Beyond the Communicative Event: Learning to Write in a Second Language

    Activity: Talks and presentationsTalks and presentations in private or public companies


    The aim of this paper is to discuss the relation between cognition, context, interaction and language learning by examining the activity of learning to write in a second language. Usage based models of language focus on language use in actual communicative events (Tomasello 2000). In this model, the precursors for language structure arise from internal cognitive processes and a form of internal social cognition that is unique to humans making learning and the actual use of language possible (Tomasello 2003). This paper shows that the actual communicative event of learning to write involves interactivities that extend beyond internal cognitive processing in social environments. The relation between persons, their environments and learning involves distributed interactivities for the individual, including L1 and L2, and the social, material and psychological experience of the person writing.
    The empirical side of the paper comes from a study on writing as situated action, which involved collecting data through participant interviews, thinking aloud protocols, observation of students learning to write business related texts and retrospective interviews. Data also comes from another study using Action Research methods in a class about the study of writing, which included practical exercises for enhancing writing. The data reveals that learning to write in a second language is emergent (cf. Eskildsen 349), while being coordinated, constrained and productive through the L1 of the learner, knowledge of the topic, and linguistic knowledge of L2, as well as the materiality of the writing activity itself and anticipation involving the emotions. Significantly, the data also shows that the relaxation of constraints led to an increase in fluency.
    The paper ends by discussing several pedagogical strategies for enhancing writing in a second language based on the analysis of the data and theories related to distributed cognition, interactivity, and dialogicality regarding mind, language and writing.
    Period24. Apr 201326. Apr 2013
    Event titleThinking, Doing, Learning: Usage based perspectives on second language learning
    Event typeConference
    LocationOdense, DenmarkShow on map