in the study abroad context and stumbled across an article on students’ development of cross-cultural adaptability an international internship (Batey & Lupi, 2012). This connected the work she was conducting in the study abroad setting with potential models of internship programming, which served as the impetus for the volume.

In our initial discussions about the structure of the volume, we determined that focusing only on professional engagement opportunities might be too limiting and might steer the volume’s focus to Spanish as a second language in the United States. As our intention was to offer a selection of research and models of domestic projects for a range of second language learners and contexts, we decided to broaden the scope of the volume to include community-based service learning activities, professional engagement activities and a variety of other unique engagement contexts. This allowed us to invite contributors from different language teaching contexts and explore new directions in experiential learning on which few publications have been produced.

As we sent out invitations to contributors, we tried to strike a balance between authors who are widely known in the field of experiential learning in second language contexts and scholars who have begun to contribute to the field more recently. This allowed us to capture many different voices and also present a wide-range of contexts from which our readership could learn. To this end, we were able to provide both an historical backdrop for experiential language learning, as well as examples of different applications, and lessons learned, across various languages and course types.

Our hope is that this volume is able to begin to fill the hole in the literature that we found as we started to develop internship and externship programming at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. Readers passionate about creating meaningful language learning opportunities and preparing their students for professional life beyond the classroom will find inspiration and ideas for moving forward. In addition, we hope teacher scholars working with second language students in experiential learning contexts will see this volume as an invitation to continue the scholarly conversation and be encouraged to publish their own work.

For more information about this book, please see our website


Cultural Migrants and Optimal Language Acquisition

19 August 2015

This month we published Cultural Migrants and Optimal Language Acquisition edited by Fanny Forsberg Lundell and Inge Bartning. Here, Fanny and Inge discuss the relationship between language learning and culture.

Cultural Migrants and Optimal Language AcquisitionHow well can you actually learn a second language if you start later on in life? As linguists interested in second language acquisition, this is an obvious question. Recent years have seen a growing body of research within the fields of nativelikeness and ultimate attainment, often evolving around the famous Critical Period Hypothesis. According to this hypothesis (depending on the individual researcher’s interpretation), it is impossible to acquire a second language at the level of a native speaker after puberty. More than a hundred studies have tried to confirm or reject this hypothesis and the current state-of-the art, to simplify things, is quite unanimous: yes, for some subtleties of linguistic competence, such as phonetic and grammatical intuition there seems to be a major obstacle for many individuals when acquisition starts after puberty. However, there is much more to language than some detailed aspects that have generally been the object of critical period inquiry, which do not necessarily have an impact on everyday communicative competence.

What is more, there are also other populations of second language learners than those which have traditionally been included in studies on nativelikeness. For quite some time, we have followed a group of Swedish long-term residents in Paris, France. We were amazed by how well many of them had learnt French, although they were late starters. In a study published last year, Forsberg Lundell et al. (2014), 30% of them passed as native speakers in a native speaker evaluation test, which is a high figure compared to earlier studies. The socio-psychological advantage of these learners was striking: most of them were self-declared francophiles, with good experiences of integration, both on a professional and personal level. Could we find a more optimal setting for language learning? If we want to investigate the potential of adult second language learning, these are the speakers we should go after.

Luckily, we are not the only ones interested in the link between second language learning and cultural motivation. Colleagues from Sweden, Ireland, the UK, France and Spain have contributed to this volume and illustrate the relevance of studying the link between migration experience and language. It is our belief that the book presents a number of studies which convincingly argue for a tight link between second language attainment and culture.

Our hope is that our book will open up for new exciting research projects where migration experience is considered to a much larger extent in studies on adult second language acquisition. Furthermore, it would also be desirable if social scientists, studying migration and integration, would accord a more pivotal place to the role played by language, a key aspect of human culture and cognition.

9781847699893For more information about this title please see our website. If you found this interesting you might also enjoy Linguistic and Cultural Acquisition in a Migrant Community edited by David Singleton et al.


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