Exploring Usage-Based Approaches to Language Learning

We recently published Usage-Based Dynamics in Second Language Development edited by Wander Lowie, Marije Michel, Audrey Rousse-Malpat, Merel Keijzer and Rasmus Steinkrauss. In this post Wander explains the inspiration behind the book.

To the best of our knowledge, there is no single theory in applied linguistics that denies the role of input for language learning. Without input, as a source of frequent systematicity and a rich variety of language exemplars, children will not acquire their mother tongue (L1) and adults will not learn a second language (L2). It is on these premises of frequency, systematicity, richness and variety that usage-based approaches attempt to explain the exciting path of language learning. In this book, we take these constructs as a starting point to explore the many avenues of usage-based approaches to language acquisition, with a focus on L2 learning. Grounded in complex dynamic systems theory (CDST), the different chapters showcase how second language researchers investigate language learning from many different angles using a variety of methods for lab-based studies, for classroom interventions and to explore language learning in the wild. The volume thus clearly shows the many different research questions that benefit from usage-based approaches to language learning.

The home of the editors, Groningen University in the Netherlands, has been a centre for CDST-inspired L2 research for quite some time, generating cutting-edge publications from such a CDST perspective. This book forms a natural contribution to this line of research while at the same time being a celebration of the legacy of Marjolijn Verspoor, who has been a driving force behind the Dynamic Usage-Based approach in second language acquisition (SLA) research. Contributors to the edited volume have all been fortunate enough to be influenced by Marjolijn in some way: from her source of inspiration as a theorist, via long-standing colleagues and fellow pioneers within CDST – starting in times when generativists ruled the field of linguistics – and mid-career faculty presenting state-of-the-art methodologies, to young researchers that were formed by her as MA students or graduated under her supervision, as well as language teaching colleagues in the department who, inspired by her, implemented usage-based pedagogy in their classrooms.

We are particularly proud that the edited collection covers the wide variety of usage-based work, painting the dynamic picture of this field of SLA research in all its facets and, moreover, by colleagues at different career stages. Authors studied different source and target languages (e.g., Chinese, English, French, Spanish, Russian), explored language learning in instructed settings of adolescents in high-school as well as young adults at university, or even naturalistic contexts beyond the confines of instruction, for example in social media. Using quantitative, qualitative and mixed-methods approaches, the research collected in this volume investigates both oral and written language development, both cross-sectionally but also adopting a longitudinal perspective where learners are followed over several years.

The result is a colourful illustration and celebration of the dynamic trajectory of usage-based research into second language development, building on the legacy of eminent scholars, such as Marjolijn Verspoor, while at the same time paving the way for a bright future of CDST-inspired classroom implementations.

For information, please contact Wander Lowie: w.m.lowie@rug.nl

For more information about this book please see our website.

If you found this interesting, you might also like Profiling Learner Language as a Dynamic System edited by ZhaoHong Han.

How to Effectively Use Tasks in Language Teaching

This month we published Using Tasks in Second Language Teaching edited by Craig Lambert and Rhonda Oliver. In this post, the editors give a detailed overview of the work and explain who they hope will benefit from it most.

Many teachers want to use tasks in their teaching but are unsure how to do so effectively in their own teaching contexts, where they may work with low proficiency or low motivation learners, large classes and be under pressure to prepare for discrete point tests.

The challenge facing teachers and course administrators in using tasks in many second and foreign language contexts around the world is thus to find an expedient solution which balances institutional requirements, available resources, and learners’ dispositions with their own professional skill sets.

The present volume addresses these concerns. The research in our new book is based on the experiences of practitioners and researchers using tasks in different educational, cultural and geographical contexts. They demonstrate how tasks have been used effectively in teaching and provide a range of insights into the issues associated with using tasks successfully in challenging contexts.

We divided the book into three parts so that a broad audience of readers can draw on different elements of the book according to their needs:

  • Part 1 clarifies key issues when using tasks for second language instruction
  • Part 2 describes approaches practitioners have adopted when using tasks in challenging contexts around the world
  • Part 3 consists of studies which investigate the relationship between tasks and performance in a range of international contexts

Part 1 is made up of papers which clarify key issues facing practitioners in using tasks, including:

  • The choice of an appropriate instructional framework
  • Using tasks with low-proficiency learners
  • Designing tasks to motivate general-purpose learners
  • Using technology-mediated tasks
  • Challenges in using tasks in test-oriented contexts
  • The skill set teachers need to use tasks effectively

Part 2 then contains descriptive studies of how tasks have been used successfully by teachers and program designers in:

  • Rural Australia
  • Ukraine
  • Brazil
  • Mexico

Finally, Part 3 consists of studies on the effects of different approaches to task implementation in contexts including:

  • Japan
  • Iran
  • Chile
  • Spain
  • The United States

We hope that the different parts of the book will appeal to a wide variety of readers. Many chapters reach out to pre-service and in-service teachers because of their content. This is particularly true of the initial chapters, which provide concrete advice about practical issues to address when using tasks in different contexts. Subsequent chapters then describe actual practices that have been used in various regions of the world, with different learners and through different media. On the other hand, later chapters in the book may be of more interest to second language acquisition (SLA) researchers and students in MA courses in that they provide observations from different regional contexts on the effects of implementing tasks in different ways on L2 performance.

This book will thus help teachers and course designers find useful solutions for incorporating tasks effectively given the expectations and constraints of the contexts in which they work. It provides a range of insights into the issues and constraints involved, how they have been successfully overcome, and the skills required by teachers to negotiate effective context-based solutions to using tasks effectively in their teaching.

For more information about this book please see our website

If you found this interesting, you might also like Reflections on Task-Based Language Teaching by Rod Ellis.

To “Er” is Human: Combining and Expanding Approaches to Second Language Fluency

This month we published Fluency in L2 Learning and Use edited by Pekka Lintunen, Maarit Mutta and Pauliina Peltonen. In this post the editors explain what inspired them to put the book together.

We proudly announce that our edited volume Fluency in L2 Learning and Use has now been published! The volume has been on our minds for a few years, and it is now very exciting to see it in its final form. The idea for the volume came from our shared interests in second language fluency.

We had previously approached the topic from different perspectives and wanted to combine our forces to develop a comprehensive collection on the topic. We had noticed that various approaches had been used to investigate the same phenomenon and many researchers seemed to discuss the same themes without explicitly referring to fluency or using concepts from earlier fluency studies. Our volume now includes, for instance, sign language studies and translation assessment. The title of the volume, “Fluency in L2 Learning and Use” emerged from the observation that fluency as a concept can also be applied beyond the traditional second language learning, teaching and assessment contexts to characterizing second language use and learners that are gradually becoming users of the second language as their proficiency grows. We stress that to hesitate or search for words is natural and disfluent use of language is not automatically wrong: to “er” is human.

After the initial idea, we invited researchers from different fields to a workshop on second language fluency in November 2017. We challenged researchers to reconsider their earlier approaches to fluency-related features in L2 learning and use. The workshop helped us to understand each other’s perspectives and find common interests. Based on the workshop presentations and discussions, it became clear that we wanted to include both empirical studies on L2 fluency and review chapters mapping new openings into L2 fluency research in the volume. Now, about two years after the workshop, we can celebrate with the finished publication in our hands.

The book reflects our initial idea of an interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary collection of approaches to fluency, which brings the different senses of fluency together and helps to refine the terms further. With this volume, we aim to show how much the field has expanded in recent years and open new avenues for fluency research to focus on in future.

We hope that readers will benefit from the empirical findings, theoretical definitions and methodological solutions presented in the volume. The volume will be of particular interest to students and researchers focusing on the teaching, learning or assessment of L2 fluency or fluent L2 use. In addition, the chapters provide valuable pedagogical and practical suggestions for teachers at all levels of education. We also hope that other professionals, such as translators and language assessment specialists, will find the volume useful.

Pekka Lintunen, Maarit Mutta and Pauliina Peltonen

For more information about this book please see our website.

Researchers and Instructors Need to Talk to One Another!

This month we are publishing L2 Grammatical Representation and Processing edited by Deborah Arteaga. In this post the editor explains what motivated her to put the book together.

Too often, there is a divide between second-language (L2) researchers and L2 instructors. With a few exceptions, L2 research is typically highly theoretical and has no clear practical application for the L2 classroom. Yet this is unfortunate, because ideally, cutting-edge L2 research should inform pedagogy, and L2 instructors’ experience in the classroom should be incorporated into research studies. In other words, the world of researchers and that of instructors should intersect instead of being separate from one another. Too often, researchers are not concerned with pedagogy, and instructors are often frustrated when there seems to be a disconnect between L2 studies written only for specialists and real-world issues in the classroom.

My motivation in writing this book was to bridge that gap, in that all of the chapters are grounded in theory, but are accessible to specialists and non-specialists alike. The highly theoretical chapters (Achimova & Déprez, Chapter 1; Dekydtspotter & Gilbert, Chapter 4)  have pedagogical implications, which I summarize in the Conclusion chapter. Some chapters frame the results of their studies in terms of pedagogy (Ayoun, Chapter 3; Sagarra, Chapter 5; Vainikka & Young-Scholten, Chapter 6). Other chapters directly link their studies to the classroom (Arteaga & Herschensohn, Chapter 2; Yaden, Chapter 7). All chapters will be of interest to researchers and instructors alike.

It is my hope that this book will serve as a model for future volumes, so that researchers take into account classroom experience, and that instructors will glean pedagogical tips from theoretical research, even if they are not spelled out explicitly. In other words, researchers and instructors need to talk to one another!

 

For more information about this book please see our website.

If you found this interesting, you might also like Mind Matters in SLA edited by Clare Wright, Thorsten Piske and Martha Young-Scholten.

EuroSLA 2019 in Lund, Sweden

This year the annual EuroSLA conference took place in the beautiful university city of Lund, in southern Sweden. With temperatures unseasonably high and the sun shining, around 300 delegates descended on the city for a busy few days at the conference.

Lourdes Orteaga;s keynote
Lourdes Ortega’s keynote

The opening keynote was given in sign language, with a spoken recording, by Krister Schönström. He discussed why sign language research may be interesting to SLA researchers and vice versa and questioned if learning a second language in the visual modality, such as a sign language, is the same as learning a spoken second language. The ensuing keynotes, by Rob Schoonen, who spoke about language learners’ ability and measurement, and Lourdes Ortega, who gave us an overview of important research to-date, before stressing the need for a reatunement from traditional contexts to embrace equitable multilingualism in diverse contexts, also provoked much conversation and discussion among delegates during the coffee breaks and social activities. The conference was finally drawn to a close by Minna Lehtonen who spoke about the effect of learning and experience on the neurocognitive systems of bilinguals and balanced bilinguals.

Outside the conference 9-5, delegates were treated to a drinks reception at the university’s main hall, which is locally nicknamed ‘The White House’ due to its prominent stature and, of course, white walls. The conference dinner on the Friday night was in an equally impressive building, the Skissernas Museum, in which we enjoyed a tasty Smörgåsbord while seated among the colourful artwork and under a brightly lit mirrored ceiling.

Next year’s EuroSLA conference is the 30th anniversary meeting and will take place in Barcelona in early July. We are looking forward to it already!

Laura

Second Language Learners in a Study Abroad Context

This month we published Study Abroad, Second Language Acquisition and Interculturality edited by Martin Howard. In this post the editor tells us what we can expect from the book.

As its title indicates, this volume focuses on second language learners in a study abroad context, an ever-growing student cohort in our education institutions. Students who embark on study abroad, be it over a couple of weeks or a much longer period, do so with the folk-belief that study abroad is highly beneficial in various respects, such as for language learning, educational and academic development, social and personal development, and intercultural development. However, research has shown that the experience on the ground during the students’ stay abroad is often complex and challenging. In the context of international education, there is growing awareness of the necessity to address the needs of study abroad learners, as well as to better inform all involved in the study abroad enterprise of the challenges of a study abroad experience, and in so doing, contribute to enhancing the student’s experience abroad.

Against this background, this book adds to the existing literature in the field which has grown from an initial primary focus on language development during study abroad, to subsequent research efforts to capture the wide-ranging factors underlying the student’s experience abroad. Such more recent work highlights the individual nature of the student’s experience abroad, with multiple individual personal and social factors shaping the experience. This book presents a mix of both empirical studies and discussion chapters which showcase recent work in the field with a focus on innovative issues and themes across students from a range of language backgrounds. The focus includes, for example, social network development and integration during study abroad, study abroad in a lingua franca context, identity development, and language engagement in relation to input and interaction issues in a study abroad context. Other innovative areas of focus include students on an international work placement and cultural migrants, while intercultural issues are also considered.

Taken together, the chapters highlight the interface between study abroad research and the fields of second language acquisition and interculturality, where there are mutual insights to be gained. These include not only better informing study abroad practitioners and participants, but also offering insights into theoretical and applied questions across the fields, such as in relation to the more global impact of learning context on language acquisition and intercultural development, as well as factors at play like language input and interaction issues and the role of individual and social factors.

In a world where foreign language and intercultural skills assume increasing importance in our globalised world, the book reflects work by members of and participants in the SAREP Project (Study Abroad Research in European Perspective), funded in 2016-20 by the European COST agency (Cooperation in Science and Technology). This pan-European project is a think-tank for study abroad research in a European context where the flagship Erasmus+ programme celebrated its 30th anniversary in 2017, and has seen well over three million participants. Along with the large number of study abroad participants around the world, they highlight the need for ongoing research in the area. In this regard, the book includes a chapter which identifies a number of areas for future research. The enterprise continues…

Martin Howard, University College Cork

m.howard@ucc.ie

 

For more information about this book please see our website. If you found this interesting, you might also like International Students’ Challenges, Strategies and Future Vision by Anas Hajar. 

Shedding Empirical Light on Complex Dynamic System Theory

We recently published Profiling Learner Language as a Dynamic System edited by ZhaoHong Han. In this post the editor explains why the book is important.

Profiling Learner Language as a Dynamic System was born out of an intense interest in contributing to the empirical basis in SLA of the new theoretical paradigm now known as Complex Dynamic System Theory (CDST) (de Bot, 2017; Larsen-Freeman, 2017; Lourdes & Han, 2017). Much of the work so far on CDST has remained rhetorical, and while a concerted effort has been made to push for empirical understandings, methodological insights are as yet incipient, though broad pointers are on the horizon. For example, the study needs to be longitudinal, and should focus on individual learners.

Many of the extant empirical studies have, however, tended to narrowly focus on one or a small number of linguistic elements, taking, a priori, each as part of a (sub)system, producing findings that are limited in scope and do not convincingly demonstrate, in one breath, the ‘complex,’ ‘dynamic,’ and ‘systemic’ nature of learner language.

This book seeks to help fill some of these gaps, by subjecting individuals’ systems to multiple lenses. Recognizing that revealing these properties necessitates a much larger undertaking than an individual study, the book has its five main chapters each target a particular aspect of interlanguage, traversing the domains of morpho-syntax, semantics, pragmatics, and discourse. The uniqueness of this approach lies also in employing the same longitudinal corpus involving two dyads interacting over a shared course requirement. The data analyses tracked both within-dyad and between-dyad similarities and differences, yielding both general patterns and idiosyncrasies. Together, the five sets of data analyses shed light on, and even go beyond, core claims of CDST.

For more information about this book please see our website.

 

If you found this interesting, you might also like Motivational Dynamics in Language Learning edited by Zoltán Dörnyei, Peter D. MacIntyre and Alastair Henry.

Dual Language Immersion Programs: The Importance of Maintaining Heritage Languages

This month we published Mandarin Chinese Dual Language Immersion Programs by Ko-Yin Sung and Hsiao-Mei Tsai. In this post Ko-Yin explains the motivation behind the book.

The state of Utah, where the research described in this book was conducted, is the most ambitious state in growing dual language immersion programs, and is seen by other states as a model. However, the Utah model receives criticisms such as that it targets primarily Caucasian students for the purpose of world language enrichment, rather than for minority students to maintain their heritage languages. For example, Delavan, Valdez, and Freire (2017) and Freire, Valdez, and Delavan (2016) found that the discourse in the policy documents and promotional materials were geared toward competitiveness in the global economy, which marginalized language minority students and drew attention away from heritage maintenance.

When I learned the researchers’ findings and saw the rapid speed of the state implementing foreign language immersion programs, it worried me. Maintaining one’s ethnic identity through their language and culture is essential to help heritage learners succeed in education and life. As a trained second language acquisition researcher, a former teacher of a Chinese two-way dual language immersion program, and a mother of three young heritage learners, I felt the need to use my professional knowledge and teaching experience to examine the rapidly implemented Chinese dual language programs in Utah. My former student, Hsiao-Mei Tsai, who has been a Chinese dual language teacher in Utah, was also interested in the research topic. Together we explored many aspects of the Utah Chinese programs in the book:

(1) Parents’, teachers’, and administrators’ perspectives toward the Chinese dual language immersion programs in Utah

(2) Teacher-teacher and teacher-parent collaboration

(3) Chinese dual language immersion teachers’ teaching identities

(4) Chinese language learning strategies

(5) Learning Chinese characters through the chunking method

(6) Oral interactions between a teacher and her students

(7) Emergent bilinguals’ daily translanguaging practice

We hope that the publication of this research book, which was conducted in the rarely investigated, but quickly growing foreign language immersion programs, sends an invitational message to all bilingual education researchers to focus their attention and effort toward the research needs of the newly developed programs.

Ko-Yin Sung

References

Delavan, M.G., Valdez, V.E. and Freire, J.A. (2017) Language as whose resource?: When global economics usurp the local equity potentials of dual language education. International Multilingual Research Journal, 11(2), 86-100.

Freire, J.A., Valdez, V.E. and Delavan, M.G. (2016) The (dis) inclusion of Latina/o interests from Utah’s dual language education boom. Journal of Latinos and Education, 16, 1-14.

 

For more information about this book please see our website.

If you found this interesting, you might also like Teacher Leadership for Social Change in Bilingual and Bicultural Education by Deborah K. Palmer.

A Tale of Two Teachers: Technology-Supported Language Learning for Japanese

This month we published Technology-Supported Learning In and Out of the Japanese Language Classroom edited by Erica Zimmerman and Abigail McMeekin. In this post the editors explain what inspired them to put the book together.

Erica’s journey

Over the past 25 years, I have participated as a learner/teacher in the changes in technology for learning Japanese. When I started studying Japanese in 1992, I did not own a computer. My sensei (teacher) painstakingly wrote our textbook, worksheets, tests, and quizzes by hand. In 1998, when I needed to produce handouts in Japanese for my pedagogy classes, I installed the Japanese Windows operating system on my laptop. In 2001, with the use of the new Windows IME (Input Method Editor), I conducted a semester-long project with two colleagues examining the use of visual input (chat, MSN Messenger) with the use of voice CMC (PalTalk) for learning Korean. Many of our sessions were fraught with technical issues such as poor connections (it was dial-up then). More recently, with the proliferation of technology, it is increasingly more challenging to determine the effectiveness of apps, online websites, social media, etc. on language learning and acquisition.

Abby’s journey

Like my co-editor, I have many stories over the years of trying to incorporate technology into my teaching. It was never very easy. In the last ten years, however, it has become commonplace to type in Japanese and Japanese websites are now easily accessible along with internet tools to aid in deciphering them. In 2014, a conference presentation on the importance of digital literacy skills in second languages motivated me to design a project that involved using web-based activities to facilitate learning in Japanese. It was at this point that I began researching the topic but was unable to find anything on how to do this or what the possible learning outcomes might be…

 

Thus, we both found ourselves wanting to incorporate the latest technologies (e.g., WEB 2.0, web-based tools) using methodologies that addressed more communicative and integrative aspects of learning (versus rote) but could find little information on what that would look like for Japanese. The last review volume published for Japanese CALL was in 2002, considered ancient by today’s technological standards. What we really wanted was a book that synthesized advice on using newer SLA theories and methodologies with the latest technology while offering information on learning outcomes and best practices. As the saying goes, what does not exist, one creates.

This is why everything we wanted to know about Japanese CALL we included in our volume. For instance, the introduction chapter gives an overview of Japanese CALL, offering insights into where the field has been and where it is now, using Warschauer and Healey’s different CALL genres (Behaviorist/structural, communicative, integrative, and ecological).

For the individual chapters, we aimed for including a variety of technologies (e.g. virtual games, computer-mediated communication, corpus software), examined through different theoretical lenses and methodologies in various learning environments (e.g. flipped, online, blended, distance). We wanted each chapter to provide readers not only with a description of how to use the technology being investigated but also to offer findings on potential/actual learning outcomes and best practices. So to give readers an idea of the future trajectory of Japanese CALL research, the epilogue gives specific suggestions on where to go from here.

Thus each chapter offers a combination of experimental, empirical and practical aspects of CALL. Every author who contributed to this volume started from scratch. We hope that readers will find something useful in every chapter.

 

For more information about this book please see our website.

If you found this interesting, you might also like Multilingual Computer Assisted Language Learning edited by Judith Buendgens-Kosten and Daniela Elsner.

Language Learning Strategy Instruction

This month we are publishing Learning Strategy Instruction in the Language Classroom edited by Anna Uhl Chamot and Vee Harris. In this post Vee explains the inspiration behind the book.

The inspiration for this book emerged from a chat with some colleagues at the end of a busy day. The discussion centred around research into language learner strategies: those internal tactics that people use to help them memorise vocabulary in another language or to make themselves understood, for example. Thinking perhaps there was something we both had missed, we tentatively suggested that there was a lack of research into how to actually teach these strategies. In the course of our classroom-based research, we had been struck by the way studies into Language Learning Strategy Instruction (LLSI) described in detail research methods and results but said little about the rationale underlying the teaching activities and approaches used. To our surprise, our colleagues shared our concern and we agreed that a book devoted uniquely to this area would be a valuable resource for both researchers and teachers alike. We decided to widen our enquiry to colleagues in a range of other countries and contexts, inviting them also to contribute a chapter on a topic of their choice. Committed to bridging the gap between research and practice, we stressed that their chapters could deal with the theoretical issues LLSI raised but could equally well describe concrete materials for teaching strategies to different age groups.

We were overwhelmed by the enthusiasm to participate whether from colleagues in the USA, New Zealand, Canada, or the UK. However two further areas emerged from their suggestions. The first was to have a section on those strategies that have been under-researched and therefore not frequently taught, such as strategies for learning grammar or developing Critical Cultural Awareness. The second would address the lack of guidance on integrating LLSI into pre- and in-service teacher education. Hence there are four parts to the book: parts 1 and 2 deal with issues such as the range of approaches to LLSI, and identifying and teaching the under-researched strategies. Parts 3 and 4 focus on the implementation of LLSI whether through the use of technology and the coursebook or through engaging with teachers.

Our book draws on scholars with a long-established, international reputation such as Andrew Cohen, Rebecca Oxford and Joan Rubin as well as new researchers and practising teachers. The contributors use their extensive knowledge and experience to present a ‘state of the art’ picture of Language Learning Strategy Instruction. However the book also looks to the future; so each chapter ends with key questions to be resolved within that topic area and the book concludes with a chapter that offers a map for future research directions.

The book will be an important resource for researchers both for its critical perspectives and for supporting them in designing interventions to implement LLSI. It should prove equally valuable to all informed languages teachers and students studying to become languages teachers, since it is one of a very small number of publications to include detailed teaching materials and activities. Although many of the illustrations are for ESL/EFL students, some are in French and German.

Finally it should also be relevant to all those with an interest in Second Language Acquisition since the mental and social processes of language learning, the reasons for differences in the rate and route learners take, and why some learners do so much better than others lie at the heart of our understanding of language learning strategies.

Vee Harris

This book is published in memory of Anna Uhl Chamot, who sadly passed away during the publication process.

For more information about this book please see our website.

If you found this interesting you might also like Language Learner Autonomy by David Little, Leni Dam and Lienhard Legenhausen.