Divergent language choices and maintenance of intersubjectivity: the case of Danish EFL young learners

Maria Vanessa aus der Wieschen*, Olcay Sert

*Corresponding author for this work

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The role of students’ first language(s) in foreign language classrooms has been hotly debated in the last decades. Although this line of research has advanced our understanding of language choice in the L2 classroom, it has mostly dealt with adolescent and adult learners. From a contextual perspective, then, more micro-analytic research that focuses on language choice at the primary school level is needed. Against this background, this paper presents a case study of a Danish third-grade English as a foreign language classroom, in which a pattern of divergent language choices has been observed: the teacher consistently uses English, whereas the learners almost exclusively speak Danish, which might entail trouble in maintaining intersubjectivity and a joint pedagogical focus. Using Conversation Analysis methodology, we found two sequential formats that help ensure student understanding and thus maintain intersubjectivity: (1) learner translations and reformulations for peer support in expansion sequences, and (2) expansions initiated by students requesting information or clarification that display partial or no understanding. We argue that the sense-making practices co-constructed in this classroom context are possible because the teacher encourages shared multilingual meaning-making practices. This research has implications for teaching EFL to young learners, and classroom language policies.

Original languageEnglish
JournalInternational Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)107-123
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • Conversation Analysis
  • divergent language choices
  • EFL classroom discourse
  • intersubjectivity
  • Young learners


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