L2 Journal

The L2 Journal is a fully refereed, interdisciplinary journal which aims to promote the research and the practice of language learning and teaching. It publishes articles in English on all aspects of applied linguistics broadly conceived, i.e., second language acquisition, second language pedagogy, bilingualism and multilingualism, language and technology, curriculum development and teacher training, testing and evaluation.

This site provides a list of all article titles and the opening lines of the abstract, together with links to the article on the L2 Journal site; for the full abstracts, articles, citation information and complete search capability, please go to the L2 eScholarship site.

Current Issue: Volume 13 Issue 1

Multilingual Translation of English Idioms in Internet-based TV series: A Contrastive Approach

This paper analyzes the strategies and challenges involved in the translation of English idioms in a specific domain of broadcast media. Current technology and distribution networks make it possible to watch series from around the world shortly after they are aired in their original language. Although sometimes dubbed, Internet-based TV series are often broadcast with multilingual subtitles. I will focus here specifically on idioms in subtitles translated from English into German, Norwegian, Spanish, and Portuguese. The study considers 10 comedy and drama series screened by media service providers (Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, and Filmin).

The data will be described from a cognitive and contrastive perspective. I follow a methodology drawn from a previous article (Labarta Postigo, 2020). My main aim is to shed light on the strategies used in the translation process and to compare translation outcomes across languages. In terms of contrastive analysis, variants of the same language, such as Latin-American and European Spanish, and Brazilian and European Portuguese, have been considered.

The findings of this study are of potential use in pedagogical applications that develop learners’ cultural awareness and their understanding of figurative language in the foreign languages in question, as well as in the field of audiovisual subtitling translation.

The Ecology of Study Abroad for Language Learning: Synthesis and Interdisciplinary Insights

This report presents a review of study abroad research conducted from an ecological perspective (Kramsch, 2003; Leather & van Dam, 2003; van Lier, 2004) and identifies areas of inquiry that are lacking compared to second language acquisition and other fields (i.e., linguistics, psychology). It identifies value-based views as a high-priority area of interest and draws on frameworks in other fields to outline how language learning research could effectively describe the moral ecology of study abroad for language learning.

Creative Collaborations in Adult ESL Classrooms: Three Community Language Tutors’ Pre-Understandings, Contradictions, and Growth Points

This study draws upon Mindful L2 Teacher Education (Johnson & Golombek, 2016) to explore how volunteer community tutors of adult English as a Second Language (ESL) conceptualize and enact their roles as creative teachers. Through three case studies, I explore community language teachers’ pre-understandings, contradictions, and growth points. Findings revealed that tutors felt obligated to use survival ESL and grammar-based frameworks for teaching. Contradictions included their frustration with inconsistent student attendance, their fatigue creating lessons, and their feelings of isolation. Research on teacher education for community volunteers is important so that volunteers feel emotionally and pedagogically supported as they commit to teaching learners who otherwise might not have access to language instruction, including adults with immigrant and refugee backgrounds.

Experimenting with the Teaching of Academic Genres in the Target Culture: A Reflexive Testimony

Instructors’ Perspectives

This testimony discusses an experiment in teaching French academic genres in the context of a French reading and composition class held at UC Berkeley in spring 2020. The experiment was designed and implemented in collaboration with Emily Linares. The article describes the reasons for introducing students to these genres, within a multiliteracies framework and explains which pedagogical strategies worked best in this context, and why. It also points to possible socio-political implications of the experiment, which could also prove beneficial to minority students or students from underrepresented backgrounds in American universities.

Time for New Thinking about ELT in Latin America and Elsewhere

Instructors’ Perspectives

ELT in Latin America and elswehere in public schools and higher education and parts of the private sector has long been failing badly. The coronavirus pandemic should focus minds on changing that situation. Going back to TEFL business as usual should not be an option. In this article areas where radical change is needed are discussed and ideas for change proposed.

Volume 12 Issue 3

L2 Multimodal Composing Abroad: Remixing Languages, Cultures, and Identities

This paper explores the second language, digital multimodal composing practices of 12 American undergraduates studying French abroad in Paris. Drawing on multiliteracies, multimodality, and translanguaging frameworks, this study utilizes a qualitative lens and multimodal composing timescapes to analyze how students leveraged languages and modes across 72 digital multimodal reflections and vlogs. Findings demonstrate how reflective multimodal composing developed multilingual identities by fostering metalinguistic awareness and goal-setting practices. Through their vlogs, students additionally participated in transcultural repositioning by making cross-cultural connections and sharing emotional experiences. Throughout the term students increased in traversals of modes, languages, spaces, and places as they became more comfortable with the French language, living in France, and multimodal composing. These results illustrate how digital multimodal composing can enhance learners’ linguistic and intercultural competencies while studying abroad. The article concludes with implications for multimodal composing to learn languages and calls for further research on the reflective multimodal composing practices of second language learners.

Developing Performative Competence and Teacher Artistry: A Pedagogical Imperative in the Multicultural Classroom

Teaching performatively is an art that must be honed and developed through sustained practice. In this paper, I explore the theoretical considerations of a performative-humanistic approach to second language acquisition and the practical applications for a performance-based pedagogy, which is meant to offer readers an occasion to reflect on what it means to prepare students to become reflective and critical performers on the world stage. Particular attention is placed on the unique roles teachers play, and the responsibilities inherent in those roles. The paper is also an invitation to revisit existing approaches and practices through a performative lens engaging in a dynamic interdisciplinary dialogue, reflecting on the aesthetic dimension of language learning, and exploring the potential of the theatrical experience in the construction of a Self able to represent, perceive, create, and reflect.

Vocabulary and the Upper-division Language Curriculum: The Case of Non-native and Heritage Spanish Majors

L2 lexical studies have established that learners need to acquire knowledge of the first 3,000 most frequent words in order to enjoy 95% coverage of the vocabulary used in spontaneous speech (Nation 2006). However, there has been little data available that reveal how many of these most frequent words can be recognized by university language majors, with Robles-García´s (2020a, 2020b) recent study being a welcome exception. The present inquiry into L2 vocabulary gains employed the same word-recognition test developed by Robles-García (2020a) in order to characterize the vocabulary size enjoyed by upper-division Spanish majors, both non-native and bilingual native (i.e., heritage) speakers, enrolled in a California public university. The results show that non-native Spanish majors in their third and fourth year of the major are still struggling to learn the first 3,000 most frequent Spanish words. In contrast, the heritage students demonstrated strong word recognition of almost all of the words in this basic inventory. The curricular implications of these results are discussed with respect to both non-native and bilingual native Spanish majors and an argument is made for continued explicit vocabulary instruction throughout the upper-division program.

Disinventing and Reconstituting the Concept of Communication in Language Education

In this article we draw on the praxiological framework of disinvention and reconstitution of language(s) to problematize the concept of communication in language education. Considering the fact that the concept of language as an instrument of communication was a metadiscursive regime used to (re)invent language as an isolated and unprob­lematic element, we argue for an idea of communication that embraces the complexity of language practices, communicative interactions, and the world at large. The critical (re)views shared throughout the text point to a complex perspective of communicative language classes, which requires an understanding of language and communication as complex social practices and as spaces with great potential to promote epistemic decoloniality.

Examining Students’ Co-construction of Language Ideologies through Multimodal Text

French immersion (FI), one of the hallmarks of French as a Second Language education in Canada and mandated in New Brunswick, Canada’s only officially English/French bilingual province, is often the target of language ideological debates surrounding its purposes and expected outcomes. Yet, notably absent in FI scholarship has been a focus on the ideologies informing students’ investment in French, including what bilingualism might mean for their language learning and identity. In this article, we discuss nine Grade 8 French immersion students’ co-construction of language ideologies regarding bilingualism. In a focus group, these students created a promotional video regarding the merits of bilingualism whose audience was comprised of fictional peers in a predominantly Anglophone province. Our analysis was guided by Darvin and Norton’s (2015) model of investment. We employed the tools of multimodal critical discourse analysis to consider the students’ construction of language ideologies through their video production. Through macro and micro analyses, we identified five primary ideologies: Bilingualism (a) is a matter of personal decision; (b) provides access to jobs; (c) provides access to economic capital; (d) provides access to Francophone communities of practice; and (e) provides access to symbolic capital. We discuss how the students have “remixed” the dominant provincial ideologies on bilingualism into their own, considering the implications of these ideologies on their investment in French. Finally, we suggest how multimodal practices provide a means to develop language students’ meta-cognition and expand their investment in their target language.

Volume 12 Issue 2

Preface to the Special Issue

It is my distinct pleasure to start off the academic year 2020-2021 with this special issue,  Critical Pedagogies and the Teaching and Learning of Foreign Languages in Dangerous Times, guest edited by Panayota Gounari, Associate Professor of Applied Linguistics at the University of Massachusetts, Boston, specialized in language policy, critical discourse analysis, and critical pedagogy. I have long been eager to bring to the attention of both practitioners and researchers in Applied Linguistics the dynamic and politically engaged field of Critical Pedagogy.

Introduction to the Special Issue on Critical Pedagogies

“Language is a ‘war zone’,” Kenyan author Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o powerfully notes (Inani, 2018, para. 17). In trying to conceptualize and define Critical Pedagogy in the current historical moment for the teaching and learning of languages, this seems the most appropriate definition. After all, language teaching and learning are neither politically neutral, nor ahistorical, nor free of ideological considerations. On the contrary, language as a site of power, ideological tensions, political and financial interests, hierarchies, and symbolic and material violence, is most definitely a war zone. War is being waged over which languages have more “value” or are “worth learning;” which languages are at the core …

Critical Pedagogy and L2 Education in the Hemispheric South

Colombia, as other Latin American countries, has not been indifferent to the power of English as the language of business, international communication and academia. Since the end of the 20th century, there has been a great push in the country to promote the teaching of English: language policies have been formulated, ideal levels of proficiency have been established (based on a framework initially designed for European countries), and a national English curriculum for all grade levels has been distributed among schools. The status English has gained competes with that of other foreign languages and more evidently with heritage languages.

The field of L2 education in Colombia is experiencing a tension between neoliberal interests of L2 education to support social mobility and the nation’s economic growth and political power (with a focus on linguistic and communicative competence), and alternative academic agendas grounded on the analysis of the influence of social, cultural, and economic factors on L2 teaching and learning, and on learners’ identities.

In this article, I use the example of an analysis of L2 education, from a critical pedagogy standpoint, using a Latin American university as a context to depict such a contrast. This University is a place where there is confluence of diverse languages that have different social statuses: English as lingua franca, European and Asian foreign languages, and heritage languages. I argue that critical pedagogy, partly inspired in the work from intellectuals from the Hemispheric South, serves as a framework to guide analyses of power in the relationship between these languages and L1, and the effect of such relations of power on learners’ identities. Also, I contend that by using critical pedagogy in this context, it becomes transformed, nurtured, as it overlaps and dialogues with other knowledges developed in the Hemispheric South.

Relevance, Representation, and Responsibility: Exploring World Language Teachers’ Critical Consciousness and Pedagogies

Critical pedagogical work hinges upon teachers’ critical consciousness about students’ identities that constitute ‘diversity’ and how they are situated within systems of oppression and privilege. In this study, survey data were collected from practicing world language teachers’ (WLTs) to explore their beliefs about the extent to which dimensions of students’ identities played a role in their language teaching practices. Additionally, these data captured their beliefs about the extent to which teachers, administrators, curriculum developers, and schools should be responsible for addressing identity dimensions, such as ethnoracial status, gender, socioeconomic status, and faith. Results from cluster analyses indicated that teachers’ orientations varied systematically: a first belief orientation locates neither teachers nor schools as responsible, and that student ‘diversity’ may be irrelevant to education; a second orientation locates both teachers and schools as having shared responsibility, but that some identities might be irrelevant to teaching and learning; a third orientation wherein teachers viewed some identity dimensions as more relevant to their teaching practices than others, suggesting that, although teachers may be critically conscious about identity, that consciousness may not translate to critical pedagogical practices; and a last orientation that suggests critically conscious language teachers who also endorse learner-centered teaching practices. Findings from this study illuminate new theoretical and conceptual spaces about WLTs’ sense of responsibility and advocacy for both students and the ways they position their classrooms as sites of critical pedagogies. These findings have implications for teacher leaders and teacher educators as they work to build teacher capacities for engaging in critical pedagogies that examine systems of oppression and privilege in language classrooms.

The Boal-Freire Nexus: Rehearsing Praxis, Imagining Liberation in Bilingual Teacher Education

Freire (2005) encourages people to take “critical ownership of the formation of ourselves” (p. 44) in order to be able to act upon the world in what he (1993) calls “praxis.” This praxis consists of the development of critical consciousness leading to transformative action. Critical consciousness and praxis should be conceived as an ongoing and creative process through the actual doing within spaces of authoring (Holland, Lachicotte, Skinner, & Cain, 2003). Boal’s Theater of the Oppressed might provide Freire’s ideas with a stage where liberation and praxis can be concretized, rehearsed and imagined. A discussion of this Freire-Boal complementation is offered by providing examples of two studies I conducted among Mexican-American/Latinx bilingual pre-service teachers to 1) prepare them linguistically after years of subtractive anglo-centric schooling, 2) to develop political and ideological clarity (Bartolome & Balderrama, 2001), and 3) to encourage them to engage in leadership and advocacy inside and outside of the classroom.

Critical Content Based Instruction for the Transformation of World Language Classrooms

This interpretive multiple-case study examines the practices and perspectives of four mid-level and secondary world language teachers in diverse teaching contexts as they design and implement critical content-based instruction units in their classes. Knowing that content can be defined as either cultural or academic content (Spenader, Wesely, & Glynn, 2018), the middle and high school level teachers in this study aimed to use a critical approach in their curricula and to integrate topics of social justice into the cultural content, promoting inquiry and critical thinking among students. Using data collected from recorded videos of teaching and individual semi-structured interviews, this study aims to answer the following research question: How is Critical Content-Based Instruction (CCBI) (Sato, Hasegawa, Kumagai, & Kamiyoshi, 2017) being employed by U.S. Spanish teachers to examine complex topics through a lens of social justice? Findings indicate that teachers feel compelled to integrate topics of social justice into their curriculum to promote criticality (critical thinking) and to encourage students to effect change in their own communities and beyond. The discussion supports consideration of teachers’ roles in the development of student agency through their curriculum and instruction. Implications are addressed for educational research, teacher education, and professional development.


Genre Instruction and Critical Literacy in Teacher Education: Features of a Critical Foreign Language Pedagogy in a University Curriculum

This paper focuses on critical pedagogy and EFL teacher education and it argues that it would be unrealistic to expect students who have been educated through traditional university curricula (aiming to deliver content through a ‘banking model’) to become critical foreign language teachers and educators. The education of future teachers requires new university curricula which view literacy as a critical social practice and prepare them through transformative pedagogies, encouraging them to examine critically their values and beliefs by developing a reflexive knowledge base, an appreciation for multiple perspectives and a sense of critical consciousness and agency.

Based on this premise, the article presents the case of Genres in English, an undergraduate language course at the Department of English Language and Literature of the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, aiming to raise students’ critical literacy. Using the tools of Systemic Functional Grammar and drawing on a genre-based approach to writing development, the course initially invites students to take up the role of critical text analysts deconstructing academic and media texts and at a later stage to engage in a popularization of science writing task mediating information from an academic to a media text. Through language tasks which approach genres as historical constructs, students are introduced to the ideological nature of discourses and genres and they explore the conditions of production, distribution and consumption of texts. To evaluate the effectiveness of this approach, the paper presents the findings from a small-scale research conducted with students who have attended the course.

Critical Pedagogy for Foreign-Language Writing

Although critical pedagogy has been widely discussed in the Americas, little research has been done to recontextualize it in foreign language (FL) writing and explore its actual impact on the learners’ sense of self. Hence, I consider in this article the possibility of transforming FL writing education by using a reconceptualized critical pedagogy. It first adapts from existing literature to develop a new framework for critical pedagogy for FL writing, emphasizing four interrelated components, i.e., relationship, identity, power and agency. It then describes the implementation of such a pedagogy in a creative writing classroom by a teacher researcher in an FL environment. Evidence such as students’ written reflections, writing samples and teacher’s fieldnotes suggests that this new critical pedagogy can help FL learners develop agentive ways with writing, which entails more increased confidence in writing, greater mastery of writing and healthier writing dispositions. My intention is not to provide a template for future work, but rather to generate discussion and localized explorations that facilitate rich understandings of both self and other through employing critical pedagogy for FL writing education.