ARCHIVE Spring 2017 Brown Bags

January 26
Effect of Tracking Authentic Video Clips on the Enhancing of Comprehensibility and Intelligibility of L2 Speech: A Mixed-Methods-Approach

Presenter: Dianning Qu, Central South University, China

Though achieving successful communication and near nativelike standards tend to be the ideal goals of L2 language learners (van Maastricht et al., 2016), a foreign accent is such a common and normal phenomenon among learners of a foreign language (Munro, Derwing, & Morton, 2006) who are confronted with problems regarding comprehensibility and intelligibility to varying degrees. The past two decades have witnessed an ongoing interest regarding comprehensibility and intelligibility which have been investigated jointly or separately with accentedness. Related studies fall into several strands. A prominent one is characterized by the investigation into the factors contributing to comprehensibility and intelligibility in an bid to pin down possible areas to be dealt with if these important aspects regarding L2 speech were to enhanced. Such studies include those by O’Brien (2014), O’Neal (2015) and Saito, Trofimovich, & Isaacs (2016). Another strand of studies try to find out the relationship between accentedness and comprehensibility (Hendriks, van Meurs, & Hogervorst, 2016; Lima, 2016). Still another one line of research focuses on the influence of the linguistic background of raters on the rating scores of intelligibility and comprehensibility of L2 speech (Chen, 2015; Huang & Jun, 2015; Saito & Shintani, 2016). Enlightening as such research is regarding intelligibility and comprehensibility, studies which looked into the effect of actual pedagogical activities are few and sparse, not to mention the possibility and effect of enhancing such aspects through the aid of computer-assisted language learning (CALL) or Mobile Assisted Language Learning(MALL).

Using a mixed methods approach, the current study investigated the possible effect of promoting comprehensibility and intelligibility of Chinese adult learners of English through tracking short authentic video clips displayed on mobile phones through an app entitled Fun Dubbing. Each session was characterized by focusing on one particular aspect of supra-segmental features which have been documented to influence comprehensibility and intelligibility. Various kinds of data were collected from the 20 participants enrolled in a credit course that lasted for 5 3-hour sessions. Speech samples from all participants in the form of reading aloud before and after each imitation session were provided, in addition, free production using the phrases acquired in imitating the video clips was elicited from one third of the participants. Learners’ attitudes towards such a pedagogical attempt were investigated through the use of a questionnaire involving all participants and a structured interview with one third of the participants picked through random sampling. Preliminary results from analyses of the speech samples at different time points indicated that considerable improvement has been made regarding comprehensibility and intelligibility. Positive attitudes about the gains evolving from such a pedagogical activity are evidenced in the questionnaire and structured interview. The present study holds implications for a possible direction of introducing a new way of improving the ease of understanding and the amount of information intended by L2 speech though the use of mobile technology.


February 2
A Corpus-Based Study of Critical Discourse Analysis of News Reports on Climate Change in China

Presenter: Tingting Sun, China University of Geosciences

Concerned with ideology, relations of power and inequality in language, Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA) is employed as a multi-dimensional, multidisciplinary approach to discourse analysis. Recently, news discourse has become a focus in critical discourse analytical research.

The present study has adopted Fairclough’s three-dimensional model, building on Halliday’s systemic-functional grammar as the theoretical framework. Corpus Linguistics has provided another approach to the present discourse analysis. The two corpora are built with sampled news reports on climate change from China Daily and The New York Times. The present analysis is conducted in three stages: description, interpretation, and explanation.

The present study concludes that the Chinese and American news media have employed different discursive strategies to construct and interpret their respective stances and ideologies. 1) As for the choices of vocabulary, theme, and news source, the Chinese and American news media have different focus. The Chinese news media stress the unanimous voice and stance on the issue of climate change and the Sino-U.S. cooperation. However, the American news media have given much attention to opinions of political parties and interest groups on this issue. 2) In terms of the system of transitivity, the Chinese news media tend to utilize a higher percentage of verbal processes to make statements by quoting governmental officials while its American counterpart focuses more on material processes to construct and report series of events.

The research objectives and significance of the present study mainly reside in two aspects. First of all, news reports on climate change from different countries are analyzed via a corpus-based comparative CDA approach, which may enrich the research area of Critical Discourse Analysis. Moreover, the present study reveals the hidden relationship between linguistic strategies and ideologies in news discourse, which will hopefully help the audience critically, comprehend news reports and enhance readers’ sensitivity to the media.


February 9
Trajectories of professional communicative repertoires in global working life: A longitudinal study

Presenter: Tiina Räisänen, University of Jyväskylä, Finland

The ongoing changes in society and various globalization processes shape individuals’ work practices. Global movements in working life generate a demand for particular kinds of identities, roles, career paths and mobile repertoires (Roberts 2010) across contexts and locations, places and spaces that are increasingly multilingual, heterogeneous and hybrid (e.g. Zhu Hua 2014). In particular, in the age of transnational and multinational business cooperation professionals increasingly need to use English as a business lingua franca (BELF, Louhiala-Salminen, Charles & Kankaanranta 2005) and navigate between discourses and ways of speaking in order to get their job done (e.g. Angouri & Miglbauer 2013; Räisänen 2013).

This talk presents my ongoing longitudinal, ethnographic study of Finnish professionals’ trajectories of socialization from educational contexts into global working life and the construction of their communicative repertoires during 2003-2016. The theoretical framework draws on sociolinguistic and discourse studies where diachronic studies on mobility and individual trajectories have been called for (e.g. Blommaert 2010; Heller 2011; Martin-Jones & Gardner 2012; Blackledge & Creese 2012).

The data for this project comprises interviews and audio- and video-recordings of authentic, face-to-face workplace interactions, fieldnotes, photos and computer-mediated communication collected at various sites by the researcher and the research participants. This talk first presents the background and main findings of an earlier study (Räisänen 2013) and then discusses ongoing work and future directions. This study shows how the participants’ repertoire construction changes over time and how their identities shift from language learners in educational contexts to competent language users in the workplace (e.g. Virkkula & Nikula 2010; Räisänen 2016).


More Than a Test: Self-Assessment for Life-Long Users of Multiple Languages

Presenter: Cindy Brantmeier, Washington University in St. Louis

The main goal for program assessments of second and foreign languages is to provide evidence that performance in a specific curriculum is changing and improving over time. The high stakes evaluation of learner abilities upon completion of each stage of acquisition often serves as a basis for substantiating whether or not learners are improving their skills as they advance to higher levels of language learning. Self-assessment (SA) instruments may provide rich evidence about individual and collective achievement as students evaluate their own learning and consolidate their language learning experiences. The present talk will review some prior SA research (Brantmeier, 2006; Brantmeier & Vanderplank, 2008; and Brantmeier, Vanderplank & Strube, 2012) and discuss current and ongoing investigations that offer evidence to validate the relationships between criterion-referenced SA instruments and language achievement. Findings (2012) revealed that learners at the advanced stages of acquisition make self-assessments that are significantly related to their language abilities, although the magnitude of the relations are not substantial suggesting there may be important moderators to be identified. Furthermore, SA test method effect may make the difference with advanced learners. A discussion about how SA can provide a valuable departure from traditional testing formats that helps the learner become aware of individual strengths and weaknesses will be offered.

Cindy Brantmeier (Ph.D. Indiana University) is Professor of Applied Linguistics and Education at Washington University of St. Louis. She serves as Director of Applied Linguistics, which includes the undergraduate major and PhD strand in Applied Linguistics in Education. She is Co-editor of Reading in a Foreign Language, a journal housed at the University of Hawaii, and was recently named Distinguished Visiting Professor at Northeast Normal University, China. Professor Brantmeier is principal investigator in the Language Research Laboratory, where her research team conducts experiments that examine variables involved in second language reading, language research methodology, and language testing and assessment. Professor Brantmeier has extensive experience teaching Spanish and ESL/EFL in the USA, Nicaragua, Mexico, Spain, and Costa Rica to students of all ages. She was the recipient of Washington University’s 2012 Emerson Excellence in Teaching Award.