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Volume 12

Intercultural Studies and Foreign Language Learning


This volume brings together contributions from academics, language

teachers and practitioners from across Europe and beyond to discuss
questions of autonomy and technology in the area of language learning
and translation. The book focuses on English, French, Italian, Irish and
Spanish language acquisition, but many of the essays also develop an
interlinguistic perspective from a plurilingual point of view.

Alderete-Dez, Incalcaterra McLoughlin, Translation, Technology and Autonomy

in Language Teaching and Learning
N Dhonnchadha and N Uign (eds)

The book opens with key contributions from a number of leading

scholars: Dr Daniel Cassany on critical literacies, Professor Henrik Gottlieb
on translation into minor languages, and Professor David Little on
autonomy in language learning. These are followed by explorations of
translation, technology, intercultural issues, autonomous learning and
the European Language Portfolio. The volume represents an important
contribution to the development of new plurilingual approaches to
language teaching and learning.

Pilar Alderete-Dez is a university teacher in Spanish at the National University

of Ireland, Galway. She is currently completing a PhD in language learning and
classroom research with the University of Valladolid.
Laura Incalcaterra McLoughlin lectures at the National University of Ireland,
Galway. She is co-director of the MA in Advanced Language Skills and teaches
Italian language and translation.
Labhaoise N Dhonnchadha is a Learning Technologist with specific responsibil
ity for Modern Languages. She manages the multimedia language laboratories
at the National University of Ireland, Galway.
Dorothy N Uign works in Acadamh na hOllscolaochta Gaeilge at the National
University of Ireland, Galway.

ISBN 978-3-0343-0812-0


ISFLL Vol. 12

Translation, Technology
and Autonomy in
Language Teaching
and Learning
Edited by Pilar Alderete-Dez,
Laura Incalcaterra McLoughlin,
Labhaoise N Dhonnchadha
and Dorothy N Uign

Peter Lang

Volume 12
Intercultural Studies and Foreign Language Learning


This volume brings together contributions from academics, language

teachers and practitioners from across Europe and beyond to discuss
questions of autonomy and technology in the area of language learning
and translation. The book focuses on English, French, Italian, Irish and
Spanish language acquisition, but many of the essays also develop an
interlinguistic perspective from a plurilingual point of view.

Alderete-Dez, Incalcaterra McLoughlin, Translation, Technology and Autonomy

in Language Teaching and Learning
N Dhonnchadha and N Uign (eds)

The book opens with key contributions from a number of leading

scholars: Dr Daniel Cassany on critical literacies, Professor Henrik Gottlieb
on translation into minor languages, and Professor David Little on
autonomy in language learning. These are followed by explorations of
translation, technology, intercultural issues, autonomous learning and
the European Language Portfolio. The volume represents an important
contribution to the development of new plurilingual approaches to
language teaching and learning.

Pilar Alderete-Dez is a university teacher in Spanish at the National University

of Ireland, Galway. She is currently completing a PhD in language learning and
classroom research with the University of Valladolid.
Laura Incalcaterra McLoughlin lectures at the National University of Ireland,
Galway. She is co-director of the MA in Advanced Language Skills and teaches
Italian language and translation.
Labhaoise N Dhonnchadha is a Learning Technologist with specific responsibil
ity for Modern Languages. She manages the multimedia language laboratories
at the National University of Ireland, Galway.
Dorothy N Uign works in Acadamh na hOllscolaochta Gaeilge at the National
University of Ireland, Galway.

ISFLL Vol. 12

Translation, Technology
and Autonomy in
Language Teaching
and Learning
Edited by Pilar Alderete-Dez,
Laura Incalcaterra McLoughlin,
Labhaoise N Dhonnchadha
and Dorothy N Uign

Peter Lang

Translation, Technology and Autonomy

in Language Teaching and Learning

Intercultural Studies and Foreign Language Learning

Edited by

Arnd Witte and Theo Harden

Volume 12

Oxford Bern Berlin Bruxelles Frankfurt am Main New York Wien

Translation, Technology and Autonomy in

Language Teaching and Learning
edited by

Pilar Alderete-Dez, Laura Incalcaterra McLoughlin,

Labhaoise N Dhonnchadha and Dorothy N Uign

Oxford Bern Berlin Bruxelles Frankfurt am Main New York Wien

Bibliographic information published by Die Deutsche Nationalbibliothek.

Die Deutsche Nationalbibliothek lists this publication in the Deutsche Nationalbibliografie;
detailed bibliographic data is available on the Internet at http://dnb.d-nb.de.
A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library.
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data:
International Conference on Translation, Technology and Autonomy in
Language Teaching and Learning (1st : 2010 : National University of
Ireland, Galway)
Translation, technology and autonomy in language teaching and learning
/ [edited by] Pilar Alderete-Diez ... [et al.].
p. cm.
Articles are presented in English, Spanish, Italian, and Gaelic
The papers included in this volume were presented at the First
International Conference on Translation, Technology and Autonomy in
Language Teaching and Learning, held at the National University of
Ireland, Galway on 10 and 11 December 2010.
Includes bibliographical references and index.
ISBN 978-3-0343-0812-0 (alk. paper)
1. Language and languages--Study and teaching--Congresses. 2.
Language and languages--Study and teaching--Technological
innovations--Congresses. 3. Second language acquisition--Congresses. 4.
Translating and interpreting--Congresses. 5. Learner
autonomy--Congresses. 6. Communication--Cross-cultural
studies--Congresses. I. Alderete-Diez, Pilar, 1975- II. Title.
P53.I529 2010
ISSN 1663-5809
ISBN 978-3-0343-0812-0 (print)
ISBN 978-3-0353-0340-7 (eBook)
Peter Lang AG, International Academic Publishers, Bern 2012
Hochfeldstrasse 32, CH-3012 Bern, Switzerland
info@peterlang.com, www.peterlang.com, www.peterlang.net
All rights reserved.
All parts of this publication are protected by copyright.
Any utilisation outside the strict limits of the copyright law, without the
permission of the publisher, is forbidden and liable to prosecution.
This applies in particular to reproductions, translations, microfilming,
and storage and processing in electronic retrieval systems.
Printed in Germany


List of Figures


List of Tables


Buochas/Acknowledgements xvii
Nollaig Mac Congil

Brollach/Preface xix
Ramhr/Introduction 1
Part One Guest Contributors

Daniel Cassany

Foreign Language Reading from the Point of View

of New Literacy Studies


Henrik Gottlieb

Translation into Minor Languages: Invisibility vs. Anglification


David Little

Learner Autonomy, the Common European Framework

of Reference for Languages, the European Language Portfolio
and Language Teaching at University



Part TwoTranslation


Emma Garca Sanz

El uso del diccionario en el aula de traduccin


Elisa Ghia

Audiovisual Translation as Acquisitional Input:

Quantitative and Qualitative Aspects


Cristina Oddone

Translation in Language Learning:

Comparing and Contrasting Film Titles


Maria Pavesi

The Potentials of Audiovisual Dialogue for

Second Language Acquisition


Luca Pintado Gutirrez

The Use of Translation towards Foreign Language

Autonomous Learning


Vernica C. Trujillo-Gonzlez

Principales Caractersticas y Dificultades traductolgicas

de un diccionario cultural


Part ThreeTechnology


Emanuela Cotroneo

Da Facebook a Ning per imparare litaliano:

quando il social network fa didattica



Alessandra Giglio

Racconto L2.0: Esercitare la Produzione Scritta in Rete


Susanna Nocchi

Buongiorno, mi dicaor: Can a Virtual World Help Me Learn

How to Deal with a Real Life Problem?


Part Four Intercultural Issues


Florence Le Baron-Earle

Social Media and the Acquisition of Intercultural Communicative

Competence: A Focus on Discussion Forums


Victor Bayda

Teagasc na Gaeilge i Stt-Ollscoil Mhosc


Claudia Borghetti

Pursuing Intercultural and Communicative Goals in

the Foreign Language Classroom: Clues from Selected Models
of Intercultural Competence


Part Five Autonomous Learning and the Portfolio


Encarnacin Atienza and M. Vicenta Gonzlez Argello

El portafolio de formacin desde el punto de visa del formando


Patrick Farren

Autonomous Language Teaching:

Pre-requisite to Autonomous Language Learning


Belinda McHale

An Foghlaimeoir Machnamhach:
Fs Mhradil n Fidearthacht Mhr?


Part Six Language Teaching


Linda Butler

Building Autonomy in Language Learning through Drama


Nataa Gajt

Autonomous Business and Economics Terminology Acquisition

in a Bilingual Context: A Glossary Based Approach


Elena Gonzlez-Cascos Jimnez and Laura Filardo Llamas

Are They Children or Adults? The Lack of Impact of the

Tenor Contextual Variable in EFL Classroom Materials


Jennifer Hatte

Technology, Tradition and Flexibility in the Teaching of

Second Year ab initio French to Distance University Students
in the Australian Context


amon Cofaigh

Learning French through Irish: The Impact of Bilingualism

on the Acquisition of French as an L3


Notes on Contributors


Index of Names


Index of Terms


List of Figures

Frontispiece by Marina Wild

Figure 1 A traducirse aprende traduciendo


Figure 2 Engestrms Activity Theory System


Figure 3 Activity Theoretical Diagram of a Role-Play


Figure 4 Freagra na Mac Linn ar an gCeist Cn fth ar thug t

faoin nGaeilge?


Figure 5 Balbonis Model of Intercultural Communication Competence


Figure 6 Language and Communication in the Classroom Context


List of Tables

Table 1 Cognitive Orientation v. Socio-Cultural Perspective


Table 2 Importance of Translations


Table 3 Importance of English in Translations


Table 4 Importance of English Translations in Denmark


Table 5 Provenance of Books Translated into Danish/Dutch


Table 6 Languages Translated into Danish (19792005)


Table 7 Translations from English in Denmark (2010 estimates)


Table 8 Types of Print Media Translation


Table 9 A Case of Two-Step Anglification


Table 10 From Germanisms to Anglicisms: A Textbook Example


Table 11 Results of English Impact on Intranational Communication


Table 12 Continenti presenti in Facebook nel mese di dicembre 2010


Table 13 Fasce di et presenti in Facebook nel mese di dicembre 2010


Table 14 Le funzioni de Facebook in ottica didattica


Table 15 I principali social network per lapprendimento linguistico


Table 16 I principali social software e social service


Table 17 Punteggio medio riportato dai corsisti


Table 18 The SL Course


Table 19 Types of Disruption in Role-Plays


Table 20 Project Details


Table 21 Summary of Students Comments



List of Tables

Table 22 Students Comments on How the Discussion Forum Made Them

Learn about French Culture


Table 23 The Selected Models in Relation to Three Research Questions


Table 24 A Summary of the Analysis

Table 25 Corpus de Anlisis


Table 26 The Number of Students Submitting the Seminar Papers

Per Course and Per Academic Year


Table 27 Selection of Texts


Table 28 Selection of Technical Terminology


Table 29 Search for and Choice of Definitions


Table 30 Translation (Translating Vocabulary and Translation Process)


Table 31 Students Attitudes and Perceptions of Personal Achievements


Table 32 Corpus of Texts for Analysis


Table 33 Average Scores for Mainstream and Fraincis tr Ghaeilge Students

in 1BA Language


Table 34 Average Scores for Mainstream and Fraincis tr Ghaeilge Students

in 1BA French


Table 35 Average Scores for Mainstream and Fraincis tr Ghaeilge Students

in 2BA Language


Table 36 Average Scores for Mainstream and Fraincis tr Ghaeilge Students

in 2BA French


Table 37 Average Scores for Mainstream and Fraincis tr Ghaeilge Students

in 3/4BA Language


Table 38 Average Scores for Mainstream and Fraincis tr Ghaeilge Students

in 3/4BA French


Table 39 Average Scores for Mainstream, Fraincis tr Ghaeilge

and Native Irish Bilingual Students in 1BA Language


Table 40 Average Scores for Mainstream, Fraincis tr Ghaeilge

and Native Irish Bilingual Students in 2BA Language


List of Tables


Table 41 Average Scores for Mainstream, Fraincis tr Ghaeilge

and Native Irish Bilingual Students in 3/4BA Language


Table 42 Average Student Language Progression (English Students)


Table 43 Average Student Language Progression (Irish Students)


Table 44 Average Student Overall Progression (English Students)


Table 45 Average Student Overall Progression (Irish Students)



Ba mhr ag na heagarthir buochas a ghabil le Comhairle Taighde na

hireann um na Daonnachta agus na hEolaochta Sisialta (IRCHSS)
as a ndeontas fial don fhoilseachn seo. N mr buochas a ghabhil freisin
leis na piarmheasnir a chuidigh linn go fonnmhar agus an foilseachn
seo ullmh. Ba dheas linn buochas a ghabhil leis na mic linn agus aon
duine eile a chuidigh linn le linn na comhdhla i nGaillimh (1011 Nollaig
2010) as ar eascair an foilseachn. T buochas ar leith tuillte ag Marina
Wild, sr-ealaontir a dhear pstir na comhdhla agus a bhfuil a saothar
le feiceil anseo freisin. r mbuochas chomh maith leis an Ollamh Nollaig
Mac Congil, Meabhrana agus Uachtarn Ionaid O Gaillimh, a scrobh
brollach an leabhair dinn. Gabhaimid buochas lenr muintir a thacaigh
linn agus an obair seo idir lmha. N fhadfa an foilseachn seo a thabhairt
chun crche gan cuidi agus saineolas r sr-chipeagarthir, Anna Mc
Donnell Dowling go raibh maith agat, a Anna. Ar deireadh, ba mhaith
linn buochas a ghabhil le gach duine in Peter Lang, Christabel Scaife
go hirithe, agus na heagarthir sraithe Arnd Witte agus Theo Harden.
The editors wish to express their gratitude to the Irish Research Council
for the Humanities and Social Sciences (IRCHSS) for their generous grant
in support of this publication. Gratitude is also owing to the peer reviewers who gave of their time willingly and freely to help in the preparation
of this volume. We would like to thank all the students and others who
helped at the conference in Galway (1011 December 2010) from which
this publication emanated. A special thanks to Marina Wild, the very
talented artist who designed the artwork for our posters and whose work
is reproduced again in this volume. Our thanks to Professor Nollaig Mac
Congil, Registrar and Vice-President of NUI Galway, for writing the
preface to our publication. We also thank our families for their support
during the preparation of this book. We could not have completed this

xviii Buochas/Acknowledgements

work without the help and expertise of our excellent copyeditor Anna Mc
Donnell Dowling thank you, Anna. Finally we would like to thank all
at Peter Lang, in particular Christabel Scaife, and the series editors Arnd
Witte and Theo Harden.

Nollaig Mac Congil


At an early stage of the worlds history, communication was at a relatively

low level which probably reflected the narrow parameters of life as it was
then experienced and practised. With the passage of time, basic survival
and economic necessity forced communities to fan out in all directions
over hills, across plains and over oceans. This led, in turn, to a concomitant
diversification of verbal communication by homo loquens; hence the evolution of languages. Over centuries thousands of languages have evolved
and some have become extinct. Some have become dominant world languages, whereas others have been relegated to very lowly and localised
status. Factors influencing the dissemination of languages include economics, military expansion, diplomacy, emigration, religion, literacy, politics,
technology and, of increasing importance currently, entertainment in all
its manifestations.
Knowledge of another language other than ones own was initially at a
basic level to communicate or elicit the rudimentary information required.
Thus, the monoglot Gaelic-speaker from Ireland communicated his needs
in English-speaking lands by pointing to items required and said Give it!
This level of knowledge of a foreign language was adequate for his needs.
The linguistic needs of others, however, were and are on a different level.
The dissemination of religions and expansion of empires, for instance,
necessitated a higher level of linguistic competence and versatility. The
invention of the printing press, the establishment of schools and universities and the spread of literacy and development of technologies of mass
communication has brought the whole question of languages to the fore
as never before.
Universities are the natural fora where all aspects of languages can be
discussed in an intellectual way, divorced from but conscious of all ethnic,
religious, political or other bias. Within their walls is a creative space where


Nollaig Mac Congil

languages in all their manifestations exist and flourish. There, experience of

and expertise on language teaching and learning, translation, technology,
pedagogy, literature, politics, culture can be shared and accessed.
Ireland, and, more particularly, National University of Ireland, Galway
was an ideal location for the first International Conference on Translation, Technology and Autonomy in Language Teaching and Learning
/ An tAistrichn, an Teicneolaocht agus an Fhoghlaim Fhinriartha i
dTeagasc agus i bhFoghlaim Teangacha which was held in the winter of
2010 and organized by the universitys School of Languages, Literatures
and Cultures, Acadamh na hOllscolaochta Gaeilge and the Centre for
Excellence in Learning and Teaching. Galway is the most traditional, linguistically and culturally speaking, of Irelands cities, located beside the
most extensive Gaelic-speaking area or Gaeltacht in the world and having
at its centre a large university which aspires towards bilingual status. Such
a location provides a workshop for practitioners and experts in the field.
In tandem with a vibrant School of Languages, the Universitys commitment to and investment in excellence in teaching and learning and its
pre-eminence in information technology, all combine to provide valuable and informed input into wide-ranging discussions on all aspects of
language-related topics.
Speakers came from the four corners of Ireland and, indeed, of the
world and paraded their wares, introducing us to the familiar and lessfamiliar in terms of languages, cultures, strategies and methodologies. All
levels were catered for, from basic to intellectual, from practical to esoteric,
from spoken language to literature. Learned and detailed papers, reproduced in this book, were presented on many aspects of language learning
and teaching, methodologies and pedagogies, traditional and innovative,
literature and culture, translation and interpreting, hands on and hands
off, psychological nuancing, etc. It is a veritable feast in terms of range
and diversity.
The world has been revolutionized by the invention of Gutenbergs
printing press, the availability of accessible world travel and the universality
of the internet. All of these have impacted on languages in many different
ways in recent years in particular. It is important that such dramatic and
far-reaching developments should be discussed at appropriate intellectual



fora as has happened at this First International Language Conference, the

fruits of which are contained in this book of proceedings. T sil agam go
mbainfear eolas agus tairbhe as na cainteanna a tugadh ag an gComhdhil
seo agus at i gcl sa leabhar seo. T sil agam fosta go leanfar ar aghaidh le
comhdhlacha eile a mbeidh s mar sprioc acu barr feabhais a bhaint amach
sna rims cu a bhaineas le chuile ghn de cheist na dteangacha. We have
travelled a long way from cane to mouse, from bata scoir to hypnosis.

Pilar Alderete-Dez, Laura Incalcaterra McLoughlin

and Dorothy N Uign


The papers included in this volume were presented at the First International Conference on Translation, Technology and Autonomy in Language
Teaching and Learning, held at the National University of Ireland, Galway
on 10 and 11 December 2010. The aim of the conference was to provide
an international multilingual forum for discussion and exchange of ideas
on language teaching and learning and the resulting publication is, therefore, a snapshot of current research trends, language policy and teaching
practices across Europe. The articles have been double peer-reviewed, a
process that added greatly to the quality and the richness of the material
presented here.
Language teaching and the innovation of many language teachers
have not always received due regard or acknowledgement, and indeed
in Ireland at least language teaching has suffered reduced funding at all
levels in recent years. With this conference and publication, therefore, we
sought to showcase the work of language teachers and translators at every
educational level and across a series of languages those most commonly
taught in the schools and colleges in Ireland. Included here is Irish, since
it is taught widely and at all educational levels, but is not always included
under the heading of Modern Languages. As NUI Galway is committed
to encouraging the establishment of a bilingual campus, and is to the fore
in promoting education through Irish, it was important that this work was
included in our conference and publication.
The teaching and learning of modern languages does not date back as
far as one might think. It was not a central part of the curriculum in European schools until the eighteenth century (Ellis, 1992: 2). Using methods
that copied the teaching of Latin, teachers based language learning on the
explanation of grammatical rules and translation. Oral interaction was not

P. Alderete-Dez, L. Incalcaterra McLoughlin and D. N Uign

a priority and strategies such as memorization, analysis and the production of written language were the key to language learning. From these
principles the grammar-translation method developed.
Having received much criticism in the twentieth century, this method
has been recently reappraised in light of the review of cognitive strategies
for language learning, and because of this, translation is making its way
back into our classrooms. This is discussed in Part Two of this volume:
the section is dedicated to translation in FL (Foreign Language) teaching, and covers topics such as the use of dictionaries in translation classes
(Emma Garca Sanz) and the potential of audiovisual translation in language
learning (Elisa Ghia, Cristina Oddone, Maria Pavesi). The significance of
translation in fostering autonomous learning is discussed by Luca Pintado
Gutirrez, while Vernica C. Trujillo-Gonzlez examines the difficulties
of translating cultural terms, and the benefits of cultural dictionaries.
The twentieth century was dominated by various language-teaching
approaches that may be categorized as direct methods or natural methods.
They attempted to teach languages through the use of the target language
only, aided by non-verbal cues and a teacher-led inductive approach. These
direct methods were the precursors of the communicative approach, which
dominated the field until recently. New approaches to language teaching
tended to ignore, not only the advantages of the previous methods, but
also the students previous knowledge.
This anti-L1 (first language) standpoint has been a central element in
late twentieth century language teaching and learning. Stemming from it is
the discouragement of the use of the L1 in the classroom, which of course,
differs from everyday practice. In general, teachers have a sense that using
the target language as much as possible is important; however, they may
not yet be in agreement as to how this is best achieved (Polio & Duff,
1994: 324). Direct methods and the communicative approach suggest that
the L1 should not to be used in L2 teaching and should be left outside the
language classroom. According to Howatt (1984: 289), the monolingual
principle, the unique contribution of the twentieth century to classroom
language teaching, remains the bedrock notion from which the others ultimately derive. Stern (1992: 281) feels that the intra-lingual position is still
so strong that many writers do not even consider cross-lingual objectives,


even though the academic world encourages interdisciplinary approaches.

As we can see in this volume of articles, however, recent approaches are
not as prescriptive in forbidding L1. Part Six, in particular, contains papers
dealing specifically with language teaching and offers a wide range of topics
from the assessment of learning materials created for bilingual schools
(Elena Gonzlez-Cascos Jimnez and Laura Filardo Llamas) to the creation
of autonomous language learners through drama (Linda Butler). amon
Cofaigh, meanwhile, discusses the benefits of learning French through
Irish, and Jennifer Hattes article deals with teaching French in a distance
learning environment. Finally, Nataa Gajt gives an interesting account of
how learners of English in Slovenia have had success with a glossary based
approach to language learning.
The original justification for the exclusion of the L1 in the L2 classroom was based on the ideal equivalence of L1 acquisition and L2 learning.
The assumption underlying this justification is that the only completely
successful method of language learning is that used by children learning
their first language. Language teaching, therefore, needed to match the
features of L1 acquisition. Karen Atkinson and Robert Phillipson have
examined the reasons behind this assumption: they maintain that the
approach stems from the political context of the spread of English as a
global language, characterized by several languages in the classroom and
the teachers inability to speak them. This creates distance between the
teacher and the student and restricts the possibilities for language learning
rather than enhancing them. L2 learners, however, generally come into the
class with an L1, a certain level of social development, a developed shortterm memory and relative autonomy (Singleton & Little 1984). Above
all L2 learners already know how to negotiate meaning, which is a clear
advantage that children do not have. The articles in this volume explore
specific language learning contexts and how to best respond to students
needs, maximizing the value of their previous knowledge and applying it
to second language learning.
Language immersion has, in recent years, become the preferred language-learning approach, based on the empirical evidence that a higher
exposure to authentic input normally leads to better fluency. Programmes
such as Erasmus/Comenius in the European Union were established in the

P. Alderete-Dez, L. Incalcaterra McLoughlin and D. N Uign

light of these beliefs. These programmes include the enriching environment

of the target culture and are geared to the development of intercultural
competence as well. Part Four of this volume includes several articles that
deal specifically with this topic: Victor Bayda, for example, examines the
difficulties Russian students of Irish experience with some of the cultural
differences between Ireland and Russia differences often exhibited in the
language itself. Florence Le Baron-Earle discusses the effectiveness of online forums in the acquisition of intercultural competence, while Claudia
Borghetti provides a comprehensive overview ofthe discourse surrounding
intercultural competence, and provides a useful basis for the development
of a methodological model of same.
The authors of the many articles in this publication show that it makes
sense to examine all the language teaching and language learning methods
available in a positive manner and to apply them as appropriate to offer the
student the best guidance in language learning. This attitude has earned
our era the label of the post-methods era (Richards, 1981: 35). Brown
(2002) criticized the concept of method believing that it was nave to
think that teachers procedures can be rationalized into a prototype (170),
and Kumaravadivelu (1994) questioned the theory-driven nature of some
methods, derived from disciplines such as linguistics, psycholinguistics etc
(29). Richards and Rogers (2001: 20) argue that the time and social contexts
of these methods are ignored and that they were responding to the specific
demands of their context, and were not developed as infallible scientific
truths. Browns (2002) postmodern pedagogy compares the teacher to a
doctor, who is capable of diagnosing the needs of his/her students and
giving them advice in the use of successful strategies that facilitate their
learning (11). Nunan, meanwhile, believes that balance between theory
and practice will be reached when research and insights about language
learning offer joint empirical solutions (1991: 1).
Recent debates about language teaching and learning have included discussions about Computer-Assisted Language Learning or CALL, another
focal point of this volume. Levy introduced the term in 1997 as the search
for and study of applications of the computer in language teaching and
learning (1). CALL includes all types of information technology and it
emerged in the 1960s with traditional behaviourist software programmes.


In recent years CALL has seen a mindboggling development of these first

small software packages into the realm of virtual learning environments
and massive multiplayer online games (MMOs) as well as blogs, wikis,
podcasts and social networks characteristic of Web 2.0 (soon to become
Web 3.0). The use of classroom technology such as pointers, interactive
whiteboards and, more recently, mobile-assisted learning with the proliferation of Smartphone technologies and tablets also come under the
CALL umbrella. Most of these ICT tools, however, are not used on their
own as language programmes, but have aided the creation of blended
learning programmes. Blended learning mingles classroom interaction
and computer-based activities. Countries, including Ireland, are investing
at a national level in the creation of free digital resources deposited in the
NDLR (National Digital Learning Resources) to help in language teaching and learning as well as other areas of academia. The third section
of this volume focuses on the impact of new technologies on language
teaching and discusses the wide-ranging implications of the didactic use
of social networking tools now widely available in Web 2.0 (Emanuela
Cotroneo), the use of blogs to improve writing skills (Alessandra Giglio)
and the potential of Second Life and virtual worlds for promoting intercultural awareness (Susanna Nocchi).
Language teaching and learning has developed a considerable corpus of
educational techniques and the quest for the ideal method is part and parcel
of that tradition. The model designed by Byalistok (in Tunku Mohani, 1991)
in 1978 reflected a change in viewpoint in language learning. The main
innovation in this model was the introduction of the concept of other
knowledge, which could refer to another language or to knowledge of a
different kind. The second innovation that this model presented was strategies. Student strategies and later on, teacher strategies, have become the
object of much research conducted in the last few. In this volume, teachers
and researchers offer their insights, showing how teaching approaches can
cooperate with, rather than compete against, each other, enriching both
teacher and student perspectives.
Several of the papers in this publication draw on the research of our
three guest speakers at the Galway conference: Dr Daniel Cassany, Prof.
Henrik Gottlieb and Prof. David Little. Daniel Cassany is engaged in the

P. Alderete-Dez, L. Incalcaterra McLoughlin and D. N Uign

new line of research called Critical Literacies and sheds some light on
the way students all over the world have learnt their first language. These
insights offer a different perspective on how these students approach the
learning of a second or third language. It focuses on student voices by telling the stories of several students from very different parts of the world,
extracted from a database created by the Critical Literacies Research project
conducted in University Pompeu i Fabra in Barcelona in Spain.
Henrik Gottliebs article, meanwhile, challenges the foreignization
strategy in translation, especially when applied outside the Anglo-American
context. Gottlieb argues that the use of such a strategy outside that context
increases the impact of English on languages already subject to the influence
of the Anglo-American culture. A wealth of data is supplied in his article,
in a detailed analysis of the trends of the translation market.
Finally, David Littles article discusses the notion of autonomous learning in the context of the European Portfolio and the Common European
Framework of Reference for Languages. Professor Little is one of the architects of the Framework and a leading expert in autonomous learning.
The fifth section of the book develops the topic of autonomy in language
teaching and learning in the vein of David Littles keynote contribution
and depicts different approaches to both concepts of autonomy. Encarnacin Atienzas and M. Vicenta Gonzlez Argellos article, for example,
discusses the use of portfolios in language teaching and learning. Belinda
McHale explores autonomous learning in the Irish-language classroom in
the context of a focus group of A2 learners, while Patrick Farren argues
that autonomous language teaching is a pre-requisite for autonomous
language learning.
In the spirit of multilingualism and plurilingualism, this volume contains articles in four languages, and deals with many more. In a world where
English is fast becoming the lingua franca, we have sought to celebrate all
languages, L1, L2, L3, and at all levels from A1 go C2.


Atkinson, K., Talbot, M. and Atkinson, D. (2003). Language and Power in the Modern
World, Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.
Brown, H.D. (2002). English language teaching in the post-method era: Toward
better diagnosis, treatment, and assessment. In Richards, J.C. & Renandya,
W.A. (eds) Methodology in language teaching: An anthology of current practice.
Cambridge: Cambridge University Press: 918.
Duff, P. and Polio, C. (1994). Teachers Language Use in University Foreign Language
Classrooms: A Qualitative Analysis of English and Target Language Alternation,
The Modern Language Journal, 78, 31326.
Ellis, R. (1992). Second Language Acquisition and Language Pedagogy, London:
Howatt, A.P. (1984). A History of English Language Teaching, Oxford: OUP.
Kumaravadivelu, B. (1994). The postmethod condition: (E)merging strategies for
second/foreign language teaching, TESOL Quarterly, 28, 2747.
Levy, M. (1997). CALL: context and conceptualisation, Oxford: Oxford University
Nunan, D. (1991). Methods in Second Language Classroom-Oriented Research: A
Critical Review, Studies in Second Language Acquisition 13, 24974.
Phillipson, R.H. (1992). Linguistic Imperialism, Oxford: OUP.
Richards, J.C. (1981). Beyond Method: Alternative approaches to instructional design.
In Prospect, 3(1), 1130.
Richards, J.C. and Rodgers, T.S. (2001). Approaches and Methods in Language Teaching. Cambridge UK: CUP.
Singleton, D. and Little, D. (1984). Language Learning in Formal and Informal Contexts, Dublin: IRAAL.
Stern, M. (1986). Fundamental Concepts of Language Teaching, Oxford: OUP.
Tunku Mohani, T.M. (1991). Learner Strategies in Second Language Acquisition, The
English Teacher, XX: October. <http://www.melta.org.my/ET/1991/maom2.
html> accessed 8 March 2012.

Part One

Guest Contributors

Daniel Cassany

(Translated by Pilar Alderete-Dez and Lorna Shaughnessy)

Foreign Language Reading from the Point of View

of New Literacy Studies1

1 Reading in a Foreign Language and New Literacy Studies

The practice of Reading in a foreign language usually involves a few
common ideas or axioms, which are seldom discussed openly. I am referring to assumptions, representations or concepts such as:
1. Learners already know how to read in their mother tongue and can
transfer this skill to the foreign language. This affirmation implies that
reading is the same in every language, community, context and time
2. Reading involves the recovery of the content of the written text and
this content is located in its words. This affirmation assumes that other
aspects of reading such as the purpose of reading, the characteristics
of the texts, the roles that reader and author take on, and the circumstances under which reading develops (context, moment, etc.) are not

Part of the data used in this paper comes from a research project called Descripcin de
algunas prcticas letradas recientes. Anlisis lingstico y propuesta didctica (HUM2007
62118/FILO; 20072011), from Plan Nacional de Investigacin Cientfica, Desarrollo
e Innovacin Tecnolgica funded by the Spanish Government. The Literacitat Crtica
team that coordinates this Project, integrated in Gr@el (Research group on the
teaching and learning of languages), is also funded by the Catalan government as a
consolidated research group (AGAUR 2009 SGR 803, 372009). I would like to
acknowledge the help ofYoussefAfeita, Ibrahim Akazi, Yu-Chin Li, Liana Egiazarian,
Bahareh Mahdavi and Roberto Ort in the elaboration of this paper.


Daniel cassany

3. The vocabulary and grammar of the foreign language need to be learnt

in order to recover the content. This affirmation assumes that the only
difference between reading in Spanish and other languages stems from
linguistic competence, or in other words, that in every community or
context people read in the same way, or even that any specific aspects
of reading in different contexts are irrelevant.
4. Reading is a universal and homogenous skill, based on cognitive processes which have a human biological basis, so that there are neither
cultural nor pragmatic variations in the way each community uses
written texts.
These four affirmations derive from a cognitive psychological perspective,
which reduces the practice of reading to the mental activity involved in its
process and ignores the physical, contextual, pragmatic and cultural particularities of every literacy act. Thus, these previous affirmations ignore
the following elements:
a) The physical features and qualities of each textual artefact (paper,
screen, profile, graffiti);
b) The processes of production, distribution and reception of the artefact,
with their particular circumstances (cost, speed, distribution channel,
production and reception contexts, etc.);
c) The space-time parameters of each literate situation: geographical
and social enclave (institution, environment), historical moment,
epistemological stance or discipline (science, arts, entertainment);
d) The roles that the author and the reader assume in each context (teacher,
journalist, neighbour, colleague), as well as their psychosocial aspects
(identity, social status, intellectual and moral authority, worldview);
e) The pre-established procedures in each reading practice (communicative purpose, discourse genre, structure, protocol, rhetoric and
politeness) as well as the insertion of this reading practice in its social
context: the relationship between reading and speaking, between text
and terms, rights and duties;
f ) The values and attitudes associated with each reading practice (Is it
prestigious? Does it lend power to the author? Is it considered original

Foreign Language Reading from the Point of View of New Literacy Studies


or repetitive?), as well as the political and social order that rises from
each practice or the power at stake or the forms of domination and
resistance that are exercised in it.
Without these specific aspects and circumstances, each reading practice
loses its peculiarities and dissolves into a general, abstract, homogeneous and neutral activity. Reading a novel on paper, skimming through a
sports newspaper in a bar, reading and signing the contract for a mortgage,
buying a train ticket in a vending machine in the street, or searching for
the meaning of a term on the Internet are deemed the same. It does not
matter where or when it happens, the role that the reader adopts, the purpose or the structure of a text and its support, or even the social value that
the practice has acquired in each community.
According to this approach, reading and understanding basically
consist of the activation of cognitive processes that include decoding,
inference making, hypotheses construction, previous knowledge recovery,
meaning elaboration, and the use of linguistic competence (vocabulary
and morphosyntax). It is this approach that refers back to an essentialist
or autonomous approach to reading, based on cognitive psychology, that
has prevailed until now in research on teaching and learning practice, both
in the teaching of the mother tongue and in foreign language teaching
(Grabe 2009; Parodi ed. 2010).
However, a socio-cultural perspective of reading takes into account all
those particularities that the previous points highlight. It adopts a situated
and ecological approach, which takes into account the singularities of each
reading practice and its socio-cultural variations, without leaving aside the
cognitive and linguistic components of written usage. In a seminal text,
Barton and Hamilton (2000: 8) articulate this stance with six axioms:
1. Literacy is best understood as a set of social practices; these can be
inferred from events which are mediated by written texts.
2. There are different literacies associated with different domains of


Daniel cassany

3. Literacy practices are patterned by social instiutions and power relationships, and some literacies are more dominant, visible and influential
than others.
4. Literacy practices are purposeful and embedded in broader social goals
and cultural practices.
5. Literacy is historically situated.
6. Literacy practices change and new ones are frequently acquired through
processes of informal learning and sense making.
From this approach, each literacy community (country, discipline, institution, gang) creates its own written artefacts (parchment, tables, books,
notebooks, fora) that are used to develop the social practices that require
writing (copying, reciting, signing, filling forms, composing poems) and
that have been created throughout history. The members of each one of
these communities use these artefacts daily to lead their lives, to achieve specific goals within the community and in ordinary social activities (at work,
home, street, free time). To put it more synthetically, reading is a transitive
verb: we read each text in a different and particular way, in each context, in
each community, in order to do different things. Reading is an appropriation of a literate social practice which uses a pre-existing textual object in
a pre-established way and which has pre-established conventions known
by all, in order to fulfil certain relevant purposes in each community.
This two-column table compares a cognitive orientation, related to
psycholinguistics, with a socio-cultural perspective, which we are proposing in this article:

Foreign Language Reading from the Point of View of New Literacy Studies


Table 1 Cognitive Orientation v. Socio-Cultural Perspective

Cognitive Approach

Socio-cultural Approach

Reading = Cognitive linguistic approach.

Text = communicative unit, message.
Message is neutral.
We read verbal texts.
Reading activities are homogeneous.
Reading = decoding, inferring,
Reading = accessing data.
Learning how to read = acquiring the
code, developing strategies.
Prototype tasks: what information does
the text provide? Identify the main topic.

Reading = literacy practice, embedded

in a social practice.
Text = social and political artefact.
Message is located, and therefore, it
has ideology.
We read multimodal texts.
Reading practices are distributed
by domains and scopes, which are
institutional, dominant and vernacular.
Reading = doing things, taking on
roles, building identities.
Reading = exerting power.
Reading = appropriating preestablished practices.
Prototype tasks: When and where
can I use this text, this data? What is the
authors intention?

The socio-cultural orientation perceives the literate community as

a human group that develops a collection of literacy practices, located
in social practices, which use written artefacts and are located in specific
time-space contexts. These artefacts are multimodal objects that integrate
writing with other forms of representation ofknowledge (images, drawings,
videos, tables, etc.) and which have developed socio-historically in specific
contexts, linked with pre-established purposes, roles, and values, instilled
with their own community culture. Due precisely to cultural aspects and
because writers and readers are located within human groups, these artefacts
recover, reproduce, discuss or widen the ideologies of their community.
In addition, written artefacts and literacy acts are distributed by
domains or contexts (home, school, work, government) which can be
more dominant (government, school) or vernacular (home, street, private
life). When using written artefacts and participating in literacy practices,
individuals build their social identity in a literacy community and they


Daniel cassany

exert their power, within an established order or challenging this same

established power. The members of each community appropriate these
written artefacts and use them in literacy practices in order to achieve their
objectives in such a way that the most common questions which are posed
are: a) what is the purpose of this artefact and b) what is the intention of
the person sending this text or writing all this in a piece of news? These
questions are completely unlike the conventional classroom questions
about the main idea or information contained in a text, which are taken
completely out of context.
It is not within the remit of this article to review or fully describe here
this socio-cultural approach to reading, which has already been publicized
in Spanish (Zavala 2002; Zavala, Nio-Murcia, Ames ed. 2004; Cassany
2008; Kalman, Street ed. 2010; Cassany ed. 2011), so I will simply locate
it historically quoting some of the research and authors. Perhaps the most
common term for this approach in the Anglo-Saxon context has been New
Literacy Studies (NLS), which has been translated into Spanish as Nuevos
Estudios de Literacidad (NEL), even though the adjective new does not
make much sense at the moment, since this approach has a considerable
developed trajectory. It started with Sylvia Scribner and Michael Coles
ethnographies The Psychology of Literacy (1981) and Shirley Brice Heaths
Ways with words (1983), which discussed the dichotomized vision of spoken
vs. written culture derived from the use of speech and writing stemming
from famous anthropologists and linguists such as Jack Goody, Walter Ong,
David Olson and Eric A. Havelock known as The Great Divide.
More recently, work by David Barton and Mary Hamilton, Roz Ivanic,
Gunther Kress, James Paul Gee, Roland Scollon and Suzanne Scollon or
Brian Street, amongst others, has explored several aspects of this approach,
which little by little has developed as an alternative to cognitive approaches.
In Spanish, this approach has important researchers in Latin-America,
with the work of Virginia Zavala and Patricia Ames in Peru, Mercedes
Nio-Murcia in EUA, Judith Kalman, Guadalupe Lpez-Bonilla and Alma
Carrasco in Mexico, Marieta Lorenzzati in Argentina, to name but a few;
in Spain it is worth mentioning the research done by the group of David
Poveda in Universidad Autnoma de Madrid and our group of Literacitat
Crtica in Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Barcelona.

Foreign Language Reading from the Point of View of New Literacy Studies


From our point of view, there are several powerful reasons to justify
the application of this approach to the treatment of reading in a foreign
language, both in research and teaching. This approach:
1. Considers the historical, social and cultural particularities of each reading practice, which allow us to explain in a more detailed and clearer
manner the tight bonds established between language and culture and
the particularities of each community in relation to their reading and
writing practices. With this approach, the fact that we find different
and particular reading practices in each community of speech that are
appropriate to the idiosyncrasies of every human group makes more
sense and shows more coherence.
2. Allows us for epistemological particularities of each context ofknowledge
and each academic discipline. In other words, the ways of reading and
writing in the context of business in Spanish do not fully match the
texts and common practices of justice or government administration;
neither does it match research in laboratories on experimental science.
Every context develops its own literacy practices and a socio-cultural
point of view can highlight these in a clearer, more emphatic manner.
3. Provides a critical perspective to language teaching and learning, which
is relevant in a globalized world in which we are all committed to the
struggle against injustice and inequality. If it is impossible to be neutral
politically, as a teacher and as a learner, the management of ideology
(opinions, social representations, imaginaries) must come into the
classroom as well, in a respectful and humanistic way.
4. Is coherent with other linguistic approaches such as discourse analysis,
corpus linguistics or discourse genre analysis. Specifically, it complies
with the tradition of structural analysis of discourse genres, which
stems from the famous pioneering study by John Swales about scientific
articles, their structure, their rhetorical moves and the verbal resources
employed in each of them. I consider that this socio-cultural orientation is compatible and even complementary to this proposal, which
has played its part in the teaching of writing and reading exactly in an
L2. In fact, the last publications by John Swales (2004) attribute a bit
more relevance to the extra textual or cultural elements in the texts.


Daniel cassany

5. Does not reject the input of psycholinguistics on the processing of

syntax or discourse with cognitive processes. In fact, this socio-cultural
perspective can go hand in hand with the theories dealing with the
process of comprehension and composition.
All in all, this socio-cultural view does not dispute the relevant role that
cognition and linguistic competence have in reading. However, the change
of perspective and consideration of the socio-cultural aspects mentioned
will change the way in which we perceive reading. Particularly, it is important to review the four first issues dealing with reading in a foreign language
with which we started this section:
1. The fact that the learner knows how to read in their mother tongue
does not necessarily mean that he or she can also do it by default in
another community, because their written artefacts and literacy practices do not coincide. The ways of reading and writing vary according
to the languages, communities, contexts and time periods (Cassany
forthcoming). Hence we should analyse the reading needs of each
learner, identify artefacts and corresponding practices in the target
community and develop proposals of appropriation of these artefacts. Undoubtedly, previous reading experience in other contexts
(languages, disciplines and with several artefacts) facilitates the appropriation of new forms of reading, but that transference of skills is not
2. The social and cultural aspects of reading are as important as the recovery of the explicit content of a text or the development of cognitive
processes to construct the meaning in the readers mind. A learner
who knows most of the vocabulary of a foreign written text and can
understand its main ideas, but ignores the interpretation, the value or
the power that is given to it in the target community, has not understood anything. Since the socio-cultural aspects vary from practice to
practice and from one community to the next, we cannot assume that
the learner will transfer them from his/her reading practice in his/
her mother tongue.

Foreign Language Reading from the Point of View of New Literacy Studies


3. The learning of vocabulary and grammar of the foreign language is

not enough to guarantee that the learner will be a good reader. The
appropriation of textual artefacts implies knowledge of the pragmatic
features (intention, politeness, communicative parameters) and the
cultural aspects (social value of the artefact, historical use, etc.) of each
literacy practice that uses each artefact.
4. Since reading varies from context to context, no-one knows how to
read or write all the texts of a community. Like any literate citizen,
the learner should only appropriate the reading practices that are of
interest to him/her, in their social context (profession, entertainment,
work) which is only a reduced subsection of all the artefacts and literacy practices of a community.
Summing up, this socio-cultural orientation of reading, which responds
to the particularities of each social practice, a) offers a more global theoretical framework; b) takes into account in a more detailed and plausible
manner the variations in the usage of written texts in a more plurilingual
and multicultural era, in which we all have access to texts and practices from
other communities, and c) it neither rejects nor disputes the importance
of cognitive and linguistic components in the task of reading.
But until nowadays, socio-cultural studies have focused above all on
literacy practices in the mother tongue (Kalman, Street ed. 2010; Poveda,
Snchez 2010), in current digital environments (Lankshear, Knoble 2011)
or in educational or academic environments in plurilingual or pluricultural
contexts (Poveda, Palomares-Valera, Cano 2006; Zavala, Crdova 2010).
There are fewer works published under the remit of the teaching and learning of foreign languages (Wallace 1988; Koda 2005).


Daniel cassany

2 Critical Comprehension in Second Languages

Let us have a look at a research group that has developed under this sociocultural view of reading, which emphasizes the diversity of possible readings
and the need to pay attention to the particularities of each practice. Next,
we will sum up two case studies carried out by our research group dealing with reading on the Internet in Spanish, and specifically dealing with
higher levels of comprehension or critical comprehension which refers to
the ability to interpret the ideology of a written piece (intention, political tendency, point of view) according to the value that native speakers of
the language also members of the community that produced it would
attribute to it (Cassany 2008). There are some studies on digital reading
in L2 from a cognitive perspective (De Ridder 2003), but other studies
stress that the comprehension of ideology, text and the diversity of reading
contexts or the impact of previous knowledge and reading practices in the
mother tongue on the reading in second language are far less common.
Francina Mart (2008) asked three Catalan-speaking secondary school
students (1314 years old) to choose a webpage about drugs to recommend to a friend, amongst the three preselected through a Google search:
1) tododrogas.net, a Spanish website by a pharmaceutical association about
all types of drugs and with very technical information; 2) ideasrapidas.org,
also a Spanish website, deals with varied topics (abortion, divorce, human
dignity, AIDS, drugs) and even though it does not acknowledge authorship
or sources, seems to come from some religious Catholic group with proselytizing motives and religious features, since they relate drugs with human
dignity, religion and the Creator, and 3) gencat.net/salud, an institutional
website in Catalan from the Autonomous Government, with topics on
youth, including drugs. Therefore, the informants read a website in their
mother tongue (Catalan) and two in their environmental language (Spanish in Catalunya), and they had to choose a website from the three options
which had completely different perspectives: a scientific one, a religious
one and a political one. While they were carrying out the task, they read on
the screen and chatted, the researcher observed them and took notes and
recorded the session; afterwards, the informants were interviewed.

Foreign Language Reading from the Point of View of New Literacy Studies


The informants discarded the pharmaceutical webpage because it was

too technical, but disagreed on the others: Two of them liked the religious
one even though there were no pictures (es ms difcil llegir-la, per est
millor explicada [it is more difficult to read it but its clearer]) the third one
was suspicious of the references to religion (aqu parla molt de Du [they
talk a lot about God here]) and the word the Creator (eh!, un moment:
El Creador [hey, just a second: the Creator]) because it reminded him of
an old man that sometimes waited for the students outside the secondary
school, to preach about the end ofthe world and the return of the Creator.
In the end, the three informants chose the religious website and only in
their final interview with the researcher, forced to justify their choice and to
explain why they ignored their suspicions, the boys were made aware ofthe
religious twist in the website and they wanted to change their choice.
Summing up, the study shows that the boys: a) are aware of their information needs, since they reject technical data (pharmaceutical website); b)
notice web design and clarity as a superficial criteria of assessment (religious
website), and c) attach meaning to their reading when they can relate it to
their world (term the Creator). But they are not critical readers because:
d) they ignore webpage ideology (intentions, orientation, authorship); e)
they cannot interpret linguistic markers that denounce ideology, and f )
they are not able to position the authors of the website in the social order
within the community. The reasons for this deficit are more complex and
speculative and, in this case, do not seem related to the use of a second language (Spanish), a fact which is mentioned neither in the interviews nor in
the conversation about the reading task: the informants feel comfortable
in both languages (Spanish and Catalan). The hypothesis of the researcher
refers to the previous reading experiences of the informants, which lacked
a critical perspective and also their lack of experience in reading websites
of this kind, or fulfilling the task of assessing them and choosing one.
Murillo (2009) presents us with a similar but more complex task
involving two French Arts students in their second year, both Spanish
language learners since they were seven years old (in other words, very
competent: B2/C1). The task consists in gathering trustworthy information from the Internet about the official languages of Spain for a journalist
who needs to write a feature article in French about the issue. Some more


Daniel cassany

specific questions asked in this task were: how many languages there are
in Spain, what they are, how many speakers each of them have, if they are
official or they are not in their area of usage and finally, what is a language
and what is a dialect? Using these questions, they needed to clarify, for
example, whether Castilian and Spanish are the same language, whether
Catalan and Valencian are the same language, whether Andalusian is
a language in the same way as the others are, etc. The task is recorded in a
Webquest entitled Reportaje Babel: las lenguas de Espaa. Murillo prepared
this Webquest, gathered previous questionnaires from the informants about
their use of Internet, recorded their conversations while they read, carried
out interviews with each of them, revised their written reports, observed
the development of the task, transcribed all the oral material and analysed
the different sources in a triangulated manner.
There were six webpages chosen for this task;2 1) Three anonymous
and controversial opinions in a discussion forum about official languages
in Spain; 2) a scientific article from a university teacher in a website about
Castilian; 3) The institutional website of PROEL, which defends minority languages; 4) the webpage called Just Landed for foreigners who want
to study Spanish in Spain; 5) a blog by Educastur in Asturias for secondary school teaching, and 6) several documents from El Rincn del Vago, a
website of notes, exams, summaries and school work done by students for
students. This selection includes different genres, authors and opinions,
precisely because they demonstrate one of the difficulties of reading on
the web, which incorporates in the same space very diverse texts in terms
of origin, intention and content.

Links to the websites used: 1) Lenguas oficiales de Espaa: <http://es.answers.yahoo.

com/question/index?qid=20080425040851AAxEyV>; 2) El castellano.org. Javier
Cubero Espaa es un concepto plural: <http://www.elcastellano.org/lenguas.html>;
3) PROEL: <http://www.proel.org/index.php?pagina=lenguas>; 4) Just Landed:
<http://www.justlanded.com/espanol/Espana/Guia-Espana/Idioma/Idiomas>; 5)
Blog Educastur: <http://blog.educastur.es/jjcmlyl/2007/05/24/siuacion-actual-delas-lenguas-de-espana/>; 6) El rincn del vago: <http://html.rincondelvago.com/

Foreign Language Reading from the Point of View of New Literacy Studies


In this context, Murillo describes the ideal reader within these parameters. The ideal reader:
a) Identifies the practice (website, blog, forum), its purpose (to inform,
to convince), the author (institutional/private, scientific/legal) and
its audience;
b) Locates the discourse in its original socio-cultural context, in other
words, distinguishes a personal blog from a scientific article or a Spanish government ministry from an NGO or an anonymous author;
c) Develops an awareness about the reading process, bearing in mind the
aim of the reading process, and reads strategically guided by this aim,
noticing what it is understood and ignored, and
d) Builds a personal opinion, combining the different points of view, the
data he or she has read, the personal points of view and the contributions of other readers (friends, colleagues).
Given the good level of Spanish (B2/C1) of the informants and their status
as university students (with a higher education and culture), our departing hypothesis would suggest that the students would draw on previous
reading behaviour and that they would be able to solve the main issue of
the task at hand. However, the general results showed differently we will
only present here a few data:
1. The informants do not incorporate the data from their reading, in
other words, they do not integrate in their answers the information
provided in the websites, despite being able to understand it without
difficulty. For example, they believed that Andalusian was a language,
but while searching for information about this issue in the webpages
suggested and others (such as Wikipedia), they did not find confirmation for their belief, concluded that these websites were bad, and
continued believing that Andalusian was a variety of Spanish like
Catalan or Galician (Murillo 2009: 53):

A2: non, il en parle pas de landalous

A1: ah oui je te parle de lautre langue


Daniel cassany

A2: a cest une introduction || il faut trouver combien de gens le

parlent || on peut regarder sur Google
A1: gente: andalous: ah Wikipdia!, moi jaime bien
A2: Bon mais cest PAS DU TOUT SURE, eh?
A1: oui
A2: ah non, Wikipdia tout le monde peut mettre
A1: il y a pas
A2: non mais tu vois? a cest la pire des merdes
A1: on retourne si tu veux
A2: la pire des sources

Similarly, in spite of the fact that some websites contain information about
the lack of semantic variation between the words Spanish and Castilian, in
their final answer they concluded that: Castilian is the way of speaking in
Madrid and Spanish is the way they speak all over Spain. Something similar
happened with the terms language and dialect: after having visited several
webpages containing accurate data, they repeated their previous idea that
language is the language of the state and dialect refers to all other ways
of using a language, carbon copying probably a French perspective about
linguistic diversity. Summing up, the informants kept their attachment to
their previous knowledge, to the semantic, pragmatic and social meaning
that these words have (language, dialect, Andalusian) in their community,
they translate it into Spanish and Spanish communities, and they reject the
data provided by the Internet. (This invites further research on informants
from other communities, which may have different previous ideas, in order to
check how they react to this type oftask and to verify iftheir attachment to
their previous ideas related to their mother tongue and culture prevail.)
2. The informants identified some superficial features in some genres
(they distinguish the forum from the blog) and they can identify the
author (Ministry, NGO, etc.), but they are not always aware of the
consequences of this authorship, and they have significant difficulties in assigning reliability to each website. In this fragment of their
dialogue, the informants compare two websites that they are not sure
about, Educastur and Elcastellano.org (Murillo 2009: 56):

Foreign Language Reading from the Point of View of New Literacy Studies


A1: Educastur a a un rapport avec duquer, non? (laugh) oui !

A2: Quest-ce quon fait ?
A1: Je ne sais pas
A2: bff, jaime bien les deux quand mme
A1: on sait mme pas qui la crit || non, il ny a pas de source, quoi ||
une fois en Terminal on a fait a comment choisir les bons sites

A2: Cest un blog quoi

A1: VOIL | moi si je veux je peux mettre nimporte quoi

A2: cest difficile

A1: on a des doutes

A2: moi mon prfr cest soit celui-l soit point.org

A1: Oui

A2: en fait celui-l il est mieux parce quil dcrit

A1: et cest plus concret/

A2: et lautre nest pas ni officiel ni rien
Undoubtedly, the informants do not have enough socio-cultural background to understand the websites (their institutions, authors, intentions,
etc.), in order to value their quality, and finally, in order to decide if the
information they provide is useful. This shows the need for foreign language
learning to include information and instruction about main websites and
resources that are located in the Internet for each language.
3. The informants do not critically analyse discourse. They do not pay
attention to the lexical choices (historical dialect, use of dialect and
language in each website, absence of Andalusian) in their statements,
and other markers of subjectivity which show the ideology and perspective of each website. The only linguistic features that attract their
attention are orthographic mistakes or informal expressions, such as
lo ves?, yo creo, which they interpret as a lack of formality and seriousness in the website.


Daniel cassany

Summing up, this study shows that readers with a good level of Spanish
have important difficulties in understanding some webpages from the
Spanish community and in attributing to them the meaning they have
and how they are understood in our community. It is not a matter of a
lack of linguistic competence, but a lack of pragmatic and socio-cultural
competence, as Murillo explains in his two first conclusions:
If the students do not possess the ability to read critically, they will not be able to
fully understand the discourse, no matter how good their Spanish is. That is why it
is important to pay more attention to critical reading on the Internet in the teaching
of Spanish as a Foreign Language (SFL).
Students find it difficult to access a higher level of reading comprehension situation
model (according to the theoretical model of comprehension by Kintsch, Rawson
2005) because they lack previous experience or their knowledge is not adequate. On
top of that, they tend to put too much trust in the socio-cultural knowledge related
to their mother tongue.

All in all, these two case studies show that the difficulty in understanding
websites in Spanish as a second language or as a foreign language does not
depend on the level of linguistic competence of the informants. In both
cases, the informants have a good level of Spanish, but they have significant
difficulties in understanding the intentions of these websites, in interpreting in a plausible way the information that they provide, and to complete
the task in a satisfactory way. Such difficulties seem to derive from a lack
of experience in digital reading online and in critical reading, in their
capacity to infer discourse ideology (first and second case), or in a lack of
knowledge of the socio-cultural aspects of Spanish reality (its languages
and their representation of Spanish population in the second case).
Both researchers also confirm the thesis that the reader used his/her
previous knowledge and experience in reading in their L1 in order to solve
the task in L2 (Bernhardt 2003), but more precisely with negative results.
Teenagers read websites about drugs as if they were reading a textbook,
in which seemingly all information is neutral and it does not make
any sense asking about ideology or authorial intention (which are not
amongst common questions in school reading practices). On the other
case study, readers competent in Spanish as an L2 show their attachment

Foreign Language Reading from the Point of View of New Literacy Studies


to sociolinguistic prejudices of their own community and are incapable

of constructing a different meaning from the empirical data provided by
the texts that they have read. In both cases, previous knowledge and practice of reading in their mother tongue and in the school environment act
as a brake or a difficulty in reaching a comprehension closer to the ideal
All this seems to indicate the need to incorporate to the teaching of
foreign language certain aspects about reading practices and the main literacy artefacts used in the community. In order to interpret Spanish texts
in the way Spanish people do, SFL learners should know which are the
main written artefacts (journals, webpages, institutions) and which affiliation they have (public/private, ideological tendencies or social value in the
community). On the other hand, the poor results of critical comprehension
obtained from the informants suggest the urgent need to incorporate in the
languages classroom, reading tasks that deal with the search for ideology.
Only in this way, will learners be able to appropriate these practices in a
relevant manner, according to the norms and values of the community.

3 Literacy in Diverse Communities

We looked at the diversity of reading practices in the previous section,
emphasizing electronic texts. In this section we will turn our attention to
individual previous experiences of reading. The socio-cultural perspective
of reading maintains that reading practice also varies according to the reading history or literacy acquisition process, because it creates very different
individual trajectories that influence knowledge, skills and subsequent
practices. From a more diachronic and personal perspective, in this section we will review the literacy history of SFL learners who were trained
in cultures with writing systems, practices and values that are very diverse,
which in turn will highlight the consequences that personal stories have
in the learning of a second language.


Daniel cassany

Our research has the following objectives:

a) To document and describe the initial literacy practices of SFL learners in writing systems different from the Latin-based, and in cultures
that are very different from the Spanish culture;
b) To document and describe the initial practices of appropriation of the
Latin alphabet (in Spanish or other languages) by these same subjects,
in formal contexts of learning in their country of origin and in the
countries in which the target language is spoken;
c) To describe and analyse differences and particularities in the practice
of literacy and its instruction, in order to show the diversity of usage
and the varied ways of profiting from writing as a learning tool, and
d) To describe the use that these second language learners make of
The underlying hypothesis is that the practice of literacy is extraordinarily diverse, because it is related to the culture and educational tradition
(religious, professional, private, entertainment) of each community, and
that this practice influences the habits and writing practices of the SFL
learners. In particular, we would like to explore the hypothesis that some
cultural and educational traditions (in Asia and Slavic countries), favour
the use of writing as a learning tool in a second language (in order to collect
linguistic forms, analyse or study them), while other cultures and traditions
(Muslim) emphasize the use of spoken strategies in learning (memorizing,
enunciating, dialogue, etc).
The following data comes from in-depth interviews with adult SFL
learners who were born and raised in communities with non-Latin-based
systems of writing, who initially were instructed in the use of this system
and afterwards, learned Spanish as a Foreign Language. The interviews were
recorded, transcribed and accompanied by photographs and other graphic
documents taken from the didactic material used (textbooks, pronunciation
guides, lists and vocabulary notebooks) in the initial literacy training of
these subjects. (These are provided by the interviewees and photographed
or scanned or are available on the Internet, identified and collected with the

Foreign Language Reading from the Point of View of New Literacy Studies


help of the interviewee). We also interviewed some teachers with experience on the teaching of their mother tongue or of SFL for learners from
those communities, interviews which allowed us to corroborate the data
provided by the youngest interviewees.
For each informant we carried out one or more interviews, which
could take up to thirty or sixty minutes and which constituted between
6,000 and 12,000 transcribed words. Up until now, we have documented
eighteen subjects trained in Arabic (1 Moroccan, 1 Tunisian and 2 from
Ceuta), Russian and Ukrainian (5), Chinese (2 Taiwanese and 2 Chinese),
Greek (1), Hindi (2), Parsee (1) and Armenian (1). In this section we are
going to present and comment on three literacy histories and we will only
focus on some specific aspects of their practices:
1. Chiaomei was born in 1982 in Kaohsiung (Taiwan) in a Taiwanese family. She
remembers that in kindergarten (35 years) she repeated and memorized traditional
poems made up of four lines and with a strong rhythmical structure, in Mandarin,
which the teacher would teach; at home, her parents rewarded her for reciting them
with presents or money, they were preparatory activities. In primary (67 years) she
leant Bopomofo (), an alphabet made up of thirty-seven graphic symbols (21 consonants and 16 vowels) which symbolize the phonemes of Mandarin
and represent traditional Chinese characters, through the combination of several
symbols, as a means of mediating between speaking and traditional writing. The
teacher taught each symbol pronouncing its phonetic realization and showing the
strokes that were required to write it, while the children repeated orally all together
and drew on the air with their fingers the shape of the symbol because the order
of the strokes is very important.
Afterwards, came the first Chinese characters. In the textbook, beside each character
or Hanzi they had the corresponding Bopomofo signs, in a smaller writing, which
allowed them to relate it to its spoken realization. They read traditional texts that she
still remembers, such as the poem: My dad went fishing. With this gale and overcast
sky, how is it that he has not come back yet?. The teacher enunciated the text and
the children repeated it sentence by sentence, first together with her help and then
on their own, before drawing the strokes of the Chinese characters on the air. Next
came vocabulary, which consisted of learning how to write some of the characters
on these texts, first on the air and then copying them on paper.
In primary school, she learnt 100200 characters a year; she reached about 3,000 in
secondary school (required in order to read the newspaper) and up to 5,000 in the


Daniel cassany
following years of her university preparatory education (learning characters takes
a long time). In secondary, she read classical texts of Chinese literature and which
were translated in the classroom into present-day Chinese. Outside of school, she
read some novels and stories in hiding, because this was frowned upon: every second
of her time was devoted to studying to pass their university entry exam.
At thirteen or fourteen years of age, she learnt English. Her teacher sang the letters
of the alphabet with a song to aid remembering. Grammar was complicated, because
in Taiwan they do not teach it with their mother tongue (I learnt the grammar of
English without knowing what the subject was called in my mother tongue). In the
years of preparation for university, she started to study Spanish: in her first class they
gave us Spanish names and she was given the name of Hilda I did not like it at all.
Today she has a Spanish grant to do her PhD at a university in Spain.
Summing up, its undeniable that learning written Chinese, demands a huge memorising effort. The way of learning Spanish is also based on this didactic practice of
repetition and graphic memory. In addition, Taiwanese people are more visual than
hearing. Chiaomei still finds it surprising, living in Spain, that when she finds an
unknown word in a text and enunciates it, she understands it because she associates
it with a word that she has previously heard in a conversation.
2. Abderrahman was born in 1966 in Tamerza (Tunisia, near the Sahara) to an
Arabic speaking family. At seven, he started attending a school funded by the UN,
which subsidized a lot of families: my father only had to buy a small blackboard for
me. He remembers the long wooden benches, the ceramic inkpot (made of burnt
remains of sheep mixed with wool) and cane feathers that we made with our own
hands. The first year was in Arabic, but in second year (8 years old) he started to be
bilingual: he had two hours in the morning in Arabic, and two hours in the evening
in French, with different teachers and books. He learnt how to write classical Arabic,
which is very different from the dialect out in the streets and he remembers that
they forced him to write with his right hand.
In the morning, the very first thing was to learn the alphabet, the vowels, repeating each sound and seeing how it is written. They drew pictures and put them up
on the wall with their names on them. They also learnt their multiplication tables,
memorizing them and repeating them at home, first reading the table and then
putting it face down. The teacher, who was like a Little God, beat him if he did not
learn them. He affirms that fear makes you learn more. There was only one religion
subject, one day per week.

Foreign Language Reading from the Point of View of New Literacy Studies


In the evening, they also had maths; they did dictations, they learnt poetry (Victor
Hugo) and the famous song of Frre Jacques, which he still remembers. For him,
Arabic was the easiest, because the teacher did not always explain everything for all
the other subjects and my parents were illiterate and could not help. He does not
remember having any difficulties with the Latin alphabet.
At thirteen, he went to Tozeur to study in a college of agriculture in Arabic and
with one subject in French. He had also learnt a bit of German and Italian thanks
to tourism, peddling and artisanat [Moroccan handicraft]. He says: listening, you
learn; you do not need to see it written. In the village there are local guides that
speak three or four languages very well and they have not learnt them ever. According to him, when a person speaks [says] a word, you have to catch that word, even
though you do not understand it [you have to acquire its phonetic form], because
then someone will help you learn what it means; that is the most important thing;
if you do not learn the sound, you will never learn.
3. Fatemeh was born in 1979 in Uromieh (in the Iranian province of Western
Azerbaijan, beside the Turkish border) and is considered 25 per cent Kurdish and
75 per cent Turk-Azeri. Her parents spoke Azeri to each other, but the home language
was Persian. After a year and a half of running away from the violence of the Islamic
revolution of Khomeini and the war against Iraq, she settled in Tehran, where she
attended an Islamic school for girls at seven years of age, with a white handkerchief
covering her hair and a tunic that came down to her knees.
She learnt how to read and write in Persian, which is written nowadays with an
amplified Arabic alphabet, in italics and from right to left in spite of the fact
that before arabization it had used its own cuneiform alphabet. The first things
that she practiced were letters strokes: the teacher drew a shape on the board, with
arrows that indicated the movement of the stroke and then students copied it on
the notebook, following the points that gave each shape its orientation. Sometimes
the teacher took the student by the hand and marked the strokes that they had to
follow. There were usually copying activities for homework, where her dad helped
her writing with her hand in his. We did not know what we were writing; it was
just a shape, a game. Then they started joining letters and writing words. They learnt
letters by order of frequency or importance, such as a, b and d, which formed ab
(water), baba (dad, that is the first word Persian people normally learn) and baba
nan dad (Dad gave us bread, that was one of our first sentences, in the past because
its simpler than in the present). It is the same in all the official textbooks for the
first class in the whole country.


Daniel cassany
In class they also recited poetry, because Persia is the country of poetry. The teacher
recited a poem from the book or written on the board; Later, wesometimes we
already knew it, but normally they were new poems; we repeated it so many times
that in the end youd remember it. She also memorized and recited Suras or Quran
verses, in classical Arabic, in religion class in front of everybody and every day in
the morning to start the day; we only knew we were praying, but not what we were
saying. It is quite common; nowadays there are a lot of grandmothers and young
people who recite the Quran, and many religious people that recite the Quran, without knowing its meaning, who know how to read it because it is the same alphabet,
but who have no idea what it means. The Quran was the textbook for religion in
Iran, with the suras in classical Arabic and its Persian translation beneath it.
Then Fatemeh started to learn English in secondary school at twelve; French and
Spanish at University and in some jobs in Tehran, and Catalan in Sabadell, with
colleagues and friends, where shes been doing a PhD for the last six years on the
literature of exile (she chose to speak to us in Catalan during the interview). In her
opinion, it is not necessary to see written words to learn them; you can recognize
an unknown utterance, realize what it means and how people use it and even to
use it yourself without knowing how to write it; that is what happened to her with
the Catalan expression Du nhi do [quite]. She was not aware of its etymology or
that it consisted of three separate words.

Unquestionably, we cannot make generalizations from only three personal

stories, but the details of each of them highlight a global and detailed
description of literacy training in the several languages of each informant.
Among other things, in China, they do not use the Bopomofo to mediate
between character and speech, but pinyin, which is derived from the Latin
alphabet to represent phonetics (while Bopomofo is derived from the same
Chinese characters). In the Arabic world, Abderrahman did not attend the
Quran school in the village (like a kindergarten with a nominal price), in
which girls and boys recite the Quran, memorize it and copy it in wooden
tables, as a didactic tool to learn how to write, guided by the Imam in the
Mosque who is the rightful religious instructor and beats them with an
olive tree branch if they do not perform. On the other hand, Fatemeh in
Iran did follow a school model with similarities to the Quran schools, in
spite of belonging to a culture and language that are typologically very far
from Arabic.

Foreign Language Reading from the Point of View of New Literacy Studies


Ort Teruel (2000) portrays the difficulties that reading and writing in
Spanish pose to a lot of African Arabians. He differentiates between being
totally illiterate and being grafo [unable to write] in a Latin alphabet and
mentions some of the difficulties that this group encounter: graphomotor
problems in terms of the direction of writing (Arabic is written from right
to left) or related to some of the round strokes (Arabic only uses italics),
lack of habit to sit still on a chair for a while or to pay attention to abstract
symbols. For these illiterate or limited literacy learners, it is strange to
enter a space so literate such as an SFL classroom, with blackboards, posters, maps and other graphic resources. It is also complex to base their SFL
learning entirely on a textbook, to have to use grammar and so constantly
use the tool of writing. With much more academic instruction and in a
different language context, Fatemeh also had Islamic instruction and still
seems to agree with these African learners in their preference for learning
strategies based on speech (dialogue, memorization and repetition) to
learn a new language.
On the other hand, Chiaomei feels at ease with the possibility of using
writing as a learning tool. So many years recognizing, drawing and writing Chinese characters constitute an important visual and cognitive tool,
which may capitalize other language and content learning. Furthermore,
it is rather tempting to corroborate that this preference for visual resources
and for writing is not in any way related to study and grammar reflection,
in contrast to what happens in many western countries.3
All together, these three brief examples show that previous literacy
experiences of foreign language learners can be very diverse. In each community the practice of writing and reading is related to diverse contexts
and develops a particular written or recited, memoristic or leisurely use,
related to religion, poetry or pastimes: Chiaomei learns to read at school
and at home, with the help of her parents; Fatemeh also at school and at
home, but with a practice linked to the Quran; Abderrahmn learns how
to read and write in Arabic and French at school, but without religion and
family help, since his family is illiterate.

Weissberg (2000) sums up other important research about the use of speech and
writing in the learning of an L2.


Daniel cassany

These three stories also show how previous literacy experiences

influence in the way we learn a foreign language and in the use that writing acquires in this process. Chiaomei requires writing to progress in her
SFL learning, while Abderrahmn and Fatemeh highlight the importance
of spoken language and oral strategies. Undoubtedly, their literacy experience is directly linked to this fact.
Consequently, the teaching and learning of a foreign language must
take this diversity into account and adapt to the needs and profiles of each
learner. Without a doubt, we need to develop SFL proposals that do not
depend so much on writing, for those people unable to write, or those who
Orti Teruel (2000) identifies as Latin-alphabet illiterate. On the other hand,
students who are highly literate like Chiaomei demand a systematic use of
writing as a tool to support their verbal learning in general. Moreover, in
order to explore, analyse and assess these students previous literacy experiences, it would be useful to design a test or a questionnaire that explores
their previous literacy experiences (Cassany 2011).

4 Conclusion
Case studies about reading in a second language on the Internet, and personal stories about the acquisition of the non-Latin-based writing systems,
show the extraordinary diversity of practices of writing and reading that
are found in different contexts and communities. Without any doubt, it is
fitting to review and reformulate some of the common underlining ideas,
in educational practices to teach reading L2, inherited from a cognitive of
reading in L2, inherited from a cognitive view of reading comprehension.
Reading is a diverse practice, developed historically and rooted in each cultural context, with its own nuances and particularities. In a globalized and
digitalized world like the current one we live in, a socio-cultural perspective
of reading allows the detailed description and satisfactory understand of
written communicative acts.

Foreign Language Reading from the Point of View of New Literacy Studies


On the other hand, personal stories about the appropriation of writing systems open an enticing line of research about the use of writing in
L2, related to personal learning style. These data suggest that the type of
literacy practices developed throughout our school life, from childhood,
influence the preference for more oral (aural, memorization, oral repetition, dialogue) or written strategies (visual memorization, written notes,
reading). It is a very relevant issue, considering that Spanish is a very widespread language to which learners from all cultures and communities in the
planet have access, so it would be very sensible to develop tools to analyse
individual preferences and put forward didactive proposals to meet these

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M. and Ivanic, R., Situated Literacies: Reading and Writing in Context, 715.
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lengua extranjera, 10227. Vitoria-Gasteiz: Portal Educacin.
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Comprehension and The Reading Process. Antwerp: Garant.
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Kintsch, W. and Rawson, K.A. (2005). Comprehension. In Snowling, M.J. and Hulme,
C. (eds), The Science of Reading: A handbook, 20926. Malden, MA: Blackwell.
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Escribir Desde las Disciplinas. Santiago de Chile: Ariel Planeta.
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and Education Journal, 1 (2), 25683.
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Sociales en el Per.

Henrik Gottlieb

Translation into Minor Languages:

Invisibility vs. Anglification

1 Foreignization: The Trojan Horse in Translation (Studies)?

The world over, teachers and scholars of translation have in recent decades
turned to what I would call the dogma of foreignization; a set of beliefs
favouring a markedly source-culture oriented macrostrategy in translation.
A firm believer in this dogma is American translator-cum-scholar, Lawrence
Venuti. Born in Philadelphia and with an Italian family background
Venuti has long advocated this foreignizing strategy and spoken against
what he calls domestication. He has translated Italian, Catalan and French
literature into English and his seminal theoretical works, The Translators
Invisibility (1995) and The Scandals of Translation (1998), have had a tremendous impact internationally. Still, most professional translators apply
target-culture oriented strategies in their work and thus stay invisible,
much to the chagrin of pro-Venuti scholars.
In this paper, I intend to reverse Venuti and defend such domesticating
strategies, especially when dealing with translation from English into socalled minor languages. In a major speech community, which in todays
world of translation and language teaching means an Anglophone one yet
with a mere 5 per cent of the worlds population as native speakers the
strategy suggested by Venuti and his followers makes sense. Out of respect
for other cultures and authors, and with translations constituting less than
4 per cent of the American book market (cf. Table 2), a foreignizing attitude to translation would indeed be praiseworthy in the USA, although
perhaps lead to even lower sales of imported book and film titles.


Henrik Gottlieb

However and this is the irony of it most of the voices advocating

foreignizing strategies in translation are found outside Anglo-American
circles, and by alienating themselves from domesticating strategies, they
perpetuate the very trend that Venuti is arguing against. Everywhere outside
the Anglo world, foreignizing strategies and thus visibility in translation
would mean enhancing the English impact on languages and people
already exposed to Anglo-American culture. This is exactly the opposite of
the agenda of Venuti and his followers, which is to advocate foreignizing
translation in opposition to the Anglo-American tradition of domestication (Venuti 1995: 23).
To paraphrase Venuti, the tragedy of translation is found whenever
those teaching and translation methods that support minor languages
and literatures in a dominant speech community (America and Britain)
are used in speech communities dominated by English.
One of the few voices raised against the uncritical transfer of Venutis
foreignization agenda from dominant to dominated speech communities,
American-based translation scholar Maria Tymoczko points out the local
character of Venutis doctrine:
Venutis normative stance about foreignizing and resistant translation is highly specific in its cultural application; it pertains to translation in powerful countries in
the West in general and to translation in the United States in particular. Venuti
has been criticized for not offering a theory that is transitive, that can be applied
to translation in smaller countries, in countries that are at a disadvantage in hierarchies of economic and cultural prestige and power. In this sense his approach is not
applicable to translation in postcolonial countries. Indeed the methods he proposes
for achieving resistance would in those circumstances lead to the further erosion of
cultural autonomy and power. (Tymoczko 2000: 38)

Is it worth pointing out that this non-applicability of Venutis agenda

stretches from postcolonial countries to former colonial powers: neither
Spain nor France, Germany or Russia would be well served by systematically
foreignizing translations of English-language material, including books,
films, video games and news items.
As phrased by Spanish translation scholar Roberto Valden: In news
production at least, English might have evolved from being a window to
the world to becoming a linguistic, cultural and political Trojan horse
(Valden 2007: 166).

Translation into Minor Languages: Invisibility vs. Anglification


2 Domestication vs. Foreignization: A Matter of Degrees

The fact that one strategy is problematic in a given context should not automatically lead one to choosing the opposite strategy. Neither foreignized nor
domesticated translations display only microstrategies helping to achieve
one or the other extreme, and many factors have a say in the final decision
made consciously or not by the agents involved in the translational
process. In the following, I will project the results of two studies from
minor European speech communities onto a cline ranging from 100 per
cent foreignization to 100 per cent domestication.
First, we need to consider which factors determine the degree of
domestication in translation:
1. Status of the source text (and its author, language and culture)
2. Knowledge of the source language and culture in the target culture
3. Target audience composition and preferences
4. Types and frequencies of localisms in the source text
5. Language policies (purist vs. liberal) in the target culture
6. Attitude of the translator and/or commissioner, publisher, etc.
Starting with Lithuania, a speech community known for its conservative
language policies, only 32 per cent of the adult population know English
well enough to have a conversation (European Commission 2006: 12).
Here, a study on the subtitling of the American animated cartoon, Ratatouille, showed that of 135 culture-specific items in the American film, only
twenty items were translated using foreignizing or mixed strategies, while
domesticating strategies were used by the subtitler in 115 cases, representing
85 per cent of all culture-specific items in the original ( Judickait 2009).
In Denmark, a society known for its open attitude to foreign linguistic
influence, 86 per cent of the adult population speak English (European
Commission 2006: 12). Here, a study comparing upstream translation
(moving from minor to major-speech community) with downstream translation (Gottlieb 2009a), found a picture quite different than that of the
Lithuanian study. The results of an analysis of five Danish films subtitled
upstream by native speakers of English and two American films subtitled by


Henrik Gottlieb

Danes were as follows: 66 per cent of all Anglo-American culture-specific

items were rendered in the Danish subtitles via foreignizing strategies,
against an average of 44 per cent of the Danish culture-specific items foreignized in upstream (Danish-English) subtitling the latter figure representing a range from 25 to 65 per cent among the five Danish films. Hardly
surprising, the English subtitles of Danish films displayed considerably
fewer foreignisms than did the Danish subtitles of the American films.
Yet, neither the Anglophone nor the Danish-speaking subtitlers subscribed
fully to one of the two contestants, foreignization vs. domestication. As
expressed in an early study on culture-specific items in translation:
The analysis of specific examples showed a tendency, possibly norm-governed, to
retain the local colour of the film and to remain faithful to the source language when
this did not cause problems of comprehension. (Nedergaard-Larsen 1993: 238)

The paper cited here discussed subtitling from French into Danish and
Swedish, e.g. downstream subtitling (although the current may not be as
strong as in the case of subtitling from English).1

3 English and the Lopsidedness of Translation:

A Quantitative Overview
Whereas in so-called minor speech communities, translations constitute
a major part of the national textual output and of peoples informative
input the situation is quite different in major speech communities: In
the most central languages, translations are few, the translator does not
have a very high status, and the translation norms derive from indigenous
literary standards (Heilbron 2010).

A major study on Scandinavian subtitling (Pedersen 2011) compares Danish and

Swedish practices regarding the subtitling of culture-specific items in one hundred
anglophone productions.

Translation into Minor Languages: Invisibility vs. Anglification


Although English serves as a relay language a term to be defined later

for translations between minor languages, translations make up a very
small part of the total flow of information in the English-speaking countries. In the UK and the US, translated books and films address a narrow,
elitist audience as opposed to the situation in more peripheral countries
in which translations often represent high entertainment value and are thus
enjoyed by all segments of the population.
This imbalance is obvious when comparing the following statistics2
regarding book translations:
Table 2 Importance of Translations

Share of published book titles

that are translations










> 30%

The Netherlands


The structural imbalance does not stop here: Not only are non-English
speaking countries more open to translations than are Anglophone countries, English is by far the dominant source language of translations the
world over:

Figures in Table 2 are based on UNESCOs Index Translationum (2010), Heilbron

(2010) and DBC (2010).


Henrik Gottlieb
Table 3 Importance of English in Translations

Source language of published

book titles that are translations*














< 1%





* Figures (based on Heilbron 2010) refer to the situation prior to 2000, after which date
the Russian share will have dropped.

However striking the dominance of English may seem, the target languages
of all translations from English are anything but English, and the neverfailing Anglophone output of books let alone films, TV programmes,
news items and other texts to be translated helps keep the respective
target languages alive.
As pointed out in a recent paper on the English impact on the Danish
language (Gottlieb forthcoming), the English influence on a local culture
may be even stronger if translations are not typically from English anymore
simply because an increasingly bilingual population turn from reading
translations (of English-language titles) to reading Anglophone authors
in English. This was pointed out already in 1996 by Danish novelist and
translator, Annette Lindegaard:
The tendency is clear: a rapidly growing number ofDanes read English almost as well as
they do Danish. This phenomenon is also reflected in sales figures for literature. Danes
have long since discovered that it is cheaper to buy English paperbacks than Danish
translations, much to the chagrin of Danish publishers. (Lindegaard 1996: 154)


Translation into Minor Languages: Invisibility vs. Anglification

Although the diminishing share of translations from English could be

explained as the result of a lessened interest in Anglo-Americans authors,
the stats shown in Table 4 based on information from Dansk BiblioteksCenter (DBC 2010)3 may also support Lindegaards assumption:
Table 4 Importance of English Translations in Denmark

Translated from:

Number (and share) of book titles translated into Danish












Swedish or Norwegian


















Other languages






All translations






Following up on the argument that decreasing shares of English translations in a national book market may mean more, rather than less, English
influence, the number of English-language books sold in Denmark is considerable, although not least owing to the large numbers of books bought
online impossible to assess. However, reading books and other texts in
English may have consequences for a Dane, as testified by this student one
of many contributors to a Danish blog Why read in English? (available
at <http://www.goodreads.com>):

More detailed 2010 figures available at: <www.dst.dk/pukora/epub/upload/16217/



Henrik Gottlieb
Now that I mostly read in English, I sometimes find it hard to translate the English
words into Danish. If, for instance, one of my English teachers asks what an English
word means, I sometimes totally forget what it means in Danish, but I can easily
understand it in English; I just dont really know how to express it in Danish. (Ccilie,
31 March 2011; my translation)

Comparing the share of English book translations in Denmark with that

of another minor Germanic-speaking nation, The Netherlands, we get the
following statistics (based on Heilbron 2010 and DBC 2010):
Table 5 Provenance of Books Translated into Danish/Dutch

Translated from:

Country of publication

The Netherlands




Swedish or Norwegian








Other languages



Interestingly, while the share of German, French and other languages are
almost identical in the two countries, English possesses a much higher share
of the titles translated in the Netherlands, where Swedish and Norwegian
originals play a smaller part than in Denmark.4 However, whether Dutchmen are more exposed to translations from English than Danes cannot be
ascertained here.
Looking at Denmark again, this time in retrospect, the dominance of
English as a source language is staggering, as shown in Table 6.

In these years, the international popularity of Scandinavian crime novels may change
this picture as it may have had a role in diminishing the share of English-language
originals, as displayed in Table 4.

Translation into Minor Languages: Invisibility vs. Anglification


Table 6 Languages Translated into Danish (19792005)

Translated from:

Number of book titles





















Once more, the focus is on titles rather than copies sold. The latter approach
would be at least as relevant, but Danish book publishers never reveal
circulation figures, neither for translations nor for original Danish titles.
Nothing indicates, however, that translations from English5 should be less
popular than translations from the other languages ranked in Table 6.
Before leaving the field of book translation, we will present a brief
comparison of the relative importance of translations in the UK and US
versus a minor speech community, once more exemplified by Denmark
(with data based on UNESCOs Index Translationum).
Regarding imports, we find a pronounced lack of symmetry: In 2009,
for example, Britain and America published 2,167 translated book titles,
while Denmark published 1,758 titles almost as many. However, per million native speakers of English and Danish, respectively, this amounts to 351
translations in Denmark, against 21 in the UK and a meagre 4 in the US.
On the export side, things are surprisingly symmetrical with 29,401
English-language and 532 Danish titles translated annually, yielding some

Danish translations of titles by American authors often present themselves as Oversat

fra amerikansk [translated from American] as if American (English) was a language
in its own right.


Henrik Gottlieb

100 exported titles per million speakers from Denmark, with largely the
same number of exports per capita from Britain and America together.
Moving on to including all types of translation from English, and
shifting from a production to a reception point of view, Table 7 illustrates
a bewildering multiplicity of potential impact from Anglophone texts on
Danish hearts and minds.
Table 7 Translations from English in Denmark (2010 estimates)6
Per capita consumption of translations from English
English-original share
of total consumption

Daily intake

Fiction: 40%

3 minutes

Books and Magazines

Non-fiction: 30%

3 minutes

Articles and interviews: 10%

2 minutes


Documentation: 50%

2 minutes


Articles and news items: 15%

3 minutes


Drama and news items: 5%

1 minute


Plays: 25%

1 minute


Films and series: 70%

Documentaries and shows: 25%
News items and interviews: 20%

37 minutes*
15 minutes

DVD and downloads

Films and series: 60%


Films: 70%

1 minute

Web sources

Written info and mixed genres: 10%

6 minutes

All media

74 minutes

* This figure covers the accumulated duration of the Danish subtitles in anglophone
programmes watched by an average viewer who in 2010 watched TV for 201 minutes a day.

Estimates are extrapolations of figures in Gottlieb (1996), partly based on stats from
SFI (The Danish National Centre for Social Research); TV-related figures are based
on data from Danmarks Statistik available at: <http://www.dst.dk/pukora/epub/
upload/16217/headword/dk/88.pdf>. No detailed empirical studies on Danish
consumer habits regarding translation exist.

Translation into Minor Languages: Invisibility vs. Anglification


In mere quantitative terms, Anglo-American TV productions make up an

impressive 50 per cent of the Danish consumption of translations: thirtyseven out of seventy-four minutes a day plus some fifteen minutes of
non-broadcast films and series. Also in terms of the English qualitative
impact on Danish and even on languages spoken in dubbing countries
does screen translation seem to play a very active role (Gottlieb 1999,
2001, 2005).
In subtitling from English, one may expect more pronounced anglification than in dubbing:
Subtitles are an aid to foreignization in that they maintain the linguistic alterity of
what is on the screen, the soundtrack oflanguage matching the identity of the image.
What you see is what you hear. There is no attempt in effect to offer the domestic
comforts of dubbing. (Cronin 2009: 106)

Yet, as shown in Herbst 1994 and Gottlieb 2001, the media-specific constraints of dubbing often lead to parroting English syntax, resulting in
(even) more anglified dialogue than that typically found in the subtitles
of Anglophone voices (Gottlieb 1999).7
Judging from the time spent watching Anglophone programmes and
films among non-English speaking populations worldwide, it may now
be a universal fact that compared with book and other print media, the
major English footprint in translation is found in audiovisual productions, whether broadcast or online, on smartphones, in cinema theaters
or on DVD.8

This English-wins-them-all phenomenon seems to be found even in broadcasting

aimed at promoting a truly minor language: Irish. Programmes in Irish thus tend to
be reinforcing English due to the semiotic superiority of the stronger visual/written mode (OConnell 2011: 173).
On this and other language-political issues in screen translation, see Gottlieb


Henrik Gottlieb

4 The Notion of Minor Language

Having now had a look at some numerical relations between English,
a dominant, major language, and so-called minor languages regarding
translations from and into English, it is time to scrutinize the notion of
minor languages.
Perhaps some observers will believe that by the term minor language
is implied minor in lexical scope. Although this is not what is meant,
it is still a common misconception (even among scholars) that minor
languages in line with the so-called lesser-used ones are poorer than
major languages when it comes to lexis. Interestingly, this widespread
notion seems never to have been tested empirically.
Using, again, as our points of reference the languages Danish and
English, almost all Danes believe that English has more words, and thus,
allows for more stylistic variation than Danish. This is most likely caused
by a centuries-old linguistic inferiority complex fueled by, as a Danish
professor of English has observed (Davidsen-Nielsen 2009), at least two
factors recognized by all well-educated Danes:
(1) English is a world language spoken by at least 750 million people
while Danish is spoken only by some 5 million Danes, and (2) the English
lexicon stems from two different sources, i.e. Germanic and Romance
vocabulary, which means that often two or more words denote the same
entity, thus making room for more nuances in the language.
What such observers overlook is the fact that Danish, too, very often
has a multitude of synonyms, with loanwords from German and other
southern languages mixed in with the original Nordic lexicon. Having in
the past century absorbed some 10,000 Anglicisms (Gottlieb 2002) many
of them synonyms to existing Danish expressions Danish is very rarely
at a loss for words in comparison with English, although some Danes may
feel this when translating from English. However, this sense of the target
language not presenting the precise match for a source-language item is
not unique to English-Danish translation, or even typical of major-intominor language operations. As the semantic grids in any two languages are

Translation into Minor Languages: Invisibility vs. Anglification


bound to differ, there are no perfect matches, and the translator will often
feel that none of the available (near-)synonyms is truly equivalent.9
In an attempt to challenge the assumption that English has a richer
working vocabulary than Danish, a recent study (Larsen 2010) looked at
corpus frequencies of 400 randomly selected words from standard monolingual dictionaries. It turned out that only 225 English words ofthe 400 were
found in the British National Corpus (with 100 million running words) while
as many as 373 ofthe 400 randomly selected Danish words were found in
the comparable Korpus DK (with 56 million words). Adding to this, a larger
share ofthe English words documented in the corpus were very rare:
This difference cannot only be explained by the fact that there are more rare words
among the English words there must also be more extremely rare words among
the rare English words than among the rare Danish words. It is possible that this can
help explain why English is perceived as having a larger lexicon than Danish. Many
extremely rare words could give foreigners learning English (and probably many
native speakers as well) the impression that they keep encountering words that they
have never seen before, more so than in other languages, e.g., Danish. This impression could perhaps lead them to conclude that English must have a larger lexicon
than other languages. (Larsen 2010: 18)

Returning to the question of how to define minor language a notion used

haphazardly, it seems I would suggest a relative definition that measures
the differences in prestige and power between two or more languages in a
given situation, translational or other. For example, in South Africa, Zulu
is a minor language in relation to English although it has nearly three
times as many native speakers as English. In relation to Ndebele, spoken
by only some 700,000 South Africans, Zulu is a major language. Similarly,
French is major in Francophone Africa, but has become minor in the EU
just like German, the home language of far more Europeans than those
living on the British Isles.

In certain subdomains, e.g. personal pronouns and kinship terms, English is renowned
for its semantic voids in comparison with other European languages. For example,
English uses the same word, grandmother, for both mormor and farmor (the
Danish terms for your mothers and your fathers mother, respectively). And for lack
of a second-person plural pronoun, the expression you guys is now sometimes used,
although often considered substandard by native (British) speakers of English.


Henrik Gottlieb

Even Danish is not always a minor language. In Greenland, a former

Danish colony, Danish is still an official language, major to the Inuit language spoken by most inhabitants.
English alone is an exception from this law of relativity: In this day and
age, English is never minor. In addition to the overall prestige of English
worldwide, this unique power is corroborated by the following facts:
America and Britain produce large amounts of books, magazines,
films and TV
English access to overseas markets through translations is well
More and more people(s) speak and read English
English functions as a (relay) filter in translations between minor
languages: from periphery (e.g. Hindi) to centre (English) to periphery
(e.g. Italian)
The potential hubris-like consequences of this undisturbed monopoly as
the worlds only never-minor language have recently produced the following attitudes in major segments of the Anglo-American populations:
We dont need to read translations
We dont need foreign-language movies (whether dubbed or subtitled)
We dont need to learn foreign languages (we use Google Translate and
expect foreigners to speak our language)
Until these attitudes, like in a Greek tragedy, may have toppled the hegemony of English, the foreignizing agenda of Venuti and others will have
sinister consequences when applied downstream, in translations from, and
not into, English.

Translation into Minor Languages: Invisibility vs. Anglification


5 The Notion of Invisibility10

Following up on another Venuti favourite, the term invisibility, far from
being useful only when discussing strategies in literary translation, is a
fairly accurate description of the nature of a quite different entity, news
translation.11 As opposed to overt types of translation, including interpreting, subtitling and literary translation, print news translation is typically
covert. As readers have no immediate access to the original, the translator
operates with more degrees of freedom than usually found in translation or
interpreting so much freedom, in fact, that one may classify news translation as adaptational translation (as defined in Gottlieb 2008: 43 ff.), or
as doubly invisible (Bielsa 2010: 45). Usually, the author or authors of a
news item remain anonymous, and the translator-journalist freely adapts
the text to accommodate target-culture readers or viewers, as explained by
a journalist/translator from the IRIB news agency in Tehran: [L]iterary
translation and source-text-oriented approaches instill in students a respect
for the source-text lexis and structure, which proves counterproductive
in news translation, which is target-recipient oriented (Hajmohammadi
2005: 217).
As in Iran, news translators in Europe view themselves as mediators
and editors rather than loyal translators of someone elses communication.
And generally, news agencies do not tend to employ translators as such.
This is because translation is not conceived as separate from other journalistic tasks of writing up and editing (Bielsa 2007: 136).
One might say that news translation represents a paradox: almost total
invisibility of the translational act, combined with full visibility of the agent
denying the act and claiming authorship of elements clearly sampled from
other sources. News translation is the ultimate realization of what is possible when utilizing the skopos principle to design the translation for the
end consumer, regardless of the features of the original text:

Parts of the following section are based on Gottlieb (2010a).

This somewhat overlooked type of translation is the focus in Valden (ed.) (2010).


Henrik Gottlieb
In translating news, bilingual journalists edit, rewrite, synthesize, add and alter information for specific audiences according to journalistic conventions and the criteria
of news relevance and background knowledge of the target readers, thus effectively
shaping the news in important ways. (Bielsa 2009: 17)

This extreme target-reader orientation might be lamented by translation

purists only, but most observers, whether lay readers or scholars, may agree
with Roberto Valden that texts that are merely translations of English
news will come out as poor target texts (Valden 2005: 266). Without
localising news in terms of style and content the national media will promote globalized parochialism (ibid).
Still, in order to analyse the balance between original and less original
content in news items and certainly the type of domestication, including
political bias and other modifications made vis--vis the original breaking
down news articles into relevant categories will be necessary, albeit difficult.
It has been argued that it is almost impossible to deconstruct a news message in order to determine which parts have been edited and which parts
are the results of a translation act (van Doorslaer 2009: 85). Still, it may
be worth the while to do just that, categorizing the various non-original
parts according to their degree of visibility as translations.
In Table 8 below, the types of translation found in printed (news)
media are listed, with special attention to their visibility as translations. I
have supplemented the well-known dichotomy of overt vs. covert translation with a type even less recognizable as translation than covert translation,
a type I will dub pseudo-original. Unlike pseudo-translations, which are
original texts claimed by their authors and publishers to be translations
from a high-status language and/or of a high-status genre (Toury 1995)
pseudo-originals are texts in which all elements seem to originate in the
language used by a given author/journalist but are in reality amalgamations
of text elements originating in more than one language. Amalgamated
elements include original text by the author, interviews conducted in a
foreign language and then translated by the author and foreign news telegrams (often embedded texts in their own right) translated by the author
or a news agency.

Translation into Minor Languages: Invisibility vs. Anglification


Categorized by their varying degrees of visibility to the end reader, the

three types of translation display the characteristics presented in Table 8.
Table 8 Types of Print Media Translation
Type of

Translational type


Overt translation

Covert translation


Type of

Bona fide translation


translated elements
embedded in targetlanguage text

Agents credited

Original author and

translator credited

listed as author

listed as author

A similar sort of invisibility, often found in literary translation into minor

languages, pertains to the possibility of manipulating the source text content. In most media, whether monosemiotic (e.g. literature) or polysemiotic (e.g. films), translation always (as in the case of books) or often (as in
dubbed TV and film) means that what the translator does to the source
text is, in principle, invisible. Whereas the subtitlers translational actions
are visible to viewers with just a slight command of the original language,
the film dubber and the literary translator may reshape the original text in
all possible ways. This is not to say that such translations are covert; they
will nearly always be presented as translations. But they may still be highly
manipulated regarding content sometimes to the extent found when
commercial novels are condensed in order to lower printing and distribution expenses and thus gain shares in the national book market. To cite
just one example of this general, but largely unchartered, phenomenon:
When John Grishams bestseller, The Firm, was translated into Danish in
1993 following the success of the screen adaptation of the novel the text
was abridged by more than 20 per cent. By discreetly eliminating most of
the difficult passages of the novel, the translator created a work shallower
than the original, but by doing so made a book that could be sent to book


Henrik Gottlieb

club members at modest postage costs. The only warning of this manipulation was a line in small print on the title page, saying euphemistically
Nnsomt forkortet efter aftale med forfatteren [considerately abridged
in agreement with the author].

6 Relay Translation: A Symptom of Imbalance

In the whirlpool of international text exchange, a translation in language B
of a text originally written in language A very often operates in an indirect
fashion, using a third language, C, as a relay in the process.12 This is typically found in situations where either language A or B is relatively minor.
Indeed, whenever both A and B are minor languages, relay translation seems
to be the rule rather than the exception. One may even consider defining
the degree of minorness in a language by the share of translations of its
literary and cinematographic titles released abroad that owe their existence
to relay translation.
A typical example of relay translation between exotic languages is
found when Japanese manga cartoons are translated into Danish. As competent Danish translators of Japanese are few, and Japanese translators wellversed in Danish are non-existent, a major Western language may serve as
relay. When, for instance, the Dragon Ball cartoons were translated, the
German translation was used as a stepping stone on the way to the Danish
target version (according to the Danish translator, Jakob Halskov).
More importantly, as mentioned earlier, international news items are
typically mediated across the worlds languages in English. This enables
audiences in speech communities with no mutual understanding of each
others languages to gain an insight into important events in remote countries the only snag being, of course, that such communication is filtered
through English, with the linguistic, cultural and political implications
this may have.

For a more detailed discussion of relay translation, see Dollerup (2000).

Translation into Minor Languages: Invisibility vs. Anglification


In a Danish context, we have a tradition for direct translation of all

texts whether novels, films or news items written or spoken in (at least)
Norwegian, Swedish, German, English and French. So far, relay translation has been limited to texts from exotic languages, including texts in
minor Slavonic languages, African languages and most Asian languages.
This may change, however, as the dominance of English keeps becoming
more pronounced while the Danes competences in foreign languages other
than English deteriorate (cf. Gottlieb 2009b).
As is the case of any translation, a relay translation from a language
with high lexical specification within a given semantic field into a language
with less potential for variation may produce an impoverished text. This
is sad, but difficult to remedy for the translator working directly from
language A to B. Using language C as a relay between two languages with
equally high semantic specification is more than just sad and may be detrimental to the content and style of the work in question. An example of
this type of impoverishment is the findings in Hilwerda (2000), a study on
the subtitling of the Danish Dogme 95 film, Festen (aka The Celebration),
into Dutch. The scarcity of English pronouns (mentioned elsewhere in this
paper) meant that not only were important Danish distinctions between
one and more addressees, and between polite and intimate forms of address,
cf. French tu/vous lost in the English relay deconstruction; they were
not reinstated in the Dutch target version, although Dutch usage operates
with distinctions similar to those used in the Danish source dialog.
Another study (Zilberdik 2004) also deals with the relay translation
of Festen, this time into Hebrew again, via English. In her discussion
on culture-specific phenomena, Nan Zilberdik embraces both languageinternal and -external entities, and her study shows that in the Hebrew
version of Festen there are several features, notably swearing and culturebound phenomena (here indicating class) that are particularly liable to
mistranslation and condensation (ibid.: 53). Having acknowledged that
the polysemiotic nature of film means that isolated errors in translation
may not be crucial to the understanding of the character (or the film), Zilberdik concludes: I still find that the humans portrayed tend to become
more mainstream (ibid.: 53).


Henrik Gottlieb

This testimony of mainstreaming the original verbal content fits with

another study of (relay) screen translation (Grigaraviit, Gottlieb 1999),
in which excentric cultural references and dialogue features including
slang and swear words were standardized in what could be described as
a centripetal motion in two steps; from Danish to English (the English
translation serving only as a pivot to the Lithuanian translator) and then
from English into Lithuanian.
This domesticating movement toward the centre is echoed by Lawrence Venuti, correctly emphasizing the ability of the translator to choose
to redirect the ethnocentric movement of translation so as to decenter the
domestic terms that a translation project must inescapably utilize (Venuti
1998: 82).

7 Translations from English as Instruments

of Language Change
In most minor speech communities, and in several major ones, the present
dominance of Anglo-American culture is recognized as having a huge
impact on the way national cultures languages change these years.
The alleged language change due to English influence is generated by
three different, but connected, factors:
1. Most opinion leaders are dependent on English as a second language,
both for personal communication and for information gathering and
most citizens in a number of so-called non-English speaking countries
rely heavily on their English competence when gaming, surfing the
Internet, listening to pop and rock songs and watching subtitled TV
series, movies and videos.
2. English is unrivaled as a cover-all language: the first language in which
new technology, trends and lifestyles are presented and a language
increasingly used internationally as a lingua franca, even when no
native speakers of English are present.

Translation into Minor Languages: Invisibility vs. Anglification


3. As discussed earlier, a significant part of the media input in the modern

world consists of texts translated or in some other way derived from
English sources. In academic and business communication, the national
cultures and/or languages are losing domains. Today, in countries like
Denmark, the credo certain things are best expressed in English is not
only heard among blas cosmopolitans; it is often uttered by government officials and businessmen, even by school children.

8 Translationese and the Impact of English

Among scholars, there is widespread disagreement regarding the term
translationese. In 1993, Mona Baker, an early advocate of an empirical
approach to Translation Studies, used this term for the type of language
found in translations where an unusual distribution of features is clearly
a result of the translators inexperience or lack of competence in the target
language (Baker 1993: 248).
By this definition, in the following referred to as definition A, one
should expect to find translationese mainly in translations into the translators foreign language (also known as L2). Translations into the mother
tongue of the translator (L1) should, accordingly, not yield many instances
of translationese. As will be seen below, this is not the case. For that reason,
the above definition is not optimal for our purposes.
A second, and wider, definition of translationese here termed definition B offered by Johansson and Hofland (1994: 26), and also used by
Schmied and Schffler (1996: 44) and Ebeling (1998), defines this concept
as deviance in translated texts induced by the source language. According
to Schmied and Schffler (1996: 456), translationese thus covers three
related phenomena:
1. structures which are typical of translated language, but which do not
result from SL interference, phenomena such as higher explicitness
of the translated text, disambiguation, simplification and a tendency
to avoid repetitions.


Henrik Gottlieb

2. system errors which will in most cases be influenced by SL (Source

Language) structures.
3. structures which follow the system of the source language, but which
deviate from the norm.
As this paper is concerned with, firstly, the impact ofthe Major of all major
languages (English) in relation to minor languages (with Danish serving
as a test case) and, secondly, with the role of translations in contemporary
language change, only subcategories (2) and (3) will be of interest here.
Definition A above, focusing on the translators incompetence, and
definition B, covering general translational features, have two traits in
common: they see translationese as something restricted to translations,
and they encompass translations in any direction (into as well as from L1)
between any pair of languages.
For our purpose, neither of these definitions is suited, since:
1. In terms of impact and scope, the consequences of translation from a
minor language like Danish into English are worlds apart from those
regarding English-into-Danish translation.
2. When discussing the consequences of translation from a major into a
minor language, not only translated texts must be taken into account.
As is well known, in non-Anglophone languages the impact of English
is not only felt in translations. Also a wide range of indigenous texts
display features caused by English influence.13
Taken together, this means that we need a third definition of the concept
of translationese.
Such a definition in the following referred to as definition C is
provided by Swedish linguist Martin Gellerstam, who in his seminal study
Translationese in Swedish novels translated from English presented the


Among the thousands of sources documenting this, major recent ones include Grlach
(ed.) (2002), Anderman and Rogers (eds) (2005), Onysko (2007), Fischer and
Puaczewska (eds) (2008), and Furiassi (2010).

Translation into Minor Languages: Invisibility vs. Anglification


term in this way: In this paper I use translationese in reference to what I

mean to be systematic influence on target language (TL) from source language (SL), or at least generalizations of some kind based on such influence
(Gellerstam 1986: 88).14
Although preceding definitions A and B, definition C is more radical and contemporary and certainly more useful for our purposes in
the sense that it focuses on what happens in a minor (target) language as a
possible result of translation, not merely on what is found in the translated
texts themselves (definitions A and B).
In addition to the potential invisibility of the translator mentioned
above, there is the question of what may be termed the invisibility of translationese. An example of translationese in the widest sense, as found in
definition C above encountered in a minor speech community is the
proliferation of invisible target-language features under the influence of
the dominant language. Using once more the language pair English and
Danish for exemplification, we see that this influence may be found at
several levels:
1. Orthography: Adapted spelling (splejse < splice; nrd < nerd)
2. Phonology: Adapted pronunciation (database; with four Danish
3. Semantics: Extended meaning (omfavne < embrace (a policy, etc.))
4. Morphology: Loan translations (kernefamilie < nuclear family)
5. Phraseology: Morphosyntactic calques (nr det kommer til + noun
phrase < when it comes to + NP)
6. Pragmatics: English-inspired discourse (Jeg elsker dig < I love you
(meaning goodbye).

14 Later, Gellerstam used the expression fingerprints in translation for the type of
translationese represented by definition B, categories 1 and 2, above (Gellerstam


Henrik Gottlieb

9 The Contemporary Scene:

Translationese without Translations
In modern Western societies, the English influence on the general population through their daily contacts with translated and Anglophone products,
is a well-described fact (Gottlieb 2005). The English impact is enhanced by
the uncoordinated yet effective pincer movement of two disparate groups:
Exerting pressure from the top of society, we have the mainstream intellectual and business elite, who are all used to communicating in English.
Advancing from the fringes and the bottom of society, we witness a number
of American-inspired underdog subcultures not (yet) part of the elite,
e.g. young computer nerds and hiphop milieus. The synergic effects on
the average language user of this somewhat unholy alliance have now for
some time been the object of academic studies in Scandinavia (e.g. Ljung
1988, Preisler 2003, Lnsmann 2009).
But before these studies, yet in line with contemporary corpus-based
translation research, we find the previously mentioned study (Gellerstam
1986) that played an important part in moving Scandinavian Translation
Studies away from sheer prescriptivism. In his 1986 paper (also referred to
in Gellerstam 2005), he compared the vocabulary of twenty-seven novels
translated from English (T novels) with that of twenty-nine original Swedish novels (O novels), all fifty-six novels published in Sweden in 1976. Gellerstam (1986: 912) made the following generalizations:
1. English loanwords are significantly more common in the T novels
than in the O novels. Examples (given by Gellerstam): chans, charm,
chock [chance, charm, shock].
2. Swedish colloquialisms are significantly less common in the T novels
than in the O novels: farsan/morsan [daddy/mummy].
3. Many English words trigger Swedish standard (often less idiomatic)
equivalents in the T novels: anlnda (formal word for arrive) instead
of komma, etc.

Translation into Minor Languages: Invisibility vs. Anglification


4. International words are used in the T novels in their English, less

literal senses: drastisk, lokal, massiv [drastic, local, massive].
5. Semantic or collocational distinctions absent in English tend not to
be restored in the T novels, e.g. the nuances between begripa, fatta and
frst (covering the semantic field of realize, grasp and understand)
are not fully represented.
The latter of Gellerstams findings is by no means limited to translations
from English, but exemplifies a universal loss in translation found between
any two languages, as mentioned in an earlier section of this paper.
In the next sections, I will compare Gellerstams findings based on
material from the 1970s with what seemed to be the situation concerning
translationese in Danish translated novels of the late 1990s, judging from
a corpus-based study of Danish literary translations from English.15 As will
be demonstrated, several of the phenomena described above seem to have
penetrated contemporary Danish original novels as well not to speak of
the news genres discussed above. In Gellerstams words:
[translated] fiction is probably not the best domain for studying this group of words
especially if your aim is to study the phenomenon as such rather than to find instances
of translationese. A normal Swedish newspaper (leading articles, book reviews or
political comments) will probably be an even better source [] The English language
is there all the same, somewhere in the back of the journalists mind, in the shape of
telegrams and foreign magazines and newspapers. (Gellerstam 1986: 93; my italics)

Turning back to our Danish study following up on Gellerstams 1986 paper,

below are the findings related to each of the generalizations Gellerstam
made, cf. points 15 above:
1. The notion that English loanwords are significantly more common in
translations than in originals is not generally supported in our data.
Danish originals of the late nineties seem to contain more English
loanwords i.e. established Anglicisms no longer to be considered

For a detailed report of this unpublished study (Gottlieb 2000), please contact the
author at gottlieb@hum.ku.dk.


Henrik Gottlieb

translationese than Swedish originals from 1976. Even recent loanwords are often more common in our comparable subcorpus of Danish
originals than in the translations.
2. Gellerstams finding that (Swedish) colloquialisms are significantly
more common in non-translated texts is strongly corroborated in our
3. The tendency for certain English words to trigger standard often
stylistically or semantically inadequate equivalents in translations,
as pointed out by Gellerstam, is still detectable, and in our material
we did indeed find examples of this. However, this standardization
does not always apply. A lot of the words and constructions checked
in our translation subcorpus show that many translators take pride in
using Danish equivalents that may have neither surface likeness nor
in other ways function as standard equivalents of the English word
in question. Here, differences between individual translators seem to
be more significant than differences between the works of translators
and the original Danish texts.
4. In Gellerstams study, so-called international words were often used in
English-inspired non-literal senses, but only in translations. In contrast to this, our material, although too small to yield all the words
we searched for, leaves us with evidence of the opposite. Words like
lokal (instead of stedlig) and massiv (instead of voldsom) two
items mentioned in the Swedish study are found just as often in our
Danish originals as in the translations. This is in line with our intuition;
the metaphorical senses of such lexical items have long ago entered the
Danish language: expressions like at abonnere p [to subscribe to],
used in the sense go in for, and at lfte [to lift] of embargoes, for
instance are now often used in political contexts in modern Danish
5. Gellerstams final point had to do with English-inspired semantic and
collocational patterns popping up in translations. In our study, we
have found examples of this as well. Still, differences exist between
individual translators: we could not detect a general pattern.
6. As an addition to the check list above comparing the Danish and the
Swedish findings, this section will end with an example of the type of

Translation into Minor Languages: Invisibility vs. Anglification


translationese that surprised us the most: some language-internal and

external phenomena thought to be culture-specific, but which in fact were
not though Martin Gellerstam had concluded that they were:
There seems to be more dialogue in the TE lot; at least judging from the mass of dialogue expressions like she said smiling and more indirect expressions like he shrugged
his shoulders. [] People simply shrug their shoulders much more in TE than in the
OSN. (Gellerstam 1986: 90)

What we learn here is that in Sweden in the 1970s, translations from English
(TE) differ fundamentally from original Swedish novels (OSN) simply
because they depict another reality. Whether this is truly culture-specific
or merely a literary device is not relevant here: the Anglophone novels
make people do things they tend not to do in Swedish novels. With Swedish and Danish cultures being just as similar as the two sister languages,
we thought that we might be on safe ground here that this would be a
place where Danish (writing) habits would produce texts that differed
from Anglophone fiction in translation. We were wrong. There were just
as many shrugging speakers, for instance, in the Danish comparable corpus
as there were in the Danish translations.
This small quantitative study indicates that not only are lexical, semantic and grammatical constructions in flux. The persona we create in fiction
and the world view displayed in non-fictional genres often emulate British
and American role models. Most features of translationese are no longer
restricted to translations; they tend to get a foothold in Danish original
texts as well.
This means that translationese has come full circle: When Danish
authors use words and constructions introduced into the language (partly)
by translations, such language elements eventually escape the translationese
epithet. While standard equivalents modeled on English terms may
monopolize their semantic fields in this process, English non-accepted
loans pass on from the status of translationese to the realm of accepted
Anglicisms. With that process completed, there is a new turn of the wheel
as new elements are introduced in Danish, some to be thrown off at a later
stage, others to enter the hub of the wheel.


Henrik Gottlieb

In Italy, a similar development has been documented in a corpus study

on articles on economics. Surprisingly, in the subcorpus of translations
from English, the percentage of borrowings is lower than in the comparable component, i.e. a corpus of original Italian texts on the same subject
(Musacchio 2005: 76).
Whether this reversal of the workings of anglification is applicable
to other text types and other minor languages an intriguing scenario
indeed remains to be seen.

10 Anglification in the Making:

Examples of Danish Developments
Successful Anglicisms may perform one or more of the following functions:
1. represent new phenomena: sms
2. fill an existing void: stalker
3. serve as euphemisms: cancer
4. make known phenomena sound new: coaching
All the above examples of successful Anglicisms, found in several European
languages, are clearly identifiable as English loan words. An admittedly
unusually clear-cut example of the success of this type of Anglicism is the
Danish verbal phrase have sex.16 Contrary to what one may believe, the
verb here is not an English borrowing, but the all-Danish cognate word
have, pronounced [h].
Based on the popular hybrid form dyrke sex, with the same semantic content, the English lookalike has gained an extremely high linguistic market share and has become the dominant choice in its semantic


This example was taken from Gottlieb (forthcoming), an empirical investigation of

the (varying) success of English-inspired phrases in Danish.


Translation into Minor Languages: Invisibility vs. Anglification

field. Table 9 shows the relative progression over the two decades from
1990 to 2010 as the English-inspired construction quadrupled its share
while the two synonymous traditional Danish constructions (that could
be translated as have intercourse with and go to bed with respectively)
lost momentum:
Table 9 A Case of Two-Step Anglification (key term followed by full expression)
Name of corpus

have* samleje

g* i seng med

dyrke* sex

have* sex

ADL (< 1940)





Korpus 90









Infomedia 1995









Korpus 2000









Infomedia 2005









Infomedia 2010

1,008 16.4%








7.4 pp

44.0 pp

+ 10.2 pp

+ 41.2 pp

Another Danish example, this time illustrating the fate of many invisible
Germanisms deeply rooted in Danish, points to a situation where for
the time being, at least the new expression creates a stylistic niche rather
than takes over the market, so to speak:
Table 10 From Germanisms to Anglicisms: A Textbook Example

Name of corpus

( from German Vorbild)

( from English role model)

Korpus 90

477 articles (99.4%)

3 articles (0.6%)

Infomedia 1998

1549 articles (93.7%)

104 articles (6.3%)

Infomedia 2005

6511 articles (73.6%)

2341 articles (26.4%)

Infomedia 2010

11604 articles (62.9%)

6843 articles (37.1%)


Henrik Gottlieb

11 Beyond Europe: South Africa as a Linguistic Battleground17

In comparison with the fate of minor languages in South Africa, the major
language there as elsewhere being English (home language of only 8 per
cent of South Africans), Danish emerges as far more successful. There is no
immanent risk of losing Danish as an all-domains language as opposed
to what is the case of many third-world countries, including South Africa,
where indigeneous languages may one day see themselves relegated to
kitchen languages (a term based on the Afrikaans kombuistaal) or even
face extinction (Mesthrie 2008).
Table 11 illustrates what may happen to languages that are constantly
challenged by a dominant language, in casu English.
Table 11 Results of English Impact on Intranational Communication
Possible short-term effects

Possible long-term effects

On translations

Translationese (Anglicisms)

No translations made

On society

Domain losses


On minor languages


Language death

However, far from encouraging self-pity in speakers of lesser-used languages, we must acknowledge the reasons that people in multilingual
nations grant English so much importance in the media and society:
1. English may serve as a much-needed lingua franca.
2. English-language education helps job seekers nationally and inter
3. English plays a pivotal role as a relay language, mediating information
between non-Anglophone cultures.


This section is based on Gottlieb (2010b), a study focusing especially on the English
impact on Afrikaans.

Translation into Minor Languages: Invisibility vs. Anglification


Still, in societies like South Africa, parallel language use, including translation from and into all major domestic languages, is a must if those societies
are to avoid the long-term effects presented in the dystopic third column of
Table 11. Yet, if in a democracy like South Africa a majority of the citizens
prefer English-language media and instruction, any idealistic language
policy will demonstrate its futility.

With this paper it is my hope that more translation practitioners, teachers and scholars will realize that the foreignizing strategies which keep the
Anglo wolf from eating the foreign sheep on arrival in Wolfland may have
the opposite effect in Sheepland: that of perpetuating Anglo dominance
and alienating domestic languages and literatures. However, it would be
nave to believe that changing attitudes in translators would significantly
impact the influence from English; as long as large segments of the populations involved feel that their communicative needs are best served using
English-derived words and constructions, Anglification will continue.

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David Little

Learner Autonomy, the Common European

Framework of Reference for Languages,
the European Language Portfolio and
Language Teaching at University

1 Two Versions of Learner Autonomy

1.1 Version 1
The term learner autonomy was introduced to the world of language
teaching by Henri Holec in Autonomy and Foreign Language Learning, a
report commissioned by the Council of Europe and first published in 1979
(cited here as Holec 1981). Holec defines learner autonomy as the ability
to take charge of ones own learning (1981: 3):
To take charge of ones learning is to have, and to hold, the responsibility for all the
decisions concerning all aspects of this learning, i.e.: determining the objectives;
defining the contents and progressions; selecting methods and techniques to be
used; monitoring the procedure of acquisition properly speaking (rhythm, time,
place, etc.); evaluating what has been acquired. (ibid.)

This is Version 1 of learner autonomy. The link between the Council of

Europe and learner autonomy is not accidental. The Council of Europe
was founded to defend human rights, parliamentary democracy and the
rule of law, and its various educational policies and projects have all been
concerned in one way or another with education for democratic citizenship.
In the 1970s it promoted adult education and adult language learning as
instruments of democratization, believing that whatever was learnt should


David Little

enhance the learners capacity to contribute to the democratic process. In

another Council of Europe report of the 1970s, Janne argued that adult
education should be:
an instrument for arousing an increasing sense of awareness and liberation in man,
and, in some cases, an instrument for changing the environment itself. From the
idea of man product of his society, one moves to the idea of man producer of his
society. ( Janne 1977: 15)

This ideal should be reflected in the teaching/learning process itself: the

aim of the Council of Europes policy in regard to adult language learning, for example, was to:
make the process of language learning more democratic by providing the conceptual
tools for the planning, construction and conduct of courses closely geared to the
needs, motivations and characteristics of the learner and enabling him so far as possible to steer and control his own progress. (Trim 1978: 1)

According to Version 1, learner autonomy is a matter of learner control

and self-direction. In Holecs definition autonomous learners manage for
themselves dimensions of the language learning process that are traditionally managed by the teacher. The crucial distinction that Version 1 makes is
between teacher-directed and self-directed learners. Holec acknowledges
that the ability to manage ones own learning is not necessarily inborn:
it is the teachers job to support the transition from non-autonomous to
autonomous learning by helping learners to develop their capacity for
self-management. But in his view this is separate from language learning as such. He argues that the teacher has two objectives: to help the
learner acquire (i) the linguistic and communicative abilities he has defined
for himself and (ii) autonomy (Holec 1981: 23). (That the learner has
defined his own objectives and yet must be led to autonomy seems curiously contradictory.)
Version 1 of learner autonomy has had a significant impact on language
learning at university, mostly via self-access learning schemes. At the end
of the 1970s most universities were equipped with language laboratories, though the behaviourist learning theory that had shaped their design
was thoroughly discredited. The idea of self-access learning, according

Learner Autonomy


to which the individual student could study at times that suited his/her
own convenience, perhaps using materials of his/her own choosing, gave
the language laboratory a new lease of life. Libraries of audio and, in due
course, video resources were accumulated: first tapes, then cassettes, and
after that CDs and DVDs. By the end of the 1990s the analogue technology of language laboratories had been superseded by computer networks,
learning resources were stored on servers, and the Internet had opened up
a vast array of new learning opportunities. Before this last development,
working in a self-access centre usually meant working alone, which helps
to explain the tendency in some parts of the world to treat autonomy
and independence as synonyms. Some universities thought of language
laboratories as a means of replacing human teachers; this reinforced the
identification of autonomy with self-instruction.
Universities quickly discovered that their students mostly lacked the
skills to make effective use of self-access centres. They needed support of
various kinds, usually delivered by an adviser or counsellor who provided
learner training. At the same time self-access centres had the capacity to
generate research data of many different kinds, qualitative as well as quantitative, and these have fed various strands of autonomy-related research.
Those charged with advising learners found that: it was useful to explore
their beliefs and attitudes; the notion of learner training went hand in hand
with an interest in learning strategies; the idea that the essential pedagogical
challenge is to support the transition from non-autonomous to autonomous
learning gave rise to the concept of readiness for autonomy; it also led to
attempts to measure the extent of learners autonomy separately from their
proficiency in the target language, and more recently the capacity of computers to track the use that is made of them has facilitated the exploration
of learning behaviour in online language learning environments.
1.2 Version 2
My own work on learner autonomy (Version 2) took Version 1 as its starting point. In the early 1980s I was responsible for language laboratories in
my university, exploiting them as a support for self-access learning seemed


David Little

an obvious thing to do and I believed in any case that university students

should be brought to manage their own learning. However, when I first
attempted to explore the concept oflearner autonomy and identify possible
theoretical underpinnings, I was influenced less by the success of our own
experiments in self-access language learning than by the example of Leni
Dam, who was teaching English in a Danish Folkeskole with pupils ranging
in age from 6 to 16. Dam summarized her educational purpose thus:
By developing learner autonomy in the classroom I hope to strengthen my learners
ability to make [their] own decisions about what to do rather than being influenced
by others or told what to do. (Collins COBUILD Dictionary) (Dam 1995: 4)

Within the broad constraints imposed by the official curriculum, Dams

learners were doing the things that characterize Holecs autonomous learner:
setting their own goals, choosing their own learning activities and materials,
managing the learning process and regularly evaluating learning outcomes.
But they were doing these things interactively as members of a learning community. In their case learner autonomy was an individual but also a group
phenomenon: the progress of individual learners depended on, and always
fed back into, the progress of the class. This brings us to the first of three
major differences between learner autonomy Version 1 and learner autonomy Version 2: whereas Version 1 is individual-cognitive-organizational
in its orientation, Version 2 is at once individual-cognitive-organizational
and social-interactive-collaborative, and these two dimensions exist in a
profoundly symbiotic relation to each other.
A major source for Version 2 was Douglas Barness broadly constructivist psychology of learning, which assumed that all learning is a matter
of accommodating new knowledge to what is already known: To learn is
to develop relationships between what the learner knows already and the
new system being presented to him, and this can only be done by the learner
himself (Barnes 1976: 82; emphasis added). This implied that autonomy
is a cognitive imperative and that pedagogys task is to help learners to
recognize this and make a virtue out of necessity. The research on which
Barnes based his book was concerned to find ways of counteracting the
alienation of teenage learners; to draw them into engagement with school

Learner Autonomy


learning by exploiting the knowledge they brought with them to the classroom. Barnes explained this in terms of a distinction between school
knowledge and action knowledge, which he defined as the knowledge
on which our actions in the everyday world are based (ibid: 30). Too often
school knowledge remains external to the learner, the knowledge which
someone else presents to us:
We partly grasp it, enough to answer the teachers questions, to do exercises, or to
answer examination questions, but it remains someone elses knowledge, not ours. If
we never use this knowledge we probably forget it. In so far as we use knowledge for
our own purposes however we begin to incorporate it into our view of the world, and
to use parts of it to cope with the exigencies of living. Once the knowledge becomes
incorporated into that view of the world on which our actions are based I would say
that it has become action knowledge. (Barnes 1976: 81)

Exploratory talk was the means by which Barnes proposed to bring school
knowledge and learners action knowledge into fruitful interaction with
each other.
Like learner autonomy Version 1, learner autonomy Version 2 wants
learners to be actively engaged in planning, implementing, monitoring
and evaluating their own learning, and like Version 1, Version 2 recognizes
that learning how to learn requires mediation and support from an expert
(teacher, advisor, counsellor, etc). However, for Version 2 all learning is
autonomous in the sense that learners cannot help but construct their
own knowledge. Pedagogical approaches that are shaped by this view want
learners to manage their own learning in order to ensure that their action
knowledge is fully engaged. They also want learners to manage their own
learning because we are at our most motivated when we are autonomous
or volitional in our actions (Deci 1996).1 According to Version 2, in other
words, learner autonomy is important because autonomy helps to define
the way human beings are. It is, for example, the goal but also the medium
of developmental and experiential learning. Toddlers do not first learn a
mother tongue and then, after several years of development, discover that

For an overview of relevant research, see Deci (1996).


David Little

they can use it to communicate with those around them. Rather, they learn
their mother tongue as a result of their efforts to communicate, and those
efforts are autonomous, prompted by the interests and goals they happen
to be pursuing from one moment to the next. In adult life our capacity for
autonomous behaviour is the basis on which we most effectively contribute
to the various contexts in which we live family, community, workplace,
etc. This line of argument brings us to the second major difference between
Version 1 and Version 2. Whereas Version 1 is concerned with bringing
learners from teacher-direction to self-direction, Version 2 believes that
all learners already have some experience of what it is to be autonomous,
and that it is educations task to harness, make explicit and develop their
inbuilt capacity for autonomy in order to secure optimal learning outcomes.
The third major difference between Version 1 and Version 2 has to
do with language. According to Barnes, [what pupils] learn can hardly be
distinguished from the ability to communicate it (1976: 20). But besides
being the medium in which knowledge is expressed, language is the tool
with which we construct knowledge. Barnes set such store by exploratory
talk because it is the means by which learners engage in discursive thinking and consciously take ownership of the knowledge they construct collaboratively: The more a learner controls his own language strategies, and
the more he is enabled to think aloud, the more he can take responsibility
for formulating explanatory hypotheses and evaluating them (ibid.: 29).
Barnes was concerned not with second and foreign language learning but
with schooling in general. Thus when he refers to language and communication he has in mind learners first language. Version 2 of learner autonomy,
however, applies his argument to second and foreign languages. It insists
that language use plays a central role in successful language learning (a
view that it shares with all mainstream theories of second language acquisition). But it believes that use of the target language as an instrument of
learning must be spontaneous and authentic; in other words, it must arise
from the learners own concerns, speak to their identities, and engage their
agency. This means that the target language must be the preferred medium
of classroom communication, including communication that is reflective,
focused on metacognitive and metalinguistic issues. Swain (2006) argues
that advanced language learning depends on three factors: languaging,

Learner Autonomy


agency and collaboration. She defines languaging as the process of making

meaning and shaping knowledge and experience through language (98),
which is closely akin to Barness exploratory talk. When it involves more
than one person, languaging requires collaboration. And within this
framework the learners role is that of agent: an individual who perceives,
analyses, accepts or rejects solutions offered, makes decisions and so on
(1001). This neatly captures the linguistic dimension of learner autonomy
Version 2, for which agency in language learning and language use is inseparable from the learners proficiency in the target language. According to
Version 2, however, languaging, agency and collaboration are fundamental
to successful language learning at all levels of proficiency and education.
The essence of Version 2 may be summarized as follows. Because autonomy is a cognitive and motivational imperative, the crucial distinction is not
between teacher-directed and self-directed learners, but between learners
whose autonomy is focused on the business oflanguage learning and learners whose autonomy is focused elsewhere. Language learner autonomy is
constructed and enacted in classroom discourse that is authentically dialogic (Matusov 2007: 233): unremitting use of the target language ensures
that language acquisition takes place; unremitting concern for learner
involvement and learner reflection ensures that learners L2 repertoire is
itself dialogically constituted, developing the internal metacognitive function in interaction with the external communicative function. Note that
this is not a method but a conceptual framework that allows us to devise
contextually appropriate methods.
In classrooms that implement Version 2 the teacher plays a key role
as expert someone who knows about language and language learning;
as guide someone who can help a particular learning community to
identify its learning needs, and as mediator/communicator someone
who can initiate, model and support the various forms of target language
discourse required, including languaging. From the beginning learners
are fully involved in planning, implementing, monitoring and evaluating
their learning, as far as possible in the target language. Thus their autonomy
is always constrained by (i) their developed L2 proficiency and (ii) their
developed language learning skills. The technology of literacy writing
things down is indispensable to the reflective processes of planning,


David Little

monitoring and evaluating. Learners use logbooks to capture the content and process of their learning, and posters serve the same purpose for
the class as a whole. Writing also plays a central role in communication
between learners: written prompts support speaking, while collaborative
talk generates written texts.2

2 Implications of Version 2 for Foreign Language

Degree Programmes
Traditionally, degree programmes in foreign languages have had three components: language, literature and linguistics; more recently other content
has been added, for example history or some version of cultural studies.
In the English-speaking world there was typically no connection between
these different elements. Language classes were provided to develop students proficiency in the target language, but language teaching was considered drudgery and was often assigned to teaching assistants of one kind
or another. Lectures on literature were generally given in English, which
was also the language of seminars and tutorials. Although they were not
supposed to do so, students sometimes read prescribed texts in English
translation. Whether it was called philology or linguistics, study of the
target language, its history and structural components, was likewise conducted in English. And English was the language in which students wrote
term essays and (with the exception of the language papers) answers to
exam questions. That was the kind of programme I followed as a student
of German and French at Oxford in the 1960s (though I feel obliged to
note that I always read German literature in German and French literature
in French). Because none of the classes I attended required me to speak
German or French, my oral proficiency in both languages was probably
less secure when I graduated than when I left school. My teachers took the

For a more detailed version of this argument, see Little (2007).

Learner Autonomy


view that if I wanted to speak German or French I should go to Germany

or France and get on with it, which in due course I did. I recently asked a
student of modern languages at my Oxford college to describe her course of
studies: as far as I could judge, nothing much has changed in half a century.
This does not make sense. A foreign language is not an academic discipline but rather the medium through which one can engage with an academic discipline. Logically, the purpose of studying an academic discipline
through a foreign language is to become a member, whether temporary or
permanent, of an academic community whose knowledge is constructed
and communicated in that language. But in order to fulfil that purpose it is
necessary to reach a relatively high level of proficiency in the language, and
that is likely to be achieved only if the target language is the medium of all
teaching and learning and the development of proficiency is fully integrated
with the study of literature, linguistics, history, etc. According to learner
autonomy Version 2, language learning arises from communicative and
reflective language use in which the agency of the learner is fully engaged.
That, surely, is what second and foreign language degree programmes should
provide, but it can be delivered only if curricula are radically restructured.
In a modular degree programme, for example, each module might comprise
of assigned readings, a weekly lecture, a weekly seminar in which the lecture
and related readings are discussed and students summarize the results of
their discussions in writing, and a second seminar in which the language
of the lecture and the assigned readings is explored and appropriated in a
variety of oral and written tasks. The seminars would be organized with a
view to maximizing students involvement in exploratory talk, or languaging. In the course of a term or semester there should be plenty of scope
for students to exercise individual and collaborative initiative. Given their
experience of language learning at school, many freshman students are ill
equipped for this kind of study, so it would be necessary to provide an
induction programme in the first semester or two.
Reform of this kind faces a number of challenges, but two in particular
may seem particularly forbidding. The first has to do with the sequencing
of modules and the gradual adaptation of their structure and content to
take account of students developing proficiency in the target language
and their growing familiarity with the disciplines that determine course


David Little

content. The second challenge is to mediate the curriculum to students in

a way that explicitly engages their agency and supports the development
of learner autonomy as understood in Version 2. In the second part of the
paper I shall argue that the Common European Framework of Reference
for Languages (Council of Europe 2001) can help us to meet the first of
these challenges and the European Language Portfolio can help us to meet
the second.

3 The Common European Framework of Reference

for Languages, the European Language Portfolio
and Foreign Language Degree Programmes
3.1 Introducing the Common European Framework

of Reference for Languages
The Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR;
Council of Europe 2001) uses can do statements to define L2 proficiency at
six levels: A1 and A2 (basic user), B1 and B2 (independent user) and C1
and C2 (proficient user). It provides illustrative scales for five communicative activities: listening, reading, spoken interaction, spoken production,
and writing. These scales are summarized in the so-called self-assessment
grid (Council of Europe 2001: 267), according to which a learner who has
achieved level B1 in spoken interaction, for example, can deal with most
situations likely to arise whilst travelling in an area where the language is
spoken, and can enter unprepared into conversation on topics that are familiar, of personal interest or pertinent to everyday life (e.g. family, hobbies,
work, travel and current events). The activity scales are supplemented by
scales for various aspects of linguistic and strategic competence. In addition
the CEFR provides a comprehensive taxonomic description of domains
and varieties of language use.

Learner Autonomy


The CEFRs levels were quickly adopted as a way of specifying L2 learning objectives and outcomes. Without necessarily engaging in careful study
of the CEFR itself, which is a complex and multidimensional document,
language educators soon arrived at an informal consensus. A1 and A2 were
the levels to be achieved by L2 learners at primary and lower secondary
levels; B1 and B2 belonged to upper secondary, and C1 and C2 were the
preserve of higher education. Analysis of the (mostly implied) communicative goals of the Irish L2 curricula for post-primary schools yielded A1
and A2 tasks for lower secondary ( Junior Certificate) and B1 and B2 tasks
for upper secondary (Leaving Certificate) see the I can checklists in the
version of the European Language Portfolio designed for post-primary L2
learners in Ireland (Authentik 2001). In France a ministerial decree of 2005
stated that school leavers should achieve B2 in their first foreign language
and B1 in their second foreign language. The UKs subject benchmark
statement for primary degrees in languages (Quality Assurance Agency
for Higher Education 2007: 1516) specifies C1 for threshold standard
and C2 for typical standard. In other words, a student must achieve C1 in
order to be awarded a degree, but most students achieve C2.
The question arises: does this consensus correspond to actual learning
outcomes? Unfortunately the answer is no. Consider the following level
descriptors (taken from the I can checklists in the Swiss European Language Portfolio for older adolescent and adult learners, bmlv 2001):
A1: I can introduce somebody and use basic greeting and leave-taking expressions
A2: I can make simple transactions in shops, post offices or banks
B1: I can start, maintain and close simple face-to-face conversation on topics that are
familiar or of personal interest
B2: I can initiate, maintain and end discourse naturally with effective turn-taking
C1: I can use the language fluently, accurately and effectively on a wide range of general,
professional or academic topics
C2: I can take part effortlessly in all conversations and discussions with native

Now consider the kind of language learning needed to reach each successive
level. A1 and A2 descriptors mostly refer to discrete tasks and scenarios.
Basic greeting and leave-taking expressions (A1) can be mastered in a few


David Little

lessons; while simple transactions in shops, post offices or banks (A2) might
provide the focus for several terms learning. But from B1 upwards descriptors refer to increasingly general and complex communicative activity: I
can start, maintain and close simple face-to-face conversation on topics that are
familiar or of personal interest (B1) requires an extended period of learning
in which the target language is the medium of interaction in the classroom
and/or elsewhere, and I can take part effortlessly in all conversations and
discussions with native speakers (C2) is not a skill that can be imparted by
a teacher in a traditional language classroom. It requires sustained use of
the target language in a variety of academic and/or professional contexts,
including university language departments. Students of modern languages
whose course is delivered according to the time-hallowed traditions that
shaped my own undergraduate experience have no hope of achieving C1, far
less C2. To claim otherwise is to delude oneself and potentially to deceive
3.2 Using the CEFR to design modules for foreign language

degree programmes
To the best of my knowledge, no university language department has yet
redeveloped its curricula using the CEFR. To do so would require a complex recursive process involving at least five steps:
1. Having familiarized yourself with the CEFR and its multiple interacting dimensions, identify the minimum proficiency levels in listening,
reading, spoken interaction, spoken production and writing that you
expect your students to achieve by the end of their studies. Be realistic.
The descriptors for C2 writing include: Can produce clear, smoothly
flowing, complex reports, articles or essays which present a case, or give
critical appreciation of proposals or literary works (Council of Europe
2001: 62). The full implication of this descriptor must be explored with
reference to descriptors for linguistic competence/language quality.
For example, according to the scale for general linguistic range, a C2
learner-user can exploit a comprehensive and reliable mastery of a very
wide range of language to formulate thoughts precisely, give emphasis,

Learner Autonomy


differentiate and eliminate ambiguity. No signs of having to restrict

what he/she wants to say (ibid.: 110). These descriptors may apply to
the exceptional student, but what about the average? B2 may be a more
sensible level to aim for: Can write an essay or report which develops
an argument, giving reasons in support of or against a particular point
of view and explaining the advantages and disadvantages of various
options (ibid.: 62). The general linguistic range descriptor for B2 reads
as follows: Has a sufficient range of language to be able to give clear
descriptions, express viewpoints and develop arguments without much
conspicuous searching for words, using some complex sentence forms to
do so (ibid.: 110). Bear in mind too that it is probably inappropriate to
expect students to achieve the same proficiency level in all five activities. C1 may not be achievable by the average student in speaking and
writing, but may well be appropriate for reading.
2. Consider the entry level of the average student. Although the honors
level Irish Leaving Certificate programme and examination includes
tasks that can be linked to levels B1 and B2, the great majority of students do not achieve a fully developed B1 proficiency, let alone B2,
especially in the productive skills. It may be prudent to assume no
more than a comprehensively achieved A2 in speaking and writing.
Once realistic proficiency levels have been identified for entry and
exit, it is possible to use descriptors for the intervening levels to plot
the developmental trajectory that learners should follow. In doing
this, remember to consult the language quality/linguistic competence
and strategy descriptors (CEFR, Chapter 5) as well as the activities
descriptors (Chapter 4).
3. Consider the content to be covered by the programme, express it in
modules according to local convention, and decide at which points
or in which content areas students will be able to choose from among
two or more options. The chronological order in which the modules
are arranged should be determined by the need to provide for (i) a
coherent development in students content knowledge and (ii) a gradually evolving mode of delivery that matches the growth of their target
language proficiency and their study skills. Clearly, content should
gradually become linguistically and conceptually more demanding as
the programme unfolds.


David Little

4. Use activities descriptors from the illustrative scales to identify the

kind and level of tasks you want students to be able to perform at the
end of each module and use the competence descriptors to determine
which aspects of the target language should be especially in focus.
Once more, be realistic: recognize that it may be necessary to lower
the sights set at the end of the first phase of the exercise.
5. In interaction with (4), and with exploratory talk/languaging in mind,
consider the kinds of discourse and learning task most likely to support students progress towards the desired learning outcomes.
At the end of this process it will be possible to supplement general credit
level descriptors with language proficiency descriptors derived from the
CEFR; and the rationale and aims, content, learning outcomes, and methods of teaching and learning can all be specified partly in terms of can do
According to the authors of the CEFR, most language learners learn
reactively, following the instructions and carrying out the activities prescribed for them by teachers and by textbooks (Council of Europe 2001:
141). As we have seen, however, the Council of Europes educational ethos
favours learner autonomy, which requires that learners learn proactively,
taking initiatives to plan, structure and execute their own learning processes
(ibid). That is why the Council ofEurope developed the European Language
Portfolio, which has an obvious role in supporting the implementation of
the kind of university foreign language curriculum just described.
3.3 The European Language Portfolio and its potential
The European Language Portfolio (ELP) has three obligatory components:
a language passport, a language biography, and a dossier. It is designed to
make the language learning process more transparent to the learner, foster
the development of learner autonomy, and promote intercultural awareness and plurilingualism. Effective use of the ELP depends on reflective
processes in which self-assessment plays a central role. Goal setting and

Learner Autonomy


self-assessment are supported by checklists of I can descriptors organized

by activity and CEFR proficiency level.3
Designing a version of the ELP to support implementation of a CEFRinformed foreign language curriculum at university is a relatively straightforward matter. The language passport is a fixed component: a standard
version for use by adult learners is available on the Council of Europes
ELP website (<http://www.coe.int/portfolio>). The dossier, on the other
hand, has no fixed form, so it can either be left entirely open or given a
structure that reflects the overall programme of study and the structure of
modules. The language biography is the part of the ELP that is designed
to move the learning process forward. That is where the checklists are to
be found, alongside pages that invite general reflection on various aspects
of L2 learning and L2 use. It has sometimes been suggested that each academic discipline needs its own checklist descriptors, but this notion rests
on a misapprehension of the nature of descriptors at the higher proficiency
levels. As we have seen, at levels A1 and A2 descriptors encapsulate simple
tasks or routines, but from B1 upwards they refer to increasingly general
language activity. They can certainly be used to set learning targets and selfassess learning outcomes, but not in the straightforward, box-ticking way
that is often assumed. To develop the communicative capacity captured by
higher-level descriptors takes time. This means that if self-assessment is to
be a frequent practice the descriptors must be repeatedly deconstructed so
that their implications are fully understood and interim learning targets can
be derived from them. For this purpose the generic checklists available on
the Council of Europe ELP website are entirely appropriate, though they
will need to be translated into the students target language, for reasons
that at this stage in my argument should need no further elaboration. They
will also need to be interpreted with detailed reference to the demands of
different curriculum areas literary studies, linguistics, history, cultural
studies, etc. Two examples will serve to illustrate what I mean:
B2 Reading I can quickly scan through long and complex texts on a
variety of topics in my field to locate relevant details.

For an extended discussion of ELP-based self-assessment, see Little (2009).


David Little

How quickly is quickly? What is my field? What is an appropriate

variety of topics? In terms of field and topics, what counts as a long
and complex text? What count as relevant details?
B2 Writing I can write clear detailed text on a wide range of subjects
relating to my personal, academic or professional interests.
What are my academic and/or professional interests? What is an
appropriate range of subjects? How do we define clear detailed
These questions can be used to focus exploratory talk, and the answers
should make explicit the links between curriculum content and students
developing proficiency in the target language.
Like a learning journal, the ELP captures the on-going dialogue of
language learning, which (in keeping with learner autonomy Version 2) is
partly internal to the individual learner and partly a matter of collaboration between learners. The dialogue embraces planning, monitoring and
evaluation, and reflection on linguistic form, language use, the intercultural dimension, and so on. In addition to their role in goal setting and
self-assessment, the I can checklists constitute a resource for talking about
communication, language and language learning. When the ELP is central
to the teaching and learning of languages, it gradually and cumulatively
becomes the owners L2 autobiography, compiled in continuous dialogue
with herself and the rest of the learning community. In this way it helps to
overcome the inevitably episodic and fragmentary nature of L2 learning
(Karlsson 2008).

4 Conclusion
The argument of this paper may be summarized as follows. The two versions of learner autonomy that I discussed in the first part are both intent
on helping learners to manage their own learning. There are, however,
three important differences between them. First, Version 1 is individualcognitive-organizational in its orientation, whereas Version 2 is at once

Learner Autonomy


individual-cognitive-organizational and social-interactive-collaborative,

and these two dimensions exist in a profoundly symbiotic relation to each
other. Secondly, the crucial difference for Version 1 is between teacherdirected and self-directed learners, whereas for Version 2 it is between
learners whose capacity for autonomy is focused on language learning
and learners whose capacity for autonomy is focused elsewhere. Thirdly,
Version 1 makes a distinction between learning a language and becoming
an autonomous learner, whereas Version 2 insists that success in language
learning depends on engaging the learners agency in appropriate use ofthe
target language; in other words, Version 2 denies the possibility of detaching the development of learner autonomy from the development of target
language proficiency. Version 1 has had an impact on language learning at
university via self-access programmes; Version 2, on the other hand, has
had little impact. However, a traditional weakness of foreign language
degree programmes, at least in the English-speaking world, is the lack of
integration between their different elements, and Version 2 suggests a way
of remedying this. It challenges us to teach such programmes entirely in the
target language, to assign a central role to exploratory talk (or languaging),
and to ensure that there is plenty of space for the exercise of individual and
collaborative student initiative and self-management. This implies a central
role for the reflective processes of goal setting and self-assessment.
The reform of foreign language curricula along these lines no doubt
poses many challenges, but two in particular stand out. First, how are we
to sequence modules and ensure that their structure and content accommodate students developing proficiency in the target language and their
growing familiarity with the disciplines that determine course content?
And second, how do we mediate the curriculum to students in a way that
explicitly engages their agency and supports the development of learner
autonomy Version 2? The CEFR helps us respond to the first of these challenges: its descriptive apparatus allows us to identify achievable language
learning outcomes, reflect on our teaching procedures, and define the
communicative and linguistic content of our modules. And the ELP helps
us respond to the second challenge: we can use it to support the reflective processes that are central to the practice and development of learner
autonomy and underlie the varieties of exploratory talk on which language
learning in an academic context particularly depends.


David Little

The task of reform is not yet complete, however. The CEFRs actionoriented approach is more thoroughly innovative than is often recognized,
because it brings curriculum, teaching/learning and assessment into a closer
relation to one another than has traditionally been the case. The same can
do descriptor can be used to define a curriculum goal, guide the selection
of learning activities, and shape the development of assessment tasks and
rating criteria. This fact should challenge us to rethink each ofthese dimensions of language education in terms of the other two, and such rethinking should lead us to design tests and exams based on the same criteria as
learners use in their ELP-based self-assessment. We should develop rating
grids and scoring schemes that can be used for formal assessment and for
informal assessment, including peer assessment, which takes place during
courses. We should take ELP-based self-assessment seriously, encouraging
reliability by requiring students to produce evidence in support of their selfassessment. Finally, we should find a way of incorporating self-assessment
in the overall assessment scheme. By developing a new assessment culture
of this kind we would close the circle, making our foreign language degree
programmes fully learner-centred and autonomy-friendly, because learners would share in the evaluation of curriculum outcomes, including their
own learning achievement. That should not only be the ultimate goal of
any approach to language education, but also education in general, that
aspires to realize the Council of Europes democratic ideal. Anyone who
is interested in exploring this matter further should read a book not by
an applied linguist but by an engineer John Cowans On Becoming an
Innovative University Teacher (1998) which opens new windows on all
the issues I have discussed in this paper.

Authentik (2001). European Language Portfolio/Punann na dTeangacha Eorpacha.
Dublin: Authentik.
Barnes, D. (1976). From Communication to Curriculum. Harmondsworth: Penguin.

Learner Autonomy


blmv (2001). Portfolio Europen des Langues / Europisches Sprachenportfolio / Portfolio

Europeo delle Lingue / European Language Portfolio. Bern: Berner Lehrmittel
und Medienverlag.
Council of Europe (2001). Common European Framework of Reference for Languages:
Learning, Teaching, Assessment. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Cowan, J. (1998). On Becoming an Innovative University Teacher. Buckingham: Open
University Press.
Dam, L. (1995). Learner Autonomy 3: From Theory to Classroom Practice. Dublin:
Deci, E.L. with Flaste, R. (1996). Why We Do What We Do: Understanding Selfmotivation. New York: Penguin.
Holec, H. (1981). Autonomy and Foreign Language Learning. Oxford: Pergamon; first
published Strasbourg: Council of Europe, 1979.
Janne, H. (1977). Organization, Content and Methods of Adult Education. Strasbourg:
Council of Europe.
Karlsson, L. (2008). Turning the Kaleidoscope: (E)FL Educational Experience and
Inquiry as Autobiography. Helsinki: University of Helsinki Language Centre.
Little, D. (2007). Language Learner Autonomy: some Fundamental Considerations
Reconsidered, Innovation in Language Learning and Teaching, 1(1), 1429.
Little, D. (2009). The European Language Portfolio: Where Pedagogy and Assessment Meet, Strasbourg: Council of Europe <http://www.coe.int/portfolio>
accessed 24 January 2011.
Matusov, E. (2007). Applying Bakhtin Scholarship on Discourse in Education: a
Critical Review Essay, Educational Theory, 57(2), (2007), 21537.
Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (2007). Languages and Related
Studies. Mansfield: Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education. <http://
pdf> accessed 24 January 2011.
Swain, M. (2006). Languaging, Agency and Collaboration in Advanced Second
Language Proficiency. In Byrnes, H. (ed.), Advanced Language Learning: The
Contribution of Halliday and Vygotsky, 95108. London: Continuum.
Trim, J.L.M. (1978). Some Possible Lines of Development of an Overall Structure for a
European Unit/Credit Scheme for Foreign Language Learning by Adults. Strasbourg: Council of Europe.

Part Two


Emma Garca Sanz

El uso del diccionario en el aula de traduccin

1 Introduccin
El uso del diccionario por parte de los aprendientes se sobreentiende en
todas las aulas de segundas lenguas, pues es una herramienta fcil de conseguir que provee numerosas informaciones sobre la lengua meta y que
permite al estudiante ser autnomo en su aprendizaje.
No obstante, no es poco habitual encontrar una produccin errnea
debida bien a una mala seleccin en el diccionario, bien a la ausencia del
uso del mismo. En la mayora de los casos, estos errores no habran ocurrido de haber hecho una consulta correcta en el diccionario adecuado a
cada situacin.
Ante estas circunstancias, es fundamental cuestionarse como docente
la importancia que otorgamos al diccionario en nuestras clases y las actividades que proponemos a nuestros alumnos con el fin de que saquen el
mayor partido del mismo, ya sea este uno de los distintos tipos de monolinge o bilinge.
En el aula de traduccin, donde se utilizan tanto la lengua materna
como una segunda lengua, la consulta del diccionario tambin es una realidad. Sin embargo, habr de tenerse en cuenta que las necesidades de cada
grupo meta varan de acuerdo a los objetivos del curso, por lo que dicha consulta ser tambin diferente a la realizada en una aula de segundas lenguas.
En cualquier caso, destacamos la necesidad de acercar a los estudiantes
esta herramienta didctica, ya sea en las clases de segundas lenguas o en las
clases de traduccin.


Emma Garca Sanz

As, el estudio que presentamos tendr que tener presente no solo la

didctica de enseanza de segundas lenguas y la didctica de la traduccin,
sino tambin la didctica lexicogrfica como marco terico. Por ello, en
primer lugar, comenzaremos con una aproximacin terica al aula de traduccin y al uso del diccionario.
En segundo lugar, expondremos los resultados de un cuestionario
sobre el uso del diccionario realizado a alumnos de Filologa Hispnica
que cursaban la asignatura de traduccin inversa (alemn-espaol) en la
Universidad de Duisburgo-Essen, Alemania, que tena como objetivo el
anlisis de necesidades del grupo meta para la posterior elaboracin de los
materiales del curso.
Y, por ltimo, presentaremos una propuesta didctica para concienciar
al estudiante de las ventajas y los inconvenientes del uso del diccionario
en la traduccin y los resultados obtenidos a la hora de su realizacin con
el grupo meta anterior.

2 El aula de Traduccin
Mucho se ha reflexionado sobre la traduccin en el proceso de enseanzaaprendizaje de segundas lenguas, sobre la traduccin como disciplina propia
y sobre la enseanza de segundas lenguas a traductores. En el primer caso
observamos una evolucin desde el mtodo tradicional, cuyos pilares bsicos, recordemos, eran la gramtica y traduccin, hasta los enfoques comunicativos. Respecto a la segunda reflexin, Holmes defenda ya en 1972 la
independencia de la traduccin de otras disciplinas afines como los estudios
terminolgicos y lexicogrficos contrastivos, la lingstica contrastiva y la
teora de la traslacin, y divida los estudios puros de traduccin en descriptive translation studies o translation description y theoretical translation
studies o translation theory (Holmes 1978 en 1988: 71). En ltimo lugar,
en cuanto a la enseanza de segundas lenguas a traductores, Berenguer
(1996: 9) sostiene que forma parte del mbito de los estudios aplicados de
la traduccin, aunque tambin pueda considerarse dentro de la enseanza

El uso del diccionario en el aula de traduccin


de fines especficos. No obstante, Hurtado Albir (1996: 34) defiende que la

competencia comunicativa (la cual forma parte de lo que esta autora llama
competencia traductora) no atae directamente a la asignatura de traduccin,
sino que es una condicin previa para entrar en dicha aula.
As, teniendo en cuenta lo mencionado y, ms concretamente, atendiendo a la diversidad del pblico discente, hay tambin cursos de traduccin en algunos currculos cuyo objetivo no es la formacin de traductores.
Hablamos en este caso de las asignaturas de traduccin de los planes de
estudio de Filologa Hispnica en universidades fuera del rea hispanoparlante, ms concretamente en nuestro caso, en las universidades alemanas.
De la misma manera, hacemos referencia tambin a los planes de estudio
de las filologas modernas de las universidades espaolas que incluyen
asignaturas de traduccin.
En este caso particular, el objetivo de semejante curso, a nuestro parecer, es la reflexin sobre la lengua extranjera (que puede ser la L2, la L3 o
incluso la L4) y su estudio contrastivo con la propia lengua materna. De
esta forma, la traduccin se convierte en el medio, no en el fin de la enseanza, habiendo de proporcionar a los discentes, sin embargo, las herramientas necesarias para que consigan el objetivo ltimo del curso, esto es,
el desarrollo de la competencia comunicativa en oposicin al desarrollo de
la competencia traductora1 antes mencionada.
Por todo ello, quiz habra que volver a reformular por segunda vez el
esquema inicial de Holmes y aadir a la propuesta de Berenguer (1996: 9)
mencionada anteriormente, dentro del mbito de los estudios aplicados,
esta ltima aproximacin a la traduccin, es decir, aquella en la que los
estudiantes sern futuros fillogos y/o profesores de segundas lenguas (en
nuestro contexto, de espaol/LE) y no traductores.

Recordemos que para Hurtado Albir (1996: 34) la competencia traductora se compone de una competencia comunicativa en las dos lenguas, una competencia extralingstica, una competencia relacionada con las aptitudes necesarias para llevar a
cabo una buena comprensin y produccin de textos, una competencia traslatoria
(la predisposicin a traducir sin interferencias) y una competencia relacionada con
el funcionamiento del ejercicio de la traduccin profesional (la cual, para nuestro
grupo meta, no consideramos necesaria).


Emma Garca Sanz

En cualquier caso, lo comn a todos los acercamientos anteriores es

que consideramos que el profesor ha de guiar al alumno en su aprendizaje
y proporcionarle las herramientas necesarias para que este se lleve a cabo
con xito.
No obstante, respecto a los objetivos especficos de cada curso, cabe
sealar que estos vienen dados en base al anlisis de necesidades del grupo
meta llevado a cabo por el docente, puesto que se pueden tener, como
hemos mencionado ya, pblicos con distintas necesidades.
Por otra parte, de los cinco objetivos generales2 que propone Berenguer (1996: 14) en la enseanza de la traduccin, destacamos el de preparar
al alumno para la utilizacin de diccionarios y otras obras de consulta, ya
que el estudiante ha de saber documentarse y, en palabras de Garca Yebra
El traductor tiene que conocer la significacin de las unidades de las dos lenguas
implicadas en el proceso de la traduccin; tiene que conocer el sentido de esas unidades lingsticas complejas que son las locuciones, las frases hechas, los refranes,
de la lengua original. Y tiene que hallar sus equivalentes en la lengua terminal. Para
ello necesita, irremediablemente, los diccionarios; no slo bilinges, sino tambin
monolinges. (Garca Yebra 1982: 120)

Por ello, a continuacin pasamos a desarrollar las cuestiones tericas que

subyacen al uso del diccionario en el aula en general y en la de traduccin
en particular.

Estos cinco objetivos son 1. Desarrollar la comprensin lectora. 2. Aprender a disociar

las dos lenguas en contacto. 3. Preparar al alumno para la utilizacin de diccionarios
y otras obras de consulta. 4. Hacer del futuro traductor un experto en cultura. 5.
Sensibilizar al alumno a la actividad traductora, tematizando en clase aspectos relacionados con la traduccin (Berenguer 1996: 14).

El uso del diccionario en el aula de traduccin


3 El uso del Diccionario: Cuestiones Tericas

Varios son los argumentos a favor o en contra del uso del diccionario en el
proceso de enseanza-aprendizaje de segundas lenguas. Algunos estudiosos defienden el uso del diccionario monolinge (en adelante DM) desde
el primer estadio de aprendizaje y otros se decantan por el bilinge (en lo
sucesivo DB) durante todo el proceso.
No obstante, suele aceptarse que el DB es una herramienta bsica para
el alumno de nivel inicial, el diccionario monolinge para extranjeros para
el estudiante de nivel intermedio y el diccionario monolinge general para
discentes de nivel superior (Hernndez 2000).
En cuanto al uso del diccionario bilinge en el aula de segundas lenguas
(tengamos en cuenta que un estudiante de traduccin lo es antes de una
L2), por una parte, sus defensores sealan que este es un instrumento tanto
de codificacin como de descodificacin (aunque no siempre se garantiza
la correccin de las mismas) y de transcodificacin entre ambas lenguas.
Es rpido y cmodo a la hora de suministrar la informacin lxica, la cual
es la ms frecuentemente consultada (Ruhstaller 2005).
Por otra parte, el uso del DB cuenta tambin con detractores, entre los
que se encuentra Martn Garca (1999). Esta investigadora hace la siguiente
El diccionario bilinge se constituye como obra exclusivamente descodificadora,
razn por la cual obstaculiza la reflexin por parte del alumno y causa numerosas
interferencias entre la lengua materna y la lengua que est siendo aprendida. Dada la
escasa informacin de uso que proporcionan tales obras sobre la lengua, no pueden
usarse como obras codificadoras y de aprendizaje. (Martn Garca 1999: 15)

No obstante, estudiando el uso del diccionario en el aula, vemos que, en

muchos casos, se utiliza el bilinge como obra codificadora en las actividades, por ejemplo, de expresin escrita. Ms concretamente, en el aula de
traduccin, si es cierto que el traductor ha de ser capaz de manejar diversos
recursos en el proceso de traduccin y que es imposible que conozca todo el
lxico de una lengua, no es menos cierto que el estudiante, por lo general,


Emma Garca Sanz

prefiere consultar el diccionario bilinge ante una palabra que no conoce

en la L2 (en este caso tambin la lengua de llegada), que buscar una traduccin alternativa haciendo uso de recursos como la definicin o la parfrasis.
Asimismo, cuando es la L1 la lengua de llegada en la traduccin directa, el
estudiante elige, en muchas ocasiones, consultar las palabras desconocidas
en el DB antes que usar estrategias que le permitan deducir el significado
en una determinada situacin comunicativa.
As, en este contexto, Engelberg y Lemnizer3 (2001) exponen lo que
consideran las ventajas y los inconvenientes del DB en el mbito de la traduccin. En primer lugar, con respecto a las ventajas, estamos conformes
con que los diccionarios bilinges presentan el equivalente que se requiere
para una situacin comunicativa determinada. Sin embargo, hemos de puntualizar que el hecho de que provea esta informacin no quiere decir que
esta est lo suficientemente clara para el alumno. En la traduccin inversa,
el hecho de que el discente consulte una palabra en el diccionario se debe
bien a que no est familiarizado con dicho trmino, esto es, lo desconoce,
bien a que este no pertenece a su vocabulario activo sino que forma parte
de su vocabulario pasivo. Ante esta situacin, cuando el estudiante se ve
confrontado con varias traducciones posibles de la misma palabra, la informacin proporcionada no siempre es suficiente para llevar a cabo con xito
la tarea, puesto que no en todos los casos es evidente qu traduccin se usa
en qu contexto. En este sentido, consideramos el DB como una ayuda inicial a la hora de codificar en la lengua meta y pensamos que una segunda

In allen diesen Funktionen haben die zweisprachigen Wrterbcher gegenber

einsprachigen Standard- und Lernwrterbchern zumindest zwei unbestreitbare
Vorteile: i) Sie liefern die bersetzungsquivalente, die fr die Textbersetzung
bentigt werden. ii) Sie sind auf ein bestimmtes Sprachenpaar ausgerichtet und
knnen alle Besonderheiten bercksichtigen, durch die die Abbildung dieser beiden
Sprachen aufeinander gekennzeichnet ist. Man muss dafr bei der Benutzung
zweisprachiger Wrterbcher allerdings auch Nachteile, insbesondere gegenber
Lernerwrterbchern, in Kauf nehmen: i) Oft sind die syntaktischen und morphologischen Angaben zu den fremdsprachlichen Lexemen weniger umfangreich und
weniger explizit. ii) Die Bedeutung wird nicht hnlich umfangreich und przise
dargestellt wie durch die Bedeutungserklrungen und illustrierenden Beispiele in
Lernerwrterbchern. (Engelberg, Lemnitzer 2001: 112)

El uso del diccionario en el aula de traduccin


consulta a un diccionario monolinge de aprendizaje evita errores en la

traduccin final4 pese a que Atkins (1985: 21) defiende que A monolingual
learners dictionary is in my view of little use for this operation [the translation from L1 into L2] y guindonos por la defensa de Hausmann (pud
Martn Garca: 17) del diccionario monolinge de aprendizaje, el cual ha
de tener tres componentes: de aprendizaje, de codificacin y de descodificacin. En su consulta en dicho contexto, el estudiante hace uso de los tres
componentes, lo cual se ve reflejado en las distintas tareas susceptibles de
ser llevadas a cabo. Primero, acta como obra descodificadora, ya que, como
hemos expuesto anteriormente, ante varias propuestas de traduccin para
un trmino en la LM, es por norma general el diccionario monolinge (de
aprendizaje) el que resuelve las diferencias de significado entre las posibles
traducciones para que se adecue al contexto dado (al. aufregen, esp. alterarse, excitarse, etc). El componente de aprendizaje y el de codificacin se
ven reflejados en la informacin que aporta, entre las cuales destacamos la
gramatical, la pragmtica y ejemplos sobre el uso de los lemas.
Sobre la segunda ventaja expuesta, es decir, que los DB tienen en cuenta
las peculiaridades entre ambas lenguas, hemos de precisar que cuando tratamos problemas especficos de traduccin, la informacin que ofrece el
diccionario es, en la mayora de los casos, escasa (con esto hacemos referencia a la traduccin al espaol de palabras alemanas como seit, erst o sogar,
entre otras), por lo que en esta situacin se requiere una segunda consulta
si dichos problemas no se han trabajado de forma explcita en el aula (por
lo cual nosotros apostamos).
Coincidimos, no obstante, con las desventajas que apuntan ambos
estudiosos, a saber, la menor precisin o riqueza del significado en comparacin con el diccionario monolinge de aprendizaje, y la pobreza de
la informacin sintctica y morfolgica, la cual, adems, es poco explcita.
En este sentido, para destacar la importancia que tiene la informacin de
una entrada para un traductor, cabe recordar las palabras de Varantola

Al llevar a cabo la unidad didctica, pudimos observar la veracidad de lo expuesto. En

diversas ocasiones la informacin que proporcionaba el DB no era suficiente como
para que los estudiantes fueran capaces de elegir la palabra adecuada a la situacin.


Emma Garca Sanz

It is rarely only lexical information that translators want to find when they look up
an entry. The information sought is broader in scope; they often want to know how
the expression behaves grammatically and what kind of lexical, sentence, paragraph or
text environment it normally occurs in. At a higher level, they wish to know whether
the expression is appropriate for the context, subject field, text type or register in
question (Varantola 1998: 181).

Considerando todo lo expuesto sobre la consulta del diccionario y ante

dicha situacin en el aula en la que los discentes manejan esta herramienta,
el docente ha de plantearse y esbozar su lnea de accin sobre el uso del
diccionario a la hora de planificar los objetivos de la asignatura. As, entre
estos estar el que los estudiantes sean capaces de utilizar correctamente
dicha herramienta didctica.
En esta lnea, Hurtado Albir (1996: 40) propone como uno de los
objetivos de aprendizaje de la iniciacin a la traduccin El dinamismo
de la equivalencia traductora y los lmites de los diccionario bilinges, ya
que la bsqueda de equivalencias es ms que una transcodificacin de elementos lingsticos, es un proceso analgico y de exploracin de la lengua
de llegada.
Por todo ello, consideramos necesario el desarrollo de materiales didcticos especficos para el campo de la traduccin que permitan al discente no
solo acercarse a los diferentes tipos de diccionarios que hay en el mercado,
sino tambin aprender a elegir cul se adapta mejor a sus necesidades de
consulta en cada momento porque, como sealan Maldonado (1998: 13) y
Alvar Ezquerra (2003: 12), siempre hay un diccionario que responde a las
dudas surgidas, solamente hay que saber buscarlo.

4 Anlisis del Cuestionario Sobre el uso del Diccionario

Al habernos visto confrontados durante varios cursos de traduccin inversa
con la pregunta por parte de los estudiantes sobre por qu no se les permite
usar el diccionario en el examen final y tras haber observado el (mal) uso

El uso del diccionario en el aula de traduccin


del diccionario que hacen durante el semestre, decidimos llevar a cabo un

cuestionario a los alumnos sobre su uso del diccionario una vez que les
habamos presentado una introduccin a la traduccin.5
Establecimos varios objetivos para el cuestionario. Primero, queramos
recoger informacin sobre lo que los discentes pensaban sobre el uso del
diccionario y conocer sus creencias sobre el papel de este a la hora de traducir
para poder elaborar los materiales con los que trabajaramos posteriormente.
En otras palabras, planteamos un anlisis de necesidades a nuestro grupo
meta. En segundo lugar, nos interesaba que ellos mismos argumentaran por
qu deba o no permitirse el uso del diccionario en el examen final para que
luego comprendieran nuestra decisin de no permitir su consulta.
El cuestionario lo contestaron diecisiete alumnos que cursaban la asignatura bersetzung I (Deutsch-Spanisch) en la Universidad de DuisburgoEssen. Esta asignatura es la primera de las tres que contempla el plan de
estudios de Lehramt y la nica del plan de estudios de 2-Fach-Bachelor
Spanische Sprache und Kultur.6 Dado que dichos estudios no son especficos de traduccin, la asignatura tiene como objetivos el desarrollo de la
competencia comunicativa a travs de la traduccin y la reflexin sobre la
lengua desde el punto de vista contrastivo alemn-espaol.
Los resultados que obtuvimos son los siguientes. En primer lugar, un
cuarto de los encuestados usaba el diccionario monolinge, el Diccionario
del estudiante de la RAE o el Diccionario la RAE en su versin en lnea. Entre
los argumentos que defienden para no usar el diccionario monolinge se
encuentra la creencia de que an no es necesario. Recordemos que estamos
hablando de alumnos de nivel intermedio (B1-B2) y que segn lo expuesto
anteriormente, lo ideal sera que consultaran el diccionario monolinge
de aprendizaje en esta etapa.

En esta introduccin se debati sobre lo que es la traduccin, los pasos que han de
seguirse desde que se recibe el texto original hasta que se presenta la traduccin
final y aquellos aspectos que han de tenerse en cuenta durante el proceso de traduccin. Adems, se analizaron los recursos y las herramientas de los que dispone el
En estos estudios de grado el estudiante cursa dos materias distintas, una de las cuales
en este caso es Filologa Hispnica.


Emma Garca Sanz

Segundo, la gran mayora de los estudiantes utilizaba el diccionario

bilinge de las editoriales Langenscheidt o Klett en formato en papel y
los diccionarios gratuitos en la red Leo, Super Spanisch, Myjmk y el de
la editorial Pons en su versin en lnea. El porqu: son diccionarios que,
entre otros, se pueden consultar rpidamente (como habamos sealado
en la aproximacin terica al uso del diccionario), ofrecen sinnimos y
antnimos, expresiones, informacin adicional y palabras poco frecuentes.
En tercer lugar, la informacin que se busca en el diccionario es la
definicin, sinnimos y antnimos, informacin gramatical (como la preposicin que rige un determinado verbo, la conjugacin o el gnero de un
sustantivo). En menor medida se consulta la ortografa.
Entre los adjetivos que se usan para definir el diccionario cuando se
aprende una lengua, los informantes optaron por imprescindible, obligatorio,
importante y/o prctico porque ayuda a aprender palabras nuevas, porque
en l no solamente se encuentran definiciones, sino tambin informacin
gramatical, la ortografa y la pronunciacin, porque ayuda a expresarse,
porque es una ayuda para entender un texto (aunque a veces se pueda
deducir el significado de una palabra por el contexto) y tambin porque en
ocasiones no se tiene ganas o tiempo de parafrasear la palabra desconocida
(es decir, de utilizar uno de los recursos del traductor que aprendieron en
la primera sesin de introduccin).
En quinto lugar, la inmensa mayora considera el diccionario imprescindible para cursar una asignatura de traduccin porque con l se pueden
aprender palabras nuevas, permite corregir el lxico y la gramtica y porque
se puede mejorar una traduccin utilizando un vocabulario ms preciso.
Es decir, estn considerando en esta pregunta y en la anterior el DB como
una obra descodificadora y, adems, no solo como una obra codificadora
sino tambin como una herramienta de aprendizaje de lxico. Esto nos
lleva a cuestionarnos si los argumentos de los detractores del uso del DB
son vlidos ante este pblico discente, teniendo en cuenta que defendemos que al alumno hay que proporcionarle lo que precise atendiendo a sus
necesidades particulares y segn su forma individual de aprendizaje. No
obstante, los encuestados tambin destacan la necesidad de saber utilizar
sinnimos, expresiones alternativas o reformulaciones.

El uso del diccionario en el aula de traduccin


Por ltimo, con respecto al uso del diccionario en el examen, encontramos que la mitad de los estudiantes est a favor de su consulta, frente a
la otra mitad que se posiciona en contra. En este caso, diferenciamos entre
los argumentos sobre el uso del diccionario monolinge y del bilinge.
Los argumentos a favor del uso del diccionario monolinge son varios:
la ayuda que presta a la hora de comprobar si una palabra es correcta, la
oportunidad de encontrar varias posibilidades y elegir la que mejor se adapte
al contexto, la sensacin de seguridad que da en una situacin de examen
y la alusin a una posible realidad laboral futura, esto es, de trabajar ellos
para una empresa como traductores se les permitira consultarlo.
Nos encontramos con un solo argumento a favor del diccionario bilinge: todos tienen que estar en igualdad de oportunidades para hacer una
traduccin, ya que no tienen los conocimientos suficientes como para traducir un texto literario (dicha tipologa textual no es la nica que se estudia
en el curso y, en cualquier caso, los textos estn seleccionados segn el nivel
del grupo). Adems, se propone un uso limitado del mismo (por ejemplo,
consultar solamente diez palabras como mximo).
Asimismo, se argumenta que el uso de ambos diccionarios debera
estar permitido siempre que aparezcan palabras en la traduccin que no
sean conocidas por los estudiantes. Destacamos el siguiente comentario,
el cual refleja el anlisis y la reflexin de la primera parte de nuestra propuesta didctica:
Creo que en el examen debera permitirse usar el diccionario monolinge y bilinge porque los aspectos ms importantes son la competencia sociolingstica y la
gramtica. Por otro lado, tambin es posible decir que la competencia estratgica es
importante y por eso no debera permitirse usar el diccionario.

Otra razn en contra de ambos diccionarios es que el alumno debe saber

el lxico que se le pregunta. Por otra parte, los argumentos en contra del
diccionario bilinge son la posibilidad de que los estudiantes hagan una
traduccin literal inadecuada y la consecuencia de que nadie aprendera
Por ltimo, una vez realizado el cuestionario procedimos a comentar los resultados a modo de reflexin en el aula. Con ello buscbamos la


Emma Garca Sanz

respuesta de los propios estudiantes sobre qu es lo que la profesora evaluara si se les permitiera consultar el diccionario en el examen (teniendo
en cuenta las informaciones que este brinda) y qu es lo que la profesora
realmente quera evaluar en dicha asignatura. Destacamos la siguiente
afirmacin: Evaluaras si sabemos usar el diccionario y no si somos capaces
de comunicarnos en espaol. No evaluaramos justamente uno de los dos
objetivos generales que se haban marcado desde el primer momento para
el curso: que los alumnos desarrollen su competencia comunicativa y, especialmente dentro de esta, la competencia estratgica, ya que en el examen
se les evaluar su capacidad de mantener la comunicacin sin que esta se
rompa (recordemos que el segundo era que los estudiantes reflexionen
sobre la lengua desde un punto de vista contrastivo alemn-espaol). Por
eso, el uso del diccionario lo limitamos entonces durante el semestre a la
fase de revisin de la traduccin, en la cual intentamos mejorar la versin
propuesta en un primer momento buscando otras alternativas vlidas para
el contexto comunicativo dado.

5 Propuesta Didctica
En el apartado anterior hemos especificado el grupo de los alumnos que
participaron en el cuestionario y al cual estaban dirigidos los materiales
didcticos siguientes. Brevemente recordamos que la unidad se enmarca
en un contexto universitario alemn y va dirigida a estudiantes de Filologa
Hispnica, bien en la especialidad de Lehramt, bien en la especialidad de
2-Fach-Bachelor Spanische Sprache und Kultur. Es su primer curso de traduccin inversa alemn-espaol y tienen un nivel B1-B2 segn el Marco
europeo de referencia para las lenguas. Insistimos en sealar que el objetivo
de la asignatura no es la formacin en la competencia traductolgica per
se, sino la familiarizacin con la teora bsica de la traduccin en cuanto
a terminologa y recursos y herramientas del traductor, el aprendizaje del
uso de obras lexicogrficas con criterio y el desarrollo de la competencia
comunicativa prestando especial atencin a la competencia estratgica y a
la competencia gramatical desde un punto de vista contrastivo.

El uso del diccionario en el aula de traduccin


Basndonos en los resultados del cuestionario, teniendo en cuenta

tanto las informaciones que se han de saber de una palabra como aquellas
susceptibles de ser encontradas en un diccionario y analizando un corpus
de traducciones compilado en dicha universidad durante el semestre de
verano de 2010 procedimos a desarrollar la presente propuesta didctica.
Esta se concibi para ser desarrollada durante aproximadamente dos horas
de clase, dependiendo del tipo de trabajo propuesto, de forma individual
o en grupo y de la asignacin de las tareas.
A continuacin detallamos los objetivos especficos de la misma. En
los objetivos tericos de A traducirse aprende traduciendo sealamos que
el alumno ha de ser capaz de:
1. reconocer lo que uno necesita aprender para poder decir que sabe una
2. extraer y analizar la informacin de un DB,
3. proponer una traduccin para las palabras analizadas formando estas
parte de un contexto,
4. analizar las entradas de un DM y justificar la ayuda que aporta en la
5. distinguir entre dos versiones de la misma traduccin: aquella que usa el
diccionario y la que no, y evaluar cul de ellas es globalmente mejor,
6. reflexionar sobre el valor del diccionario en un curso de traduccin y
7. reflexionar sobre el uso del diccionario en la prueba final del curso.
Y los objetivos de comunicacin son que el alumno sea capaz de:
1. reconocer lxico relacionado con la educacin vial,
2. argumentar sobre el valor del diccionario en un curso de traduccin y
3. argumentar a favor y en contra del uso del diccionario en la prueba
final del curso.
A la hora de llevar a cabo la propuesta didctica en el aula7 (para la cual
consultamos los diccionarios Clave, Salamanca, Pons en su versin en lnea
y el diccionario disponible en la red Myjmk debido a que son diccionarios

Esta propuesta puede encontrarse al final del artculo.


Emma Garca Sanz

que el alumnado puede utilizar posteriormente fuera del aula) observamos que el hecho de que el alumno hubiera comprendido las ventajas y
los inconvenientes del uso del diccionario en el proceso de la traduccin
no quera decir que lo hubiera interiorizado y lo hubiera aplicado literalmente en los textos traducidos inmediatamente despus del desarrollo de
la unidad. Esto apoya los argumentos de que se ha de ensear a manejar
el diccionario durante todo el proceso de enseanza-aprendizaje (Bjoint
1989: 11; Engelberg, Lemnitzer 2001: 73; Nation 2001: 288).
Asimismo, consideramos que la inclusin en la unidad didctica de los
argumentos sobre el uso del diccionario en la prueba final y, por tanto, el
anlisis del cuestionario en clase, contribuy favorablemente a la comprensin de por qu en el examen no se les permite usar ningn diccionario, ya
que pudieron comprobar la riqueza de informacin que podran obtener
en esta herramienta siempre y cuando su consulta fuera correcta. Tambin
ayud a la mejora de la competencia estratgica, puesto que necesitaban
desarrollarla durante todo el curso para enfrentarse con xito a la traduccin
del examen en caso de que en el texto original aparecieran palabras, expresiones o estructuras que no supieran trasladar a la lengua de llegada.
Por ltimo, cabe sealar que se pueden llevar a cabo adaptaciones de
esta propuesta segn el grupo meta con el que se quiera trabajar manteniendo las ideas bsicas que subyacen a la misma. A saber, que el alumno
reflexione sobre la informacin que necesita saber de una palabra para
aprenderla y la que puede encontrar al consultar el diccionario adecuado,
que analice crticamente las entradas lexicogrficas para que le sean de utilidad a la hora de desarrollar su competencia en L2/LE y que otorgue el valor
y la importancia adecuados a la consulta de dichas obras de referencia.

6 Conclusiones
Comenzamos el presente estudio ofreciendo un panorama general sobre
el aula de traduccin haciendo especial hincapi en aquellos cursos que no
van dirigidos a traductores sino a fillogos y/o futuros profesores, cuyos

El uso del diccionario en el aula de traduccin


objetivos distan de los cursos tradicionales de traduccin en cuanto a que

los grupos meta tienen necesidades diferentes. El objetivo era contextualizar el uso del diccionario teniendo en cuenta la diversidad de pblico
discente que se enfrenta a un curso de traduccin y establecer la relacin
entre la didctica de la traduccin, la didctica de segundas lenguas y la
didctica lexicogrfica.
En segundo lugar, expusimos las ventajas y los inconvenientes del
diccionario como herramienta didctica. Por una parte, llegamos a la
conclusin de que en vista de que los discentes utilizan el DB como obra
codificadora, descodificadora y de aprendizaje de lxico, el docente tiene
que guiar al alumno en su manejo para que haga un uso satisfactorio de
esta herramienta y sea autnomo en su aprendizaje. Por otra, defendimos
que la consulta del DB ha de ir acompaada de una posterior del DM de
aprendizaje, sobre todo en las actividades de codificacin y aprendizaje de
lxico este provee una informacin relevante para el estudiante como puede
ser la gramatical, la cultural o la ilustracin del uso del trmino mediante
ejemplos, entre otros.
Con respecto al cuestionario, hemos de recordar que el objetivo era
conocer los hbitos y las creencias de nuestro grupo meta real para poder
disear una propuesta didctica que permitiera darles a conocer las ventajas
y los inconvenientes del uso del diccionario en la asignatura de traduccin
inversa alemn-espaol y que reflexionaran sobre por qu no se les permite
usar el diccionario en la prueba final.
Asimismo, pese al bajo nmero de participantes, cabe destacar que los
resultados obtenidos son similares en lo que concierne al uso del diccionario
monolinge y del bilinge a los que obtuvimos en Garca Sanz (2009) con
un mayor nmero (124) de estudiantes (dicho cuestionario contemplaba el
uso del diccionario en general y fue realizado tambin a docentes).
Por ltimo, con la propuesta didctica esperamos haber contribuido a la
didctica lexicogrfica desde la didctica de segundas lenguas y la didctica
de la traduccin. Ms especficamente, esperamos que haya mostrado que
la consulta del diccionario en el aula ha de contemplarse como un medio
gracias al cual se desarrolla la competencia comunicativa en el marco de
una asignatura de traduccin inversa.


Anexo: propuesta didctica

Emma Garca Sanz

El uso del diccionario en el aula de traduccin



Emma Garca Sanz

El uso del diccionario en el aula de traduccin

Figura 1 A traducirse aprende traduciendo



Emma Garca Sanz

Referencias Bibliogrficas
Alvar Ezquerra, M. (2003). La Enseanza del Lxico y el Uso del Diccionario. Madrid:
Arco Libros.
Atkins, B.T.S. (1985). Monolingual and Bilingual Learners Dictionaries. En Ilson,
R. (ed.), Dictionaries, Lexicography and Language Learning, 1524. Oxford:
Pergamon Press.
AAVV (1997). Diccionario Salamanca de la Lengua Espaola. Madrid: Santillana.
AAVV (2006). Diccionario Clave. Diccionario de Uso del Espaol Actual. Madrid:
Bjoint, H. (1989). The Teaching of Dictionary Use: Present State and Future Tasks.
En Hausmann, F.J. (ed.), Wrterbcher. An International Encyclopedia of Lexicography, 20815. Berln: Walter de Gruyter.
Berenguer, L. (1996). Didctica de Segundas Lenguas en Losa Estudios de Traduccin.
En Hurtado Albir, A. (ed.), La Enseanza de la Traduccin, 930. Castelln de
la Plana: Publicacions de la Universitat Jaume I.
Bosque, I., dir. (2004). Redes. Diccionario Combinatorio del Espaol. Madrid: SM.
Bosque, I., dir. (2006). Diccionario Combinatorio Prctico del Espaol Contemporneo.
Madrid, SM.
Cervio Lpez, S., Delgado, T. y Kaldemorgen, S. (2003). Aprender a Traducir:
una Aproximacin a la Didctica de la Traduccin Alemn-Espaol. Berln:
Engelberg, S. y Lemnitzer, L. (2001). Lexikographie und Wrterbuchbenutzung.
Tubinga: Stauffenburg.
Garca Sanz, E. (2011). El Diccionario: Diferencias y Similitudes como Herramienta Didctica en el aula de Espaol/L1 y de Espaol/L2. En RedELE,
Revista electrnica de didctica-espaol lengua extranjera/ ISSN: 15714677/
nm. 23, 2011 <http://www.educacion.gob.es/dctm/redele/Material-RedEle/
Revista/2011_23/2011_redELE_23_25Emma Garca.pdf ?documentId=0901e
Garca Yebra, V. (1983). En torno a la traduccin. Madrid: Gredos.
Hernndez, H. (2009). El Diccionario en la Enseanza de E.L.E. (Diccionarios de
Espaol para Extranjeros), En Martn Zorraquino, M.A. y Dez Peregrn, C.
(eds), Actas del XI Congreso Internacional de ASELE, Universidad de Zaragoza,
1316 Septiembre 2000 (Zaragoza: Universidad de Zaragoza, 2000).<http://
cvc.cervantes.es/ensenanza/biblioteca_ele/asele/pdf/11/11_0093.pdf> consultado el 5 de junio 2009.

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Holmes, J.S. (1988). The Name and Nature of Translation Studies. En Holmes, J.S.
Translated! Papers on Literary Translation and Translation Studies 6780. Amsterdam / Nueva York: Rodopi.
Hugues, P. (1996). Kinder, Ampeln und Teutonen, Der Tagesspiegel, 23 de octubrede
Hurtado Albir, A. (1996). La Enseanza de la Traduccin Directa general. Objetivos
de Aprendizaje y Metodologa. En Hurtado Albir, A. (ed.), La Enseanza de la
Traduccin, 3155. Castelln de la Plana: Publicacions de la Universitat Jaume I.
Maldonado, C. (1998). El Uso del Diccionario en el Aula. Madrid: Arco Libros.
Martn Garca, J. (1999). El Diccionario en la Enseanza del Espaol. Madrid: Arco
Nation, I.S.P. (2001). Learning Vocabulary in another Language. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Real Academia Espaola (2001). Diccionario de la Lengua Espaola. 22 edicin.
Madrid: Espasa.
Real Academia Espaola (2003). Diccionario del Estudiante. 1 edicin. Madrid:
Ruhstaller, S. (2005). Consideraciones Sobre los Diccionarios Bilinge y Monolinge. En Castillo Carballo, M.A. (ed.), Actas del XV Congreso Internacional de
ASELE, Universidad de Sevilla, 2225 septiembre 2004 (Sevilla: Universidad
de Sevilla, 2005). <http://cvc.cervantes.es/ensenanza/biblioteca_ele/asele/
pdf/15/15_0084.pdf> consultado el 4 de abril 2009.
Ruhstaller, S. y Gordn, M.D. (eds) (2010). Diccionarios y Enseanza de Espaol.
Berna, Berln, Bruselas, Frncfort del Meno, Nueva York, Oxford, Vienna: Peter
Varantola, K. (1998). Translators and their Use of Dictionaries: User Needs and User
Habits. En Atkins, B.T.S. (ed.), Using Dictionaries. Studies of Dictionary Use by
Language Learners and Translators, 17992. Tubinga: Niemeyer.

Elisa Ghia

Audiovisual Translation as Acquisitional Input:

Quantitative and Qualitative Aspects

1 Introduction
Audiovisual text accompanied by interlingual subtitles is being increasingly
used as an instrument for the acquisition of foreign languages. Several
accounts list the theoretical grounds for the relevance of subtitled input in
L2 learning. Empirical research also showed specific acquisitional benefits
related to exposure to subtitled video, e.g. in terms of vocabulary or syntax
learning. To provide further theoretical basis to the notion, the potential
of interlingually subtitled text as learning input could be explored from
an input-driven, acquisitional perspective. Along this perspective, both
quantitative and qualitative characteristics of input are liable to affect the
learning process. The present paper aims to enumerate a set of quantitative
and qualitative features relevant to the exploitation of subtitled input as
a learning tool. Special attention is reserved to qualitative aspects, which
are somewhat neglected in the literature. Among these, the main focus is
drawn to perceptual salience, or the prominence that linguistic elements
can acquire in input as a result of specific delivery features. Qualitative
variables of input and particularly perceptual salience are associated with
their potential sources in audiovisual input, so as to deepen the reflection
on audiovisual translation and language learning and link it up to recent
research in Second Language Acquisition (SLA).


Elisa Ghia

2 Interlingual Subtitling and L2 Learning

Within the field of audiovisual translation, interlingual subtitling has been
studied along various perspectives, from the translational through to the
acquisitional one. As a modality of language transfer on screen, subtitling
is endowed with a strong acquisitional potential, constituting a precious
resource for the learning and maintenance of foreign languages. Research
on subtitling and L2 learning originated from anecdotal evidence from
subtitling countries, e.g. Scandinavian countries, Belgium, the Netherlands,
where people acquire greater familiarity with foreign languages owing to
repeated and prolonged exposure to original input from television. The
consideration of linguistic, affective and cognitive factors provided rather
solid theoretical grounds to anecdotal evidence, depicting audiovisual input
as linguistically rich, highly motivational and redundant, thus most likely to
favour processes of language comprehension and the commitment of linguistic information to memory (Bird and Williams 2002; Danan 2004).
Moving from anecdotal evidence and theoretical reflection, research
started to experiment empirically the impact of exposure to audiovisual
input enhanced with different types of subtitles on the acquisition of various L2 skills by learners at different proficiency levels (Vanderplank 1990;
dYdewalle, Pavakanun 1996, 1997). Results showed an overall positive
effect for exposure on vocabulary learning (dYdewalle, Pavakanun 1996,
1997; Van de Poel, dYdewalle 2001), the development of listening comprehension skills in the L2 (Markham, Peter 2002), and the acquisition of
L2 syntactic patterns (Ghia 2007, forthcoming-a).
Drawing on theoretical reflection on subtitling and L2 learning and
evidence gathered from empirical research, the present contribution will
be aimed at outlining the features of subtitled audiovisual input which may
best foster language acquisition. The discussion will move from an inputdriven approach to SLA, and will take into account both quantitative and
qualitative characteristics of input. Before that, a general sketch ofthe verbal
components of subtitled audiovisual input learners are exposed to is provided, according to the two separate dimensions of dialogue and subtitles.

Audiovisual Translation as Acquisitional Input


2.1 Interlingually subtitled text as learning input: the dialogic dimension

Subtitled audiovisual input provides learners with three main sources of
information: oral verbal input in L2 dialogue, written verbal input in L1
subtitles and non-verbal information conveyed through images. At the level
of verbal information, dialogue is a crucial component of subtitled film
input from an acquisitional perspective. When using films and audiovisual
products as input for learning a foreign language, learners are primarily
faced with spoken dialogue in the L2 which is contextualized into scenes.
Film dialogue has a twofold purpose. First, it is used to carry narration on
and provide relevant information about the characters, their social relationships to each other, their personalities and their feelings and moods
(Pavesi 2005). In this respect, film talk is characterized by specific target
[i.e. audience] orientation (Rossi 2002: 163; Bubel 2008). As a further aim,
film talk very often attempts to reproduce ordinary conversation and convey
an impression of realism, involving viewers by immediacy and authenticity
of communication (Kozloff 2000; Pavesi 2010).
The balance between orality-carrying features on the one hand and
informativity on the other leads dialogue makers to operate specific linguistic choices, which characterize film talk as a language variety of its own
(see Pavesi 2010). Very generally speaking, main choices concern the selection of discourse topics, which tend to be constructed more linearly and in
complementarity to scenes (Taylor 2004); at a micro-linguistic level, they
very often relate to phonological and pragmatic choices. Phonologically,
film dialogue shows greater accuracy and slower rate of articulation than
spontaneous dialogue (Chaume 2004). At the level of pragmatics, hesitations, repetitions and semantically void terms seem to occur in generally
lower proportion with respect to casual interaction (Taylor 2004). In spite
of distributional differences, however, the main features of spontaneous
spoken language are preserved in film talk, which can thus be assumed to
overall constitute suitable input for language learning.1 More specifically,

See Pavesi (2010) for English; see also Quaglio (2008) for English television dia


Elisa Ghia

what learners access is sociolinguistically realistic oral input in the L2 that

is overall more linear and clearly articulated than real-life, face-to-face conversation. When interlingual subtitles are added to audiovisual dialogue,
a further verbal dimension comes into play, which conveys additional
linguistic input to learners and may provide assistance in their L1. Subtitles may play a different role in the acquisition process depending on the
relationship they establish with images and the Source Text (ST) through
the use of specific translation strategies to convey L2 dialogue into the L1.
A few of these strategies will be briefly described in what follows in relation to the learning process.
2.2 Interlingual subtitles as an additional input source

in audiovisual text
Interlingual subtitling involves a complex translational process. Linguistic
information does not only have to be translated from a source language into
a target language, but also needs to undergo a diamesic shift from spoken to
written language (De Linde, Kay 1999; Perego 2003). Space and synchronization constraints then come into play, since subtitles need to appear simultaneously to both dialogue and images, only have to remain on the screen
for a limited amount of time and need to occupy a limited portion of the
screen. Space constraints intertwine with perceptual factors, relative to issues
of readability or the ease with which subtitles can be read and processed by
an audience. Subtitle strings need to remain on the screen a sufficient time
for viewers to read them and concurrently watch the image.
Thorough consideration of the factors listed above causes subtitlers
to operate a series of translational choices leading to the exploitation of
strategies which are sometimes peculiar to subtitling, either in their nature
or in their distribution and frequency. Such translation strategies are liable
to play a role in the acquisition process when subtitled input is drawn on as
a tool for language learning. In particular, they can operate as input simplifiers or enhancers. In what follows, we will focus on a series of subtitling
strategies which have been mentioned throughout acquisitional reflections
or are especially pervasive in subtitling.

Audiovisual Translation as Acquisitional Input


Literal transfer refers to a formally literal translation of the ST, which

is very closely reproduced in the Target Text (TT) through syntactic transfer, lexical equivalence, or the preservation of pragmatic markers (Gottlieb 1992). Owing to the multiple constraints at work, literal transfer is
not always the preferred option in subtitle translation. Nevertheless, its
role has been advocated in relation to L2 learning via subtitled film input.
Literal transfer is claimed to be liable to assist the decoding of the foreign
code and facilitate the matching of linguistic items between ST and TT
(Karamitroglou 1998; Pavesi, Perego 2008). In this way, it can operate as
a strategy for the cognitive simplification of input.
As a result of spatial and temporal constraints, the diamesic shift
and their basic supporting function, subtitles are very often reduced with
respect to the ST (Daz Cintas, Remael 2007). In subtitles, the ST has
been observed to commonly undergo an approximate 40 per cent reduction in the shift to the target language (Paolinelli 1994), with most frequently omitted linguistic items pertaining to the pragmatic sphere and
to spoken language phenomena such as repetitions, hesitations and false
starts. Instances of syntactic condensation and simplification at the level
of textual structure are also to be observed in the frequent rendering of
marked constructions as their unmarked counterparts (Perego 2005). In
most cases, what is omitted from dialogue is generally retrievable from
context be it the visual component of images or the original dialogic
dimension (Tomaszkiewicz 2009).
In an acquisitional perspective, subtitle reduction has been hypothesized to enhance learning by stimulating metalinguistic reflection and
the active comparison between the foreign and the native code appearing
in dialogue and written text (Pavesi, Perego 2008). Reduction would be
especially effective due to the gaps it generates in the subtitles, which may
cause viewers to engage in a sort of fill-in-the-blanks activity and rely on
the other parallel codes to retrieve all missing information and achieve
comprehension (Pavesi 2002). The process would therefore trigger greater
cognitive effort and deeper input processing on the part of learners, and
might contribute to shifting their attention to L2 form, acting as an input
enhancer. A similar enhancing role could be played by any type of substitution, i.e. the actual variation of the linguistic items and patterns found in


Elisa Ghia

the ST on a purely qualitative level (see the section on perceptual salience

below for a reflection on subtitle substitution and L2 learning).
Lastly, explicitation is a rather pervasive translation strategy in subtitling (Perego 2003). Explicitation involves a more explicit rendering of
the information contained in the ST through either the addition of new
information or its specification (vers 1998). Explicitation does not only
operate at the cultural level (as dictated by cultural gaps in the target language [Perego 2003]), but can also be dictated by syntax or by the scenes
themselves. Owing to its comprehension-driven function, explicitation
may facilitate the decoding of the audiovisual message by learners, thus
acting as a cognitive simplification device, and direct viewers attention
to especially informative elements in dialogue (cf. Perego, Pavesi 2007).
Moreover, it may offer an aid to especially advanced learners in decoding
cultural and linguistic references in the L2.

3 Input and Learning: Quantitative and Qualitative Features

Within an input-driven approach to SLA, input is viewed as fundamental
for learning, and the main source of linguistic information (Gass 2003;
N. Ellis 2008). Learning is consequently affected by the quantity of input
received, and the characteristics of such input, which are liable to affect the
speed of the learning process, its ease, and its final outcome (R. Ellis 1999).
Both quantitative and qualitative features of input contribute to learning
in rather similar ways, since they are all closely related to attentional and
noticing phenomena, i.e. the way input is attended to and the mechanisms
through which information is selected and extracted from it.
The quantity of input to be received is a synonym for frequency. Frequency is a key factor within associative models of learning, where the
frequency of linguistic items is the trigger to their automatization, generalization and acquisition (N. Ellis 2003). As learners, individuals are most
likely commit to memory information that they are frequently exposed to,
which they will subsequently use more easily in productive ways. Frequency
can operate as both a token and a type phenomenon. Token frequency refers

Audiovisual Translation as Acquisitional Input


to the number of times a unit appears in running text (Bybee 2008: 218),
and is associated with the acquisition of wholes, i.e. isolated vocabulary
and idioms, irregular patterns in morphosyntax, and pragmatics (N. Ellis,
Cadierno 2009: 113; R. Ellis 1999). Conversely, type frequency refers to the
various occurrences of a same core pattern, i.e. a structural scheme whose
constituent slots are each time filled with different lexical elements, e.g.
the present continuous structure.
Whereas token frequency is mainly the basis for the acquisition of
lexicon and irregular morphology, type frequency is especially relevant to
the abstraction of syntactic patterns and their productivity among learners
(N. Ellis, Cadierno 2009): when encountering a variety of possible slotfillers, learners progressively shift their focus from the single components
of a structure, e.g. a specific lexical verb in the present continuous, towards
its holistic view as a pattern, and start to parse it (Bybee 2008: 221). The
abstraction of the pattern leads to its extension to more contexts of usage
and its strengthening within the learners mind (N. Ellis 2003: 72).
Frequency is not the only input variable capable of affecting learning.
Alternative features of input can operate in similar ways at the qualitative
level, and accelerate or facilitate the learning process. Such features include
imageability, perceptibility and perceptual salience.
The imageability of a linguistic item or pattern refers to the ease with
which its meaning is paired with a corresponding pre-existing conceptual
representation or evokes a mental image (R. Ellis 1999). Input items with
higher imageability are claimed to be primarily attended to when input is
received (Levelt 1989; Balota et al. 2006) and thus act as favoured candidates for noticing by learners (R. Ellis 1999).
Whereas imageability is a strictly cognitive phenomenon, perceptibility involves the perceptual sphere, and indicates the property of a linguistic item to be relatively easy to perceive, identify and process within
input owing to some of its (mainly) inherent properties (Goldschneider,
DeKeyser 2001). These include morphophonetic substance or length,
sonority and transparency of form (R. Ellis 1999; DeKeyser 2005). In
spoken language production, clarity of articulation may also work in the
direction of greater input perceptibility, i.e. help hearers discern and segment phonetic strings.


Elisa Ghia

Like perceptibility, perceptual salience also pertains to perception.

However, it only refers to the prominence that linguistic items and patterns acquire in input at the very moment of delivery or reception and as a
result of characteristics of such delivery. These characteristics contribute to
setting the item in contrast with its context or co-text, so that the element
results as distinct from its environment (Py 2004). Instances are the use
of higher pitch to make linguistic items salient, or syntactic dislocation to
set patterns in prominent position.
Imageability, perceptibility, frequency and salience can manifest in
different ways throughout diverse input contexts. In what follows, we will
see how these notions can be applied to subtitled audiovisual input and can
be hypothesized to impact on L2 learning within this medium.
3.1 Quantitative and qualitative features of audiovisual input
Within an input-driven approach to L2 acquisition, quantitative and qualitative characteristics of subtitled audiovisual input may be capable of having
an impact on noticing and learning processes when the audiovisual resource
is used as a tool for learning foreign languages.
In quantitative terms, the amount of exposure to audiovisual input is a
key factor to language acquisition. Frequent exposure to audiovisual input
is generally advocated as anecdotal evidence for L2 learning in subtitling
countries (Danan 2004). In processing terms, frequency of input reception makes input elaboration more automatized. Within the audiovisual
context, it specifically automatizes the processing of multisource information, conveyed by multiple channels and media simultaneously (Baltova
1999). Continual exposure to subtitled input also entails repeated access to
frequent linguistic patterns in the input, accompanied by their L1 translation in the subtitles. This can favour the acquisition of both vocabulary
and syntax in the foreign language, operating as both a type and a token
phenomenon (Ghia 2007, forthcoming-a).
On the qualitative side, imageability, perceptibility and perceptual
salience can emerge in subtitled audiovisual input and play a potential
role in the acquisition process. Imageability is by default enhanced by
the very nature of audiovisual input. Being complemented with a visual

Audiovisual Translation as Acquisitional Input


component, verbal input is easily visualizable by learners. Visualization is

then reinforced by verbal redundancy, or the fact that the same information is conveyed in both spoken and written format in L1 subtitles. The
degree of imageability of input is mainly dependent on audiovisual genre
and scene characteristics, with highly contextualized genres, e.g. comedies,
dramas, do-it-yourself programmes (cf. Perego, Pavesi 2007: 1523) being
associated with greater correspondence between images and dialogue. The
establishment of a deeper connection between the visual and the verbal
dimension has been claimed to be conducive to increased processing and
memorization of input (Paivio 1986).
The perceptibility of input components can similarly be relevant to
the acquisitional use of audiovisual input. We stated above that audiovisual
dialogue is generally characterized by greater clarity of articulation than real,
face-to-face conversation. Clarity of articulation is one factor to perceptibility: clearly enunciated speech is more easily discerned and segmented
by learners, who can thus be granted facilitated access to spoken L2 input.2
Moreover, subtitle translation offers further aid to speech segmentation
and comprehension.
As a final factor, perceptual salience can emerge within audiovisual
input. Since salience is a rather complex construct to define, its role in
subtitled input will be outlined in a separate section.
3.2 Perceptual salience in audiovisual input
Patterns of perceptual salience are liable to emerge in subtitled audiovisual
input and contribute to the prominence or standing out of linguistic items
and patterns from it. As we remarked earlier, perceptual salience originates
from a contrast among input components (Py 2004). Owing to the semiotic
complexity of subtitled audiovisual input, such contrast can manifest at
least two levels: it can emerge from either the interaction between dialogue
and images or from the interplay between the two verbal dimensions, i.e.
dialogue and subtitles.

See Pavesi (2010) for a detailed discussion on the acquisitional benefits of audiovisual


Elisa Ghia

Research on the perception of subtitled text showed the high flexibility of the human mind in distributing attention among all the different
sensory stimuli available on screen at the same time (dYdewalle 2002).
Viewers are simultaneously able to attend to the soundtrack while reading
the subtitles (dYdewalle, Pavakanun 1996, 1997; Van de Poel, dYdewalle
2001), and can easily switch attention between the two (dYdewalle et al.
1987). At the same time, they are capable of looking at the images appearing on screen simultaneously. These multi-tasking skills allow for complex
perceptual interactions among channels and codes to emerge and are at the
basis for multimodal enhancement of audiovisual input.
Patterns of perceptual salience can originate from a visible contrast
between images and dialogue or its written translation in subtitles. This
might be the case every time images are used to shift attention to the verbal
dimension or set contrastive relations with linguistic items (cf. Zabalbeascoa
2008). Because of its referential nature, the process could mainly affect the
extent of attention drawn to the lexical-semantic sphere, i.e. serve as a tool
to increase the attention to single lexical items within dialogue. The two
parallel verbal dimensions of dialogue and subtitles could similarly give
rise to salience patterns in their interaction, with a salience type liable to
potentially operate at the lexical, syntactic and pragmatic level. This type
of perceptual salience would be specifically dependent on translation and
the translation strategies applied in the subtitles.
In the previous section, we have seen how different subtitling strategies have been hypothesized to affect L2 learning in different ways. Literal
transfer could facilitate the pairing of linguistic items between ST and
TT (Pavesi, Perego 2008), whereas subtitle simplification might stimulate
greater reliance on the aural component and its deeper processing by learners (Pavesi 2002). While in the former case, subtitle translation is likely
to work as a simplifying device; in the latter it would constitute an input
enhancer liable to increase the perceptual salience of dialogue items. Along
the same line, it can be assumed that any increase in the translational contrast between dialogue and subtitles can potentially boost the perceptual
salience of verbal items in dialogue input.

Audiovisual Translation as Acquisitional Input


3.3 Perceptual salience as translational contrast

By definition, any translated text involves a more or less explicit contrast
between an ST and a TT (Catford 1965). Contrast is more evident in cases
of simultaneous translation of which subtitling is an instance where
ST and TT can be accessed at the same time. By standing in immediate
contrast to each other, dialogue and subtitles are possible triggers to the
perceptual salience of verbal elements in audiovisual input.
Translational contrast is especially dependent on the use of specific
translation strategies in the subtitles; in an acquisitional perspective, these
can be conceived as strategies of input enhancement. Enhancement strategies would include any strategies leading to a more accentuated contrast
between dialogue and subtitles, and could operate either quantitatively
or qualitatively. A quantitative contrast involves a difference in the actual
amount of linguistic material used in respectively ST and TT, as achieved
by either the subtraction of input components through reduction strategies (example 1) or the addition of linguistic material via explicitation
(example 2):3
1. (English ST from Saving Grace, Nigel Cole, 2000)
English ST: It hasnt died, has it?
Italian TT: morta?
Back translation: Has it died?
2. (English ST from Youve Got Mail, Nora and Delia Ephron, 1998)
English ST: This is getting
Italian TT: La cosa sta diventando
Back translation: This thing is getting

All examples involve English and Italian as respectively ST and TT, these being the
two languages on which research informing the current contribution has been carried out by the author (Ghia, forthcoming-a 2011).


Elisa Ghia

Qualitative contrast, conversely, refers to a qualitative divergence between

items and patterns found in dialogue and subtitles as achieved through
the implementation of substitution strategies. Substitution refers to shifts
in translation concerning the use of lexical items (example 3), syntactic
patterns (example 4) or pragmatically and sociolinguistically connoted
language (example 5):
3. (English ST from Notting Hill, Roger Michell, 1999)
English ST: It takes place on a submarine.
Italian TT: Si svolge sottacqua.
Back translation: It takes place underwater.
4. (English ST from Notting Hill, Roger Michell, 1999)
English ST: Were lucky enough
Italian TT: Abbiamo abbastanza fortuna
Back translation: Weve got enough luck
5. (English ST from Oceans Eleven, Steven Soderbergh, 2001)
English ST: Tell me what the scam is.
Italian TT: Mi dici qual il colpo?
Back translation: Can you tell me what the scam is?
In example 3 above, the lexical item submarine is substituted in the shift
from English ST to Italian TT. In 4, the substitution involves a syntactic
structure: the adjective phrase in the ST is rendered as a noun phrase in
the TT. Lastly, pragmatics is affected by the syntactic shift in 5, where a
decrease in assertiveness is observed concurrently to the rendering of an
imperative clause as an interrogative one.
According to the examples shown so far, translational contrast is thus
related to a deviation from a situation of formal equivalence between ST
and TT or literalness in translation. However, perceptual salience can
also originate from any departure, i.e. contrast, from an expected translational outcome, i.e. from what learners expect to find in input and are
most familiar with as a translational output. In other words, literalness
may not be the default option in the translation of all ST linguistic items

Audiovisual Translation as Acquisitional Input


into a TT. An instance, in these terms, is the case of formulaic translation

and translation routines.
Languages may develop a set of well-established and fixed routines to
translate given linguistic items or patterns from a specific target language
(cf. Pavesi 2005). Translation routines may get established by necessity (the
target language does not have an equivalent for the pattern in question,
and resorts to alternative linguistic means) or as the frequent result of an
optional choice by the translator, e.g. linked to synchronization issues
in audiovisual input. One frequently quoted instance of routinization
in translations from English into Italian is the case of tag questions.4 An
equivalent structure to tag questions at both the formal and the functional
level is not documented in Italian. For this reason, routinized formulae such
as no? [no?] or () vero?/non vero? [is it true?/isnt it true?] have taken
over as almost crystallized equivalents to English question tags, as shown
in examples 6 and 7 below:
6. English ST: They should have called him, shouldnt they?
Italian TT: Avrebbero dovuto chiamarlo, no?
Back-translation: They should have called him, no?
7. English ST: He looks good, doesnt he?
Italian TT: Sta bene, vero?
Back-translation: He looks good, right?
By running counter common translational usage, a departure from routinization can be equally responsible for the emergence of perceptual salience.
A link between perceptual salience and subtitle translation can be thus
better outlined based on the relationship between dialogue and its subtitle
translation: the greater the translational contrast that is created between ST
and TT is (whatever its nature), the more likely the contrasting elements
are to be perceived as perceptually salient by a potential receiver having at
least some degree of knowledge of the language in the soundtrack. Higher

See Pavesi (2005).


Elisa Ghia

salience may correspond to greater distance from either literal translation

or common translational usage and routinization; conversely, lower salience would emerge from greater closeness to either literal translation or
routinization (examples 8 and 9):
8. Formal contrast
ST: What I need is a vacation.
Greater salience: TT: Quello di cui ho bisogno una vacanza.
Back translation: What I need is a vacation.
Lower salience: TT: Ho bisogno di una vacanza.
Back translation: I need a vacation.
9. Contrast with routinization
ST: They should have called him, shouldnt they?
Greater salience: TT: Avrebbero dovuto chiamarlo, avrebbero.
Back translation: They should have called him, they should have.
Lower salience: TT: Avrebbero dovuto chiamarlo, vero?
Back translation: They should have called him, right?
Research on patterns of translational salience in audiovisual input is still
scarce. However, studies conducted by the author suggest the relevance
of translation-specific salience in processes of both noticing (Ghia forthcoming-b) and L2 syntax learning among intermediate-level, Italian EFL
learners exposed to interlingually subtitled input (Ghia 2011). For learning
to be best effective, the factor yet appeared to be affected to a large extent
by additional conditions of input frequency and perceptibility.5 The complexity of audiovisual input thus makes it difficult for the time being to
advance strong claims in favour of translation-specific salience.

See Ghia (2011) for a more detailed discussion on this point.

Audiovisual Translation as Acquisitional Input


4 Conclusion: Learning Implications and

Directions for Future Research
Up until now, research on SLA and audiovisual translation has devoted
scarce attention to the quantitative and qualitative features of subtitled
input that are liable to have an impact on language acquisition. Research
rather shows a main concern with the general cognitive and affective benefits relative to this resource or the empirical testing of different subtitling
modalities on the acquisition of different types of L2 knowledge.
In the context of reception of subtitled audiovisual input, learning can
be enhanced by operating on the quantitative and qualitative input variables of frequency, perceptibility, imageability and perceptual salience as
they can emerge from images, dialogue, subtitles or combinations among
the three. The outcomes can be several: a stimulus to increased processing
(Ghia forthcoming-b); a stimulus to increased cognitive comparison (Pavesi
2002) or the enhancement of input components through the creation of
perceptual salience patterns (Ghia 2011). Recently, Ghia (forthcoming-b
2011) found empirical evidence for the positive impact of perceptual salience of audiovisual input (in the form of a translational contrast) on both
noticing and learning processes among learners. The intrinsic complexity
of such input, however, makes the definition of forms of perceptual salience peculiar to audiovisual text far from straightforward, and in constant
interaction with variables of frequency and perceptibility (Ghia 2011).
A stress on the qualitative dimension of subtitled input, as opposed
to the single frequency factor, may be especially relevant in non-subtitling
countries, where subtitling is not used as the mainstream screen translation
modality and frequency of exposure may not be an option among learners. Along the qualitative line, further aspects may be addressed by future
research in an acquisitional perspective. These may include more specific
analysis of film genre, dialogue contextualization and speech rate in their


Elisa Ghia

impact on L2 learning and in their role as input easifiers,6 or empirical

research on the acquisitional impact of subtitle segmentation as a possible
source for easification and perceptual salience.7
The research for this article has been carried out within the international
project English and Italian Audiovisual Language: Translation and Language Learning, generously funded by the Fondazione Alma Mater Ticinensis, University of Pavia, with Professor Maria Pavesi as the Principal

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Cristina Oddone

Translation in Language Learning:

Comparing and Contrasting Film Titles

1 Translation and Language Teaching

Interest in language learning and teaching has grown over the years, going
through several changes and reversals. Contributions from different disciplines such as psychology, linguistics and theories of learning have led to
the development of approaches and methods that seem to have provided
different answers to learning needs. One of the first trends largely derived
from the teaching of Latin and Greek: [a]s Modern languages began to
enter the curriculum of European schools in the eighteenth century, they
were taught using the same basic procedures that were used for teaching
Latin. Textbooks consisted of statements of abstract grammar rules, lists of
vocabulary, and sentences for translation (Richards, Rodgers 2001: 4). At
that time, the main focus of teaching was accuracy, whereas communication was not a goal. Students spent time translating formal, long sentences
and activities were based on grammar rules, which were taught deductively.
This approach was known as the Grammar-Translation Method, and it was
the mainstream view until 1940s in Europe, even though it is still adopted
in many formal teaching contexts today. That method showed its limits:
it generated repetition, did not provide real communication, it entailed
memorization of rules and words and translation with no communicative
purpose. Translating was functional to structured language learning: the
language was seen as a system of rules to be taught (morphology, syntax
and lexis), and learners had to do exercises to apply what they had studied,
exercise their writing skills or perform tests on literary comprehension.
Translation was eventually rejected, as new learning and language theories


Cristina Oddone

were developed, and new approaches spread. The Direct or Natural method,
which grew from the studies around a childs first language acquisition, was
an attempt to overcome the limits of the grammar-translation method:
it stated that language was to be acquired naturally, without translating
words and through the foreign language itself. In psychology, Behaviourism
attributed learning to imitation and appropriate responses to stimuli, with
positive or negative reinforcement (Skinner 1957). Interference from L1 was
to be overcome and errors were to be avoided. The Audio-lingual Method,
similar to the earlier Direct Method, drew from Behaviourist theory and
was largely applied to language instruction, where pattern and substitution
drills, repetition and habit-formation were employed. The target language
was to be used, with the presentation of a correct model to be repeated
without any explicit grammar instruction. Errors were explained as interference; therefore lessons were carefully built on repetitive drills, whereas
use of native language was banned.
Chomsky (1959) attacked the behaviourists theory because he envisaged language learning as a generative, creative process: learners are endowed
with a language acquisition device that requires exposure to language in
order for processing to take place. He challenged structural linguistics and
introduced his concept of universal grammar, a body of innate rules and
knowledge possessed by the users and applied to other languages. Language
productivity derived from modelling knowledge of the language using the
formal grammar, therefore learning contexts had to be meaningful and
mistakes were accepted as part of a process of knowledge building.
Other theories and approaches have followed: the Communicative
Approach focuses on communication more than grammar and on learning
by interacting and performing meaningful tasks. Emphasis has been gradually put on the learner with his/her learning needs and characteristics. The
Humanistic approach attributes success or failure of language teaching to
the extent to which the learners affective domain is catered for. Krashens
theory of Second Language Acquisition has been largely influential since
the 1980s: based on five hypotheses, it claims that acquisition is more
important than learning. Acquisition is a more permanent process, by
which knowledge is stored in long-term memory, thus it requires meaningful interaction in the target language. Learners progress according to a
natural order and exposure to a comprehensible input. Krashens theories

Translation in Language Learning


have had an enormous impact on education: a direct consequence is the

Natural Approach (Krashen, Terrel 1983): a combination of second language acquisition, language teaching and contributions from the humanistic
tradition with its emphasis on setting the right conditions for learning to
take place. All these approaches and methods seem to have moved away
from translation, focusing instead on contextual language learning and
communication in the target language. Important concerns (objectives,
selection of content, notions and functions, skills development) have led
language teaching and learning, and issues have been addressed in different
ways (fluency over accuracy, emphasis on the learning process and on
learners needs).
Meanwhile, what has really happened to translation? In the 1960s and
1970s, contrastive analysis between languages was employed to predict
problems, understand why some features were more difficult than others
to acquire and to avoid errors. Lados Theory of Contrastive Analysis (1958)
was based on structural linguistics and behaviourist theories in its way to
describe languages and interference between them. Extensively used within
the theory of Second Language Acquisition, it assigned a new role to L1.
Behaviourists thought that the native language influenced language learning. Therefore equivalent portions of two languages were analysed in pairs
in order to find similarities and differences, and isolate the problems that
the speakers of one language may encounter in acquiring the other:
Individuals tend to transfer the forms and meanings, and the distribution of forms
and meanings of their native language and culture to the foreign language and culture both productively when attempting to speak the language and to act in the
culture, and receptively when attempting to grasp and understand the language and
the culture as practiced by natives. (Lado 1957: 2)

Before him, Weinreich (1953) had introduced the concept of negative

transfer (or interference) as a strong influence of one language on another
in the speech of bilingual people:
Those instances of deviation from the norms of either language which occur in the
speech of bilinguals as a result of their familiarity with more than one language,
i.e. as a result of language contact, will be referred to as interference phenomena.
(Weinreich, 1953: 1)


Cristina Oddone

In this regard, he also assumed that:

[T]he greater the difference between the two systems, i.e. the more numerous the
mutually exclusive forms and patterns in each, the greater the learning problem and
the potential area of interference. (ibid.)

As a consequence, he mainly attributed learners problems to the differences between the two language systems. In this concern, contrastive studies seemed to predict the issues involved in acquiring a second language
(Richards 1971).
But then behaviourist theories started to be challenged as language
acquisition was no longer seen as habit and imitation, but as active rule
formation (Gass, Selinker 2001). Errors could not be easily predicted and
attributed to L1 interference, and language learning was not simply the
result of correspondences between the two languages. Among the opponents, Chomsky attacked Lados views on language learning as a system of
habits, built upon a relationship between L1 and L2. He believed in the role
of the language acquisition device that allows learners to develop linguistic competence independently from the examples they are provided with.
Languages were no longer viewed as self-contained systems and patterns;
instead they were thought to possess universal properties with similarities in their deep structure and differences in their surface structure. The
revolution created by Chomskys theory had a considerable impact: the
concepts of language universality and deep structure disproved the basis
of structuralism.
To acquire a language, a child must devise a hypothesis compatible
with presented data he must select from the store of potential grammars
a specific one that is appropriate to the data available to him. (Chomsky
1965a: 36)
Lados theory was no longer consistent with the new findings on language learning and was then rejected, and the interest switched to error
analysis (Corder 1981) and inter-language theory (Selinker 1972). What is
important at this point is that Chomsky found translation achievable. He
asserted that it is in their deep structure that languages are similar, therefore
semantic interpretation is possible. Each utterance in one language can be

Translation in Language Learning


transferred into its deep structure (from verbal to mental level) and then
transformed into the deep structure of the target language (from mental
to verbal level). However this theory is limited to enunciative frameworks
and does not deal with text translation.

2 A New Role for Translation

The definition of translation as a word-to-word correspondence is not
exhaustive, as words often have more than one meaning and culture also
plays an important role. Fidelity and transparency are among the ideals
of translators, with equivalence as a main concern in the correspondence
between languages. What needs to be considered is that translating implies
not only transferring meanings from one language to another one but also
from one culture to another one.
A semiotic turn took place on the borderline between translation studies and cultural semiotics. The scope of translation as a term widened and the methodology of
translation studies started to change due to the differentiation between three kinds
of translation activities. (Torop 2002: 3)

In the 1960s, translation became less empirical and acquired a more specific
perspective, from a methodological, philological and philosophical point
of view. In his essay On Translation, Jakobson (1959) discussed the problem
of translation by referring to Peirces Theory of Signs: the meaning of one
word corresponds to its transposition into another sign, and interpreting
a semiotic element implies translating it into another one:
All cognitive experience and its classification is conveyable in any existing language.
Whenever there is a deficiency, terminology can be qualified and amplified by loanwords or loan-translations, by neologisms or semantic shifts and, finally, by circumlocutions. ( Jakobson 1971: 263)


Cristina Oddone

All communicative actions are in fact translations: reading, writing, thinking, etc. all correspond to translation processes. According to Jakobson there
are three ways of interpreting verbal signs: inter-lingual or interpretation of
signs of another language; intra-lingual or interpretation within the same
language (paraphrasing, changing of genres and discourses); intersemiotic
or transmutation which means translating signs of one system into signs of
another one (e.g. literature into films, pictures into words, etc). These types
of translation largely depend on the communication procedure and the
message involved. Moreover, Jakobson states that when translation occurs,
two processes take place simultaneously, recoding and transposing (Torop
2002), as meanings need to be adapted to different contexts:
Culture has its own sign systems or languages on the basis of which the members of
the culture communicate. Thus, one possibility to understand a culture is to learn the
languages ofthe culture, the sign systems operating within the culture. (Torop 2002: 8)

The role of translation seems to have changed, and attitudes towards it

have turned into a more comprehensive view of the relations between
languages. Translation can be now seen as bridge-building across the space
between source and target (Bassnett 2002: 10). A persistent feature in
some academic courses, translation skills are still required in specific jobs
(e.g. interpreters). Moreover, in some educational contexts, strict adherence to the foreign language may cause more problems than the use of the
native language, which can be an aid particularly when the teacher needs
to explain difficult concepts. Understanding in ones own language often
entails identifying hidden issues which have to do with ones own cultural
background. Despite the many objections to it in the past, translation is
therefore useful in some contexts, where it does not necessarily mean boring,
repetitive tasks for students. This practice can be integrated into meaningful activities, where communication is involved, and language learning
is achieved in a natural, motivated way. Nowadays people prefer to view
translation as a communicative act between cultures, with great emphasis
on conveying proper meanings in the target culture. In this regard, a new
field of research has developed: Translation Studies, the interdisciplinary
studies which exceeded the positivist view of language and translation as
an exact science, no longer aimed at raising the issue of how and whether

Translation in Language Learning


the translation was faithful to the original. Attention has been paid not
only to the product but also to the process, so that the translated text is
seen, not as a perfect copy of the original one, but as a reinterpretation
of it. Translation has become more flexible, as it generates texts that may
work well in the comparison between cultures and within the target culture
as well. It is not limited to an act of linguistic transcoding, but is seen as
an operation of cultural transfer. All variables must be considered from a
lexical, grammatical, semantic and pragmatic point of view, with an awareness of the impact that the translated text can have on ones own culture.
From this perspective, translation seems to have reached a new status
in language learning. Translation is no longer employed to apply rules or
prove comprehension, but as a way to learn a language and its culture at
the same time. However, the correct activities to associate with translation
tasks must be chosen. Tasks should not focus on appropriateness, accuracy
and style, practice should involve students in meaningful activities where
they see a purpose in what they are doing. Text awareness should be promoted with a deep understanding of the structures and the meanings of
the target language and a comparison between language systems (grammar,
lexis, style, and pragmatics-culture). In fact, the approach to translation
has completely changed and teachers are now using translation to learn
rather than learning how to translate (Duff 1989). Translation activities
can also be used to promote practice in the four skills: if students work in
groups they can discuss meanings and compare them in different languages;
finding differences and similarities in the two languages can help students
understand the interaction between languages and the problems related
to native language interference (Murphy 1988).
Today, in light of the latest research, after years of total rejection of
translation in the teaching of modern languages, the task of mediation is
also regarded as a composite and complex skill, to be pursued systematically in the curriculum of language education as the ability to integrate
receptive and productive skills, or as a specific fifth skill. The Common
European Framework goes beyond the idea of simple translation and
recognizes mediation among the various language activities that activate
learners communicative language competence. This process is a further
step in translating, which is seen not just as a group of words turned into


Cristina Oddone

another language but as an important process, based on reprocessing an

oral or written text, in order for the parties involved to understand each
other or to communicate something. Mediating language activities (re)
processing and existing text occupy an important place in the normal
linguistic functioning of our societies (CEF 2001: 14). Summarizing and
paraphrasing texts in the same language are examples of mediation but also
interpretation of signs, notices, texts, etc. Since languages reveal different
systems when compared, mediating means, especially noting possibilities
and equivalences, bridging gaps, checking congruence of two versions
and consistency of usage (CEF 2001: 88). Another instance of mediation
is the ability to interpret a cultural phenomenon in relation to another
culture (Ibid.: 175) which is a sign of the ability to manage a plurilingual
and pluricultural repertoire.

3 Implications for Translation: Language and Culture

Translation inevitably brings two languages and two cultures together.
This may be an issue, especially when completely different language systems are involved, or when misunderstandings lead to embarrassment or
culture clashes. Language and culture are strongly linked: one cannot teach
a language without teaching its culture too. There is no true equivalence
sign-to-sign without considering the type and main function of the text,
the characteristics of the recipient and the purposes for which one translates. The cultural dimension is emphasized, with its role in opening and
establishing a secure communication between two or more people and
fulfilling a social and interpersonal task within a specific cultural context.
Each act of linguistic mediation is also an act of cultural mediation, and
this is important especially if we consider the value that each specimen
carries with it from a social and historical point of view. Translating can
strengthen or promote intercultural competence and can result in benefits
both in the first and in the second language, in terms of understanding,
language skills and the range of vocabulary.

Translation in Language Learning


When translating discourse from one language into another, learners

face problems related to grammar, syntax, vocabulary, etc. Polysemic words
may lead to confusion and vagueness, and figurative language (including
items such as metaphors, idioms, similes, paradox, metonymy) requires a
deeper analysis to identify meanings. Metaphors and allusions are particularly demanding as they are often culturally specific. As a matter of fact,
there is no precise equivalence of one language and another. According
to Snell-Hornby (1988), translation has an interdisciplinary function as it
deals with something between disciplines, languages and cultures. Sometimes culture-bound problems are more difficult to solve than grammar
or syntactic issues. Some of these difficulties often refer to situations and
pragmatics (addressing people, apologizing, etc.) or involve intralinguistic
factors (idioms, puns, etc.) (Leppihalme 1997). Some sentences or phrases
may contain allusions or references which are understandable only by
native speakers, because they contain implicit messages which are not
easy to identify. Allusions may be key phrases or refer to proper names, in
the form of either direct references or implications, and it is the readers
role to identify their meaning and make the connection. Leppihalme says
that these problems require specific strategies and anticipation: the words
employed in an allusion are a clue for translation and they need to be
referred back to former uses or some specific features. Some of these items
have even turned into clichs so they do not need reference to their original
source. The level of difficulty also depends on how much a text is embedded into its own culture (Snell-Hornby, 1988: 41) and its distance in time
and space with the receiver. This is particularly tre for allusions that need
a high degree of biculturalisation of receivers in order to be understood
across a cultural barrier (Leppihalme 1997: 4). The world around us is full
of allusions, present not only in literary works but also in TV programmes,
films, music, advertisements, etc. Dubbed films have certainly simplified
viewing in certain countries, however sometimes dubbed utterances contain errors due to the wrong interpretations of culture-bound items (e.g.
proper names, words and phrases with specific allusions or culture-specific
metaphors) which may hinder comprehension. Literal translation often
implies a pragmatic error deriving from the misunderstanding of the real
meaning that the words convey. Semantic and pragmatic meanings must be


Cristina Oddone

analysed in order to avoid problems related to frozen patterns of language

whose significance cannot be identified from its individual components.
Recognizing the hidden meaning of utterances and words entails delving
into the creative process. In particular, allusions bring special effects to the
language by their associations or connotations (Leppihalme 1997: 34):
associations may be subjective, whereas connotations require social collective knowledge (ibid). Other expressions can cause difficulty in understanding: items such as idioms and fixed expressions can be understood if
they are considered together with the context in which they occur. These
fixed expressions include frozen collocations, proverbs, routine formulae,
sayings and similes (Moon 1998). Some of these expressions break the rules
of conventional grammar or include unique items; some formulae and
sayings comprise quotations, catch phrases and truisms. Metaphors also
involve semantic issue, as they require specialist knowledge to be decoded
successfully (semi-transparent metaphors) or they are pure idioms, thus they
are impossible to understand without knowing the origin of the expression (opaque metaphors) (Moon 1998). Another important concern is
collocation, that is, the way two or more words co-occur in a text in lexicogrammatical patterns. Other figures of speech may be non-transparent to
speakers of another language, such as synecdoches, metonymies and litotes.
Deignan (1995) argues that most words have a literal and a metaphorical
meaning: the latter is used to refer to something different and generates
confusion. She adds that most languages use metaphors, but the way these
are used varies from one language to another. Therefore it is important
for language students to identify these items, not only to increase their
vocabulary but also to develop an awareness of specific language systems,
and to understand that the metaphorical meaning of words in one language
cannot be directly transferred into another one. When we encounter these
expressions, we process the literal meaning at first, then, when this process
fails to provide an interpretation for the context, we access what Bobrow
and Bell (1973) call the idiom list, which is the way these expressions are
stored in the memory. Nonetheless, understanding is not always easy, as
some of these items may undergo variations (amplification, truncation,
lexical variation, etc.), encode ideological constructs or allude to stereo
types; some are iconic and show the resemblance between the tenor and

Translation in Language Learning


the vehicle, others refer to different formality levels or are restricted to

particular varieties of the language. FEIs may be seen as agglomerates of
cultural information rather than simply lexical items (Moon 1998: 166).
Ambiguity is often the result of texts filled with such elements but the
context or co-text may help to shed light on the meaning, and Forrester
(1995) states that if the context is appropriate a proverb can be interpreted
idiomatically and made-up idioms can be associated with familiar ones in
order to be understood. Strategies of problem-solving and analogy and
real-world knowledge may also be helpful (Moon 1998: 185).

4 Comparing and Contrasting Film Titles

This experiment was carried out in an Italian high school, with students
aged between fifteen and seventeen, whose level of English was quite low.
They were not motivated to learn foreign languages because they did not
see a purpose in it. However, they listened to music and watched films from
English-speaking countries and showed interest in the meaning of some
difficult words they heard or they read in lyrics or titles. This activity was
designed in order to motivate students in the language learning process
by using original material which largely corresponded to their interests.
Firstly, we conducted a survey to analyse their tastes and, while brainstorming some film titles, we realized that foreign films are subject to different
processes when they arrive in Italy: some of them maintain their original
English title, others are given a translated title, others still have two titles
(the original one and an Italian subtitle). We looked for occurrences, possible explanations and then conventionally classified them as: original titles,
original titles with Italian subtitles and translated titles. Students worked
in groups and found films that fit into the above categories. After completing their lists, they had to compare and contrast titles, use film plots to
understand hidden meanings, analyse rules and occurrences, and therefore
develop language and cultural awareness. The teachers guidance and support was particularly aimed at introducing important items of language


Cristina Oddone

and grammar, but also provided hints for discussions on cultural issues.
Motivation and involvement rose from the use of authentic, interesting
material and from the work in the ICT lab students were allowed to use
databases (IMBd and other sites to find information on plots and characters) and other tools (like Tradukka to identify discrepancies or correctness
in the translation provided).
The first group (English titles) contains very famous films such as The
Ring, American Pie, The Fast and the Furious, 2 Fast and 2 Furious, Oceans
Eleven, Spiderman, Batman, Mr and Mrs Smith, The Departed, Inception,
Avatar and so on. Most of these films retain their original title because it
is often difficult to convey the same idea in Italian, either because it loses
its charm (e.g. Uomo Ragno instead of Spiderman) or because it has no
cultural roots (e.g. American Pie). It is also true that the original title is
often maintained in trailers and advertisements to reduce production costs,
nevertheless it is interesting to note how different they become in another
language. The Fast and the Furious is an action film describing car races.
The title is highly evocative as it suggests the fast developments in the plot.
Furthermore Fast and Furious is an idiom meaning done quickly, with a
lot of energy. 2 Fast and 2 Furious plays a similar role, but the presence of2
performs a dual function: it connotes the sequel of the film but also stands
for too, which it often replaces in informal writing and texting. Oceans
Eleven provides food for thought: Ocean is a persons surname; he leads a
group of expert bank robbers, eleven in the first film, twelve and thirteen
in the sequels. This title introduces the possessive case and makes students
consider important points (e.g. they need to read the plot to find Oceans
identity). Mr and Mrs Smith is largely culture-bound: Smith is the most
common surname in Britain. Once again reading the plot guides students
through comprehension: they are husband and wife, but in fact they are
spies in disguise; this is the reason why they adopt this common surname.
The equivalent in Italian would be Il signore e la signora Rossi/Bianchi,
the most widespread Italian surnames, but this translation would be less
effective than the original title.
Films with two titles belong to the second group: In Her Shoes: Se fossi
lei; Two Weeks Notice: Due settimane per inamorarsi; Boat Trip: Crociera
per single; The Day after Tomorrow: Lalba del giorno dopo; Unstoppable:
Fuori controllo; Morning Glory: Il volto del mattino; Tangled: Rapunzel,

Translation in Language Learning


Lintreccio della torre; Fast and Furious: Solo parti originali, etc. These pairs
of film titles help the teacher introduce other important language and
culture points. In Her Shoes: In someone elses shoes is a typical idiom
including footwear and alluding to being in someone elses position and
having to act or behave like that person. This corresponds to the Italian
idiom essere nei panni di un altro where the reference is to clothes: wearing somebody elses clothes and experiencing things from their point of
view. The title can be exploited to introduce other idioms and to analyse
conditional sentences such as if I were you.
Two Weeks Notice is translated as Due settimane per innamorarsi [two
weeks to fall in love]: it is interesting to realize why the word notice (a
written or printed announcement) is turned into a verb (innamorarsi)
which anticipate to the central theme of the film. The same happens with
Boat Trip and Crociera per single, where the former generally denotes a
cruise or trip by boat and the latter adheres to the main plot. Film title
pairings often require detailed analysis of the film plots to identify the
reason behind the choices.
The third group presents even more challenges from a linguistic and
cultural point of view: titles are translated into Italian but they often
undergo significant changes. Phone Booth and In linea con lassassino where
the Italian version means on the phone with the murderer: by analysing
the plot, the Italian title is more explixit than the English one.
More difficulties arise with Wedding Crashers and Due single a nozze:
this definition does not fit into Italian culture, as uninvited guests cannot
take part in wedding parties. A gate crasher sounds like imbucato in Italian, with reference to the act of attending an event without paying or being
invited. Once more the Italian title helps the audience identify the main
story (two singles who attend wedding parties in order to meet girls and
pretend they are friends of somebody there).
The Pacifier is an action film starring Vin Diesel in the role of an undercover agent employed as a nanny to protect three children from danger.
The American English word pacifier means a reconciler but also a babys
dummy, whose Italian translation is il ciuccio. This title may have been
judged not suitable for a film and once more the core idea of the film has
been represented by Missione Tata [mission for a nanny/nanny mission
in English].


Cristina Oddone

Lexical implications are behind the choice of Quel mostro di suocera

as a version of Monster-in-law: this word is a variation of mother-in-law
conveying the idea that she is a monster (stereotype which is quite common
in Italy as well, but where the play on words is not possible). The phrase
mother-in-law is translated into suocera in Italian and this is the reason
why it has been adjusted into Quel mostro di suocera. The same happens
with Made of Honor but this time the pun is at phonological level: made
instead of maid because the best friend of the bride, who is the film protagonist, is in fact a male friend who is not behaving honestly and properly.
This man is actually in love with her and does his best to prevent her from
getting married to another man. Since there is no option to use the Italian
language in the same way (no puns are possible with damigella donore, the
Italian equivalent of maid of honour), it has been translated as Un amore
di testimone, meaning either a lovely maid of honour but also implying
the fact that she is in love with someone. This instance shows how the
teacher can employ play on words to introduce phonological items, such
as homophones and allophones.
A strange case is represented by the film The Proposal: some of the
online translation tools the students used for help, automatically translated
the word proposal into Ricatto damore, which is the title the film has been
given in Italy. At a careful analysis, the word proposal may refer to suggestion, offer of marriage or proposal by an insurance company, whereas the
word ricatto corresponds to blackmail in English. The ambiguity which
is generated by online tools may give the teacher the opportunity to work
on polysemy and also on the influence media and popular culture exerts
on language development.
The Hangover is a film telling the story of four young men on a stag
party, having a hard time in Las Vegas because they drink too much. To have
a hangover means suffering the physical effects following the heavy use of
alcohol, which in Italian is avere i postumi di una sbornia. The connotation
in English is slightly negative, whereas in Italian the choice implies the idea
of having a great time: Una notte da leoni [a brave night out].
Instead, Grown-ups literally means adults: this film shows some people
in their forties, with families, who behave like children. The word bamboccioni in Italian has strong links with culture, as it connotes grown-up

Translation in Language Learning


people who still live with their parents, at their expenses, and they usually
identify with lazy, spoilt children. There is no negative idea conveyed by
the English word.
The title Dinner for Schmucks has been translated as A cena con un
cretino [having dinner with an idiot]. Schmuck is a slang American word
for an idiot, a stupid person, derived from Yiddish and used in other languages or banned in other cultures because it was considered vulgar. The
usage of this word for the title was debated as someone perceived it as the
wrong choice. However, there seems to be a purpose in this, which is to
create confusion about who the real idiot is between the two protagonists,
or the boss himself.

6 Conclusions
After being rejected for decades because of its links with more traditional
grammar teaching methods, translation has been recently re-evaluated. Seen
as an important tool for language learning, it is supported by translation
studies and contributions from various disciplines. Largely related to linguistics and semantics, a new role has been attributed to it, in defining the
relationship between cultures and in attributing meanings to words in ones
own culture. This experience of using film titles to promote language learning
has proved particularly valid in dealing with language and cultural issues,
developing text awareness and improving students language performance.

Bassnett, S. (2002). Translation Studies. London: Routledge.
Bobrow, S.A. and Bell, S. (1973). On catching on to Idiomatic Expressions, Memory
and Cognition, 1, 3436.


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Chomsky, N. (1965). Formal discussion: the development of grammar in child language. In Bellugi, U. and Brown, R. (eds), The Acquisition of Language, 359.
Indiana: Purdue University.
Chomsky, N. (1967). A Review of B.F. Skinners Verbal Behaviour. In Jakobovits,
L.A. and Miron, M.S. (eds), Readings in the Psychology of Language, 1423.
Prentice-Hall Inc.
Corder, P. (1981). Error Analysis and Inter-language. Oxford: Oxford University
Deignan, A. (1995). English Guides 7: Metaphor. London: Harper Collins Publishers.
(1989). Translation. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Duff, A. (1990). Bringing translation back into the language class, Practical English
Teaching, 10(3).
Forrester, M. (1995). Tropic Implicature and Context in the Comprehension of Idiomatic Phrases, Journal of Psycholinguistic Research, 24(1), 122.
Gass, S. and Selinker, L. (2001). Second Language Acquisition: an Introductory Course.
Abington: Routledge.
Jakobson, R. (1959). On Linguistic Aspects of Translation. In Brower, Reuben (ed.),
On Translation, 2329. Harvard University Press.
Jakobson, R. (1971). On Linguistic Aspects of Translation. In R. Jakobson, Selected
Writings, vol. II, 2606. The Hague: Mouton.
Krashen, S. and Terrel, T.D. (1983). The Natural Approach: Language Acquisition in
the Classroom. London: Prentice Hall Europe.
Lado, R. (1957). Linguistics across Cultures: Applied Linguistics for Language Teachers.
Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.
Leppihalme, R. (1997). Culture Bumps: an Empirical Approach to the Translation of
Allusions. Great Britain: WCB Manufacturers Ltd.
Moon, R. (1998). Fixed Expressions and Idioms in English A Corpus-Based Approach.
Oxford: Clarendon Press.
Murphy, B. (1988). Teaching Translation and Teaching through Translation, Translation Activities in the Language Classroom, Modern English Teacher 15(4).
Murphy, B., Translation Activities in the Language Classroom, 2009, Teaching English, BBC, <http://www.teachingenglish.org.uk/think/articles/translationactivities-language-classroom> accessed 26 January 2011.
Peirce, C.S. (193158). Collected Papers. Cambridge, Mass.: The Belknap Press of
Harvard University Press.
Richards, J.C. (1971). A Non-Contrastive Approach to Error Analysis, English Language Teaching XXV, 20419.
Richards, J. and Rodgers, T. (2001). Approaches and Methods in Language Teaching.
Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

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Salmon, L. and Mariani, M. (2008). Bilinguismo e Traduzione. Milan: Franco Angeli.

Selinker, L. (1972). Inter-language, International Review of Applied Linguistics in
Language Teaching, 10(14), 20932.
Skinner, B.F. (1957). Verbal Behaviour. United States: Copley Publishing Group.
Snell-Hornby, M. (1990). Linguistic Transcoding or Cultural Transfer? A Critique of
Translation Theory in Germany. In Lefevere, A. and Bassnett, S. (eds), Translation, History and Culture, 7986. London: Pinter.
Titone, R. (1984). La Traduzione e lInsegnamento delle Lingue Straniere: Problemi
Psicolinguisticci e Glottodidattici. In AA.VV., La Traduzione nellInsegnamento
delle Lingue Straniere, 5175. Brescia: La Scuola.
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30(2), 593605.
Weinreich, U. (1953). Languages in contact: Findings and Problems. New York: Linguistic Circle of New York.

Maria Pavesi

The Potentials of Audiovisual Dialogue

for Second Language Acquisition

The role of audiovisual dialogue in second language learning1 has been

mainly addressed from the point of view of subtitled foreign products,
whereas noticeably less attention has been paid to the kind of input that
screen dialogue offers in terms of the untutored and incidental acquisition
of a second or foreign language (cf. Caimi 2002; Ghia 2007; Pavesi, Perego
2008). Moreover, since audiovisual dialogue has only recently become an
active topic of research in both descriptive and applied linguistics, overall
little is known about which features of the language of TV fiction and
films can promote spontaneous second language acquisition.
In this paper I will draw on recent corpus-based investigations of the
English spoken in fictional screen dialogue, focusing on both similarities
and differences between spontaneous conversation and screen dialogue,
on the assumption that knowledge of the linguistic features typifying
face-to-screen communication is a necessary prerequisite for any in-depth
investigation of the full potentials of audiovisual language and audiovisual
translation for language learning. In particular, attention will be paid to
those linguistic aspects that may be hypothesized to make audiovisual input
suitable and advantageous for untutored second language acquisition.
More precisely, as face-to-face interaction and interactionally modified
input have been shown to be conducive to second language acquisition
(e.g. Gass, Mackey 2006), the question to be asked is whether simulated
audiovisual interaction contains features which may assist learners in their
acquisition of the target language despite the lack of genuine bidirectional
interaction in face-to-screen communication.

Second language learning will be used as a general, superordinate term to refer to

all forms of acquisition and learning of an additional language.


Maria Pavesi

1 Audiovisual Input and Second Language Learning

A considerable body of experimental research is now available in support
of subtitled audiovisual input as conducive to L2 learning and a number of
generalizations can be put forward about this kind of input in the comprehension and acquisition of a second or foreign language2 (cf. the literature
reviews by Danan 2004; Gambier 2007; Vanderplank 2010; also Ghia
2010). Although not all studies of subtitled audiovisual input exclusively
deal with audiovisual dialogue, most of them show the positive effects of
exposure to fictional conversations on L2 learning (Perego, Pavesi 2007).
Non-experimentally, it has also been pointed out that so-called subtitling
countries fare better than dubbing countries in foreign language acquisition and learning (Gottlieb 2004). Such an advantage can be clearly related
to massive exposure to subtitled L2 dialogues, since films and TV fiction
represent the foreign programmes that are most commonly imported and
made media-accessible to non-native audiences. Furthermore, with reference to non subtitled audiovisual input, a series of empirical investigations
carried out in Malta on the spontaneous acquisition of Italian as a second
language have shown that L2 learners may significantly benefit at all
competence levels and in the different language areas from watching
TV programmes in the second or foreign language (Brincat 1992; Caruana
2003, 2006). Since programmes in Malta were received directly from Italian TV stations and were not subtitled, the experience explicitly provides
evidence that screen dialogue meant for native speakers can be advantageous for L2 learners as well.3

These generalizations mainly concern: the effects of different types of subtitles

inter-, intra- or reverse subtitles the areas or components of the L2 competence
mainly improved by watching L2 subtitled programmes, e.g. listening comprehension, lexis or grammar, and the structural features of the subtitles enhancing access
to the aural input, e.g. keywords, spatial arrangement or simplifications.
A proviso must be made here as a high degree of similarity in the lexicon between
the two typologically different languages Italian and Maltese may have assisted
learner-viewers to understand the incoming L2.

The Potentials of Audiovisual Dialogue for Second Language Acquisition


More generally, with reference to the multimodality of audiovisual

input, the co-deployment of the verbal and imagery systems (so called dual
coding) is believed to support learners in their matching tasks by making
the language input more concrete and richly contextualized (e.g. Danan
2004). The language of films and TV fiction is also appreciable in terms
of quantity and quality of input, since it offers easily available exposure to
the L2 in the form of sociolinguistically and pragmatically varied interactions, where speakers are represented as belonging to many different social
groups in terms of class, occupation, gender and age and as engaged in
a vast array of social situations at home, at work, at leisure, etc.
In the attempt to bridge the gap between the recognition of the acquisitional advantages of audiovisual input and the understanding of how
audiovisual dialogue is structured, in this paper I will focus on the linguistic
properties of audiovisual dialogue which may be relevant for second language acquisition independently of additional facilitating factors such as
interlinguistic subtitling or linguistic proximity between L1 and L2. In this
context, I will abstract away from the key issue of the L2 competence level
needed to benefit from this type of language exposure. At the moment,
suffice to say that not all audiovisual genres are equally suitable for untutored language acquisition and that quite an extensive vocabulary knowledge is required to understand Anglophone films (Perego, Pavesi 2007;
Webb, Rogers 2009a, b). With reference to the complexity of audiovisual
input, it is well known from the literature on subtitling that screen dialogue
is very demanding as L2 viewer-learners may find it difficult to parse the fast,
crowded and sometimes unclear speech of TV programmes and films into
distinct words (Baltova 1999; Neuman, Koskinen 1992). With arguments
easily transferred to different kinds of screen dialogue, Vanderplank (2010:
9) presents the paradox of television as a medium of language learning by
stressing how this verbal and supercharged medium makes programmes
widely available for use in language classrooms but hardly accessible to
language learners. Further empirical investigations are thus required to
fully investigate the issue. In what follows I will focus on screen dialogue
in English, the language which in this respect has been investigated most
broadly and is broadcast and translated to the greatest extent.


Maria Pavesi

2 The Language of Audiovisual Dialogue

Despite the huge impact that the English of the small and big screen has
world wide, relatively few studies have investigated the language of audiovisual dialogue so as to produce empirically grounded descriptions and
generalizations. In particular, a move forward should be made from the
generic notion of screen dialogue as a mere imitation of spontaneous spoken
language, inauthentic or even false orality, nor can the preconceived idea be
accepted according to which the language of the screen is simply a halfway
combination of the written and the spoken modes (cf. Marz, Chaume
2009; Taylor 2004). In the perspective of a more accurate definition of
screen dialogue discourse, the situational factors specific to screen language
must be carefully identified before the distribution of linguistic features
along with their implications for second language acquisition can be fully
assessed. On the one hand, audiovisual dialogue fictively aims to represent
real life face-to-face interactions; on the other hand, the situational factors
involved in its production differ markedly from those typical of spontaneous spoken language (Pavesi 2005; Taylor 1999), that is, the participants,
communicative objectives and situational context of screen dialogue can be
understood only with reference to a multilayered structure in which several
addressers the film maker, the script-writer, the actors, etc. interact
among themselves but also communicate with the silent audience watching
the screen and listening to the dialogues (e.g. Bubel 2008; Romero Fresco
2009). For the purposes of this paper, therefore, audiovisual dialogue will
be succinctly defined as: scripted dialogic language fictively exchanged
between actors in a multimodal context and ultimately addressed to a
non-interacting, non-co-present audience. The purposes of such scripted
language can be assimilated to those of conversation at one communication level, but at a higher level they are to entertain, narrate to and involve
viewers through processes of immersion.
For its intrinsic communicative aims and situational features, audiovisual dialogue may hence be hypothesized to share language features
with spontaneous conversation, while at the same time exhibiting unique
linguistic properties as correlates of its specific situational configuration.

The Potentials of Audiovisual Dialogue for Second Language Acquisition


3 Audiovisual Dialogue as a Model

of Conversational Language
When looking at audiovisual dialogue in relation to second language acquisition, the first aspect to evaluate is its degree of alignment with spontaneous
speech or its naturalness the underlying question being whether the
language of films and TV fiction is realistic enough to provide good input
for language learning or, more precisely, adequate data for the L2 learning
of spontaneous spoken language (cf. Forchini, forthcoming; Rodrguez
Martn 2010; Rodrguez Martn, Moreno Jan 2009). This objective is in
line with the plea to recognize the role of the spoken language in language
teaching and learning (e.g. Carter, McCarthy 2006; McCarthy 1998).
Rhlemann (2008) in particular stresses the need to teach conversational
grammar along with the grammar of Standard English within a register
approach which acknowledges the diversity of language use and the primacy of the speech over writing.4
Starting from the same emphasis on conversational language, first
and foremost researchers have inquired into the degree of spontaneity or
naturalness of screen dialogue, where naturalness is defined in relation to
the variety of language which audiovisual dialogue is supposed to approximate in its representation of reality. It should be stressed, however, that we
do not intend to show or argue that screen language is like spontaneous
conversation and can thus be straightforwardly used as a substitute for
face-to-face interaction in language learning. As argued above, audiovisual
dialogue with its specific extralinguistic configuration is to be considered
a different register from spontaneous conversation. For this reason it is
expected to exhibit a dissimilar linguistic make-up, although a degree of
similarity between the two registers is believed to contribute to the evocation of reality essential to audiences involvement in narration and viewers
enjoyment of the audiovisual product (cf. Green et al. 2004).

According to Rhlemann, the motivation for such a shift from a monolithic view of
language and the renewed emphasis on spoken English lies in the noticeable corpus
findings suggesting that conversation works largely by rules different from those
prescribed by S[tandard] E[nglish] grammar (2008: 675).


Maria Pavesi

Three main independent corpus-based investigations have addressed

the issue of naturalness or verisimilitude by comparing the language of
films and TV fiction with large corpora of face-to-face conversation. All
three investigations have used transcriptions of the spoken screen dialogues
rather than dialogue lists or Internet scripts and have accounted for large
sets of co-occurring features instead of being restricted to a limited set of
linguistic phenomena. In this way, the findings obtained from the corpora
can be reliably trusted in terms of the width in the comparison between the
two registers of spontaneous conversation and screen dialogue. Quaglios
(2008, 2009) multidimensional analysis of the American sitcom Friends is
the most comprehensive book-length lexico-grammatical study of fictional
dialogue to date. On the basis of the analysis of more than 100 morphosyntactic and lexical features, Quaglio compares the language of Friends with
a subcorpus of American English conversation contained in the Longman
Grammar Corpus. He comes to the conclusion that the language of Friends
shares the same core linguistic features as conversation mainly by drawing on
the first of Bibers (1988) multidimensional analysis of spoken and written
registers. With reference to the dimension of involved versus informational
production, the most powerful of Bibers factors in accounting for linguistic
variation, the language of Friends and that of the conversational corpus
used for comparison exhibit almost identical mean values 34.4 and 35.3
respectively (Quaglio 2009: 65). Thus, according to Quaglios study, the
language of Friends is involved, interactive and affective like face-to-face
conversation as it exhibits a high frequency of key correlated features such
as first and second person pronouns, demonstrative pronouns, present
tenses, private verbs (e.g. think and feel), contractions, emphatics and thatdeletions. The two following extracts from Quaglio (2009: 58) illustrate
the frequent occurrence of these features in both Friends and spontaneous
conversation (instances of conversational features have been underlined):
(1)(Friends: season 9, episode 20: The One with the Soap Opera Party)

HeyHi you guys! Listen, you know what? Im not feeling really well. I
think I cant get out for the play.


Really? Wh-whats wrong?

The Potentials of Audiovisual Dialogue for Second Language Acquisition



I dont know! I think its kind of serious! Oh!, you knowI was
watching this thing on TV this morning aboutNewcastle disease
andI think I might have it!!


Oh, Newcastle disease is a secretion borne virus that only affects

chickens andother poultry.


Ok, who is this?


Im sorry, Rachel, this is Charlie Wealer, shes a colleague.


Oh, hi! I would shake your hand butIm sure you dont want to get my
chicken disease.

(2)(Conversation: Longman Grammar Corpus)


What are you talking about?


You cant do what?




Then I cant either. If you cant go she wanted me.


I dont know Ill have to figure something out.


Okay well I think Im going to go for a walk. I feel so fat, I ate so much
at lunch.


How many tacos?


I just had one but then I had a few chips and then I had ice cream pie, I
shouldnt have had that ice cream pie

Other very recent empirical investigations confirm Quaglios findings and

offer further insights into the relationships between conversation and
screen dialogue. Evidence that film language as well overlaps with that of
spontaneous conversation comes from another corpus study which used
a similar methodology to Quaglios. By applying Bibers multidimensional
model, Forchini (2008, 2009, forthcoming) compared the language of a set
of eleven American films to the Longman Spoken American Corpus. Again,
it is in particular Bibers first and main dimension of involved versus informational production that mostly accounts for the similarity between the
films investigated and the language of face-to-face spontaneous interaction.


Maria Pavesi

On this dimension, film language globally exhibits an overall mean score

(35.3) which closely matches that of spontaneous conversation (35.0) and
displays many of the same features frequently found in conversation such
as personal pronouns, present tense markers, imperatives and private verbs.
The following extract from Forchini (2008: 110)s corpus shows the occurrences in film language of spoken language features, which are emphasized
in italics.
Speaker 1:

Hey Russ! Rusty. Whats up man?

Let me ask you a question now. Are you incorporated?
Roll, okay, if you are not, you should really think about it, cos I was
talking to my manager last night

Speaker 2: Bernie?
Speaker 1:

No, not Bernie my business manager. Actually.

Thirdly, a series of publications comparing the language of another corpus of

ten American films with the conversational section of the British National
Corpus have confirmed that several features typifying spontaneous conversation are also found in audiovisual dialogue, although not necessarily to
the same extent (Rodrguez Martn, Moreno Jan 2009; Rodrguez Martn
2010). In particular, by comparing the frequency lists of screen dialogue
with two other lists derived from the spoken and written components of
the British National Corpus, the language of the Anglophone films has been
shown to be closer to spontaneous face-to-face spoken English than to written language. The occurrence of spoken language features in film dialogue
has wider implications than mere information on individual frequency
counts. Like in everyday conversation, for instance, the frequency of personal pronouns underlies the significance of personal deixis and anaphora
in film language, whereas the extensive distribution of the response signal
yes points to the pervasive activation of turn-taking and adjacency pairs,
two basic organizational structures of dialogicity and co-construction of
meaning in spontaneous interaction (Rodrguez Martn 2010).

The Potentials of Audiovisual Dialogue for Second Language Acquisition


The three investigations just considered have the advantage of looking at clusters of features, thus drawing on the assumption that statistical
significance of individual features is secondary to the overall tendency
suggested by the groups of linguistic features sharing the same or similar
discourse functions (Quaglio 2009: 52). What appears to be more relevant
for second language acquisition purposes is the considerable occurrence in
audiovisual dialogue of features of spontaneous spoken language, although
the frequencies of individual items may differ between the two language
registers. The language of screen dialogue cannot in fact be expected to
be an exact copy of spontaneous conversation and its naturalness cannot
be evaluated simply with reference to the exact quantitative reproductions
of individual features.
These three independent quantitative studies hence suggest that screen
dialogue presents language which in terms of major morphosyntactic,
lexical and discourse patterns reproduces to a great extent the spontaneous spoken input to which learners are likely to be exposed in real life. In
other words, empirical research indicates that the language of contemporary audiovisual dialogue provides good quality input for second language
acquisition since it reproduces to an appreciable extent what learners would
obtain from naturalistic exposure as non interacting participants to faceto-face conversations.

4 Moving Beyond Realism: Audiovisual Dialogue

as a General Source of L2 Input
A different perspective, however, can be taken when assessing whether
screen dialogue is useful input for L2 learners by shifting the focus away
from the degree of authenticity of screen dialogue and its suitability as
a model of real life spontaneous interactions. The question may then be
asked whether audiovisual dialogue displays linguistic elements that foster
second language acquisition irrespective of realism of input. These features


Maria Pavesi

may have to do with both similarities and differences between screen dialogue and conversation, provided they make the L2 easier to understand,
access and process for acquisition purposes. I will thus concentrate on
features that have been described as typifying audiovisual dialogue by
focusing on four main characteristics of screen dialogue which differentiate
it from spontaneous conversation: (i) eufluency and reduced vagueness,
(ii) increased discourse immediacy, (iii) widespread formulaicity and (iv)
A first relevant difference between spontaneous and fictional conversation pertains to the greater compactness, grammaticality and linearity of
screen dialogue as given by fewer performance phenomena or dysfluencies (cf.
Biber et al. 1999). If, on the one hand, audiovisual dialogue does contain
a certain degree of the phenomena connected with on-line, unplanned
language production and reception such as overlaps, false starts, hesitations and repairs, on the other hand, it has been repeatedly observed that
the frequency rate of such dysfluency features is reduced in comparison to
spontaneous spoken interaction (e.g. Pavesi 2005; Taylor 1999). Audiovisual
language thus resorts to a more normalized language than the language it
imitates (Rodrguez Martn, 2010) by restricting the features connected to
unplanned spoken language to the minimum required to evoke spokeness
in viewers minds.5 While a higher degree of uninterrupted delivery distances audiovisual dialogue from face-to-face conversation, such eufluency
(Rhlemann 2008: 682) is liable to make the L2 more accessible to less than
fully competent viewers (cf. also Ghia 2010). Audiovisual dialogue in this
respect is both simplified through a reduction of the forms making up
the repertoire of natural conversation and through greater reliance on the
Standard English variety and easified, or made more comprehensible.
Fewer dysfluencies are also consistent with the reduced vagueness
reported for the sitcom Friends (Quaglio 2009: 7186), which in comparison with face-to-face conversation displays, among other features, a

Interestingly, it has been shown that during the actual performance actors add to the
original written script many of the dysfluency features of impromptu speech, thus
achieving greater realism and naturalness (Taylor 2004).

The Potentials of Audiovisual Dialogue for Second Language Acquisition


smaller number of hedges (kind of, sort of), fewer vague coordination tags
(or something) and nouns of vague reference (thing, stuff), as also suggested
by Forchinis (2008) investigation of a corpus of American films. Fewer
conversational contractions, such as gonna, gotta, wanna (cf. Rodrguez
Martn, Moreno Jan (2009: 451), also contribute to a more unambiguous language where words and grammatical markers are spelled out, thus
reducing the economy of on-line speech production for the benefit of
the non-co-present audience. Ultimately, the motivations for a less vague
language are to be found in the narrative and entertaining functions that
screen dialogue performs in a limited lapse of time, together with the
need to guarantee comprehensibility to a large, global audience: for these
reasons language is avoided that is interpretable only by participants who
share a local context (Quaglio 2009). Reduced vagueness, fewer dysfluencies and morphophonological reductions all contribute to making audiovisual input more normalized and presumably easier to access for second
language acquisition purposes.
With reference to the constraint of comprehensibility or audience
accessibility, audiovisual dialogue has also been found to exhibit greater
discourse immediacy, i.e. greater context-boundedness, together with less
narrative concern (Quaglio 2009; Forchini 2008, 2009), as narration one
of the major motivations for media enjoyment and media immersion in
audiovisual products inherently relies on the visual component and the
overall narrative architecture (Tomaszkiewicz 2009). In screen dialogue,
reference is hence made more to the here and now than to displaced events
and activities, [s]peakers refer to what is happening at the moment, talk
about plans for the near future, make comments or express their feelings
about what is observable or happening at the moment (Quaglio 2009:
132). In comparison with face-to-face conversation, this is linguistically
conveyed by more present tense rather than past tense and perfect aspect
markers, fewer third person pronouns with the exception of it, more attributive adjectives as opposed to qualification via wh-pronouns (Forchini
2008; Quaglio 2009). Also, audiovisual dialogue is characterized by the
higher frequency of the proximal place adverb here vis--vis the lower
frequency of distal there (Rodrguez Martn 2010: 450). Other features
of immediacy have been reported to characterize audiovisual dialogue. In


Maria Pavesi

particular, vocatives have been acknowledged as central in the structure

of film dialogue starting from early cinematography (Kozloff 2000: 36).
In the form of familiarizers (e.g. guys, man, buddy), they have been found
to be significantly more frequent in Friends than in casual conversation
(Quaglio 2009: 134, 161). The following excerpt illustrates the immediate, non-narrative concern of screen dialogue and its linguistic correlates
(Forchini 2008: 114):
Speaker 1:

Mrs Larson? It uh it wont be much longer, Mrs Larson.

Speaker 2: Oh well is he in a lot of pain?

Speaker 1:

No no no. There will be no more pain for your husband. Hes heavily

Speaker 2: Ok I think Im gonna go, send little Hal in now.

Speaker 1:

No no no. I dont think thats such a good idea. With all the pain killers
uh the reverends not exactly himself.

Speaker 2: Look I think my boy has a right to say goodbye to his father I mean the
man means everything in the world to him.

Similarly, greetings and leave takings other structures contributing to

discourse immediacy have been reported to be scattered throughout the
dialogue of the American sitcom Friends (Quaglio 2009: 161) as well as the
dialogues of a group of American and British films analysed by Bonsignori
et al. (forthcoming). The extracts below, taken from Bonsignori et als
corpus (34), illustrate expressions of greeting (56) and leave taking (78):

[] Oh, good morning.



The Potentials of Audiovisual Dialogue for Second Language Acquisition



Mrs. Lefkowitz, this is my granddaughter Maggie Feller.

Mrs Lefkowitz:



So, thanks for the ride. Thanks for the drinks and the fun, and, uh, well
see you guys later.


(to Rose) I gotta go.

The immediate concern of audiovisual dialogues presents obvious advantages for L2 comprehension and second language acquisition as it makes
input rooted in the here and now, with comprehension relying on the setting represented on screen and the information provided by the actors in
the scene. Related to discourse immediacy is the rare occurrence of long
turns and side comments, noticed both for TV fiction and film interactions (Quaglio 2009: 48; Taylor 1999). This streamlining as well is liable
to make the dialogue easier to follow and understand, as the contents of
the exchanges are strictly kept within the frame of the story being narrated
(cf. Romero Fresco 2009).
Formulacity and predictability together make up a further feature typifying screen dialogue, which at the same time potentially fosters second language acquisition. Following Wray, a formula may be defined as a sequence,
continuous or discontinuous, of words or other meaning elements, which
is, or appears to be, prefabricated: that is, stored and retrieved whole from
memory at the time of use, rather than being subject to generation or
analysis by the language grammar (2000: 465). With reference to second
language acquisition, Rod Ellis summarizes the well known need for second
language learners to acquire formulae by underlining that prefabricated
sequences are both an essential part of mature speakers competence and


Maria Pavesi

help learners get by at the initial stages of development or when their

communicative competence is not adequate for the tasks at hand (2008:
7580). Unanalysed, ready-made chunks may also be a necessary stage in
second language development as suggested within usage-based theories
of language acquisition (cf. N. Ellis 2008), although opinions diverge
on whether language learners, both children and adults, can naturally
extrapolate grammatical and lexical information from larger strings (Wray
2000: 472).
Audiovisual dialogue, on the other hand, has also been described
as a prefabricated text (Tomaszkiewicz 2001) or prefabricated orality
(Chaume 2001: 81), that is, constructed speech that has been thought out
and created according to some given conventions in order to ensure viewers feeling of belonging and participation and assist their comprehension
of the storyline. In this case, speech is preassembled because, unlike spontaneous conversation, it is carefully planned ahead, put down on paper,
edited and only at the very end of the process acted out orally to sound
convincing, attractive and involving to viewers (Cattrysse, Gambier 2008).
As part of the conventions of scriptwriting, we do in fact find reliance on
recurrent patterns, key words and repetitions used to create cohesion within
the film and to differentiate characters or reinforce a leitmotif (Kozloff
2000: 845).
As already pointed out, the repetitiveness of communicative situations
and topics in audiovisual products is another factor contributing to the
establishment of frequent conversational routines or formulae. Recurrent
situations and topics are one of the defining non-linguistic features noticed
in Friends, in that the American sitcom presents a much more limited
number of settings and a much narrower range of types of interactions/
topics than casual conversation (Quaglio 2009: 47). Since characters are
repeatedly shown to arrive at and leave places, the corresponding conversational routines of greetings and leave takings are overrepresented in Friends
as are conversational topics like friendship, sex and dating. As a result of
the more limited range of social and situational variables that it represents,
the sitcom in general reveals less linguistic variation than spontaneous
conversation as given by the disparity in the standard deviation values (4.3
for Friends and 9.1 for conversation) on Bibers (1988) Dimension 1. That

The Potentials of Audiovisual Dialogue for Second Language Acquisition


is, characters in Friends will use many features of face-to-face conversation

in their speech, but they will all tend to speak in a similar way. It may be
argued that such situational and linguistic repeatedness is restricted to specific TV series, sitcoms or films, due to the specificity of settings, activities
and groups of people represented. There are, however, language uses that
re-occur in many individual audiovisual products. Not only have greetings
and leave takings been shown to pervade the dialogues collected in different
corpora of audiovisual products (Bonsignori et al. forthcoming; Forchini
forthcoming; Quaglio 2009), but also other speech act formulae such as
those for thanking and apologizing are frequently used in film language
(Rodrguez Martn: 10).
Taylor (2006, 2008) as well emphasizes the predictability inherent in
the repetitiveness of language choices and stock phrases in screen dialogue
and explicitly relates it to the recurrent situations portrayed on both small
and big screens. More specifically, the author, who defines the broad spectrum of film language as a macro-genre in itself, introduces the notion of
genrelets to refer to those situationally-based, encapsulated, formulaic language exchanges which are typically reproduced in films and TV fiction.
These patterns may be observed across a range of films, for example
hotel reception exchanges, e.g. Im afraid were fully bookedBut cant
you do anything? Similarly they may re-occur within the same series of
films, e.g. The name is Bond, James Bond, or in various episodes of longrunning television serials: past research has shown how bar talk in the
BBC series Eastenders contained many stock expressions often repeated
(Taylor 2008: 167).
We therefore have the merging of linguistic and situational repetitiveness in audiovisual language with the centrality of formulae in second
language acquisition. Firstly, learners may be assisted in their understanding
of the incoming verbal input by the predictability of the language choices.
Secondly, they may benefit from being exposed to a language rich in the
formulaic structures that they need to acquire to become fully competent
in the second language. And thirdly via repetition and variation they
might be assisted along the path which starts from formulae and through
analysis moves towards the extraction of individual elements to be combined creatively at later stages.


Maria Pavesi

5 Conclusion
The aim of this paper was to discuss empirical evidence showing that there
are linguistic features typifying face-to-screen communication which may
offer privileged access to a potentially very abundant source of L2 input.
First of all, as audiovisual input consists of a language similar to spontaneous conversation, it may foster the spontaneous acquisition of conversation
structures by L2 learner-viewers. There are other aspects of the language of
screen dialogue, however, which may enhance second language acquisition
as a whole. These include: greater eufluency and reduced vagueness, greater
discourse immediacy, formulaicity and predictability. Crucially, these facilitating properties may at least partially compensate for the obvious drawbacks
of such a unidirectional and non-interactive input for second language
acquisition. Awareness of the linguistic make-up of audiovisual dialogue
may thus be postulated as a necessary prerequisite for any comprehensive
investigation of the full acquisitional potentials of audiovisual input in all
its forms, including subtitled L2 dialogues in films and TV programmes.
The research for this article has been carried out within the international
project English and Italian Audiovisual Language: Translation and Language Learning, generously funded by the Fondazione Alma Mater Ticinensis,
University of Pavia.

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Tomaszkiewicz, T. (2001). La Structure des Dialogues Filmiques: Consquences
pour le Sous-titrage. In Ballard, M. (ed.), Oralit et traduction, 38199. Arras:
Artois Presses Universit.
Tomaszkiewicz, T. (2009). Linguistic and Semiotic Approaches to Audiovisual Translation. In Freddi, M. and Pavesi, M., 1929.
Vandeplank, R. (2010). Dj Vu? A Decade of Research on Language Laboratories,
Television and Video in Language Learning, Language Teaching, 43(1), 137.
Webb, S. and Rodgers, M.P.H. (2009a). The Vocabulary Demands of Television
Programs, Language Learning, 59(2), 33566.


Maria Pavesi

Webb, S. and Rodgers, M.P.H. (2009b). The Lexical Coverage of Movies, Applied
Linguistics, 30(3), 40727.
Wray, A. (2000). Formulaic Sequences in Second Language Teaching: Principle and
Practice, Applied Linguistics, 21(4), 46389.

Luca Pintado Gutirrez

The Use of Translation towards Foreign Language

Autonomous Learning

Little research has been done on the implementation of translation in the

foreign language classroom which I will refer to as pedagogical translation or PT. However, the development of pedagogy in foreign language
teaching allows us to revise this and to look rigorously at the benefits that
pedagogical translation as a multileveled skill offers from the lexicon to
pragmatics. Therefore, in this article I will focus on how a strategic and
operational implementation of pedagogical translation can improve the
students learning possibilities. The benefits of using translation as part of
the curriculum will help language learners to accomplish extraordinary
results, as well as direct them towards the long pursued component of
autonomous learning.

1 Translation and Language Teaching

The exercise of translation has always been related to language teaching in a
rather complex way.1 The controversy surrounding its implementation in the
classroom came to an end with the communicative approach2 and the establishment of Translation Studies. The communicative approach acknowledged translation as an adequate practice even though no guidelines on

See Fernndez Snchez 1998; Gregg 1998; Calvo 1999; Garca-Medall 2001; Martnez
Agudo 2003.
Although Cook (2010) disagrees on this.


Luca Pintado Gutirrez

how to use it were provided. Translation Studies led to interdisciplinary

research across various fields. The work of authors like Ladmiral, Holmes
and Lavault raised an interest in translation in the language classroom,
which was later developed by other researchers. Nonetheless it remained
an extremely unsystematic practice for a number of decades. Also, the
shadow of the grammar-translation and the direct methods remained,
resulting in its exclusion or incorrect practice. Nowadays, however, translation is generally better accepted despite a general lack of methodology
in its implementation.
There are different ways of using translation in the language classroom
which we need to differentiate. De Arriba Garca (1996b) categorizes them
as follows:
a) interior translation: the language learner uses translation to understand
the input and check whether the meaning inferred from the foreign
language is correct. This is done usually by students at ab initio levels
who have not yet acquired an internalized basic knowledge and whose
cognitive processes need to develop further;
b) explicative translation: the teacher in the language classroom decides to
use translation as a means to save time and allow the students to access
the meaning in the foreign language through their mother tongue;
c) pedagogical translation: this is not a tool used by the student or the
teacher in order to complete another exercise, task or explanation. It
is an exercise in itself with a pedagogical value.
Each of these variables are relevant if monitored appropriately. The value
of PT lies within a set of principles and objectives that will define its role
in the curriculum. The integration of translation in the foreign language
curriculum has significantly increased in the last decade. This is probably due to a contagious effect: the increase in the number of successful
new translation-related degrees and masters offered and the income they
It is quite difficult to give the appropriate values to translation in
the right context as it is a complex and controversial field. Only in the
last decades of the twentieth century has translation been approached

The Use of Translation towards Foreign Language Autonomous Learning


more scientifically. Research in this field has helped to define different

related areas and develop a theoretical and a pragmatic frame for them.
This also makes it possible for us to leave behind the problems that translation encountered as a discipline and which were previously seen as its
On another note, and as a result of the interest in the intercultural
prospect, our societies have developed a growing curiosity towards foreign
languages which has led, in turn, to an increment of language degrees and
degrees with a language.
The lack of consensus on this grey area means that no arrangement
has been reached in terms of the objectives to be attained in this interdisciplinary field. The curriculum is not consistent, and therefore this area
expands and develops in different ways and in accordance with different
Nonetheless, PT is a growing concept within the research field and
there is a focus on implementing it in its own right in language teaching
as a relevant tool throughout the curriculum.3 It is therefore necessary to
revisit the value of PT ascribed to a dynamic framework and detached from
the history and criticism that have generated its dismissal in the past.
It is necessary to outline briefly why and how PT should be included
in the language curricula and to what degree this is useful. Only by doing
this can course designers and teachers systematize its implementation and
prevent it from being a fruitless exercise. We currently contemplate a panorama in which each educational institution decides when and how to
implement PT of some sort. Whether the interest is genuine or a trend,
it does not seem to convey an academic tendency. The curriculum has to
be meticulously planned in order to incorporate translation to validate
its teaching.

See Toury 1995; Mayoral Asensio 2000; Bueno Garca 2005; Pintado Gutirrez


Luca Pintado Gutirrez

2 Pedagogical Translation: Implementation

The validation of PT entails a precise outline of the objectives and the
principles that will ultimately define the general guidelines for the design
and practice of teaching translation in foreign language curricula for University students which will in turn result in a clear set of benefits.
PT is a special form of communication (Kiraly 1995). This communicative aspect provides translation with the status of a dynamic system
that goes hand in hand with pragmatic tendencies in language teaching
and the communicative principles inherent to language users both in
the mother tongue and in the foreign language. In order to maintain the
main communicative principles of PT it is essential to ensure that the
practice does not become an isolated exercise restricted to the linguistic
knowledge of the student.
Encouraging the students to develop their skills through communication is not an easy task: the teacher acts as a facilitator and needs to
count on the students will to perform appropriately. Without the students appropriate performance the pedagogical value of translation in
the language classroom greatly declines. Hence, the teacher needs to be a
good catalyst who organizes the classroom adequately in terms of time,
space, material, etc. The teacher should let the student be the centre of the
translation exercise.
PT does not intend to create specialists in translation but to introduce
in the curriculum a practice that entails the employment of the language
as a whole. The objectives of PT, according to De Arriba Garca (1996a,
1996b) and Schffner (1998), are the following:
a) improving the comprehension of the source text;
b) also improving the students output;
c) developing the knowledge of the foreign language;
d) using language contrast efficiently and fighting against interferences;
e) helping to attain more fluency in the language through reformul-ation;
f ) expanding the vocabulary of the student;

The Use of Translation towards Foreign Language Autonomous Learning


g) consolidating the use of structures in the foreign language through their

active use;
h) improving the style of the foreign language.
How, when and why PT is implemented diverts in various types of tasks
depending on the direction of translation (direct or back translation),
the linguistic and the cultural elements as well as the topic and the length
of the text, the resources that the students can use, etc. That is why the
tasks organized around the translation exercise need to be adequate for
the students.
Teaching PT based on tasks seems to be adequate to conciliate translation and language teaching. It is a feasible practice, it is within the students
interests, it is inserted in the curriculum, it allows the students to make decisions and the students will also be able to assess it (Martn Peris 2004). The
students remain active and interactive entities, they can take the initiative
and they can make decisions. The teacher has to organize, advise, support
and direct the students. The translation tasks create an important opportunity which leads to effective learning. Ultimately, the tasks strengthen
autonomous learning and the use of communicative strategies.4
The practice of PT entails the development of different skills in which
the student reconstructs the meaning of the source text through the target
text that they produce depending on the level and the ultimate learning
and communicative objective(s). These can be ascribed to the task-based
approach to better exploit and work on them. Language competence is
acquired through the communicative use of the language, through interpreting and negotiating its meaning, which leads in turn to a relevant
interaction between the input and the acquired knowledge (Lee and Van
Patten 1995).
The appropriate use of PT makes the acquisition of the language easier
through its communicative use. Ultimately, it is important to be aware
that when talking about translation and communication it is vital to consider that communication in general is not always ideal in the sense of an
ideal communicative process (Hernndez Sacristn 1999). Communicative

See Krawutschke (1989), Oxford (1990, 1993), Al-Kufaishi (2004).


Luca Pintado Gutirrez

competence assumes a number of concepts and principles such as that of

participation, through which the learners progressively acquire the capacity
to operate within a community through their inter-subjective reinterpretation of a particular world through the language (Snchez Prez 1993;
Villanueva and Navarro 1997).
Other variables which are essential in the organization of a communicative environment for any type of teaching, but especially that of PT
teaching, include the role of the teacher and the student, as well as other
factors that can influence in the delivery and the comprehension such as
motivation, anxiety, interaction, etc. It is absolutely vital to outline a set of
principles for PT in order to observe its place within the general framework
of the foreign language curriculum. The latter is the ultimate issue for a
realistic and effective practice. As part of the curriculum, PT denotes the
principles of pedagogical discourse and focuses on interaction (Widdowson
1993: 261). It gives the student the opportunity of negotiating his/her own
learning. This way the student and the teacher define each other through
the practice of translation.

3 Pedagogical Translation: Benefits

If appropriately implemented, students will benefit from translation in
various ways associated to the statements discussed above:
a) students employ active and passive knowledge ofthe language stored
in short and long term memory and skills at different levels;
b) students become aware of communicative strategies: translation forces
them to use the language effectively in a real context and in order to
express a message, they have to look for means to comply with communication and the objectives of the translating activity;5

Authors regard translation either as a separate skill from the rest ofthe skills although
not completely independent: macroskill, or as part of other skills microskill. For

The Use of Translation towards Foreign Language Autonomous Learning


c) students work with translation as an interdisciplinary area: translation

conforms a crossroads from which they develop various skills (such
as reading comprehension and writing) and practice with other substudies areas (such as language discourse, text analysis, etc.);
d) students use different skills in a multidirectional way: namely comprehension and production (House 1980; Johnson 1982; De Arriba
Garca 1996a; Drosdov 2003; Pintado Gutirrez 2009);
e) students learn to develop a frame of mind that includes criticism and
autocriticism, interaction and negotiating principles. They are responsible for their production which ought to meet with the requirements
of communication and the translation activity per se. In addition, they
have to evaluate their translation and be most analytical when working as a team or on their own, in or outside the class. By building an
interactive atmosphere the foreign language learners participate in a
speech process in which the principle of negotiation is imperative;
f ) students learn to develop creativity.6 Through the practice of translation, students discover their ability to find or create different solutions
to the problems they encounter though risky or familiar solutions;
g) students become part of a communicative entity by learning that communication goes beyond words, grammar and pure structure. They will
learn to use language in a much more effective and pragmatic way.
The role of the teacher in the classroom is extremely important in creating
a successful working environment. This is even more relevant in the case
of PT since the teacher is a mere conductor that monitors the progress of
the students. It is imperative that the teacher acts as:

further discussion about this see House (1980), Johnson (1982), Weller (1989), Kiraly
(1995), De Arriba Garca (1996b), Drosdov (2003).
Sauvignon (1983) apud Kiraly (1995) establishes creativity as one of the communicative principles in the teaching of a L2 in the classroom. See also Dulay and Burt
(1977), Kussmaul (1995), Roiss (1998), the concepts of intuition (Lavault 1985) and
self-confidence (Oxford and Ehrman 1993).


Luca Pintado Gutirrez

a) a guide that does not instruct;

b) a moderator that contributes but does not control the dynamics of
the classroom;
c) a mentor to confirm the different possibilities of translation and their
degree of suitability.
On the other hand, the translation classroom should be a space open for
teaching and learning through discussion and debate. Interaction is essential within these premises between the teacher and the students, between
students and between each student and the text. The perfect environment
allows for:
a) the possibility of implementing a flexible design depending on the
needs and progress of the student groups;
b) a space dedicated to discussion, creativity, interaction, criticism and
Only then can we ensure that the translation class is an innovative area in
which to foster autonomous learning and self involvement.
Nonetheless, the translation classroom does not usually reflect this
reality. As a consequence, neither does the class involving PT that has
inherited the approaches used in Translation Studies. The classes are usually
taken as a lesson in which the students suggest different versions that can be
discussed with other fellow students even though the teacher seems to have
the ultimate word to approve or reject the suggestions. Also, the teacher
does not usually take part in these debates: s/he is rather an analytical
figure that assesses the different possibilities. These are, without any doubt,
master classes which often result in the following sequence: the students
translate a text at home, they present their translation in the classroom,
some other student might suggest another possibility of translation, the
teacher analyses the possibilities, rationalizes why they are right or wrong
and usually finishes by showing the whole class his/her own translation
which the students inevitably take as the ideal translation.
I advocate for a completely different prospect of the classroom setup, in line with Kiralys social constructivist approach. I understand that

The Use of Translation towards Foreign Language Autonomous Learning


this model gives us the opportunity to provide a detailed PT programme

throughout degree courses and also allows teachers to conduct a structured
subject. As a consequence, it gives us the opportunity to reconsider how
this practice is implemented within the classroom so as to pursue a collaborative environment between the students, the teacher and the text, in
order to create a dynamic learning environment. It most definitely cannot
be taken as an isolated ability that only skilful advanced learners are capable of working on.

4 Translation, Technology and Autonomy

Autonomy is an important feature for a language learner. Foreign language
learners seem to be very reliant on the teacher and the classroom. Ab initio
students take the teacher and the explanations s/he gives as the centre
of their learning in an instructional manner. However the students have
to become gradually more involved in their own learning so the process
develops into a more meaningful route.
When considering the concept of autonomy it is key to realize that
autonomy takes place both inside and outside the classroom. Learning foreign languages requires the interaction of the student inside the classroom
and a committed learning outside the classroom. It has been demonstrated
that classroom discourse is clearly beneficial for the students. However, even
if the teachers gradual withdrawal from the learning process is considered
the ultimate goal of autonomous learning pedagogy, as Hale (2009) corroborates, I suggest that the teacher also needs to reveal the significance
of collaborative learning.
Translation can be thought as the autonomous practice par excellence:
we can all imagine an isolated translator working at the desk with a set of
dictionaries and a computer. The case of PT, nonetheless, is a very different
type of practice: students are reliant on the teacher in the classroom to initiate and give feedback on their performance. Hence, PT proves difficult to


Luca Pintado Gutirrez

illustrate the paradigm of autonomous learning: the students tend to fear

the detachment from the classroom and find it difficult to take responsibility for language learning through pedagogical learning due to a particular
set of circumstances.7 The teaching approach will define the design of the
class and this will outline, in turn, the degree of autonomy that needs to
be developed. The design of the classroom and the autonomy will also
describe the tools that the students will be using. In my opinion, for PT
to work one should look at the different types of autonomy to distinguish
them and look at how they can be implemented.
PT represents a complex picture which can be exploited for autonomous learning purposes in different ways and degrees. Of course, the degree
of autonomy will also be associated to the translation process and the teaching methodology. My proposal, which is set within the collaborative learning environment, adapts to a simplified version of the process of PT that
will define the autonomy degrees of this process in the following phases:
a) understand the source text;
b) de-verbalize the source text;
c) re-express the source text on to the target text;
d) verify that the target text conveys the same meaning as the source
The task-based learning approach is suitable to work on these processes in
a clear and effective manner. Obviously, the processes that I am referring to
are in no way discrete cognitive blocks, but they make it possible to work
in different sequences.
This approach allows the student to take responsibility for the different
sequenced activities designed to achieve a communicative goal throughout
an engaging framework. It entails a pre-task, a task cycle and a post-task.
For this approach to work it is imperative that the student completes one
cycle at a time before engaging in the following one of the sequence. This

This can be a consequence of various factors: the degree of knowledge of the teacher
on pedagogical translation, the degree of familiarization of the student with pedagogical translation, how the translation component is outlined, etc.

The Use of Translation towards Foreign Language Autonomous Learning


way, the students work upon a planned set of activities that imply progression and that require the involvement of the students in order to complete
a communicative action.8
This cycle of tasks will provide the student with a guide to completing
the translation exercise progressively and with established guidelines. By
working on translation in a gradual way, the student will forget the feared
task of getting from text A to text B without any perspective.

5 Collaborative Learning
Collaborative learning is an exceptional technique to attain a certain degree
of autonomy. The task-based learning approach allows students to properly
organize the activities proposed. Consequently, the autonomous learning
component can be closely monitored.9
Prioritizing a social constructivist learning approach to the detriment
of a master class in translation has various outcomes. Dividing the students
into groups, pairs or letting them work on their own have an impact upon
autonomous learning in different ways:
a) the students can work in small groups and pairs within the classroom.
In this environment the students follow the different sequences of the
processes involved in PT.
It is not sufficient to just divide and pair up the students to carry out
the activities. It is also imperative that the teacher ensures that there
is a balance between the students that interact with each other. The
dominator-dominated relationship should be avoided in order to
exploit these working environments to the maximum. According to
Storch (2000, 2001) we can encounter four situations:

See Hadley (2000).

This does not imply that it is under control and that the learning process can be


Luca Pintado Gutirrez

the collaborative model;

the domineer/ domineer model;
the domineer/passive model;
the expert/beginner model.
The level and type of collaboration is therefore extremely relevant and
it will have a considerable impact on the learning outcomes. The first
three models can happen between pairs or groups of students. The last
one usually contemplates the situation of a classroom in which the
teacher takes part in the interaction. But even in this work setting the
teacher can establish a collaborative atmosphere in which the expert
does not overtake and control the learning setting;
b) working outside the classroom changes the collaborating paradigm.
The nature of the work done outside the classroom tends to be at an
individual level. The learner usually gains a higher degree of autonomy
in general completely alone. I consider that the teacher has to teach the
students other ways of collaboration that exist outside the classroom
and that will trigger a completely different process of collaborative
learning, complexion of the tasks, and problem solving.
It is essential to ensure that the final phase concludes accordingly to the
teaching and learning approach chosen. If the closing stage is not implemented adequately the whole design will not be completed and the practice
will not be sufficiently relevant.

6 Translation, Technology and Autonomy:

A Proposal, Using Tools for Pedagogical Translation
In this article I propose to analyse how the individual student can maximize
the collaborative learning pattern outside the classroom and bring his/her
experience into the classroom. As I have said before, language students
normally develop a feeling of unease against the exercise of translation. It

The Use of Translation towards Foreign Language Autonomous Learning


is in part understandable since it requires a big effort and it implies working with a very specific set of skills. The student working on a translation
task outside the classroom is inclined to feel isolated. As a general tendency
resulting from this, the students experience a sense of discouragement which
prevents them from completing the task properly. The most satisfying
phase is usually the discussion that follows the verifying of the different
translations that the student has come up with which will possibly be
satisfying only when the student has come close to an adequate solution
ie. the ideal translation.
The students (de)motivation both inside and outside ofthe classroom
is triggered by socio-affective reasons. Insecurity and isolation diminish
the students capacity for success. The teacher needs, therefore, to teach the
learner to optimize the learning framework for PT. They need to become
familiar with the PT format in order to make the most out of the two
interfaces inside and outside the classroom.
To start with, the students hardly ever know which resources they can
avail of outside the classroom. These resources can modify the perception
of the students learning strategies, enabling them to complete the translation task through various collaborative learning tools. These collaborative
learning tools are mostly technological and within everybodys reach and
they allow the user to access knowledge that goes beyond that found in
the classroom. If technology is used adequately and brought into the class,
it will provide everybody with the possibility to collectively construct the
translation task with the necessary pragmatic knowledge.
Paper dictionaries are still very much trusted by teachers and students.
Nonetheless, students are eager to use resources from the internet, the
mass information tool par excellence. The amount and types of on-line free
dictionaries and other resources offered is great and can undoubtedly help
the students to work on their translating task.
At the same time, internet resources are infinite and so varied that it
is necessary for the teacher to anticipate how the different tools might be
helpful to the students and the use they can make of it. The same applies
to paper dictionaries: they do not always ensure that the students will
produce a better target text. They need to know how to use the dictionary
in an adequate way.


Luca Pintado Gutirrez

Technology allows the PT teacher to work in different ways with the

students according to their objectives. The main technological tools that
a teacher can rely on are:
a) virtual learning environments (VLE): built for specific purposes
according to the teaching and learning settings that they are intended
for. There are several: Moodle, Blackboard, Sulis, etc.;
b) World Wide Web: a broad environment full of possibilities.
The first option can be more or less open its limits depend on the VLE
programme designed and on what the teacher intends to use it for. The
second option is much wider and the possibilities of use are immense. The
tools that any student can find on the WWW are mainly:
a) numerous types of on-line free dictionaries: bilingual, monolingual,
synonyms, thesaurus, etc;
b) machine translator engines: they substitute a source text with a target
text. They almost never produce an appropriate translation mainly
because they are not sensitive to the semantic level;
c) wiki pages: a type of on-line database created by the designer or teacher
of a course which is organized according to the students needs;
d) webquests: a lesson orientated to a very particular objective. This tool
can also be created and managed by the teacher according to his/her
e) chats: the students can exchange views on different items or topics.
The chats can be restricted to the classroom or can be open to any
user of the web. They are synchronous interactions so the chat room
shows the contributions of all the participants in a time line;
f ) forums: on-line discussions which again can be restricted to a certain
group or open to all web users. The contributions are stored and they
show the particular threads in the site.
Each and every one of these tools has a different function. It is necessary
that students are aware of the existence of these tools. If they learn how
to utilize these instruments to assist them in the translation task, students

The Use of Translation towards Foreign Language Autonomous Learning


will certainly maximize the translating task and will engage with collaborative learning, contributing actively and reconstructing a relevant learning
environment in the classroom.
When students are given a particular text to translate on their own
they need to envisage the tasks very clearly according to the translating
process as previously mentioned:
a) pre-task: the students grasp the meaning of the text, interpret the
sense in order to understand the message that will have to be conveyed,
become conscious of the translating difficulties and translating problems10 to anticipate possible solutions and strategies;
b) task: stage in which the students manipulate the source and the target
language to express the same message in the target text. Intuition
plays a very important role as well as the tools used to either access or
transfer the message. It is in this cycle that the student rebuilds a text.
S/he does so by utilizing his/her own knowledge, by interacting with
tools that provide univocal information and by accessing interactive
environments in the web in which s/he can participate. The last two
options allow the student to experience collaborative in the outside
c) post-task: the purpose of this final phase is to conclude the task. It is
the most interactive part of the translating practice and the students
find themselves in an environment in which they will illustrate two
different types of collaborative learning. The first corresponds to the
collaborative learning that the student carried out inside the classroom. This way, the student brings knowledge from the world s/he has
access through the tools used into the classroom. The second type of
collaborative learning resides in the verification phase itself: students
can discuss in pairs, groups or with the rest of the class their different
outcomes. It is still a negotiating process in which the most adequate
solutions are revealed.


See Nord (1991).


Luca Pintado Gutirrez

The teacher participates more actively in the post-task. According to my

beliefs, his/her role should not rely on correcting but rather in guiding the
student towards a language and a socio-cultural negotiation. The students
should then present their translations. The debate that takes place within
the classroom in the final stage of the activity is extremely important for
the exercise. It is imperative that the students have worked through the
first two tasks so that they maximize their role at this point.
Finally, and regardless of the frequency of the use of translation, the
students need to be aware of the properties of the different tools used in the
autonomous learning systems within a task-based learning approach. Each
of them will provide the learner with different ways to benefit from them:
a) on-line dictionaries are helpful if exploited correctly. Many of them
show different equivalents: some more general, others more specific,
compound words, etc. They sometimes even offer different equivalents depending on the language variant or the register. There is an
increasing number of dictionaries that offer the user the possibility
of either opening a forum about one particular word or expression,
or accessing an existing forum;
b) forums are very valuable tool that teachers do not pay attention to very
often. As I said before, it is an environment in which the students feels
part of a broad translating community in which they can discuss and
benefit from experiences that go beyond their class fellows and their
teacher. The boundaries are less strict and they interact in an absolutely
real setting in which people genuinely interested in translation get
involved in particular matters;
c) automatic translation tools can be useful for the learner to spot the
translating problems of the machine rather than relying on it to achieve
the transference of a message.
These frameworks are usually ideal for the students who work in translation
weekly or fortnightly and who build up their knowledge and their solving
skills by exposing themselves to the outside world. It is a valuable tool that
the teacher should consider. It provides the students with learning values
that go beyond a limited knowledge in the classroom or the traditional

The Use of Translation towards Foreign Language Autonomous Learning


paper dictionary. The students engage actively in a practice that demands

the development of a very specific set of skills, socio-cultural knowledge
and language proficiency. It allows the students to apply an interest that
they have acquired inside the classroom outside the classroom. In this taskbased learning practice, the students become their own boss, they react to
a situation, to a given problem that they encounter while trying to carry
out their assignment.
The fact that they have to account for their outcomes within the posttask phase of the cycle means that every student will be able to support
their option with a significant background that they have acquired during
the pre-task and the task-cycle. Only after searching for a solution can the
students explain why they maintain such an option or why they would
change it.

7 Conclusion
The integration of technological tools for teaching purposes either inside
or outside the classroom proves to be very beneficial. The degree of success
depends on the theoretical grounds for its inclusion. For PT, the advantages
are true in two exceptional ways:
a) on the one hand PT demands that the students work autonomously
for a considerable part of the activity which makes it easier to work
towards autonomy;
b) on the other hand, there are numerous translating tools such as online dictionaries, chats and forums that the language students can
avail of and which will help them to develop their translation skills.
It is obvious that this benefits most of the students who have a high command of the language, but the benefits for the engagement of lower-level
students cannot be dismissed since autonomous and semi-autonomous
learning hold significant value for language teaching and learning.


Luca Pintado Gutirrez

Translation in the language classroom is a valuable tool. Students learn

to use the skills they need to translate and establish networks between the
relevant components of the language. Ultimately, they manipulate their
knowledge strategically through their creativity, their imagination, their
intuition and their self-confidence. They become independent and selfdirected by means of creating a space for criticism and interaction. PT
allows us to analyse and work on different levels of the language from
the lexicon to pragmatics and also show how a strategic and operational
work on the translating task through collaborative learning can become a
consistent criterion to help the language learners accomplish extraordinary
results as well as direct them towards successful autonomous learning.
The PT classroom can therefore be positively associated to reality.
In fact, I would claim that amongst the skills included in the curricula
it is probably the one that offers a more genuine space for reality and
autonomy. Through translation, students experience how to deal with
different realities.
Nonetheless, this proposal needs to be inscribed within a methodological frame only then can it become key to language teaching. Despite
the different teaching and learning practices, the implementation of this
skill will have a positive impact on the learning process.
The translation classroom constitutes a complex entity which is not
easy to define or organize, and a collaborative learning environment allows
the creation of a significant pedagogical space that creates a bridge between
different learning methods in different spaces. This way, translation is
guaranteed to constitute a dynamic framework in which the student is a
mediator between two linguistic and socio-cultural realities.

Al-Kufaishi, A. (2004). Translation as a Learning and Teaching Strategy, Babel,
50(1), 459.
Bueno Garca, A. (2005). Lenseignement de la Traduction au Carrefour dune Socit
Mondialise, Meta, 50(1), 26376.

The Use of Translation towards Foreign Language Autonomous Learning


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Garca-Medall, J. (2001). La Traduccin en la Enseanza de Lenguas, Hermeneus,
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Applied Linguistics, 13, 26075.

Vernica C. Trujillo-Gonzlez

Principales Caractersticas y Dificultades

traductolgicas de un diccionario cultural

1 Introduccin: la Evolucin del Gnero Lexicogrfico

Tendemos a pensar que los diccionarios son un producto del presente o
de un pasado reciente, probablemente de cuando Gutenberg invent la
imprenta. Pero, si nos adentramos en la historiografa de los diccionarios, comprobamos cmo su nacimiento se remonta a los principios de la
Al igual que la lengua, el diccionario nace fruto de un consenso tcito
de la sociedad en que se fragua. En cierta medida, todos somos autores de
los diccionarios de nuestro tiempo pues, como hablantes, influimos en la
modelacin de nuestra lengua y del mismo modo, todos los diccionarios
que pasan entre nuestras manos, a lo largo de nuestras vidas, actan como
cinceles de nosotros mismos, dndole forma y precisin a nuestro caudal
Aunque existen por miles, todos trabajan con un denominador comn,
las palabras. Como afirma Bayle (1690), no hace falta subrayar las bondades
de los diccionarios; todos conocemos su utilidad y, en general, su facilidad
de consulta. Pero, a pesar de tratarse de una herramienta que todos utilizamos, en muchos casos, es un gran desconocido.
Para llegar a los diccionarios actuales, el desarrollo de la lexicografa
ha sido un proceso lento y de decantacin. Las primeras manifestaciones
lexicogrficas se remontan a las primeras civilizaciones y estn estrechamente vinculadas con el nacimiento de la escritura. Debemos volver pues,
nuestras miradas hacia la cultura mesopotmica, aquella que nos dio la primera escritura de la que tenemos constancia: la cuneiforme. Este sistema de


Vernica C. Trujillo-Gonzlez

escritura no fue un prstamo tomado de otras civilizaciones; los especialistas

en la materia (Cohen 1958; Mounin 1985) reconocen que los habitantes de
Mesopotamia y, en particular, los sumerios, son los inventores del primer
cdigo conocido de escritura.
De esta manera, los primeros materiales lexicogrficos se originan en
la zona de Mesopotamia; si bien, no podemos hablar de diccionarios, tal y
como lo conocemos hoy, pues se trata de listados lxicos escritos en tablillas
de arcilla, s podemos referirnos a ellas como proto-diccionarios y hablar
de una paleo-lexicografa (Boisson 1991). Esta primera lexicografa no se
limitaba a listados aleatorios del lxico; en realidad, al igual que ahora, la
lexicografa de entonces se caracterizaba por su funcin didctica. De hecho,
su desarrollo se llev a cabo, por regla general, en las escuelas de escribas,
edub-ba1 y, del mismo modo que ocurre hoy en da con los diccionarios,
se realizaban distintos tipos de tablillas. Cavigneaux (19801983: 610) ha
establecido una clasificacin de ellas, as por ejemplo, podemos hablar de
listas ordenadas temticamente o por medio de principios semnticos o
grficos, tambin se realizaron silabarios cuya informacin es fontica, es
decir, nos proporcionan informacin acerca de cmo debemos pronunciar
los vocablos. Pero, adems, encontramos algunas listas que son, al mismo
tiempo, vocabularios y silabarios. Tenemos, asimismo, constancia de tablillas
cuneiformes bilinges sumerio-acadio que se remontan al siglo XV a.C. o
sumerio-persa del siglo V a.C.
La llegada de la civilizacin grecorromana, supuso un cambio en las
tendencias lexicogrficas; dichas culturas no sintieron la necesidad de efectuar listas lxicas que recogiesen el mundo que les rodeaba. En cambio, otra
necesidad lexicogrfica naca de las circunstancias lingsticas y sociales del
momento: la necesidad de glosar los textos antiguos. A diferencia de otras
culturas, tanto en Grecia como en Roma, no se desarroll una actividad
lexicogrfica bilinge; la actividad lexicogrfica que desarrollaron estos
pueblos fue de tipo glosogrfica pues, para comunicarse con otros pueblos,
tanto los griegos como los romanos, contaban con intrpretes.

En sumerio, casa de las tablillas.

Principales Caractersticas y Dificultades de un diccionario cultural


As pues, en Grecia que, hasta el siglo V no se dispona de una lengua

nacional sino de un mosaico de dialectos, encontramos algunos libros de
glosas que explican palabras tcnicas, dialectales, o incluso, palabras opacas
de algn escritor. De hecho, el ms antiguo de estos documentos data del
siglo V a.C. y se refiere a un lxico de Homero pues, su obra, era objeto de
estudios entre los sofistas. Esta labor glosogrfica se perpetu en el tiempo
hasta bien entrado el Renacimiento.
Al igual que ocurriera en Grecia y en Roma, durante la Edad Media
en Europa Occidental, una gran parte de la labor lexicogrfica se centr
en la glosografa de los textos latinos, ya que para el lector de stos, cada
vez ms alejado del latn y ms prximo de las lenguas vulgares, muchos
de estos textos resultaban ininteligibles. Encontramos algunos ejemplos
de estas anotaciones marginales e interlineales en el caso de Espaa, en las
Glosas Emilianenses (s. XI) o, en el de Francia, en las Glosas de Reichenau
que datan de finales del siglo VIII. En este periodo, adems de la actividad
glosogrfica se dio otro tipo de actividad lexicogrfica que tambin permanecera hasta bien entrada la Edad Moderna: la etimologa.2
Con la entrada en la Edad Moderna, la invencin de la imprenta,
la conquista de Amrica y el desarrollo del comercio, cambia el modelo
lexicogrfico. Elio Antonio de Nebrija asent las bases de la lexicografa
moderna en Europa con sus obras. Nebrija, adems de innovar dentro del
campo de la lexicografa, fue el primero en elaborar una gramtica de una
lengua vulgar. A pesar de su escasa difusin, con la Gramtica de la lengua
castellana (1492)3 Nebrija logra darle al castellano el mismo estatus que
ostentaba hasta ese momento, la lengua latina como lengua de cultura.
Durante todo el siglo XVI eclosionan con fuerza en Europa los repertorios bilinges y plurilinges. Se opera un cambio sustancial dentro de la lexicografa europea al reducirse el tamao de las obras, puesto que el incremento
de los intercambios comerciales, supone un nuevo pblico al que se dirigir las

Ya en la Antigedad encontramos algunos ejemplos de obras que centran su inters

en la etimologa; sin embargo, el mximo exponente de esta actividad es San Isidoro
de Sevilla y su obra Etymologiae (61336).
Acceso en lnea al texto completo con anotaciones a la obra: <http://elies.rediris.


Vernica C. Trujillo-Gonzlez

obras lexicogrficas: comerciantes y viajeros que necesitan un instrumento

de fcil transporte y manejo que les ayude en la comunicacin. Por tanto,
esta nueva necesidad social implica una transformacin de los repertorios
y origina el nacimiento de los repertorios de tamao reducido.
El camino hasta los diccionarios monolinges, en los que la definicin lexicogrfica adquiere un carcter metalingstico, es largo. Debemos
esperar hasta el siglo XVII, para que se den los primeros pasos hacia este
nuevo tipo de diccionarios. De esta manera, el primer ejemplo de lexicografa monolinge espaola, lo encontramos en la obra de Sebastin de
Covarrubias Tesoro de la lengua castellana o espaola (1611). Igualmente,
la implantacin y el desarrollo de las primeras Academias de la lengua en
Europa influyeron de manera determinante en la evolucin de la lexicografa monolinge y dio lugar a un tipo de lexicografa, la acadmica, con
un marcado carcter institucional. En este sentido, la primera Academia
que public un diccionario fue la italiana: Vocabolario deali Accademici
della Crusca (1612); este repertorio marcara el desarrollo de la lexicografa
acadmica en toda Europa. As, LAcadmie franaise public en 1694 el
Dictionnaire de lAcademie franaise, mientras que la espaola, tardara an
unos aos en publicar su obra: el Diccionario de Autoridades (17261739).
Durante el siglo XVIII, la aparicin de un nuevo tipo de repertorio
lexicogrfico desborda los lmites de los diccionarios: la enciclopedia. Si
bien la idea de este tipo de repertorio nace con Aristteles (384322 a.C.),
considerado como el padre de la enciclopedia, la concepcin moderna
de la enciclopedia se fragua durante el XVIII. Con la obra de Chambers
Cyclopaedia or Universal Dictionary of Arts and Science (1728)4 publicada
en dos volmenes, por primera vez se relacionan temas con rigor cientfico; se utilizan referencias del tipo vase y vase tambin; este repertorio
intent traducirse al francs, pero no se logr. Organizado en tres partes:
arte, ciencia y oficios fue ordenado alfabticamente.

Una de las caractersticas ms destacable de la enciclopedia moderna es que, en tanto

que repertorio lexicogrfico, deja de ser obra de un solo autor para convertirse en
una obra colectiva. La Encyclopdie ou Dictionnaire raisonn des sciences, des arts et
des mtiers (17511772) de Diderot y Alembert se conron en la obra cumbre de la

Principales Caractersticas y Dificultades de un diccionario cultural


El siglo XIX, desde la perspectiva lexicogrfica, es el siglo de los diccionarios no acadmicos y de los diccionarios enciclopdicos, pero igualmente,
resulta una de las etapas ms florecientes de la lexicografa acadmica.5 El
desarrollo de las ciencias se ver reflejado en los diccionarios y, de manera
general, podemos distinguir dos posturas: una normativa y, en consecuencia, restrictiva y, otra de tipo extensivo, es decir, la tendencia a incluir toda
clase de trminos. La primera de las posturas es defendida por la lexicografa
acadmica, refractaria a la inclusin de neologismos provenientes de las
ciencias, mientras que la segunda surge, en cierto grado, como contestacin a la academia y como reclamo publicitario. Asimismo, el siglo XIX se
caracteriza por la publicacin de numerosos diccionarios no acadmicos y,
consecuencia de ello, los diccionarios comienzan a ser considerados como
productos comerciales. La lexicografa no acadmica del primer cuarto de
siglo, alardea del nmero de vocablos que incluyen los repertorios y, especialmente, hace gala de la incorporacin de neologismos procedentes de
las ciencias y las artes y, en el caso de Espaa, de trminos procedentes de
Amrica. Curiosamente, la independencia de las colonias espaolas en Amrica, supuso que stas dejasen de recibir material bibliogrfico procedente
de Espaa, en este sentido, podra afirmarse que se quedaron hurfanas.6
El vaco resultante, en lo que a la lexicografa se refiere, rpidamente fue
cubierto por los editores franceses, quienes vieron una oportunidad de
mercado en el continente americano. As, la lexicografa enviada a aquellos
pases desde Francia, era elaborada por lexicgrafos espaoles expatriados
en el pas vecino.

Especialmente en Espaa, pues, adems de la publicacin de numerosos repertorios

nacidos de la iniciativa privada, la Academia publica diez ediciones de su diccionario;
se trata de las ediciones comprendidas entre la cuarta y la decimotercera, publicadas
de manera sucesiva en 1803, 1817, 1822, 1832, 1837, 1843, 1852, 1869, 1884 y 1889.
Cf. a este respecto la misiva del gramtico Andrs Bello a Mendbil, fechada en
Santiago de Chile en 1831; citada por Margarita Lliteras en el Estudio introductorio que realiz a la edicin de la Gramtica castellana de Vicente Salv, Arco/Libro,
Madrid, 1988, 1718.


Vernica C. Trujillo-Gonzlez

2 Rasgos Diferenciales de los Diccionarios:

el Diccionario Cultural
Con la llegada del siglo XX, los repertorios lexicogrficos de todo tipo
surgen con fuerza y entramos en un periodo de expansin que todava
hoy perdura. De este modo, el mercado editorial ha visto florecer innumerables obras de carcter lexicogrfico; basta con echarle un vistazo a las
estanteras de cualquier librera para sorprenderse con la gran variedad de
libros que llevan en su ttulo la palabra diccionario. Este hecho hace que
nos preguntemos Qu es un diccionario? Aunque, a priori, parezca que
la respuesta es sencilla, veremos cmo sta no se encuentra exenta de dificultades, pues si nos ceimos a una respuesta restrictiva, corremos el riesgo
de marginar bastantes repertorios cuyas caractersticas se adecuan a lo que
podra entenderse por diccionario; mientras que si nuestra respuesta es en
exceso abierta, dejaramos que pasaran a formar parte de dicha clasificacin
obras que slo tienen en comn algunas caractersticas y, en particular, el
uso de la palabra diccionario en su ttulo.
No resulta difcil encontrar numerosas definiciones sobre lo que es
o debera ser un diccionario; de hecho, todava hoy existe cierta dificultad
a la hora de definir las distintas obras lexicogrficas; as, en numerosas
ocasiones, vemos cmo se usan de manera indiscriminada los trminos
diccionario, vocabulario, tesoro o glosario para referirse a obras de carcter
lexicogrfico. Hemos credo, por tanto, oportuno ofrecer la definicin de
cada uno de estos trminos con la finalidad de adentrarnos ms adelante
en la definicin de la palabra diccionario y, a partir de ella, mostrar cules
son las particularidades de un diccionario cultural. Segn Haensch (1997:
467), un glosario hoy en da, al igual que en la Edad Media, es un inventario de palabras que figura, generalmente, al final de una obra literaria
para explicar aquellas palabras cuyo significado se supone desconocido
para el lector. Asimismo, un glosario tambin es un listado o repertorio de
palabras, generalmente no muy extenso, que pertenecen a un subconjunto
del lxico, esto es, terminologas tcnicas, palabras jergales o coloquiales.
De esta forma, el trmino glosario nos indica que la coleccin de vocablos
no pretende ser ni sistemtica ni exhaustiva.

Principales Caractersticas y Dificultades de un diccionario cultural


En cuanto al trmino diccionario, el problema se presenta cuando las

definiciones nos son representativas de la gran variedad lexicogrfica existente. As pues, de todas las definiciones consultadas, la que nos parece ms
representativa es la que nos ofrece el Diccionario de lingstica (1979: 194):7
El diccionario es un objeto cultural que presenta el lxico de una (o varias) lengua
de trabajo bajo forma alfabtica, dando de cada trmino un cierto nmero de informaciones (pronunciacin, etimologa, definicin, []; estas informaciones intentan
permitir al lector traducir de una lengua a otra o colmar las lagunas que lo permitan
comprender un texto en su propia lengua. El diccionario intenta tambin dar el
dominio de los medios de expresin y ampliar el saber cultural del lector. La manera
de leer un diccionario es la consulta.

De esta definicin, nos gustara destacar la consideracin del diccionario

como un objeto cultural; aunque a primera vista pueda parecer una definicin un tanto vaga, en realidad, resulta contundente, dado que refleja la
interrelacin entre lengua, lxico y cultura. Quemada (1967: 14) ahonda
un poco ms en el factor cultural del genero diccionario y lo define como
un hecho tanto social como lingstico o cientfico. Efectivamente, no
podramos hablar de cultura y excluir a la sociedad, a las civilizaciones de
las que emana la cultura. De esta manera, nosotros consideramos que el
diccionario, adems de un objeto lingstico es un objeto de caractersticas
especficas que refleja una realidad compleja nacida de una civilizacin, de
una cultura determinada.
En las ltimas dcadas numerosos autores8 han consagrado diferentes
trabajos a la caracterizacin y clasificacin de los distintos tipos de reper-

Hemos utilizado la traduccin espaola del Dictionnaire de Linguistique de Larousse

de J. Dubois et alii. La traduccin de este diccionario est editada en Espaa por
Alianza Editorial; los traductores son Ortega, I. y Domnguez, A. y la direccin y
adaptacin de la obra corre a cargo Yllera, A.
Cf. Dubois, J. y C. (1971): Introduction la lexicographie: le dictionnaire, Larousse,
Pars; Fernndez-Sevilla, J. (1974): Problemas de lexicografa actual, Bogot, Instituto
Caro y Cuervo, 4466; Guilbert, L. (1968): Dictionnaires et linguistique. Essai de
typologie des dictionnaires monolingue franais contemporains, Langue franaise,
2, 429; Haensch, G. (1982): Tipologa de las obras lexicogrficas, G. Haensch et
alii La lexicografa. De la lingstica terica a la lexicografa prctica, Madrid, Gredos,


Vernica C. Trujillo-Gonzlez

torios lexicogrficos con la finalidad de definir y caracterizar lo que es un

diccionario. El intento de taxonoma de las obras lexicogrficas ha sido
abordado en numerosos trabajos con principios, mtodos y fines distintos;
sin embargo, se trata de una tarea ardua y compleja que, por lo general,
nunca es definitiva.
Ya en 1989, Alain Rey reflexionaba sobre la evolucin del mundo lexicogrfico y se planteaba la direccin que ste deba tomar. En el marco de esa
reflexin Rey adverta sobre la necesidad de un cambio dentro del mbito
de la lexicografa y nos haca partcipes de una idea que, con el transcurso
de los aos fue tomando forma: el diccionario cultural; finalmente, esa idea
vio la luz en el ao 2005 bajo el ttulo: Le dictionnaire culturel en langue
franaise. Pero, antes de adentrarnos en lo que nos ofrece un diccionario
cultural frente a otro tipo de repertorio lexicogrfico, debemos abordar
algunos de los rasgos que lo caracterizan como tal y que nos ayudarn a
distinguirlo de las enciclopedias y de los diccionarios enciclopdicos; si
bien con estos ltimos a veces, resulta difcil establecer los lmites que los
separa. De esta manera, la enciclopedia, como su propia etimologa nos
indica, tiende a cubrir el ciclo de las cosas; segn el Diccionario de la Real
Academia Espaola,9 es una obra que trata de muchas ciencias, mientras
que diccionario, segn Rey (2005), es una obra que hace el inventario de
la manera en que decimos las cosas. En las enciclopedias, la seleccin del
lxico y del contenido no suele obedecer a un plan determinado, se trata,
por tanto, de obras de tipo extensivo. Adems, como norma general, la
informacin que ofrecen las enciclopedias es histrico-descriptiva y no
lingstica, por lo que se omite la reflexin metalingstica de los trminos.
Igualmente, una de las caractersticas ms destacables es la inclusin de

95187; Hausmann, F.J. (1977): Einfhrung in die Benutzung der neofranzsischen

Wrterbcher, Tubinga; Malkiel, Y. (1958): Distinctive Features in Lexicography: A
Typological Approach to Dictionaries Exemplified with Spanish, Romance Philology,
XII, 36699 y (1962): A Typological Classification of Dictionaries on the Basis of
Distinctive Features, Problems in Lexicography, International Journal of American
Linguistics, Bloomington, 324.
Edicin electrnica.

Principales Caractersticas y Dificultades de un diccionario cultural


imgenes en color, si bien este rasgo no es exclusivo de las enciclopedias.10

No obstante, como el propio Rey afirma (1989) cada vez ms, estas fronteras se difuminan y encontramos diccionarios como el TLF11 y el Oxford
que poseen un discurso didctico-enciclopdico con miles de ejemplos.
Este mismo autor muestra una opinin bastante desfavorable sobre
los diccionarios enciclopdicos:
Ces petits monstres savants, ils mentent en faisant de leurs mots prisionniers, dune
langue des fictions, des ides, des calques des choses

La opinin de Rey resulta insuficiente para definir un diccionario enciclopdico; al igual que los diccionarios de lengua y las enciclopedias, su
ordenacin es alfabtica12 y, a grandes rasgos, tanto las enciclopedias como
los diccionarios y los diccionarios enciclopdicos, comparten elementos
comunes. Si bien en una primera aproximacin las diferencias entre un diccionario enciclopdico y uno de lengua, no resultan evidentes, un examen
ms profundo nos proporcionar las claves acerca de sus diferencias.
De este modo, la primera caracterstica reseable de los diccionarios
enciclopdicos es su carcter mixto entre un diccionario de lengua y una
enciclopedia. A diferencia de la enciclopedia, los diccionarios enciclopdicos incluyen una breve descripcin lingstica; de igual modo, los diccionarios enciclopdicos incorporan abundante terminologa y sus definiciones
son de naturaleza enciclopdica. Como norma general, los diccionarios
enciclopdicos son monolinges y la ordenacin del material lxico es
alfabtica. No obstante, la seleccin del lxico y del contenido no suele
obedecer a un plan determinado, sino que, al igual que las enciclopedias,
se trata de repertorios de tipo extensivo y no selectivo. Asimismo, una de
las caractersticas ms destacables es la inclusin de imgenes en color, ya
sea como coadyuvante de la informacin ya sea como elemento decorativo.


La lexicografa didctica, en particular, tambin se caracteriza por la inclusin de

imgenes, lminas y apndices en los diccionarios de lengua.
Trsor de la langue franaise.
Existen enciclopedias cuya ordenacin es temtica.


Vernica C. Trujillo-Gonzlez

Martnez de Sousa (1995: 137) nos ofrece un listado de caractersticas

comunes de los diccionarios enciclopdicos:
a) Su contenido se presenta en orden alfabtico de las entradas en que se
ha dividido el conjunto de la materia, la cual aparece interrelacionada
con un diccionario de lengua.
b) Los artculos de cierta entidad van firmados por sus redactores, lo que
se convierte en garanta de seriedad en el tratamiento de la materia.
c) La direccin y los principales cometidos en la realizacin de la obra
se confan a especialistas en lexicografa.
d) Incluye biografas de cientficos, tcnicos, artistas, personajes populares,
etc., as como nombres geogrficos.
e) Se ilustra con fotografas, dibujos, esquemas, mapas, planos, etc., sea
en color o en blanco y negro, situados en el texto, en lminas fuera del
texto o en ambos.
f ) Los artculos de cierta extensin suelen ir dotados de una bibliografa
proporcionada a la extensin y a la calidad del tema tratado.
g) Los artculos se interrelacionan mediante adecuadas remisiones de
unos a otros para completar la informacin acerca de un tema.
h) Se prev la publicacin de suplementos para poner al da la materia.
Finalmente, quisiramos esbozar brevemente, algunas de las caractersticas de los diccionarios culturales; as, a diferencia de los diccionarios
de lengua, un diccionario cultural se centrar en desarrollar el entramado
cultural que encierra los vocablos. No obstante, no se trata de un discurso
enciclopdico, lleno de datos y referencias, sino de un discurso fundamentado en la historia y en el uso del trmino en cuestin. De hecho, los diccionarios culturales nos ofrecen un viaje a travs de sus vocablos; en ellos
podemos encontrar informacin metalingstica, pero tambin datos sobre
la representacin que supone una palabra en una cultura dada, as como
las concepciones del mudo elaboradas a partir del lenguaje por distintas
civilizaciones. De esta manera, un trmino tan corriente como cerezo, cuya
definicin en cualquier diccionario de lengua sera muy similar, en un diccionario cultural como, Le dictionnaire culturel en langue franaise, nos
permite acceder a informacin tan diversa como el significado simblico

Principales Caractersticas y Dificultades de un diccionario cultural


de este trmino en la cultura nipona o una cita de Plinio en la que se nos

habla de la aclimatacin del cerezo en Occidente, asimismo, tambin se nos
proporciona informacin sobre numerosas pinturas en las que el cerezo se
constituye en el eje central de la obra. Estos pincelazos, a grandes rasgos,
nos permite apreciar las notables diferencias entre el diccionario de lengua,
el enciclopdico, la enciclopedia y el diccionario cultural, pues el diccionario cultural, a diferencia de las enciclopedias y diccionarios enciclopdicos, ofrece datos seleccionados con una idea claramente diferente, la de
mostrar el recorrido cultural de un trmino, ya sea en cultura determinada
o en varias. Lo importante, no es la abundancia de informacin, sino la
calidad y la consistencia de sta. En cuanto al diccionario de lengua, como
su propio nombre indica, se limita expresamente a la lengua en su sistema
y no a la incidencia de los trminos en otros mbitos distintos del lingstico; mientras que el diccionario cultural, adems de ofrecernos, en algunos
casos, la misma informacin que un diccionario de lengua, tambin nos
proporciona el desarrollo cultural del trmino.

3 La Traduccin de Diccionarios
Desde el punto de vista traductolgico, la traduccin de diccionarios supone
un desafo para el traductor. Actualmente, la traduccin se entiende como
una herramienta de comunicacin cultural, es decir, los estudios de traduccin ya no centran tanto sus investigaciones en el aspecto lingstico
que implica el acto de traduccin, como en el hecho cultural que conlleva.
Cuando traducimos no trasladamos palabras de un sistema a otro como
una simple operacin de permuta, sino que trasladamos ideas y conceptos
en funcin de la cultura que las recibe. En los ltimos aos, dentro de los
Estudios de Traduccin se viene defendiendo la postura del traductor como
mediador cultural o, ms concretamente, como lo define Guidere (2000),
como un experto en comunicacin cultural. De esta manera, se espera
del traductor que no slo traduzca la parte lingstica del texto, sino que
su actividad tambin se vea reflejada en aquellos aspectos culturales que


Vernica C. Trujillo-Gonzlez

intervienen en la comunicacin.13 Se requiere, por tanto, el papel activo del

traductor dentro de todo el proceso y, en consecuencia, sus conocimientos
sobre la cultura meta.
Dependiendo del tipo de texto al que el traductor se enfrente, ste
emplear unas tcnicas u otras que le permitirn trasladar el mensaje con
la mayor fidelidad posible; todo ello sin olvidar que la fidelidad estar condicionada por la aceptabilidad del texto en la cultura de llegada. Adems,
estos requisitos necesarios en cualquier traduccin implican otra dificultad:
la inteligibilidad del mensaje, por lo que cualquier opcin no es vlida.
Existen algunos casos en que la traduccin adolece de cierta ambigedad u opacidad terminolgica, sin embargo, en la gran mayora de
ellos, el traductor cuenta con que el receptor desenmarae el significado
ayudndose del contexto. No obstante, cuando se trata de un diccionario
esta estrategia se ve limitadas por varias razones.
La primera y que normalmente, suele pasar desapercibida es el gran
prestigio social con que cuentan las obras lexicogrficas. Los diccionarios
alcanzan, en muchas ocasiones, el carcter de autoridad, es decir el lector
busca en ellos, la respuesta verdadera, la nica y ms autorizada. Esta consideracin social en que los diccionarios se convierten en portadores de
la verdad absoluta, implica que el traductor deba intentar minimizar los
aspectos ambiguos u opacos de su traduccin y as, conseguir que la obra
conserve sus funciones y su prestigio.
Precisamente en este punto es donde el traductor se encuentra con
otro escollo caracterstico de este tipo de textos. Al tratarse de textos cuyas


Ya Hewson y Martin (1991) en su obra Redefining Translation. The variational

approach, Londres, Routledge, se referan al traductor como un operador cultural u
operador de la traduccin con la finalidad de subrayar el papel activo del traductor
dentro del proceso de traduccin, ya que, a veces, el traductor ha sido denostado o,
simplemente, considerado como un operador asptico. Asimismo, Hatim y Mason
(1990, 1997) en The Translator as Communicator, Londres, Routledge, postulan que
cualquier actividad de interaccin lingstica, es un acto de comunicacin y, por
tanto, no puede ser considerada de manera aislada, sino como parte de la vida social.
As pues, al considerar la traduccin como un acto de comunicacin, la funcin que
desempea el traductor se concibe como la de un comunicador.

Principales Caractersticas y Dificultades de un diccionario cultural


convenciones textuales estn tan marcadas, el traductor tendr bastantes limitaciones que mermarn su libertad a la hora de traducir. El primer obstculo
con el que ste se tropieza es la definicin lexicogrfica. Todos conocemos
que las definiciones lexicogrficas estn sujetas a ciertas restricciones como
la limitacin de la extensin y la claridad expositiva. Aunque el principio de
claridad expositiva no siempre se cumple, el de la extensin es incuestionable.
En consecuencia, el traductor de diccionarios deber contar desde un principio, con que el texto original y el meta parten con estas dos restricciones.
Otros de los elementos que debemos considerar durante el proceso
traductolgico es que mientras el lexicgrafo trabaja desde su cultura y para
un pblico perteneciente a esa misma cultura, el trabajo del traductor consiste, normalmente, en trasladar un mensaje desde una cultura extranjera a
la suya y a un pblico diferente al de la cultura de origen. Todo ello implica
que el traductor deba recurrir a una serie de estrategias que le ayuden a
cumplir con su cometido.
La cuestin traductolgica se complica ms si cabe, cuando debemos
traducir un diccionario cultural. Newmark (1997: 52), habl en su momento
de palabras culturales para referirse a aquellos trminos, muy propios de una
cultura, y que presentan un alto grado de dificultad traductolgica; este
sera el caso por ejemplo, de las numerosas denominaciones que emplean
los esquimales para referirse a los distintos estados de la nieve. Por su parte,
Galisson (1991) hace alusin a las palabras con carga cultural compartida
CCP para referirse al valor aadido al significado ordinario de las palabras.
Dicho valor aadido es conocido por los hablantes nativos de una lengua,
pero su descodificacin resulta casi imposible para un hablante no nativo
por carecer de algunas de las referencias culturales que son muy propias
de una civilizacin determinada. As pues, Galisson nos ofrece el ejemplo
siguiente: Aujordhui, cest vraiment le tour du poisson. En este caso, el trmino poisson encierra varios significados: de un lado, el significado literal
o lingstico, pez o pescado, pero de otro lado, este trmino posee un significado cultural: la referencia a una fiesta tpica francesa: le poisson de avril
(1 de abril). La comprensin de este valor aadido de la palabra es lo que
sirve como marca de pertenencia y de identificacin cultural.
Nosotros por nuestra parte, aadimos una tercera categora: el signo
lingstico cultural. Nos referimos a ese tipo de palabras que, en su origen,


Vernica C. Trujillo-Gonzlez

no designaban una realidad concreta, sino que nacan fruto del ingenio del
hombre y que, con el paso del tiempo, se han consolidado e incluso han
sufrido un proceso de resemantizacin; como consecuencia de este proceso,
dichos trminos han pasado a formar parte de nuestro caudal lxico. Sin
extendernos demasiado en este nuevo concepto, ya que dentro de esta categora se pueden establecer subcategoras, quisiramos explicarlo a travs de
algunos trminos procedentes de la mitologa grecorromana.
As por ejemplo, un trmino culto y concreto puede convertirse en un
trmino ms amplio y popular e incluso, en ocasiones, el uso de este vocablo
pierde su origen; es decir, una gran parte de los hablantes desconoce lo que
origin el uso actual de dicho trmino. De este modo, utilizamos el trmino
adonis para referirnos a un hombre hermoso, desconociendo, en muchos
casos, el mito del que nace. Otro ejemplo sera el empleo del vocablo midas:
en este caso, mientras que en ingls utilizamos la expresin Midas touch, en
espaol desaparece por completo la alusin a este trmino. Sin embargo
poseemos una frase que tiene su origen en l: lo que toca lo convierte en oro.
La traduccin de este tipo de vocablos encierra una serie de dificultades
traductolgicas que deben ser consideradas dentro del proceso traductor,
ya que en muchas ocasiones, el trmino existe en ambas culturas, pero lo
que vara es su uso.
Para abordar la traduccin de este tipo de lxico cultural y de los diccionarios, en particular, el traductor puede recurrir a diferentes tcnicas,
una de ellas y quiz, la ms extendida, es la adaptacin como tcnica de
traduccin.14 Pascua-Febles (1998: 160) seala que las adaptaciones pueden
llevarse a cabo mediante tres tcnicas:

14 En traduccin, el trmino adaptacin tambin puede ser utilizado para referirse a

una remodelacin sustancial del texto meta, es decir, a un cambio que afecte a la
estructura interna, externa e, incluso, al mensaje del texto original.

Principales Caractersticas y Dificultades de un diccionario cultural


De estas tres tcnicas, en el caso de los aspectos culturales, la ampliacin como tcnica de traduccin suele ser la ms favorable para resolver los
problemas inherentes a la traduccin. De hecho, esta tcnica puede resultar
de gran ayuda al traductor cuando las caractersticas del texto le permiten
completar una informacin cultural a travs de una explicacin o de una
nota a pie de pgina. Pero, cuando el texto presenta unas limitaciones tan
claras como las de la definicin lexicogrfica, esta opcin se reduce. No
parece pertinente que el traductor de un diccionario proporcione, a pie
de pgina, una explicacin ms detallada de un trmino. Igualmente, el
margen con el que se encuentra el traductor de diccionarios para la aplicacin de esta tcnica dentro del propio texto, dada la limitacin de extensin
caracterstica de las definiciones lexicogrficas, resulta casi anecdtica. Si
por el contrario, ante estas dificultades, el traductor opta por la tcnica
de sustitucin, al tratarse de vocablos cuya carga semntica tiene un gran
componente cultural, se corre el riesgo de no encontrar un equivalente en
la lengua de llegada. Este sera el caso, por ejemplo, de querer sustituir el
trmino ANTIOPE, en francs, por un equivalente en espaol. En esta
ocasin, este trmino funciona como el acrnimo de un servicio de teleinformtica: Adquisicin Numrica y Televisualizacin de Imgenes Organizadas
en Pginas de Escritura. Este vocablo suele aparecer en las pantallas de los
televisores franceses, sin embargo, en Espaa este caso no se da. As pues, el
traductor deber recurrir a la tcnica de ampliacin para solventar lo mejor
que pueda esta asimetra entra la lengua original y la lengua de llegada.
Otro caso sera el trmino athne; en un primer momento, podemos pensar que no plantea ningn tipo de problema, ya que, en espaol,
disponemos de un equivalente: ateneo. No obstante, antes de precipitarnos a dar este equivalente, es decir, emplear la tcnica de la adaptacin a
travs de una sustitucin, debemos valorar el significado del trmino en
la cultura de origen. En Blgica y en Suiza, la palabra athne se emplea
para designar un establecimiento de enseanza secundaria, mientras que
en Espaa e Hispanoamrica, utilizamos dicho trmino para referirnos a
unas instituciones culturales, nacidas en el siglo XIX a imagen de las francesas, donde se reunan cientficos y hombres de letras; de hecho, todava
hoy, existen ateneos en Espaa. Pues bien, en este caso, el traductor deber
valorar si resulta pertinente efectuar una ampliacin en la que se explique


Vernica C. Trujillo-Gonzlez

la diferencia de significado del trmino entre una cultura y otra o, por el

contrario, estima que la informacin es irrelevante y, en consecuencia,
decide emplear un equivalente.
En cuanto a la tcnica de omisin, como herramienta para solventar
una dificultad a la hora de traducir un trmino con amplia carga cultural,
puede resultar desaconsejable. En este caso, el traductor deber sopesar
especialmente, la prdida de informacin que supone omitir un trmino,
ya que, como decamos al comienzo de nuestro trabajo, una de las caractersticas de los diccionarios es que son obras de consulta y no de lectura,
adems de tratarse de obras de referencia desde una ptica social. Por tanto,
la omisin de una entrada en un diccionario podra pasar desapercibido,
pero tambin se corre el riesgo de que no sea as y la obra pierda parte de
ese prestigio que le otorga de manera innata el usuario.

4 Conclusiones
Tras el breve recorrido realizado sobre los inicios de la lexicografa, hemos
podido observar cmo desde que el hombre desarroll el sistema de escritura ha sentido la necesidad de inventariar el lxico con el que denomina
el entorno que le rodea. La tcnica lexicogrfica se ha decantado con el
transcurrir de los siglos y la evolucin de los repertorios lexicogrficos ha
caminado de la mano de la evolucin del hombre. El diccionario, en tanto
que objeto cultural, es testigo de las necesidades del hombre en las distintas
etapas de nuestra historia.
Durante la Edad Media, las glosas nos muestran las carencias que
tenamos para comprender una lengua, el latn, cada vez ms opaca, ms
alejada de la sociedad; en la Edad Moderna, nacen los primeros repertorios
de tamao reducido, fruto del auge de desplazamiento de comerciantes
y viajeros y, con motivo de ello, los primeros diccionarios multilinges y
bilinges, adems de comenzar su andadura la lexicografa monolinge de
las lenguas modernas.

Principales Caractersticas y Dificultades de un diccionario cultural


Finalmente, en la Edad Contempornea asistimos a una eclosin de

todo tipo de obra de carcter lexicogrfico que pone de manifiesto la necesidad que todava hoy, sentimos de seguir inventariando el mundo que
nos rodea. Pero al igual que cualquier otro producto que se comercializa,
el diccionario est sujeto a las exigencias del mercado y, en su caso, a las de
las editoriales. As pues, en un mundo en que las comunicaciones acortan
las distancias y, en cierto grado, homogenizan las culturas, nace un nuevo
tipo de repertorio lexicogrfico: el diccionario cultural.
La traduccin de cualquier diccionario supone abordar una serie de
dificultades inherentes a las especiales caractersticas del texto que debe ser
traducido. Asimismo, el traductor de diccionarios, a diferencia de aquel que
traduce otro tipo de texto, ver limitada su libertad a la hora de emplear los
distintos recursos traductolgicos. La limitacin de espacio ser uno de los
mayores desafos a los que se enfrente el traductor de diccionarios, pues la
macro y la microestructura del diccionario original, supondrn los lmites
del texto meta. De esta forma, la definicin lexicogrfica ser uno de los
elementos que ms cercenen la libertad, puesto que la traduccin de sta
deber ajustarse, lo ms posible, a la extensin de la original.
Como hemos visto, la adaptacin como tcnica de traduccin se presenta como una de las herramientas clave, tanto para la traduccin de los
elementos culturales como para la traduccin de diccionarios. El diccionario, en tanto que objeto cultural, necesita de esta tcnica para ser traducido;
no obstante, las distintas maneras en que son llevadas a cabo las adaptaciones: ampliacin, sustitucin y omisin suponen que, en la traduccin de
los repertorios lexicogrficos, no siempre se puede recurrir a ellas. Esto se
debe, como sealbamos con anterioridad, a las especificidades del texto y
a las convenciones textuales de ste, pues no resultar del todo adecuado
encontrar en un diccionario traducido, una nota a pie de pgina en la que
el traductor nos informe sobre algn aspecto de la entrada en cuestin del
Finalmente, en el caso de la traduccin de diccionarios, la postura del
traductor, en tanto que mediador cultural, recobra cierta importancia, ya
que, de entre las numerosas decisiones que tomar, ste deber enfrentarse
a una en particular: abordar la traduccin desde una concepcin de homogeneidad cultural o, por el contrario, intentar respetar las caractersticas


Vernica C. Trujillo-Gonzlez

que nos identifican y nos unen como civilizacin, como cultura y, a la vez,
nos diferencian de las dems civilizaciones. Esta es una puerta que dejamos
abierta para otros debates.

Referencias bibliogrficas
Bayle, P. (1690). Preface, Dictionaire Universel, Contenant Generalement tous les
mots Franois tant Vieux que Modernes, et les Termes de toutes les Sciences et des
Arts[] dAntoine Furetire, Tome I (La Haye: Arnout and Reinier Leers, s.p.).
Boisson, C., Kirtchuk, P. y Bjoint, H. (1991). Aux Origines de la Lexicographie:
les Premiers Dictionnaires Monolingues et Bilingues, International Journal of
Lexicography, 4(4), 261315.
Cavigneaux, A. (19801983). Lexikalische Listen. En Edzard, D.O. (ed.), Reallexicon der Assyrologie und Vorderastischen Archologie, volume 6, 60941. Berlin:
Walter de Gruyter.
Cohen, M. (1958). La Grande Invention de lcriture et son volution. Paris: Imprimerie
nationale et Librairie Klincksieck.
Dubois, J. y otros (1979). Diccionario de lingstica. Madrid: Alianza Editorial.
Galisson, R. (1991). De la langue la culture par les mots. Paris: CLE International.
Guidere, M. (2000). Traduction et Publicit. Paris: Lharmattan.
Haensch, G. (1997). Los diccionarios del Espaol en el Umbral del Siglo XXI. Salamanca:
Ediciones Universidad de Salamanca.
Martnez de Sousa, J. (1995). Diccionario de Lexicografa Prctica. Barcelona: Bibliograf.
Mounin, G. (1985). Histoire de la Linguistique des Origines au XXe Sicle. Paris:
Newmark, P. (1987). Manual de Traduccin. Versin Espaola de Virgilio Moya.
Madrid: Ctedra.
Pascua-Febles, I. (1998). La Adaptacin en la Traduccin de la Literatura Infantil. Las
Palmas de Gran Canaria: Servicio de Publicaciones de la Universidad de Las
Palmas de Gran Canaria.
Quemada, B. (1967). Les Dictionnaires du Franais Moderne. tude sur leur Histoire,
leurs Types et leurs Mthodes. Paris: Didier.
Real Academia Espaola, Diccionario de la Real Academia Espaola, <http://www.
rae.es//> consultado el 17 de noviembre 2010.

Principales Caractersticas y Dificultades de un diccionario cultural


Rey, A. (coord.) (2005). Le Dictionnaire Culture en Langue Franaise. Paris: Le Robert

Rey, A. (1989). Le Franais et les Dictionnaires Aujourdhui. In Helmy Ibrahim, A.
(coord.), Lexiques, xixxi. Renes: Ouest Impressions Oberthur.

Part Three


Emanuela Cotroneo

Da Facebook a Ning per imparare litaliano:

quando il social network fa didattica

1 Introduzione
A partire dagli anni Novanta il fenomeno delle-learning ha caratterizzato
diversi ambiti della formazione e ha offerto nuove modalit di fruizione
di contenuti didattici per lapprendimento/insegnamento delle lingue
straniere: la diffusione delle connessioni a basso costo e luso di piattaforme tecnologiche hanno infatti permesso labbattimento delle frontiere
spazio-temporali, ottimizzato le occasioni di pratica linguistica e favorito lo
sviluppo di corsi online (Poli 2004). Il 2001, noto come lanno della svolta,
stato contraddistinto dalla consapevolezza che le-learning rappresentasse
la risposta adeguata alla richiesta di aggiornamento continuo, nellottica
del lifelong learning (Bonaiuti 2006). Le piattaforme1 sono cos diventate
ambienti virtuali di apprendimento per un sempre maggior numero di
apprendenti della lingua italiana che attraverso strumenti di comunicazione
sincrona e asincrona, risorse multimediali, link e documenti hanno esercitato la propria competenza linguistica, allinterno della propria comunit

Esistono tre tipologie di piattaforme e-learning: i CMS consentono di creare e rendere

disponibili contenuti didattici; gli LMS, oltre alle funzioni del CMS, permettono di
monitorare tutti gli aspetti del percorso formativo; gli LCMS, infine, rappresentano
unevoluzione degli LMS e utilizzano tecnologie web per la creazione, lindicizzazione
e il reperimento di materiali. Un termine pi generale per definire questi ambienti
di apprendimento Virtual Learning Environment o VLE (Macr 2007, Torsani


Emanuela Cotroneo

virtuale di apprendimento.2 Dopo una rapida crescita del fenomeno e-learning si per assistito a un rallentamento:3 Woodill (2004) ha evidenziato
diversi limiti nelluso di questa risorsa, tra i quali il focus sulla tecnologia
a scapito dellinstructional design,4 linsufficiente conoscenza dei processi
di apprendimento/insegnamento e la scarsa comprensione delle specificit
dei media elettronici.
OReilly (2005) ha indicato come elemento chiave del successo di un
servizio web la capacit di interpretare correttamente le specificit della rete:
nasce cos il Web 2.0, la seconda generazione di servizi del World Wide Web,
caratterizzata dalla partecipazione attiva degli utenti, dalla collaborazione
e dallo scambio di informazioni online attraverso specifici strumenti, noti
sotto il nome di social software o social media (Bonaiuti 2006), che enfattizzano gli aspetti sociali della rete. Come emerge in Torsani (2009), gli
elementi caratterizzanti questa seconda versione della rete sarebbero infatti
le applicazioni sociali (Twitter, Facebook), le interfacce ricche simili alle
tradizionali applicazioni desktop, luso di folksonomy ovvero la creazione e
la gestione collaborativa di tag da applicare a contenuti da parte degli utenti
stessi e la condivisione di contenuti attraverso weblog, forum e wiki.

Come evidenzia Macr (2007) la FAD ha avuto unevoluzione in base ai soggetti

e alla metodologia utilizzata. La FAD 1, che va dalla fine dellOttocento fino agli
anni Sessanta, non prevedeva attivit di tutoraggio e si basava inizialmente sulla
distribuzione dei materiali per corrispondenza; in tempi pi recenti ha usufruito di
piattaforme CMS. La FAD 2, che va dagli anni Sessanta agli anni Novanta, prevedeva
oltre alla distribuzione dei materiali (video, cd rom) anche il sostegno dei tutor e, con
levoluzione tecnologica, luso di piattaforme LMS. Infine, la FAD 3 ha valorizzato
il ruolo della comunit di apprendimento e la creazione di materiali ipertestuali e
multimediali in itinere.
Romiszowski negli anni Settanta aveva formulato una legge, nota come il Phoenix effect,
secondo la quale ogni tecnologia sarebbe soggetta ad una rapida crescita, alla morte e
a una lenta rinascita (Romiszowski 1974). Una rappresentazione del ciclo di vita dellelearning, che richiama questa legge, consultabile al link <http://michaelhanley.ie/
4 LInstructional Design un campo di indagine che si occupa di definire le regole per
la scelta dei metodi di istruzione pi adeguati, che tengano conto delle condizioni
e delle diverse tipologie di apprendimento (Calvani 2004, Ranieri 2005).

Da Facebook a Ning per imparare litaliano


Con levoluzione dal web al web 2.0 si sviluppato le-learning 2.0

(Downes 2005): si tratta di un nuovo modo di concepire lapprendimento/
insegnamento, che considera anche limportanza dellinformalit e valorizza,
in contrapposizione alla chiusura delle piattaforme, la ricchezza e lapertura
della rete e delle comunit di interesse che in essa nascono spontaneamente.
Sono quindi emersi nuovi strumenti e nuove metodologie per lapprendimento collaborativo e con essi la riflessione sul loro uso e sul loro impiego
(Bonaiuti 2006). stato cos elaborato un nuovo paradigma di apprendimento, definito Connettivismo, che ha lobiettivo di spiegare la modalit di
apprendere tipica dellera digitale: secondo Siemens (2004) sarebbe la rete
stessa a dare luogo allapprendimento in quanto esso dipenderebbe dalla
cura delle connessioni che permettono di accedere alla conoscenza.5 Gli
strumenti tipici del web 2.0 possono, in questottica, acquisire una notevole
importanza nelle fasi di progettazione ed erogazione di percorsi formativi,
in quanto favoriscono la creazione di connessioni tra gli apprendenti (Fini,
Cigognini 2009).
Quali le ricadute derivanti da questo nuovo scenario? Quali le potenzialit per la didattica della lingua italiana a stranieri? Quali gli aspetti problematici? In questo contributo ci soffermeremo in particolare sullanalisi
di alcuni strumenti di social networking utilizzabili per lapprendimento/
insegnamento dellitaliano a stranieri: dopo unanalisi di alcune funzioni
e applicazioni di Facebook utili, a nostro avviso, per lapprendimento e
il rinforzo linguistico, descriveremo i social network nati espressamente
per lapprendimento delle lingue straniere, con particolare attenzione a

Nel suo articolo Connectivism: a Learning Theory for the Digital Age lautore mette
in luce i limiti delle teorie del Comportamentismo, Cognitivismo e Costruttivismo
in quanto considerano lapprendimento in base a ci che accade dentro un individuo
mentre in un mondo di relazioni e connessioni facilitate dalla tecnologia sono le connessioni tra gli individui a rappresentare una nuova modalit di apprendimento in
quanto i cambiamenti che avvengono a livello di membri della rete hanno influenze
su tutta la rete: A network can simply be defined as connections between entities.
Computer networks, power grids, and social networks all function on the simple
principle that people, groups, systems, nodes, entities can be connected to create an
integrated whole. Alterations within the network have ripple effects on the whole
(Siemens 2004).


Emanuela Cotroneo

Livemocha. Illustreremo infine le potenzialit del web service Ning, che

permette la creazione di social network chiusi da utilizzare nel proprio contesto classe, riportando i risultati di una prima analisi delle sue potenzialit
e dei suoi limiti in campo prettamente linguistico.

2 I social network
Che cos innanzitutto un social network? Alla base di questo strumento
tipico del web 2.0 e del concetto stesso di social network o rete sociale stanno,
come emerge in Fini (2006), alcuni studi di psicologia sociale, di sociologia e di antropologia dei primi anni del secolo scorso noti come Social
Network Theory. La Social Network Analysis si occupa, in particolare, di
studiare la struttura delle reti interazionali che si instaurano tra gli individui: la societ concepita come una rete di relazioni, le quali influiscono
sul comportamento stesso dei partecipanti alla rete. Le reti possono quindi
essere analizzate e rappresentate in base alle relazioni (legami) tra gli individui (nodi).
Le reti sociali oggi possono anche costituirsi on line, grazie agli strumenti di social networking che permettono agli utenti di entrare in comunit
virtuali relazionandosi tra loro, sul piano professionale o non professionale:6
i social network, infatti, si focalizzano on building online communities
of people who share interests and/or activities or who are interested in
exploring the interests and activities of others (da Wikipedia cit. in Berger,
Texler 2010: 159). Il loro scopo principale , infatti, allargare la cerchia
delle proprie conoscenze, in modo diretto oppure indiretto, condividendo

Un social network ad uso professionale, volto alla creazione di contatti in base ai

propri interessi lavorativi, LinkedIn <http://www.linkedin.com/>; tra i social
network dedicati alla socializzazione e al tempo libero possiamo indicare, solo a
titolo di esempio, Facebook <http://www.facebook.com>, MySpace <http://www.
myspace.com> e Netlog <http://it.netlog.com/>.

Da Facebook a Ning per imparare litaliano


messaggi, immagini e video. I siti di social networking si differenziano dagli

altri siti web per alcune specifiche caratteristiche: la pagina del profilo, nel
quale lutente si descrive e si fa conoscere condividendo risorse; la rete di
amicizie, rappresentata dallelenco degli utenti amici con limmagine che li
rappresenta; il sistema di messaggi pubblici, che permette di scrivere brevi
messaggi visibili a tutti; un sistema di messaggi privati, trasmessi solo agli
utenti selezionati.
Tra le ragioni pedagogiche legate alluso dei social network, lAASL,
una divisione della American Library Association, riporta gli aspetti sociali
dellapprendimento che favorito dalle opportunit di condividere e
apprendere con gli altri: gli apprendenti hanno necessit di sviluppare
la capacit di condividere conoscenza con gli altri, sia in presenza sia a
distanza, utilizzando sitemi di comunicazione sincrona e asincrona (Berger,
Texler 2010). [L]elemento rilevante di questi servizi [] la connessione
tra persone: il Web, nato per realizzare una connessione ipertestuale di
documenti, ha finito oggi per collegare direttamente le persone. Nellottica del knowledge management, sapere da chi si pu ottenere una certa
informazione, far parte di un determinato network, avere la possibilit di
essere presentati ad altre persone tramite i propri contatti sono tutte
attivit di notevole valore, realizzate grazie ai servizi di social networking
(Fini 2006: 186). Se in ambito educativo di notevole importanza una
riflessione condivisa sulluso di questi strumenti da parte dei pi giovani,
in relazione alla privacy e alla legalit e nellottica di una pi generale Media
education (Ardizzone, Rivoltella 2008), in ambito linguistico le ricadute
didattiche possono essere notevoli: prenderemo quindi ad esempio Facebook, il social network attualmente pi diffuso in Italia,7 per evidenziarne
potenzialit e criticit.

Il sito <http://www.addthis.com>, nel gennaio 2011, indica Facebook come il servizio

pi utilizzato in Italia (con il 57,65 percento di preferenze). Della diffusione di
Facebook tra gli italiani tratta anche un articolo pubblicato sul sito <http://www.
repubblica.it> del 19.10.2010 dal titolo Italiani campioni di Facebook siamo i pi connessi al mondo.


Emanuela Cotroneo

3 Facebook per la Didattica dellItaliano L2

Facebook <http://www.facebook.com> il social network fondato nel 2004
da Mark Zuckerberg, studente di Computer Science alla Harvard University allo scopo di mettere in contatto tra loro gli studenti iscritti alla sua
universit. Questo servizio fu ben presto esteso agli studenti delle scuole
superiori americane e, dal 2006, aperto a tutte le persone dai 13 anni in
su. Oggi uno dei siti pi popolati al mondo e conta pi di 600 milioni
di utenti. Come recita lo stesso slogan di questo social network, Facebook
aiuta a connetterti e rimanere in contatto con le persone della tua vita:8
dopo la registrazione, allutente infatti richiesto di inserire informazioni
su di s e di invitare altri amici ad utilizzare il servizio. Tra gli ingredienti
principali di questo social network ci sono gli aggiornamenti di stato, brevi
frasi che gli utenti scrivono per comunicare cosa pensano o cosa fanno,
che possono essere commentati con frasi o con espressioni di gradimento
predisposte (mi piace/ non mi piace pi); per le comunicazioni pi lunghe
esistono invece le note, molto simili a un documento di testo, e i messaggi
di posta interna, inviati solo agli utenti selezionati. La comunicazione in
sincrono pu invece avvenire attraverso luso della chat. Una prassi comune
, infine, la segnalazione di link a pagine web e video di Youtube insieme
alla condivisione di proprie immagini e video (Guerrini 2010). Dal maggio
2007, le interfacce di programmazione del sito (API) sono state rese pubbliche dando la possibilit a sviluppatori e programmatori di arricchire di
contenuti la piattaforma: sono nate cos le applicazioni, che comprendono
un ampio ventaglio di quiz, giochi e proposte per lascolto di musica, vendite online, ecc.9 La diffusione eterogenea di Facebook in termini spaziali
oltre che in termini di et degli iscritti, come emerge in tab. 12 e 13, ci permette di ipotizzare un notevole coinvolgimento delle diverse tipologie
di apprendenti che in Italia e nel mondo studiano la lingua e la cultura


Fonte: <http://www.facebook.com>.
Il blog <http://www.applicazionidifacebook.it/> fornisce aggiornamenti sulle nuove
applicazioni, descrivendone i contenuti e le modalit di utilizzo.


Da Facebook a Ning per imparare litaliano

italiana,10 malgrado sia la fascia dei giovani adulti e degli adulti ad esserne
maggiormente influenzata.
Tabella 12 Continenti presenti in Facebook nel mese di dicembre 2010
(adattato da <http://www.socialbakers.com>)


Percentuale duso

Nord America









Sud America






Australia ed Oceania



Tabella 13 Fasce di et presenti in Facebook nel mese di dicembre 2010

(adattato da <http://www.socialbakers.com>)
















Grazie alle possibilit di socializzazione e interazione con i nativi che

questo social network offre, possiamo considerarlo come uno strumento che


Per un quadro completo sui contesti di apprendimento/insegnamento dellitaliano

si veda il volume di Diadori et al. (2009).


Emanuela Cotroneo

pu contribuire, se opportunamente utilizzato, a consolidare e migliorare

la competenza linguistica degli apprendenti. Le potenzialit di Facebook,
per, vanno ben oltre. Come emerge in Addolorato, infatti:
attraverso la condivisione di post di testi, video, il linkaggio relativo a eventi o temi,
si estendono potenzialmente le possibilit di familiarizzarsi con la lingua, la cultura,
le strategie linguistiche, la frequenza duso di un termine, abbinate alla possibilit di
effettuare una costante ricerca sul campo, che permette di poter conoscere, pure a
distanza fisica, il gergo giovanile, il linguaggio politico, le ultime tendenze artisticosociali di un determinato gruppo umano accomunato da una lingua, da una determinata tradizione. (Addolorato 2009: 177)

In questottica limmagine condivisa su una bacheca pu, ad esempio, rappresentare un input per la produzione scritta e/o orale, liscrizione
a gruppi dedicati alla lingua italiana (es. il gruppo dellAccademia della
Crusca) pu stimolare la riflessione esplicita sul funzionamento della lingua
e linterazione con i nativi migliorare, pi in generale, labilit di comprensione e produzione scritta e arricchire la competenza lessicale. Inoltre, le
applicazioni possono essere selezionate in base al loro contenuto oppure
facilmente create ad hoc per il proprio contesto classe: i quiz a scelta multipla, linvio di immagini e le sfide rappresentano solo alcuni esempi di contenuti utilizzabili per lapprendimento o il rinforzo linguistico.11 Facebook
pu quindi diventare una piattaforma per lapprendimento linguistico: una
sintesi delle diverse funzioni utilizzabili e della loro spendibilit didattica
sintetizzata in tab. 14.


Se prendiamo ad esempio Italian Foods, lutente Facebook seleziona lapplicazione

e sceglie, tra quelle proposte, unimmagine rappresentante un piatto tipico della
cucina italiana. In seguito, seleziona lutente al quale inviare limmagine. Chi riceve
limmagine, visualizza sulla propria bacheca una richiesta per lapplicazione Italian
Foods e pu accedere al contenuto. Le sfide sono invece quiz a scelta multipla realizzati, nella maggior parte dei casi, in Flash (software di animazione grafica di Adobe):
si tratta dunque di pagine web pi dinamiche, spesso con effetti sonori, che registrano
il punteggio degli utenti e stilano una vera e propria classifica in base al punteggio


Da Facebook a Ning per imparare litaliano

Tabella 14 Le funzioni di Facebook in ottica didattica

Spendibilit didattica

Aggiornamenti di stato

Scrivere brevi frasi e sintesi di testi.

Scrittura di note, posta interna

Scrivere testi di diversa lunghezza e di diversa tipologia, con possibilit di commento da parte dei


Scrivere brevi messaggi.

Condivisione di link e video

Comprendere testi scritti e orali.

Condivisione di immagini

Input per la produzione di testi scritti e orali.


Attivit di rinforzo e reimpiego di tipo morfosintattico, lessicale o culturale.

Luso di uno strumento cos diffuso quale Facebook pu dunque motivare gli studenti allo svolgimento di attivit didattiche per lapprendimento
dellitaliano ma richiede una valutazione preventiva, da parte del docente,
sulle applicazioni non nate con finalit espressamente didattiche, allo scopo
di prevenire errori e scorrettezze. Il docente pu costruire le proprie applicazioni basandosi sul sillabo proposto agli apprendenti e gli studenti stessi
possono impegnarsi attivamente costruendo applicazioni volte al reimpiego
delle strutture analizzate in classe o partecipare a sfide linguistiche, enfatizzando laspetto pi ludico dellapprendimento.12 La diffusione degli smart
phone e la possibilit di utilizzare Facebook direttamente dal telefonino grazie
allapplicazione Facebook mobile, inoltre, lascia intravedere una spendibilit
anche per quanto concerne lapprendimento in contesto di mobilit.13 Tra
le criticit nelluso di Facebook per la didattica dellitaliano da enumerare
un aspetto innanzitutto educativo: corretto che il docente apra il proprio
profilo ai discenti (e viceversa) o preferibile creare un profilo dedicato
esclusivamente alle attivit didattiche? Il ricorso alle applicazioni, inoltre,


Sullapproccio ludico nella didattica delle lingue si veda, ad esempio, il volume di

Caon et al. (2009).
13 Sul mobile learning si veda, ad esempio, il contributo di Kukulska-Hulme et al. (2008).


Emanuela Cotroneo

diversamente recepito a seconda dellet degli apprendenti e questo potrebbe

comportare il non interesse da parte di alcune tipologie di apprendenti
dellitaliano L2: uno studio di BliNQ Media (<http://blinqmedia.com/>)
ha evidenziato che le applicazioni sono utilizzate soprattutto da coloro che
hanno pi di 31 anni; chi utilizza le bacheche per condividere messaggi,
link, video e immagini, invece, usa meno le applicazioni e determinati tipi
di applicazioni, quali gli invii di regalo, possono richiedere tempi di risposta
dilatati (il 70 percento impiega ben 30 giorni). Considerate queste premesse,
possibile ipotizzare un impiego diversificato di Facebook in relazione alle
diverse fasce di et coinvolte, riservando la produzione di brevi messaggi di
status e di note, utili per la produzione scritta, a coloro che meno utilizzano
le applicazioni, pi orientate verso attivit di rinforzo ortografico, grammaticale, lessicale e, pi in generale, culturale. Un altro limite rilevabile nella
variet stessa di lingua utilizzata in rete che, secondo DAchille (2003), pu
presentare scorrettezze nelluso degli accenti, refusi e incidenti sintattici,
con una riduzione dei segni di punteggiatura. La variet di lingua trasmessa,
cos definita da Sabatini (1982), trova nel Web 2.0 maggiori possibilit di
realizzazione in quanto esso ha permesso agli utenti di diventare, allo stesso
tempo, autori e fruitori della rete, generando grandi quantit di materiale
linguistico non sempre controllabile dal punto di vista qualitativo.

4 I Social Network per lApprendimento/Insegnamento

delle Lingue: Il Caso di Livemocha
Parallelamente alla diffusione dei pi noti social network, quali Facebook,
My Space e Netlog, negli ultimi anni si sono sviluppati diversi social network
con finalit didattiche (Bedini 2009, Troncarelli 2010). Livemocha, Babbel,
Busuu, My Happy Planet e Palabea rappresentano alcuni esempi di questa
nuova modalit di apprendimento/insegnamento delle lingue, basata sulla
collaborazione tra pari e su un apprendimento di tipo informale (tab. 15).


Da Facebook a Ning per imparare litaliano

Tabella 15 I principali social network per lapprendimento linguistico
Nome e sito di riferimento



Offre corsi gratuiti/ a pagamento

per lapprendimento delle principali
lingue straniere. Al corso multimediale si aggiunge il supporto degli utenti


Offre corsi a pagamento (con prova gratuita) di francese, inglese, italiano, spagnolo, svedese, tedesco. Al corso multimediale si aggiunge il supporto degli utenti


Offre corsi gratuiti per lapprendimento

di diverse lingue straniere e utilizza sistemi
di comunicazione sincrona e asincrona.

My Happy Planet

Offre corsi gratuiti per lapprendimento

di diverse lingue straniere con video e
lezioni caricati dagli utenti.


Offre corsi gratuiti per lapprendimento

di diverse lingue straniere con documenti,
video lezioni e podcast scaricabili realizzati dagli utenti stessi.

Livemocha il primo social network nato espressamente per lapprendimento linguistico; come descritto in Bedini (2009; Troncarelli 2010),
si tratta di un sito che permette agli iscritti di creare connessioni con i
parlanti nativi della lingua oggetto di studio. Durante la registrazione al
social network, lutente dichiara la propria madrelingua e le lingue che sta
imparando: dopo il log in rivestir quindi il ruolo di docente per la propria
L1 e di apprendente per le lingue selezionate. Per quanto concerne lofferta
formativa di italiano per stranieri, attualmente Livemocha contiene quattro
corsi a pagamento: italiano per principianti, che mette laccento sullapprendimento della grammatica di base, sul presentarsi e sulla ricezione/
produzione di semplici espressioni; italiano intermedio, che fornisce input
pi complessi e favorisce il consolidamento grammaticale e lessicale; active
Italian, che basato sullo sviluppo della conversazione attraverso la visione


Emanuela Cotroneo

di video e linterazione scritta/orale; impara litaliano per viaggiare, che

punta sulle situazioni comunicative tipiche dellambito turistico, con la
possibilit di scaricare file audio e video da ascoltare in viaggio con il proprio dispositivo mobile.
Se consideriamo il corso italiano intermedio, la prima lezione
proposta ha come obiettivo grammaticale lacquisizione del tempo passato (limperfetto del modo indicativo). La lezione si svolge secondo lo
schema Impara> Revisione> Scrivi> Parla. La sezione Impara presenta
una serie di input testuali e iconici che servono a esprimere lora al presente e al passato, con possibilit di tradurre le frasi in lingua inglese per
facilitare la comprensione. La sezione Revisione presenta una selezione
di attivit di abbinamento a partire da input testuali o iconici e di frasi
da riordinare, in modalit di autocorrezione. Si tratta dunque di classiche attivit per lautoapprendimento sulla base di esempi e ripetizioni,
di matrice istruzionista14 e che si rifanno ad un modello di FAD di prima
generazione (cfr. nota n.2). Seguono le attivit produttive delle sezioni
Scrivi e Parla che rappresentano lelemento innovativo di questo corso:
in aggiunta alle esercitazioni, lapprendente svolge attivit di produzione
scritta e orale che possono essere corrette dagli amici del social network ai
quali sono inviate. La comunit di apprendimento tipica della terza generazione di FAD (cfr. nota n.2) viene in questo caso rappresentata non
da coloro che si sono iscritti allo stesso corso di lingua italiana, come pu
accadere in un corso universitario a distanza, ma da coloro che sono entrati
a far parte della comunit virtuale di Livemocha dichiarando di avere come
madrelingua proprio litaliano. Il nativo italiano si trova quindi a operare
in qualit di esperto linguistico, fornendo feedback scritti oppure orali sulla
base dei suggerimenti per buone recensioni fornite dai creatori del social
network: lesaustivit dei commenti, luso di colori e stili diversi per fornire
14 Con Istruzionismo si fa riferimento alle cosiddette macchine per imparare, ossia
a sistemi di autoapprendimento basati sulle teorie skinneriane, che prevedevano
la somministrazione di stimoli, in una situazione altamente strutturata e graduale
rispetto ai contenuti; lerrore, considerato come elemento negativo, veniva rilevato
immediatamente e opportunamente corretto attraverso attivit di rinforzo. Per
approfondimenti si veda Fratter (2004).

Da Facebook a Ning per imparare litaliano


le correzioni e linsegnamento attraverso esempi concreti sono alla base

delle buone pratiche di insegnamento in Livemocha. Una risorsa di questo
tipo sembra rappresentare, a unattenta analisi, una modalit di apprendimento informale che pu essere affiancata, nellottica del plurilinguismo,
alla formalit e alla non formalit dei corsi erogati nelle istituzioni, nella
scuola pubblica, nelluniversit e dallassociazionismo.15

5 Costruire un Social Network per la Propria Classe

di Italiano L2: una Prima Sperimentazione di Ning
La terza opzione alla quale il docente di italiano L2 pu ricorrere per sfruttare le potenzialit delle reti sociali, create attraverso gli strumenti di social
networking, la costruzione di un social network chiuso da utilizzare nel
proprio contesto classe: In a hosted do-it-yourself network [] the user
selects a theme as well as the features theyd like to incorporate from among
those avalaible and arranges them on the page according to their preference
(Berger, Texler 2010: 166). Si tratta dunque di servizi che permettono, in
maniera semplice e rapida, la creazione di social network ad hoc, gratuiti o a
pagamento, che consentono agli apprendenti di partecipare a vere e proprie
comunit virtuali di apprendimento. Ning, Elgg e Dolphin sono alcuni dei
social software e dei social service che negli ultimi anni sono stati sperimentati
in ambito educativo e didattico (Fini 2006, 2009), come sintetizzato in


Quando parliamo di apprendimento formale facciamo riferimento allapprendimento

che avviene allinterno di contesti strutturati e organizzati (ad es. a scuola e nella formazione aziendale) e rilascia certificazioni ufficiali (diplomi, qualifiche, certificati);
con apprendimento non formale intendiamo invece ci che accade al di fuori delle
principali agenzie formative e senza il rilascio di certificazioni ufficiali (es. nellambito
delle associazioni giovanili e dellapprendistato). Entrambi sono intenzionali mentre
nel caso dell apprendimento informale non abbiamo intenzionalit ma piuttosto
siamo in presenza di un apprendimento esperienziale, incidentale e non strutturato.
Per approfondimenti si veda Cross (2006).


Emanuela Cotroneo

tab. 16. A seconda del servizio scelto, possibile condividere file (immagini,
video, documenti di testo), link e scambiare messaggi pubblici (pi brevi
come nel caso degli indicatori di status, pi lunghi come nel caso dei blog)
o privati (messaggi di posta interni al sistema) e personalizzare la grafica.16
Tabella 16 I principali social software e social service
Nome e sito di riferimento



Servizio web, personalizzabile in quanto

a funzionalit e contenuti, a pagamento
con tariffazioni diverse a seconda delle
opzioni inserite. Non richiede particolari
competenze tecniche per lattivazione e la


Software open source installabile su

server, gratuito e richiede maggiori
competenze tecniche per linstallazione e
la personalizzazione.


Software a met tra open source e soluzione

commerciale, a pagamento (con versione
base gratuita).


Servizio web creato per luso in ambito

scolastico, di facile uso ed gratuito.


Servizio web, di facile uso ma a

pagamento (con versione base gratuita).

Ning, in particolare, una risorsa veloce e facile da utilizzare. Come

riportato in Berger e Texler (2010), il docente si registra e costruisce il proprio social network in pochi click, selezionando le risorse e le funzioni che
vuole includere: i forum possono essere utilizzati per favorire il confronto
e la discussione tra i discenti; le immagini e i video possono rappresentare
testi input per unit di lavoro online, mentre i box testuali e i link a pagine

Sulluso di social network creati ad hoc per il proprio contesto classe si vedano i contributi di Allegra (2010), Vagnozzi (2010) e Marcelli (2010).

Da Facebook a Ning per imparare litaliano


web possono arricchire il social network dei contenuti oggetto di studio.

Il maggior vantaggio nel creare un social network ad hoc il controllo che
il docente pu avere sui contenuti e sui membri che possono accedere, in
funzione della disciplina insegnata e degli obiettivi che nel percorso didattico egli intende raggiungere.
Nellambito del tutorato didattico di lingua italiana per stranieri,17
attivato in presenza nellA.A. 20092010 presso la Facolt di Lingue e letterature straniere dellUniversit degli Studi di Genova, stato proposto
ai corsisti luso del social network Italiano per cinesi (<http://italianopercinesi.ning.com>) realizzato con Ning. La home presenta tre colonne: a
sinistra sono visualizzate le attivit recenti (pubblicazione di video, messaggi
di status, amicizie), al centro sono consultabili il blog e il file box mentre a
destra sono invece riportate le informazioni personali, le fotografie e i video.
Il tutorato didattico ha previsto quattordici ore in presenza, svolte presso il
laboratorio informatico e distribuite su sette incontri da due ore per circa
due mesi di attivit ed ha coinvolto un totale di ventisei studenti, di livello
compreso tra il B1 e il C1 del Quadro Comune Europeo di Riferimento
(Consiglio dEuropa 2002). Trattandosi di attivit di potenziamento e/
o recupero degli studenti iscritti a diversi anni e a diversi corsi di laurea,
il gruppo classe era disomogeneo in quanto a competenze in ingresso. Si
quindi preferito svolgere la fase di motivazione, di comprensione globale e di produzione orale in plenum, mentre le attivit di approfondimento, rinforzo grammaticale e produzione scritta sono state erogate on
line, rispettando i tempi di svolgimento di ogni studente e permettendo il
completamento delle attivit al di fuori dellorario di lezione. Per le attivit
di approfondimento gli studenti hanno potuto riascoltare o rileggere i testi
input inseriti in Ning; per il rinforzo grammaticale sono stati inseriti dei
link agli esercizi multimediali con auto-correzione reperiti in rete; per la
produzione scritta, infine, sono state utilizzate domande aperte postate sul

Il tutorato didattico prevede la selezione di studenti iscritti alle lauree specialistiche o

alle scuole di dottorato di ricerca per la realizzazione di attivit di tutorato e attivit
didattico/integrative, nonch di attivit propedeutiche e di recupero per gli studenti delle diverse facolt. Fonte: <http://www.studenti.unige.it/attivita/tutorato/


Emanuela Cotroneo

blog. Il file box ha avuto la funzione di raccolta di documenti testuali (date e

orari degli incontri, testi da leggere, ecc.) mentre il sistema di messaggistica
interna al social network ha sostituito luso della posta elettronica tradizionale. Luso di Italiano per cinesi ha quindi previsto la comunicazione sul
blog (sono presenti cinquantacinque messaggi, trentadue del docente e
ventitr degli studenti) e la condivisione di risorse (link a risorse on line,
condivisione di immagini, video e file di testo) al pari di una piattaforma
e-learning. Tra i vantaggi rilevati nelluso di questo strumento, da un punto
di vista prettamente tecnico emersa la possibilit, da parte del docente, di
decidere la posizione dei diversi elementi nella home e di personalizzare la
grafica; inoltre, non stato necessario svolgere alcun tipo di formazione ai
discenti in quanto, vista la semplicit duso, nellarco della prima lezione essi
hanno esplorato i contenuti e d effettuato la navigazione senza particolari
difficolt. I discenti stessi, inoltre, possono inserire nuovi messaggi sul blog,
link, immagini e video.18 Lo svantaggio maggiore sta nellimpossibilit di
ottenere un tracciamento di tutte le attivit svolte dai discenti: i risultati
degli esercizi reperiti on line non possono essere registrati e per verificare
le attivit svolte dagli studenti necessario analizzare pagina per pagina il
social network in maniera pi approfondita.19
NellA.A. 20102011 la sperimentazione di Ning proseguita nellambito di un corso di lingua italiana di livello B2 rivolto a studenti Erasmus
ospiti dellateneo genovese: liscrizione a un social network di classe
(<http://erasmusb2.ning.com/>) stata proposta a venti studenti di diversa


Vista la brevit e la tipologia di intervento non stato possibile rilevare lesito delle
attivit didattiche in maniera sistematica. Riportiamo di seguito, a titolo esemplificativo e senza correzioni di alcun tipo, un messaggio di una studentessa postato a
chiusura del percorso: Usiamo questo spazio da 2 mesi, secondo me, molto interessante e utile per noi Io studio litaliano da 1 anno, quindi importante approfondire
il mio italiano. Qua possiamo condivedere qualche video. possiamo scrivere i nostri
pensieri, possiamo fare gli esercizi, ecc. A me piace molto! Se possibile, speriamo
di continuare a usarlo.
In commercio esistono per diversi tipi di software che possono permettere di visualizzare gli aspetti pi tipici delle interazioni in ambienti virtuali di questa tipologia:
il software NetMiner3, ad esempio, rappresenta graficamente, attraverso un sociogramma, i contatti instauranti tra i partecipanti a un social network; per approfondimenti si vedano Fini e Cigognini (2009).

Da Facebook a Ning per imparare litaliano


provenienza e madrelingua, quattordici dei quali hanno accettato liscrizione. A differenza del caso precedente, il social network stato proposto
come ambiente di apprendimento virtuale da utilizzare esclusivamente al
di fuori delle attivit didattiche in presenza. In linea con gli obiettivi della
Commissione delle Comunit Europee (2001), abbiamo scelto laffiancamento di una modalit di apprendimento informale allapprendimento
di tipo formale integrando la formazione universitaria in presenza con
linterazione e la socializzazione allinterno di un social network. A una
prima analisi, rimanendo invariati gli strumenti (blog, video, immagini,
link, file di testo) con laggiunta della possibilit di svolgere quiz prodotti
dal docente direttamente allinterno del sistema, emerso che una buona
percentuale di studenti iscritti (pi della met) ricopre il ruolo di lurker:
molti studenti leggono i contributi altrui, rimanendo in secondo piano,
pochi studenti scrivono, commentano e condividono.20 Rispetto alluso
tradizionale di social network quali Facebook e MySpace, in questo caso
non stato mai utilizzato lindicatore di status, mentre prevalgono linvio
di messaggi privati e la condivisione di video, di immagini e di testi. Il test
di fine corso, basato sulla competenza grammaticale e sulla conoscenza
esplicita di alcuni elementi di cultura italiana, ha messo in evidenza una
correlazione positiva tra liscrizione al social network e i risultati raggiunti:
la votazione media riportata nella prova grammaticale, nella prova culturale e nellintera prova pi alta nel caso di coloro che hanno accettato
liscrizione, come sintetizzato nella tabella seguente (tab. 17).

20 Lurker significa letteralmente persona che osserva ed un termine derivante dalla

netiquette. La definizione riportata in Wikipedia (<http://it.wikipedia.org/wiki/
Lurker>) mette in luce come questo lemma non abbia una connotazione negativa:
sarebbe la stessa netiquette a richiedere, quando iscritti a un forum, una mailing list,
un blog ecc., un periodo di osservazione prima di iniziare a scrivere allo scopo di comprendere tematiche e modalit di interazione. A questo proposito Nielsen (2006)
ha elaborato la teoria 1990 secondo la quale nella maggior parte delle comunit
si ha un 1 percento di utenti attivi e produttivi, un 9 percento di utenti occasionali
e il 90 percento di fruitori passivi.


Emanuela Cotroneo
Tabella 17 Punteggio medio riportato dai corsisti

Punteggio medio
iscritti social network

Punteggio medio
non iscritti social network




Conoscenze culturali






Analizzando i risultati nel dettaglio, possiamo notare che sia nel caso
della prova grammaticale sia nel caso di quella culturale il punteggio medio
ottenuto da chi si iscritto al social network ha uno scarto di almeno 10/100
rispetto a chi non si iscritto: i non iscritti hanno rispettivamente ottenuto 71/100 e 33/100, gli iscritti 83/100 e 45/100 per un punteggio medio
complessivo di 69/100 e 80/100.
Sebbene i risultati di coloro che si sono iscritti al social network di
classe, siano essi lurker o utenti attivi, siano migliori rispetto a coloro i
quali non hanno accettato liscrizione, non possiamo attribuire con certezza la ragione di tale successo allo strumento usato: gli iscritti potrebbero
infatti essere stati i pi motivati o ancora i pi predisposti allacquisizione
linguistica. indubbio, per, che le nuove tecnologie, i software, gli strumenti di interazione sincrona e asincrona, le attivit in rete, motivino gli
studenti e favoriscano, in alcuni casi, linterazione tra docente e discente e
tra i discenti stessi, aumentando la quantit di input fornito e provocando,
pi in generale, ricadute didattiche positive (Mezzadri 2001). Per promuovere e giustificare luso di social network come ambienti di apprendimento
linguistico digitale sar quindi necessario, in futuro, testarne lefficacia
monitorando la competenza in ingresso e in uscita, sulla base di alcuni
elementi isolati e facilmente controllabili e, ove possibile, confrontando i
risultati ottenuti con studenti di pari livello che abbiano utilizzato diversi
ambienti di apprendimento digitale (es. piattaforme tradizionali) o nessuno di essi.

Da Facebook a Ning per imparare litaliano


6 Conclusioni
Le tecnologie per la didattica rappresentano un prezioso alleato nella progettazione e nellerogazione di percorsi didattici volti allacquisizione linguistica: in tempi pi recenti, le piattaforme e-learning hanno permesso la
frequenza, da parte di un sempre maggior numero di apprendenti, di corsi
di lingua italiana on line, realizzati in modalit blended o interamente a
distanza. Il passaggio dal web al web 2.0 e dalle-learning alle-learning 2.0
ha aperto nuovi scenari di apprendimento, mettendo a disposizione degli
utenti risorse per la condivisione e la collaborazione online, attraverso una
nuova concezione della rete come piattaforma aperta.
Tra gli strumenti tipici del web 2.0, grazie alla loro diffusione in termini
spaziali ed anagrafici, i social network sembrano essere una risorsa da considerare nella fase di programmazione didattica e da sperimentare, sia per
la loro facilit duso, sia per le diverse attivit che permettono di realizzare
online. Facebook, in particolare, si presta allutilizzo per la didattica dellitaliano a stranieri attraverso la pratica linguistica, il contatto con i nativi e
lutilizzo di funzioni quali i messaggi di status, le note, la condivisione di
link, immagini e video, anche in unottica di apprendimento in mobilit.
Se la gestione di un profilo di Facebook con finalit didattiche pu entrare
in conflitto con un uso privato dello stesso, sollevando questioni di tipo
educativo prima ancora che didattiche, i docenti possono orientare i propri
discenti verso luso di social network nati espressamente per lapprendimento
linguistico e orientati alla collaborazione tra pari e allapprendimento informale. Livemocha, il caso descritto, presenta infatti una serie di attivit per
lautoapprendimento, con il vantaggio di poter usufruire di amici madrelingua disponibili a svolgere attivit di verifica e controllo sulle produzioni
scritte e orali degli utenti. Unulteriore alternativa rappresentata dai web
service, gratuiti o a pagamento, che permettono di costruire social network
chiusi, da utilizzare nel proprio contesto classe e per le proprie finalit
didattiche, senza la necessit di particolari competenze informatiche da
parte di chi progetta il corso. La prima sperimentazione svolta con Ning
in contesto universitario ha messo in evidenza che il ricorso a uno spazio
di apprendimento digitale di questa tipologia, per la formazione blended


Emanuela Cotroneo

o a distanza, offre ai docenti la possibilit di mettere in relazione i propri

studenti in un contesto simile a quello di Facebook, instaurando relazioni
tra i membri e favorendo il contatto con materiale testuale, audio e video in
lingua italiana, la produzione e la pratica linguistica, malgrado la percentuale
di lurker presente lasci intravedere la necessit di motivare maggiormente
alla partecipazione. Il docente e i discenti possono svolgere funzioni simili
a quelle del noto social network, con il vantaggio di mettere il focus sui contenuti oggetto di studio.
Come suggerito nel volume di Fini e Cigognini (2009), lapertura di
un social network chiuso verso la comunit di pratica linguistica che nasce
on line spontaneamente, a conclusione di un percorso formativo, potrebbe
rappresentare levoluzione di un corso online verso lapprendimento continuo e permanente, grazie al contributo dei pari: si creerebbe quindi un
social network tematico, aperto a infinite amicizie e dedicato allitaliano
L2, nel quale apprendenti e docenti di diversi paesi possano interagire,
condividendo risorse e materiali, nellimpresa comune di apprendere e
insegnare una lingua e cultura.21

Allegra, C. (2010). Usare un Social Learning Enviroment a scuola: un approccio
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A. e Patini F. (eds), Atti del Convegno Didamatica 2010, Roma: Universit La
Sapienza, <http://didamatica2010.di.uniroma1.it/sito/lavori/1174291-DR.
pdf> consultato il 2 dicembre 2011.


Un esempio di social network con finalit didattiche e aperto alle comunit di pratica
della rete L20 <http://elearning.unistrapg.it/l2o/>: realizzato dallUniversit per
Stranieri di Perugia, raccoglie unit minime di apprendimento di lingua italiana per
stranieri, o learning objects, basate su video, audio, immagini o testi scritti caricate
e commentate dagli utenti. Destinatari del social network sono i docenti, oltre che i
discenti, di italiano L2/LS.

Da Facebook a Ning per imparare litaliano


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Alessandra Giglio

Racconto L2.0: Esercitare la Produzione

Scritta in Rete

1 Introduzione
La Rete globale, il Web 2.0 e le nuove strumentazioni tecnologiche che
permettono di essere costantemente online sembrano essere le avvisaglie
di una rivoluzione culturale, sociologica e comunicativa a cui stiamo, pi
o meno consciamente, assistendo: tale rivoluzione pari forse solamente a
quanto successo ai tempi di Gutenberg e dellavvento della stampa a caratteri mobili. Molteplici prodotti culturali, infatti, stanno mutando forma: il
diario personale viene pubblicato e condiviso con pi persone; la stessa letteratura cessa dessere un atto intimo e personale per divenire collaborativa;
il materiale di studio sempre pi spesso frutto del lavoro delle comunit
di apprendimento. Inoltre, oggigiorno sempre pi importante essere in
grado di comunicare in pi modalit e in pi lingue con gli attori sociali
che assistono a questa rivoluzione socio-comunicativa.
Il progetto Racconto L2.0 nasce proprio alla luce di queste considerazioni: nellambito dellinsegnamento della lingua italiana a studenti
stranieri, si pensato infatti di creare un ponte, un fruttuoso collegamento
tra lesercizio della produzione scritta creativa e le tecnologie del Web 2.0.
Il blog, strumento di estrema facilit duso e di diffusione capillare tra i
giovani, diventa un luogo virtuale che permette di cimentarsi nella scrittura creativa di un racconto di fantasia, con una serie di regole definite a
priori dallinsegnante, in modo da rispettare gli obiettivi didattici preposti;
il risultato verr poi valutato dalla comunit virtuale che decreter, cos, la
produzione vincente.


Alessandra Giglio

Il presente intervento ha lo scopo, quindi, di illustrare il progetto e

le sue specifiche tecniche e didattiche, analizzando anche i risultati derivanti dalle prime sperimentazioni e sintetizzando alcune riflessioni per lo
sviluppo futuro.

2 Da Gutenberg a Winer: la Rivoluzione della Stampa

a Caratteri Mobili Come la Rivoluzione del Blog?
Nel 1455 Johann Gutenberg, un orafo tedesco che si occupava di coniare
monete, ultim la riproduzione della prima Bibbia realizzata con la nuova
tecnica della stampa a caratteri mobili, ispirata nella sua creazione al torchio da vino delle uve renane. Questinvenzione sola ha segnato linizio di
una nuova era, che ha portato ad una concezione pi privata del piacere
intimo della lettura, ma anche ad una sua maggiore universalit, dato che
ha permesso la diffusione della cultura a pi ampio raggio; tuttavia, essa ha
anche determinato la fine di unaltra era, basata sulla cultura della memoria,
della condivisione, della ripetizione:
[L]invenzione della stampa [] nella seconda met del Quattrocento permise
limmediata riproducibilit di testi e immagini e nel contempo la loro diffusione a
costi ragionevoli. Per capirne limportanza e gli effetti sulla societ, basti ricordare che
forse le tre grandi rivoluzioni [] che fra il XV e il XVII secolo hanno creato il mondo
moderno, e cio il Rinascimento, la Riforma protestante e la rivoluzione scientifica,
non sarebbero state certamente possibili senza di essa. (Petrucco, De Rossi 2009: 10)

Nel 1969, molti secoli pi tardi, nasce Internet, o meglio il prototipo di

ci che diventer una rete di computer contemporaneamente collegati tra
loro che scambiano dati e informazioni in tempo reale. Nel 1993, quando
la rete di Internet gi ben sviluppata tra gli ingegneri informatici, nasce il
primo browser Mosaic, che permetter la navigazione in Rete degli utenti
privati. Nel 1997, Dave Winer realizza un software che permette la creazione del primo blog personale; qualche mese pi tardi, Jorn Barger sar

Racconto L2.0: Esercitare la Produzione Scritta in Rete


il primo blogger della storia, pubblicando su Internet i risultati delle sue

battute di caccia. Anche in questo caso si assiste alla fine di unera, nata con
Gutenberg e basata sulloligarchia dellinformazione, sul potere delleditore
e sulla passivit del lettore; Winer segna linizio di unaltra era, che vivr
di costruttivismo sociale, collaborativit del sapere e democratizzazione
dellinformazione (Poli 2004). In definitiva, assistiamo quindi al famoso
passaggio da quella che McLuhan [] ha definito la galassia Gutenberg
(la stampa) alla galassia Marconi, ovvero ai media come li conosciamo in
sostanza oggi giacch oggi i media possono essere considerati veri e propri
strumenti di elaborazione culturale che hanno come fine la costruzione
condivisa e collettiva della realt (Petrucco, De Rossi 2009: 10).

3 Didattica 2.0: il Blog sui Banchi di Scuola

Sebbene il blog, originariamente chiamato web-log, ovvero diario di rete
dal parallelismo nautico spesso utilizzato nella terminologia riguardante
Internet , sia nato inizialmente come collettore delle notizie importanti
della giornata (Whats new, uno dei primi blog esistenti, era estremamente
popolare durante i primi anni Novanta), e si sia poi sviluppato, gi dal 1999,
come spazio virtuale in cui inserire i propri pensieri personali sotto forma
di diario, da alcuni anni esso entrato nella pratica didattica e nelle classi
di scuole di ogni ordine e grado.
La prima iniziativa di educational blog risale al 2001 grazie allesperienza di Peter Ford (Friso 2009), che crea il primo esemplare di blog di
classe. Il progetto di Ford si articola in tre fasi: inizialmente, il blog semplice contenitore di informazioni della (e sulla) classe; successivamente,
esso si evolve e diventa il luogo virtuale di incontro di una comunit in
evoluzione; infine, nella terza fase, il blog diventa perno focale di detta
comunit, che gravita attorno ad esso. Il progetto di Ford ha riscosso subito
molto successo: tale esito positivo ha spinto diversi docenti a ripetere una
simile esperienza nel proprio contesto scolastico.


Alessandra Giglio

Significativa, qualche tempo pi tardi, lesperienza di Will Richardson

e Anne Davis: entrambi i docenti, di scuole e classi molto differenti, oltre
che distanti geograficamente, creano un proprio blog di classe. La novit
consiste nella interconnessione dei due blog e quindi, di fatto, nella costituzione della prima rete di blog della storia: si approda cos al primo blogging
collaborativo (Friso 2009).
Da queste positive esperienze, nascono allora delle reti e comunit
di blog utilizzati nel campo delleducazione che permettono di mettere
in contatto diverse realt scolastiche e diversi ambiti educativi in tutto
il mondo, diventando spesso comunit di pratica. Per ci che concerne
lItalia, le reti di edubloggers maggiormente rinomate sono Edublog.it,1
Blogdidattici,2 BlogER3 (Friso 2009).
Le valenze didattiche del blog come strumento di classe sono essenzialmente legate alla sua comunicativit (Friso 2009): esso, infatti, permette di ampliare i canali comunicativi relativi allapprendimento e alla
sperimentazione; contribuisce a migliorare la capacit di organizzazione
e documentazione del blogger sia esso il docente o lo studente, supportato dallattivit di scaffolding4 del docente; aumenta il coinvolgimento
della classe nelle lezioni e la motivazione degli studenti; stimola la capacit
di valutazione e di riflessione sui contenuti appresi e sui processi messi in
atto. Inoltre, il blog ha alcune caratteristiche intrinseche che lo elevano a
strumento ottimale nella didattica, dato che esso :
generalmente facile nellutilizzo, grazie a dei gestori di contenuti
appositamente creati che ne permettono una fruizione semplice ed
collaborativo, ovvero possibile coinvolgere diversi utenti sia nella
progettazione, sia nella scrittura vera e propria del blog;
multimediale, quindi possibile ragionare su differenti tipologie di
input iniziale, siano esse audio, video o testuali (Banzato 2006).

<http://edublog.altervista.org/>. Lultimo accesso a questo e a tutti gli altri siti citati

avvenuto il 18 luglio 2011.
2 <http://www.blogdidattici.it/>.
3 <http://blog.scuolaer.it/>.
4 Ovvero, ricoprire un ruolo di facilitatore, di impalcatura, di sostegno (Fratter 2004).

Racconto L2.0: Esercitare la Produzione Scritta in Rete


Tuttavia, perch lo strumento educativo blog sia efficace, necessario che alcune precondizioni imprescindibili siano soddisfatte: essendo
questo un sussidio della comunicazione didattica, sar necessario utilizzare
un orientamento pedagogico costruttivista5 che ponga il discente al centro
del mondo di relazioni e comunicazioni con il quale il blog si interfaccia.
In altre parole, necessario un approccio pedagogico di tipo socio-cognitivo, in quanto le competenze di carattere sociale e cognitivo-testuale rivestono unimportanza fondamentale nella didattica della scrittura (Mizza,
OToole 2007). In questo modo, lapprendimento avverr tramite le interazioni sociali del discente stesso: learning is conceived as a constructive
activity, only made possible through social interactions aimed at collaboration (Ligorio, Talamo, Pontecorvo 2005: 360). Inoltre, sfruttando al
meglio le potenzialit del mezzo, lo studente vedr stimolate le proprie
capacit di know what (ovvero di contenuti, di scambio con linsegnante, di
scambio con la comunit della blogosfera in genere), di know how (ovvero
potenzier le abilit di lettura e scrittura, di ricerca delle informazioni,
di comunicazione, di padronanza del mezzo informatico) e di know why
(ovvero, il discente tender ad essere responsabile, riflessivo, autonomo,
espressivo, collaborativo) (Friso 2009).

4 Racconto L2.0: un Progetto di Blog Competitivo

per lEsercizio dellAbilit di Produzione Scritta
Come gi visto, il blog nella didattica utilizzato da tempo e con buoni
risultati (Friso 2009), soprattutto per ci che riguarda la condivisione di
risorse ed esperienze, lo sviluppo di abilit informatiche e di competenze
relazionali, cooperative e sociali oggi assolutamente fondamentali, nonch

Come gi teorizzava Piaget prima, e Vygotskji poi: leducazione, infatti, deve essere
basata sullinterazione con lambiente: lo studente individua nellambiente gli aspetti
che per lui sono di maggior interesse e li assimila in strutture pre-organizzate nel
suo sistema conoscitivo, talvolta variando lo stesso sistema per rendere possibile


Alessandra Giglio

al potenziamento di rapporti e regole sociali che, sebbene si esercitino in

un luogo virtuale, trovano applicazione anche nel mondo reale. Tuttavia,
non si trovano molte esperienze di blog come reale strumento didattico
alla stregua di un eserciziario o di unattivit in classe: il blog, al contrario,
spesse volte visto come un utilissimo strumento di corollario e di appoggio,
ma non viene incentrata su di esso la didattica per, ad esempio, il potenziamento di una particolare abilit linguistica o di una struttura comunicativa, soprattutto per ci che riguarda la pratica didattica del sistema
distruzione italiano.6
Da queste premesse, si origina il progetto di Racconto L2.0,7 che
nasce come controparte didattica di un esperimento, di tuttaltra natura e
specie, di scrittura sociale online. Lispirazione arriva infatti da perFiducia
2.0,8 uno spazio virtuale della banca Intesa San Paolo che ha coinvolto
3291 utenti della blogosfera e ha dato loro la possibilit di scrivere una propria storia a puntate. Gli utenti, di fatto, gareggiavano tra loro: al termine
dellesperimento lo staff di perFiducia 2.0 ha scelto a proprio insindacabile
giudizio ma tenendo conto dei pareri degli oltre diciottomila lettori
virtuali votanti quali fossero le tre storie maggiormente meritevoli di
vittoria. Dalla fantasia dei tre improvvisati scrittori sono nati tre cortometraggi, supervisionati da registi del calibro di Gabriele Salvatores, Ermanno
Olmi e Paolo Sorrentino.
La peculiarit dellesperimento, e cio la scrittura creativa individuale
di una storia che per viene votata paragrafo dopo paragrafo da un numero
di lettori potenzialmente infinito, ha spontaneamente condotto ad una
riflessione didattica sullapplicabilit del format in classe: molte sono infatti

In Rete si possono trovare, in lingua inglese, alcuni interessanti progetti di scrittura condivisa online, come Protagonize <http://www.protagonize.com/>, Novlet
<http://www.novlet.com/> e youNovel <http://www.younovel.com/novel/list>.
Tuttavia, tali progetti non sembrano avere un intento prettamente scolastico o didattico; sono, pi verosimilmente, progetti di scrittura condivisa scissi da un contesto,
e da un progetto, educativo.
7 <http://www.raccontol2punto0.it/>. possibile visionare una videoguida dello
strumento fruibile allindirizzo <http://www.alessandragiglio.com/racconto>.
8 <http://www.perfiducia.com/>.

Racconto L2.0: Esercitare la Produzione Scritta in Rete


le caratteristiche che avrebbero avuto impatto positivo sulla didattica tradizionale di una lingua straniera e, nel caso specifico, della lingua italiana L2.
In primo luogo, la tipologia di compito assegnato prevede una buona
dose di creativit e inventiva: gi Rossiter ricordava che (t)he learner involvement factor is also related to the power of stories to stimulate empathic
response (Rossiter 2005); in ambito didattico, quindi, un progetto del
genere pu aiutare a stimolare la fantasia dello studente nel sapere cosa
scrivere in una composizione assegnata.
Anche la motivazione9 dello studente pu venire positivamente stimolata da questo tipo di attivit: lo studente, infatti, oltre ad essere attratto
dal fascino di sapere che verr letto, potenzialmente, da infiniti lettori sul
web,10 utilizzer un sistema innovativo e ludico che spezzer la routine della
didattica quotidiana proponendo un compito diverso nella forma ma non
nei contenuti in fondo, sempre di scrivere si tratta.11
Educativo inoltre luso didattico che pu essere fatto di Internet, in
opposizione al classico compito scritto con carta e penna: sebbene in ogni
classe tradizionale sia presente un dizionario della lingua studiata, molto
spesso questo non viene consultato, per pigrizia o per indisponibilit il


Intesa come fattore intrinseco e fondamentale nel processo di apprendiemnto di una

lingua straniera, come propulsore dellapprendimento, che si origina per soddisfare
le necessit dellapprendente (Schtz 2003).
Blogs can be used to expand course activities beyond the four walls of the classroom,
so students are writing for a worldwide audience instead of only for classmates and
the instructor. Student motivation may increase when their writing can be read by
thousands instead of a handful (Thompson 2007: 3).
Una delle maggiori difficolt lamentate spesso dagli insegnanti delle scuole che,
in alcuni casi, si registra un decremento sensibile e costante nel livello di partecipazione e coinvolgimento dello studente nella lezione. Lo studente, dal canto
suo, non soffre cronicamente di carenza di attenzione ma, come ricorda Prensky
(2006), semplicemente spesso egli decide di non ascoltare, di non applicarsi nello
studio della materia. Questo accade perch lo studente, molto spesso, scoraggiato
nellapprendimento formale a causa del poco interesse e della scarsa motivazione
che gli viene indotta nello studio. Ledutainment, ovvero lapprendimento tramite il
divertimento, potrebbe essere la soluzione al problema: tramite tecniche e attivit di
didattica ludica, infatti, lo studente ritroverebbe la propria motivazione nella materia
sperimentando lapprendimento del sapere in nuove forme e modalit.


Alessandra Giglio

dizionario uno solo, magari datato, e spesso addirittura tenuto nella

biblioteca scolastica. Con la scrittura su Internet, invece, lo studente dispone
di una serie di strumenti e ausili che vanno ben al di l del semplice dizionario: correttori ortografici e sintattici, dizionari mono e multilingue, risorse
lessicali e sinonimiche, corpora di testi e traduttori automatici. Lo studente
dispone, insomma, di un astuccio virtuale del narratore ben fornito.
Per ci che riguarda il contenuto testuale, opportuno forse ricordare
la frammentazione del compito assegnato: lo scrittore, infatti, scrive la
propria storia non in modalit sequenziale, bens a puntate, ovvero in
funzione di alcune carte da gioco, che arricchiscono la storia di dettagli e
la riempiono di colpi di scena e imprevisti.12 Pertanto, in terreno didattico,
questo permetterebbe di trasferire nella pratica ci che viene trasmesso in
modo frammentato nella teoria: la tipologia testuale del racconto non si
insegna forse, infatti, dividendo la storia in sequenze principali, analizzandone protagonisti e antagonisti, e ricordando agli studenti la regola delle
Infine, aspetto non da sottovalutarsi la socialit alla base del sistema:
la rete di utenti, che sono al contempo scrittori della propria storia ma anche
lettori e giudici delle storie e delle produzioni altrui, un forte catalizzatore
di motivazione e interesse. La competitivit, alla base dellelemento sociale
di questo esperimento, muove essa stessa il coinvolgimento e la creativit
dellutente. La ricaduta didattica di questo aspetto fondamentale: lo studente, infatti, si confronterebbe con revisioni e idee direttamente suggerite



Come la frammentazione ipertestuale che i discenti, ormai nativi digitali come gi

sosteneva Prensky native speakers of the digital language of computers, video
games and the Internet (Prensky 2001: 1) sperimentano ogni giorno in Rete, in
televisione, nei videogiochi, ecc
Secondo il modello retorico di una argomentazione, la verifica della completezza
dellesposizione (expositio) di un documento pu essere basarsi su un insieme di loci.
Questi loci o argumenta sono stati introdotti da Cicerone nel De Inventione e ridefiniti nei trattati medievali. A partire dalla fine degli anni 40, una forma semplificata
di queste propriet si diffusa nellambito del giornalismo come regola delle 5 whquestions: who, what, why, when, where (Mich, Franch 2000: 4).

Racconto L2.0: Esercitare la Produzione Scritta in Rete


dai suoi colleghi di avventura,14 alleati per alcuni versi ma antagonisti per
altri; tale tensione positiva genererebbe motivazione e partecipazione attiva
dello studente, scatenando di fatto un circolo virtuoso tra i vari partecipanti al progetto.15
Pertanto, da queste riflessioni e considerazioni si origina lidea di Racconto L2.0: uno strumento di semplice utilizzo, dalla grafica accattivante,
con una spiccata dimensione sociale alla Facebook e con un taglio vagamente competitivo come nota di fondo.

5 Racconto L2.0: Che Cos

Racconto L2.0 un progetto che nasce dal bisogno di esercitare lo sviluppo dellabilit di produzione scritta degli studenti di un corso annuale
di lingua italiana per stranieri che prevedeva un esame scritto finale. In
quel particolare frangente, due erano le necessit didattiche prevalenti
degli studenti della classe: far esercitare gli studenti sulle tipologie testuali
presenti allesame e trovare un espediente per permettere loro di operare
in modo maggiormente creativo e motivante rispetto alle tradizionali esercitazioni cartacee.16 Da questo contesto nasce quindi il primo prototipo
di Racconto L2.0, che si prefiggeva come primissimo obiettivo quello di


Ci si riferisce, in questa sede, alla ben nota pratica della peer review, spesso utilizzata
in ambiti scientifici ma anche auspicata in ambiti scolastici e didattici (Caviglia, in
pubblicazione; Persico, Pozzi e Sarti 2008).
Come gi osservava Ushioda riguardo alla dinamica della partecipazione sociale: I
just like learning the language because if theres stuff out there that other people
are doing youd want to have to do it yourself because everyones doing it [] Its
harder to work on your own than working with the class (Ushioda 2003: 92).
Il corso di Diploma Programme al quale ci si riferisce biennale; al termine dei due
anni di studio, gli studenti sostengono un esame internazionale ed universale nel
mondo, che attesta il raggiungimento di diversi livelli-soglia di competenza nella
lingua straniera. Il programma di studi fa parte dellInternational Baccalaureate
Organization di Ginevra; <http://www.ibo.org/>.


Alessandra Giglio

esercitare la tipologia testuale narrativa, coinvolgendo lo studente e spezzando la monotonia di simulazione di Paper desame.
Successivamente, si pensato di estendere il progetto e di pensare
allo strumento come ad un modo, indipendente dalla specificit di quel
gruppo classe, di sviluppare la produzione scritta creativa degli studenti
di italiano L2.
Ma che cos, nella pratica, Racconto L2.0? Di fatto, uno strumento
che permette a ciascun utente di avere una propria scrivania virtuale nella
quale scrivere pi racconti. Ogni racconto viene indirizzato dallinsegnante con una traccia iniziale, che deve essere quanto pi libera e generica
possibile, dato che deve lasciare la possibilit allo studente di adoperare
liberamente la propria fantasia.
Inoltre, durante il percorso di scrittura, la storia verr arricchita di
dettagli e colpi di scena grazie alle varianti introdotte dalle carte da gioco,
che lo studente scopre mano a mano che la narrazione avanza: lo scrittore,
infatti, deve articolare il proprio racconto in sette capitoli, corrispondenti
alle sette carte presenti sulla scrivania virtuale. Ciascun capitolo viene
indirizzato da ci che la carta da gioco suggerisce, e ogni capitolo non
pu essere pi lungo di cento parole: in questo modo, lo studente anche
costretto a selezionare le informazioni pi interessanti e rilevanti per la
narrazione, evitando cos il rischio di incorrere in ripetizioni e divagazioni
fuori tema.
Mentre lo studente pubblica, capitolo per capitolo, la propria storia,
i lettori potranno commentare le puntate precedenti e potranno, addirittura, influenzare landamento della narrazione, parteggiando per un
personaggio piuttosto che per un altro o influenzando le scelte narrative
dello scrittore. Inoltre, i lettori possono anche segnalare se, nella scrittura,
sono stati commessi errori o imprecisioni: il narratore quindi, facendo
tesoro dei suggerimenti dei lettori, pu evitare di incappare nello stesso
errore successivamente.
Da queste premesse venuto allora a delinearsi il progetto definitivo
di Racconto L2.0, che si articola in diverse fasi:

Racconto L2.0: Esercitare la Produzione Scritta in Rete


1. Ricette per una buona scrittura

La prima fase della somministrazione del progetto prevede alcune
lezioni tradizionali introduttive su come si scrive un racconto: si analizzano gli elementi costitutivi del testo, si evidenziano le tecniche e
gli elementi che permettono al testo di essere fluido e accattivante, si
ricordano i principi fondamentali che consentono alla narrazione di
essere coerente e coesa.
2. Somministrazione del test iniziale
Con lestensione del progetto a diversi discenti di lingua italiana L2, si
pensato di utilizzare lo strumento anche come modo di consolidamento di alcune forme linguistiche dei curricula di livello intermedio/
avanzato17 dellitaliano L2. Pertanto, stato necessario pensare ad un
test di livello iniziale per evidenziare quali siano le debolezze di ciascun
gruppo di studenti, in modo da direzionare gli input linguistici verso
tali argomenti.
3. Familiarizzazione con gli strumenti virtuali
Il primissimo passo che gli studenti devono compiere nel proprio
spazio di scrittura la familiarizzazione con lambiente virtuale: nonostante esso sia intuitivo e di facile utilizzo, utile un iniziale periodo
di orientamento alluso del mezzo.
4. Inizio del gioco
Dopo aver definito il proprio profilo, gli utenti possono diventare
scrittori per un giorno e iniziare a cimentarsi nel compito assegnato.
Carta per carta, gli improvvisati scrittori dovranno sviluppare la propria
storia, facendo attenzione a seguire le direttive e, nello stesso tempo,
a non perdere il senso di coerenza del testo.
5. Pareri e commenti
Durante la fase di scrittura, gli scrittori diventeranno anche al contempo giudici dei racconti altrui: potranno infatti commentare ogni
singolo capitolo sia per ci che concerne il contenuto, sia per quanto
riguarda la correttezza formale. A questo proposito, utile ricordare
che possibile consultare alcune schematizzazioni visuali degli argomenti linguistici principali dei livelli linguistici di riferimento.

Sebbene in una delle sperimentazioni si sia coinvolto un gruppo di studenti a livello



Alessandra Giglio

6. Questionario di gradimento
Al termine della stesura del racconto e della lettura dei lavori altrui,
possibile votare il racconto che ha colpito di pi ciascun partecipante,
in modo da ottenere una classifica del miglior scrittore. Inoltre, agli
studenti viene richiesto di compilare un questionario di gradimento
sullattivit proposta, in modo da evidenziarne debolezze e punti di
7. Somministrazione del test finale
Al termine della scrittura di pi racconti, e del conseguente approfondimento linguistico sulle strutture selezionate nel test iniziale,
opportuno somministrare nuovamente lo stesso test per evidenziare
se vi siano stati miglioramenti e in quale misura e campo questi siano
stati ottenuti.
Questa, in sostanza, la struttura costitutiva del progetto. La realizzazione ha previsto, quindi, una serie di strumenti e ambientazioni che
collaborano sincreticamente tra loro per la buona riuscita dellattivit.

6 Racconto L2.0: Tecnicismi

Una delle caratteristiche principali dello strumento, apparsa fin da subito
necessaria, era lestetica: per essere efficace, lo spazio virtuale avrebbe dovuto
essere chiaro, maneggevole, di semplice utilizzo, immediato, oltre che piacevole e accattivante.18 Di conseguenza, una volta delineato lo schema costitutivo dello strumento ovvero quello di realizzare uno strumento didattico
che permettesse allo studente di esercitarsi sulla produzione scritta di un
racconto a puntate la prima problematica stata quella di individuare un
ambiente virtuale idoneo ad accogliere lidea di fondo.

Si infatti consapevoli della presenza di altri software che supportano, per loro natura,
la scrittura condivisa: uno su tutti, GoogleDocs. Con lutilizzo di tali strumenti, tuttavia, sarebbe venuta meno la componente estetica ludica che invece uno dei punti
cardine del progetto.

Racconto L2.0: Esercitare la Produzione Scritta in Rete


In questo senso, lo spazio che meglio si poteva prestare al monitoraggio del processo, oltre che del prodotto finale, poteva essere un LCMS:19
tuttavia, lanalisi di alcune piattaforme ampiamente diffuse e opensource20
come Moodle21 o Docebo,22 hanno evidenziato uninadeguatezza estetica
agli intenti, ludici e immersivi, dello strumento.
La scelta finale per la realizzazione del progetto caduta su Wordpress,23
famoso CMS24 utilizzato generalmente per la creazione di blog e spazi virtuali personali. La scelta di Wordpress essenzialmente stata dettata dalla
possibilit di estrema personalizzazione del sistema, sia graficamente, sia
dal punto di vista gestionale, nonch dalla ampia disponibilit di plug-in,
ulteriori software corollari che estendono le funzioni del sistema.
Successivamente al primo prototipo funzionante, e graficamente convincente, di Racconto L2.0, la scelta della piattaforma ulteriormente virata
verso un sottoprodotto di Wordpress, ovvero WordpressMu,25 levoluzione
multiutente della piattaforma Wordpress: di fatto, essa permette di gestire
contemporaneamente un numero infinito di blog facenti tutti parte dello
stesso gruppo di lavoro.

Learning Content Management System, ovvero piattaforma che permette di pianificare

tutti gli aspetti organizzativi di un corso e-learning e che, inoltre, usa le tecnologie
web per gestire tutte le attivit inerenti la creazione, lindicizzazione, lo stoccaggio,
il reperimento di materiali didattici (Macr 2007: 69).
20 Per open souce si intende un software rilasciato insieme al codice sorgente che ha
generato il programma. In questo modo, ogni utente un potenziale programmatore
e pu apportare migliorie al programma in un clima di libera e spontanea collaborazione di gruppo.
21 Software open source ideato e realizzato da Martin Dougiamas nel 2002 per la formazione a distanza e per la creazione di comunit di apprendimento virtuali basate
sulle teorie del costruttivismo sociale; <http://moodle.org/>.
22 Progetto, tutto italiano, di piattaforma open source per le-learning, nato dalle ceneri
di Spaghettilearning nel 2003; <http://www.docebo.org/>.
23 <http://wordpress.org/>.
24 Content Management System, software che gestisce i contenuti di un sito Internet e
che sgrava lutente dal dover programmare il contenitore delle informazioni che egli
vuole trasmettere.
25 Con lultimo grande aggiornamento di Wordpress alla versione 3.0, WordpressMu non
pi un progetto sviluppato parallelamente, dato che stato integrato nella versione
ufficiale tramite la funzione Network.


Alessandra Giglio

La piattaforma di Wordpress Mu ha quindi favorito la realizzazione

di una rete di utenti che utilizzano il medesimo spazio virtuale per la creazione delle proprie storie; affinch la rete virtuale diventasse anche rete
sociale, alla piattaforma Wordpress stato anche aggiunto Buddypress,26
software aggiuntivo di Wordpress che permette di creare una rete sociale,
simile a quella di Facebook, tra gli utenti di WordpressMu: in questo modo,
essi intrattengono rapporti di amicizia tra di loro, accedendo con pi
velocit ai rispettivi spazi di scrittura e inviandosi messaggi e commenti in
modo pi immediato.
Tramite WordpressMu e Buddypress stato pertanto possibile preparare
e ultimare lo spazio virtuale di produzione scritta per gli studenti-utenti;
tuttavia, al momento della somministrazione e del primo testing del progetto, si sentita la mancanza di un ulteriore ambiente dappoggio per
distribuire documenti e questionari ai partecipanti: in questo caso, ci che
di fatto era necessario era una piattaforma LCMS che gestisse gli aspetti
organizzativi di smistamento delle risorse ai partecipanti e che tenesse
memoria di ogni singolo movimento degli utenti al suo interno, in modo
da monitorarne loperosit e da permettere, a posteriori, unanalisi su tale
tracciatura. Pertanto, stata affiancata una piattaforma, basata su Moodle,
che facilitasse lo scambio di file con i partecipanti.
In definitiva, il progetto si avvale di due diverse ambientazioni,
Il blog del narratore (ovvero Wordpress-Mu): lo spazio narrativo per
ciascuno studente, con tanto di carte da gioco che indirizzano il percorso, e di apparato sociale che permette di mettere in comunicazione
continua gli utenti;
Il sommario (ovvero Moodle): lo spazio di corollario in cui lutente
ha la possibilit di usufruire dei test, dei questionari, degli approfondimenti sulle tipologie testuali e sulle strutture linguistiche, nonch dei
link agli strumenti di correzione ortografica e formale presenti in rete.

26 <http://buddypress.org/>.

Racconto L2.0: Esercitare la Produzione Scritta in Rete


7 I Primi Risultati
Racconto L2.0 stato finora testato su una cinquantina di studenti di
italiano per stranieri di diversa provenienza, et, background scolastico,
competenza linguistica e motivazione di studio dellitaliano.
In particolare, pare rilevante indicare il range det degli studenti che
stanno testando lo strumento ovvero, dai quattordici ai trentunanni e
la loro provenienza geografica i Paesi pi rappresentativi sono la Spagna e
gli Stati Uniti, ma si registrano anche utenti dalla Polonia, Francia, Estonia,
Marocco, Danimarca, Sudafrica, Svezia, Inghilterra.
La primissima fase di testing dello strumento avventura nel corso
dellanno scolastico 2009/2010: gli studenti, di et compresa tra i diciassette e i ventanni, frequentavano lultimo anno del Diploma Programme
dellInternational Baccalaureate Organisation presso la scuola Deledda
International School.27 Importante sottolineare che il 100 percento degli
studenti aveva gi utilizzato, in passato, la maggior parte degli strumenti
collaborativi e comunicativi del Web 2.0.
Gli otto studenti hanno avuto la possibilit di utilizzare lo strumento
come mero metodo di innovazione nella tipologia di esercizi preparatori
per lesame di fine anno, senza quindi avvalersi della piattaforma Moodle
e delle sue specificit.
I risultati derivanti dai questionari di gradimento somministrati
mostrano che, nel complesso, lesperienza ha riscosso un buon successo
tra gli studenti. In dettaglio, il 100 percento degli studenti partecipanti ha
trovato lesperienza utile, e nessuno di loro avrebbe voluto fare questattivit
con strumenti tradizionali, dato che lesercitazione ha spezzato la monotonia (Alessandra, diciottanni) della preparazione allesame finale. Inoltre,
il 75 percento degli studenti pensa, con questa attivit, di aver migliorato
sensibilmente le proprie abilit di scrittura. Ulteriori commenti degli studenti sono stati riguardo alla ludicit e allutilit dello strumento: attivit
creativa (Nathan, diciassette anni), divertente ed originale (Emilio, diciassette anni), utile, perch ho imparato a usare il blog (Karina, ventanni),
utile, perch imparo ad essere pi creativa (Alessandra, diciottanni).
27 <http://www.genoaschool.eu>.


Alessandra Giglio

La prima vera somministrazione del progetto nella sua interezza

avvenuta lanno scolastico successivo, nella classe del primo anno di corso
del Diploma Programme nella stessa scuola. La somministrazione ancora
in corso e terminer con la fine dellanno scolastico.
Gli studenti coinvolti nella sperimentazione sono in tutto sedici, di
et compresa tra i quindici e i diciannove anni, divisi in due gruppi: mentre
il primo gruppo sta fruendo dellesperienza in maniera tecnologica, la
seconda met degli studenti funge da gruppo di controllo dello strumento.
Di fatto, le indicazioni iniziali su come scrivere il racconto assegnato sono
state le stesse; cambia per la modalit di somministrazione, che nel gruppo
di controllo prevede solamente carta e penna, nessuna carta da gioco che
direzioni la narrazione e nessuna rete sociale che valuti e commenti le
Tutti gli studenti partecipanti allesperienza sono stati sottoposti al test
iniziale per verificare le criticit dal punto di vista linguistico-grammaticale
del gruppo classe; successivamente, entrambi i gruppi si sono cimentati con
la scrittura del primo racconto.
Al termine del primo racconto, i partecipanti del gruppo tecnologico
hanno anche compilato il questionario di gradimento relativo al primo
racconto assegnato. I risultati derivanti dal questionario mostrano che l80
percento ritiene che lesperienza sia utile, dato che un modo alternativo e
divertente per scrivere un racconto, inoltre mi piaciuta lidea delle carte
che danno degli alti e bassi al racconto rendendolo pi interessante e pieno
di colpi di scena! (Vico, quindici anni), che un modo divertente per
insegnarci a scrivere un racconto e allo stesso tempo darci loppurtunit di
scrivere un racconto senza doverci attenere a una traccia specifica (Ludovica, sedici anni), e che mi ha aiutato a capire le mie abilit nella scrittura
e gli errori che faccio (Maria, diciassette anni). Nessuno degli studenti
avrebbe preferito fare questattivit con metodi tradizionali, ma un 20
percento ha trovato difficolt nelluso della piattaforma. Tali difficolt
sono essenzialmente dovute al malfunzionamento del correttore automatico, quindi avevo difficolta a capire se una parola era giusta o sbagliata
(Maria, diciassette anni).
Inoltre, il 60 percento degli studenti ritiene di aver migliorato le proprie abilit informatiche e, soprattutto, le proprie abilit di scrittura. In

Racconto L2.0: Esercitare la Produzione Scritta in Rete


generale, gli studenti valutano positivamente la presenza delle carte da

gioco nel racconto, in quanto esse rendono sia la scrittura che la lettura
degli altri racconti divertente (Giulia, quindici anni) e ti lasciano molta
libert (Aaron, sedici anni). Nel complesso, quindi, il 70 percento degli
studenti ha trovato questattivit piacevole, perch a me piace scrivere, e
questo metodo di scrivere era innovativo e interessante che non avevo mai
provato prima (Giorgia, diciannove anni) e perch un metodo divertente
per imparare a scrivere, avrei condensato lattivit in un tempo minore,
nonostante questo mi ha fatto molto piacere portare a termine lattivit
(Maria, diciassette anni).
Infine, gli studenti hanno aggiunto qualche suggerimento per il futuro:
la maggior parte di loro ha lamentato la mancanza di un contatore di parole
efficace per la scrittura del capitolo si ricorda, infatti, il limite di parole
pari a 100; esiste un contatore automatico integrato nel sistema, ma questo
non si aggiorna in tempo reale; inoltre, una studentessa suggerisce di utilizzare delle carte differenti per ogni utente.
Sono invece ancora in via di raccolta ed elaborazione i dati relativi al
gruppo di controllo, che permetteranno un interessante confronto anche
contenutistico tra i due gruppi di lavoro.
Racconto L2.0 stato anche testato su un gruppo di ventitr studenti in mobilit internazionale del programma Erasmus, iscritti al corso
di lingua italiana per stranieri di livello principiante. In questo caso, il
tempo di somministrazione dellesercitazione stato troppo breve per ottenere delle storie complete; in effetti, la processualit e lavvicendamento
delle diverse fasi del progetto presuppongono la possibilit di disporre di
un tempo minimo di almeno una quindicina di ore in presenza dedicate
esclusivamente al progetto, alle quali si sommano alcune ulteriori ore di
completamento del compito a casa.28

Data la particolare tipologia di apprendenti, ovvero studenti fuori casa e spesso senza
la possibilit di fruire di una connessione Internet a casa, in questo contesto si dato
per assunto che fosse possibile portare avanti la scrittura dei racconti solamente
durante le ore di presenza dedicate esperessamente al progetto. Disponendo allora, ad
esempio, di 7 incontri settimanali da 2 ore ciascuno per la stesura dei capitoli relativi
alle 7 carte, per la revisione degli stessi e per la lettura dei racconti dei compagni, e
con un eventuale lasso di tempo ulteriore per terminare a casa il lavoro in classe o per


Alessandra Giglio

C da aggiungere poi che il livello linguistico di partenza degli studenti era decisamente basso: nonostante il gruppo classe fosse, nel complesso, veloce e vivace nellapprendimento, stato comunque ambizioso
sottoporre lo strumento, opportunamente semplificato nelle tracce iniziali
e nelle carte da gioco, al gruppo principiante. Tuttavia, stato possibile
raccogliere i pareri e le impressioni sullo strumento anche di questo gruppo
di discenti. Il 100 percento degli studenti ha trovato lesperienza utile, dato
che io ho imparato molto a scrivere in italiano con una attivit divertente
(Iaki, ventiquattro anni), mi ha sembrato molto utile per cominciare a
scrivere veramente in italiano (Patricia, venticinque anni), perche io ho
imparato molto parole che prima di fare il corso non sappevo ( Juan Pablo,
ventidue anni). Nessuno studente avrebbe preferito fare questa attivit
con metodi tradizionali e nessuno di loro ha avuto difficolt nellutilizzo
della piattaforma. Le negativit evidenziate dagli studenti sono legate
essenzialmente alla dispersivit delle due piattaforme (34 percento) e alla
difficolt linguistica di espressione legata al livello di competenza linguistica (17 percento). Il 50 percento degli studenti ritiene di aver migliorato
le proprie abilit informatiche, e il 100 percento ritiene di aver migliorato
le proprie abilit di scrittura. Nuovamente, anche le carte sono state valutate positivamente, perch interessanti e perch ti aiuta a fare la tua storia
(Camille, ventitr anni).
In definitiva, lattivit piaciuta al 100 percento degli studenti, perch
altra maniera di dare le lezioni ( Juan Pablo, ventidue anni), perch
stato divertente fare una storia (Regina, diciannove anni), perche io ho
imparato (Coral, diciannove anni). Lunico suggerimento evidenziato dalla
quasi totalit del gruppo di studenti stato quello di aumentare il tempo
necessario allo svolgimento dellattivit, anche perch non tutti gli studenti
potevano utilizzare la connessione Internet da casa.
Infine, lo strumento ancora in fase di sperimentazione con un gruppo
di studenti stranieri della Facolt di Lingue e letterature straniere dellUniversit di Genova, di livello intermedio, che sta ultimando la fase di stesura
del primo racconto.
compilare i questionari di gradimento, le difficolt relative alla connessione a casa
sarebbero state risolte, o quantomeno aggirate.

Racconto L2.0: Esercitare la Produzione Scritta in Rete


8 Risorse Esterne: il Web 2.0

Gli studenti che, fino ad oggi, hanno partecipato al testing del progetto
Racconto L2.0 hanno dimostrato una spiccata capacit nellutilizzo a
prioprio vantaggio di Internet e del web. Effettivamente, uno degli scopi
secondari del progetto proprio quello di far familiarizzare gli studenti del
nuovo millennio, che Prensky definirebbe come nativi digitali (Prensky
2001), con il web 2.0 applicato alla didattica. Degli usi inizialmente ipotizzati dal docente, gli studenti hanno dato prova di far correntemente uso del
correttore ortografico del browser, servizio utile e generalmente attendibile,
correlato da Google Translate,29 il traduttore istantaneo e sociale di Google
che basa laffinamento dello strumento sulle correzioni e le migliorie di traduzione apportate dagli utenti stessi che ne fanno uso. Gli studenti hanno
anche dimostrato di utilizzare in grande misura dizionari online, sia monolingue sia, pi frequentemente, bilingue,30 dizionari di sinonimi e contrari
e coniugatori di verbi online non sempre completamente attendibili.
Poco sorprendentemente, gli studenti non pensano invece di utilizzare
la Rete come deposito di esempi linguistici da cui attingere31 e a cui domandare in caso di dubbio: Google non ha infatti laria di essere un grande
corpus di testi, pi o meno corretti, pi o meno attuali, da interrogare?32
In fondo, la correttezza del termine ricercato non la si ottiene considerando la frequenza duso33 dellespressione, in una sorta di grande dizionario

29 <http://translate.google.it/>.
30 Il pi utilizzato stato WordReference, <http://www.wordreference.com/>.
31 Nonostante gli stessi studenti fossero da tempo avvezzi, nelle lezioni in classe, ad
utilizzare Google proprio come repository di vocaboli, di combinazioni lessicali, di
forme ortografiche corrette.
32 Even a middle-sized text corpus can solve quite a number ofthe language difficulties
an intermediate-to-advanced L2 learner is likely to encounter in her or his writing
(Caviglia 2004).
33 Ovvero, quante volte il termine cercato viene trovato da Google nei milioni e milioni
di siti che il motore analizza. Quindi, ad esempio, se si in dubbio su due varianti
ortografiche di una stessa parola, probabilmente Google restituir dei risultati sia in


Alessandra Giglio

folksonomiano?34 Questenorme ricchezza sembra essere sfuggita ai nativi

digitali che hanno partecipato allesperienza.

9 Sviluppi futuri
Il futuro di Racconto L2.0 prevede la somministrazione del progetto a
molteplici tipologie di utenti: infatti, essendo questo uno strumento dichiaratamente ludico, di efficace utilizzo sia con giovani studenti di italiano
L2, che concepiscono lo strumento con un vero modo ludico di sfidare
amici e compagni, sia con un pubblico di studenti universitari e adulti, che
possono sfruttare la ludicit dello strumento per apprendere nuovi concetti
e esercitare la propria abilit linguistica produttiva.35
Nonostante lo strumento abbia, fino ad ora, ottenuto consensi e giudizi generalmente positivi dagli studenti, vi sono ancora alcune modifiche
e migliorie, soprattutto tecniche, che permetterebbero di incrementare
ulteriormente la qualit dellesperienza. Gli aspetti da potenziare sarebbero quindi:
1. Uniformit e compenetrabilit degli ambienti.
Attualmente, il sistema prevede lutilizzo di due piattaforme virtuali,
Wordpress e Moodle: di fatto, lutente, per fruire di tutti i contenuti,
deve spostarsi continuamente da una piattaforma allaltra. Il movimento tra le due piattaforme dovrebbe diventare, idealmente, il pi


un senso sia nellaltro: ci che per fa intuire quale sia la versione corretta il numero
di occorrenze che Google registra.
La Folksonomy una categorizzazione di contenuto generata e organizzata dal popolo
di esso fruitore. Di fatto, in una maniera particolarmente democratica, il fruitore del
contenuto anche colui che decide del contenuto stesso.
Se lo scopo dellattivit ludica ben sostanziato e reso chiaro allapprendente, anche
adulto, esso avr esito positivo, secondo quanto gi Balboni ricordava riguardo al
cosiddetto patto andragogico (Balboni 2008: 104).

Racconto L2.0: Esercitare la Produzione Scritta in Rete


fluido possibile, magari con un aspetto grafico comune e, soprattutto,

con un singolo accesso condiviso. La soluzione di questo problema
prevedrebbe la condivisione del database utenti di Moodle con quello
di Wordpress strada gi tentata ma con scarsi risultati , oppure
lutilizzo di un sistema di terze parti di Single Sign On.36
2. Limitazione dellintervento dellutente.
Lutente, attualmente, ha la possibilit sia di modificare il testo immesso
precedentemente, sia di scrivere un numero maggiore di parole per
capitolo. Sarebbe utile, invece, limitare i poteri dellutente, in modo da
impedirgli di scrivere pi del dovuto, anche per ragioni di tipo grafico:
ad ogni carta, infatti, deve graficamente corrispondere il suo capitolo.
Inoltre, lutente non dovrebbe poter modificare quanto gi scritto: ci
succede in funzione di commenti o suggerimenti dei compagni; ma,
in questo modo, viene meno la funzione educativa per gli altri partecipanti, che non avrebbero modo di imparare dagli errori altrui. La
soluzione a questo tipo di problema essenzialmente dipendente dal
codice PHP con il quale scritto il software Wordpress. Una variazione
del codice permetterebbe anche questo tipo di personalizzazione.

10 Conclusioni
Il progetto Racconto L2.0 risulta aver riscosso una buona quantit di
riscontri positivi. Sebbene il sistema sia ancora in fase di rodaggio, e molti
miglioramenti quindi possano essere fatti sia da un punto di vista contenutistico, sia, pi significativamente, per ci che concerne il sistema tecnico
informatico su cui si basa, stato gi possibile raccogliere un buon numero
di pareri degli utenti sullesperienza. La quasi totalit dei giudizi positiva,
e tale risultato incoraggia a continuare su questa strada.
36 Shibboleth (<http://shibboleth.internet2.edu/>) sembrerebbe fare al caso di
Racconto L2.0, dato che fallita anche lopzione di utilizzo di OpenId (<http://


Alessandra Giglio

I giudizi positivi sono tuttavia basati solamente sulla percezione dello

strumento dallutente, ovvero dimostrano in parte la validit dellambiente
come mezzo ludico per lesercizio della produzione scritta; tuttavia, ancora
prematuro affermare con certezza che lo strumento sia, a tutti gli effetti,
efficace, dato che ancora mancano dati e rilevazioni per ci che concerne
il taglio linguistico-grammaticale del progetto. Per ottenere indicazioni in
tal senso, bisogner attendere il prossimo resoconto del progetto basato
sullintera somministrazione e sul testing delle competenze linguisticoformali degli utenti-scrittori.

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Susanna Nocchi

Buongiorno, mi dicaor: Can a Virtual World Help

Me Learn How to Deal with a Real Life Problem?

1 Introduction
This article aims at describing the authors observation and analysis of the
running of a language course held in Second Life,1 which constituted a
pilot study, part of her PhD research on exploring the potential of virtual
worlds to promote Intercultural Awareness in students learning Italian
as a Foreign Language. In the article the author will explain the rationale
behind the choice of virtual worlds for the development of Intercultural
Awareness and present her pilot study and preliminary results of the data
analysis. The course was observed through the lens of Cultural Historical Activity Theory, in order to pinpoint examples of good practice and
problematic areas to be addressed.
Technology and technology-mediated communication have been
extensively used as valuable tools in education for decades. Computer
technology is changing at a very fast rate, opening the way to new modes
of communication and providing us with a wealth of inter-cultural contacts
and interaction which can be exploited for foreign language education, as
they provide additional and alternative ways to approach the speakers and
the culture of the foreign language. Virtual worlds (VWs), in particular,
offer an exciting environment for learning, as they are populated with high
numbers of visitors from all over the world. Some educators have picked
up this opportunity and have been experimenting with teaching in VWs
in the past few years. Also, many universities have their own virtual spaces

This presentation is not affiliated with or sponsored by Linden Research.


Susanna Nocchi

and are running courses in-world. In 2007, for instance, there were over 200
universities or academic institutions involved in Second Life ( Jennings,
Collins 2007; Kelton 2007). The interest of the educational community
is definitely present and growing and it has stimulated a few studies on the
potential of VWs as an educational space.
1.1 Virtual worlds
Bell describes a virtual world as a synchronous, persistent network of people,
represented as avatars, facilitated by networked computers (Bell 2008: 2;
my italics). These are undeniably the main features that differentiate VWs
from previous virtual educational environments.
VWs are synchronous as their users move, act and interact with each
other at the same time. Synchronicity makes the interaction feel more
realistic, thus shaping both the kind of communication occurring between
the users and the results of such communication. Communication in the
virtual world of Second Life has become even more realistic since Voice
Over Internet Protocol (VOIP) technology was introduced, allowing
residents to talk to each other as well as use text-chat.
Persistency stands for the peculiarity of VWs to continue to exist and
evolve even when the user is not logged on. Persistency can contribute to
create a sense of expectancy and an illusion of reality.
The experience of VWs is also made more realistic by the use of avatars. In the case of avatars, the option to align non-verbal elements with
communication is a distinctive communicative advantage over previous
synchronous educational virtual environments such as MUD Object Oriented (MOOs), where users could move and interact with each other in
a fully text-based setting. MOOs were deemed positive in terms of learning, and research verified that they provided a potential for collaborative
learning and communication in a creative environment (Warschauer 1997;
Turbee 1999; von der Emde, Schneider, Kotter 2001; Dickey 2005). Virtual
worlds have often been compared to MOOs, but, where these lacked the
opportunity of expressing non-verbal cues. VWs have brought us that step

Can a Virtual World Help Me Learn How to Deal with a Real Life Problem? 267

ahead, with avatars that can also use gestures, i.e. scripts that allow them to
show body language, thus giving the whole experience a more realistic feel:
In addition to providing facilities for verbal communication, virtual worlds allow users
to align non-verbal elements with their written and/or spoken words. They provide
distinct communicative advantages over text-based CMC and groupware tools that
do not capture facial expressions and body language and that are therefore limited
in terms of their ability to convey feelings and emotions. (Lee 2009: 151)

The aforementioned qualities of VWs can strengthen the sense of presence in their residents and provide opportunities for rich sensory immersive
experiences, simulation and role-play.
1.2 Sense of Presence in VWs
In 2005 Ondrejka, ex-chief technology officer of SL, wrote:
To them [digital worlds residents], digital worlds are real places by any useful definition and can only be understood within that framework. Dismissing the representation of digital worlds as unimportant or irrelevant misses out on basic aspects of
what makes us human. (2005: 19)

His statement has been verified by various studies on the relationship between user and avatar and on the sense of Presence in 3D virtual
reality and in VWs (Talamo, Ligorio 2001; Bluemink, Jrvel 2006; Riva
2007; Riva et al. 2007, 2009; Ikegami, Hut 2008; Pea, Hancock, Merola
In 2009, Riva et al. wrote:
the ability to feel present in a virtual reality system an artefact basically does
not differ from the ability to feel present in ourbody and the surrounding physical
environment in which we are situated. (Riva et al. 2009: 2)

A heightened sense of presence brings the user to a level of experience where

both the technology and the external physical environment disappear from
his/her phenomenal awareness. This illusion can be powerful and involves


Susanna Nocchi

responses of the human sensory, cognitive and affective processing systems.

In this situation users experience an impression of non-mediation as they
fail to perceive or acknowledge the existence of a medium in their communication environment and respond as if the medium were not there.
In 2007, Riva et al. undertook an experiment using three different VW
environments in order to see if they could be used as an affective medium,
if they induced a strong sense of presence and if presence and emotions
were connected. Their results confirmed the efficacy of VWs as an affective
medium and showed a circular interaction between presence and emotions
(the feeling of presence was greater in the emotional environments and the
emotional state was influenced by the level of presence).
Also, one interesting study by Pea, Hancock and Merola (2009)
observed the strength of the connection between a user and his/her avatar.
In the course of their experiments, some participants had been assigned
avatars whose aspect could be associated to aggressive cues (those avatars
were either dressed in black or wore a Ku Klux Klan robe), whereas others
had been assigned avatars that could be associated to positive cues (avatars that were dressed in white or wearing a doctors uniform). The results
showed evidence that avatar appearance could activate and inhibit specific
thoughts and affect its users cognition, even in a negative manner. People
who had been assigned avatars in uniforms with aggressive cues had shown
comparatively more negative thoughts and more violent re/actions and
had inhibited positive concepts more often than participants who had
been given the positive avatars. Besides, participants in the experiment
had remained unaware of the influence of their virtual self-representations
on their thoughts and attitudes.
However, avatars can constitute useful tools for the completion of collaborative tasks, as identification in the avatar makes it easier for students
to communicate, take joint decisions and act together (Bluemink, Jrvel
2006). The strong connection in VWs of avatar identification and joint
action has been clearly illustrated by Lim:
As humans, we find virtual representations of self-meaningful and believable only
to the extent that these same representations are able to participate in constructions
and collaborations with other avatars. (2009: 4)

Can a Virtual World Help Me Learn How to Deal with a Real Life Problem? 269

Creating ones own image, shaping, dressing and making ones avatar
more mobile by adding Head Up Displays (HUDs) or gestures strengthens a sense of embodiment, which makes VWs all the more attractive for
scientific and educational purposes.
It is also interesting to note that recent research has shown that individual avatars physical behaviour in VWs is often similar to expected real
life behaviour (Yee et al. 2007). Yees studies of eye gaze movement and
proxemics between avatars in SL supported hypothesis that social interactions in VWs such as SL, are governed by the same social norms as the
interactions that occur in the physical world.
In conclusion, it is difficult not to agree with Svenssons statement:
It is important to acknowledge that being social or thinking online is just as valuable as carrying out the corresponding activities in the real world. In particular we
need to realize that online experiences are not necessarily secondary to real-world
experiences or just non-real. (2003: 125)

2 Culture and Intercultural Awareness

Educational policy makers have stressed the importance of the cultural
aspects of learning a foreign language (Heyward 2002; Kjartansson, Skopinskaja 2003; Starkey 2007), and socio-cultural competence is by now
recognized as a structural component of communicative competence. This
is reflected in many language course syllabi. However, most language teachers find that constraints of time as well as a stress on the structural aspect
of the language do not allow them to spend time on its cultural facets. This
concern is shared by Sercu and De Wachter (2006) who state that teachers
often tend to adopt an incidental approach to culture teaching as they feel
they need all available time for language practice. There are also realities
where only a very small percentage of students of a foreign language will
ever be able to visit the country of their language of study. Their contact


Susanna Nocchi

with that language and its culture is therefore only restricted to their tutors
and, sometimes, a very limited amount of native speakers. The need for
additional and differentiated input in the foreign language that can bring
about a higher awareness of the cultural aspects of that language and facilitate contact with its native speakers is thus quite clear.
These contacts are easier to attain in a European situation, where travel
between countries is cheaper and more common. Many European students
in third level education are actually required to spend one academic year
abroad on an Erasmus scholarship, but this period of study is not always as
beneficial as one might expect and doesnt necessarily lead to them coming
back with a deeper understanding of the culture of the foreign language
(Byram 1999; Coleman 1998).
Our students are therefore still quite far from what Zarate calls the
European multi-linguists, able to manage cultural and linguistic uncertainty in situations they only partially grasp (Zarate 1999: 11) and familiar with cultural differences in such a way that allows him/her to make
choices, manage risks and make use of strategies when confronted with
Virtual worlds, where many cultures and people from all over the
world converge and interact, appear to offer us a multiplicity of stimuli
for the learning of foreign languages and the development of an Intercultural Awareness.
2.1 A definition of culture
At this point it is important to clarify what I mean by culture. The conceptualization of culture has undergone considerable change over the centuries
and in different disciplines. It is not the purpose of this article to provide
a detailed account of such development through time and in the different
fields. I will however give a brief description ofthe concept of culture, which
I adopted in my study and which has been extrapolated from the field of
intercultural studies and combined with the Vygotskian idea of culture.

Can a Virtual World Help Me Learn How to Deal with a Real Life Problem? 271

In intercultural studies Kim defines culture as:

a universe of information and operative linguistic and non-linguistic communication rituals that gives coherence, continuity, and distinction to a communal way of
life. (2001: 46)

According to Kim culture is non-static and members of a group are constantly

negotiating their common universe; culture and communication are deeply
intertwined and communication is the carrier of the social process. Foreign
Language Learning (FLL) researchers on their part have also been increasingly regarding all communication as an intercultural process (Kramsch
1993; Kramsch 1998; Kramsch, Thorne 2002; Thorne 2003; Thorne 2005).
A non-static view of culture as a result of encountering and relating with
others is represented also in Byram (1997), who suggests a definition of
culture which should suit the purposes of FL teachers and learners.
I also take into consideration the Vygotskian idea of culture, at the
base of the Activity Theory. Culture for Vygotsky (1962) exists in the mind
of the individual and also in the same world of human artefacts. Culture
is embedded in the artefact itself and reorganizes in concrete, culturally
specific ways humans natural mental endowments (Lantolf, Thorne 2006:
180). In this view culture is not just an ensemble of beliefs and knowledge,
interwoven in communication, but it is an essential part of the cultural
artefact so that the choice of using a particular artefact can influence the
user, as tools carry with them a specified culture and historical remains of
it. This carries important theoretical consequences for the analysis of what
happens through the aid of any medium.

3 Research Question
What are the affordances provided by virtual worlds that can be exploited
for the development of Intercultural Awareness and which learning tasks
can be used to exploit such affordances?


Susanna Nocchi

3.1 Affordances and potential of VWs

Lee describes affordances as:
relationships between the properties of an educational intervention and the characteristics of the learner that enable certain kinds of learning to take place. (Lee 2009: 151)

Affordances are a product both of the individual learner and the task set
by the educator a task that takes place in a particular environment and is
mediated by certain tools. An invaluable affordance of the Web is, according to Anderson, a profound and multifaceted increase in communication
and interaction capability (2004: 42). This is even more evident in VWs,
where geographically dispersed users explore an environment concurrently,
with text-based and/or audio communication. Given this potential, collaborative learning has been widely used in VWs. Also, the availability of
many areas to explore and different environments to use and/or build
constitutes a great potential for setting up and acting role-plays.
Interestingly, Diehl and Prins found that freedom of movement in
SL provides rich opportunities for cross-cultural contact. Their study
indicated that SL members are exposed to myriad cultural identities and
found that participation in SL:
activated and provided opportunities to enhance second language proficiencies,
competencies, understandings, attitudes, cross-cultural friendships and transcultural
identities. (Diehl and Prins 2008: 114)

The abundance of public spheres in VWs makes for a varied and variable
nature of communication (Ikegami, Hut 2008), which can be exploited for
the development of language competence and create an audience, a strong
motivating factor for students production. In addition, a VW space gives
educators the chance of working with objects, settings and experiences
which would be impossible to have in a real world classroom.
Given this list of aspects of VWs, we can summarize the SL features
that can be exploited for developing intercultural awareness in the following
list: Potential for a heightened sense of presence; constructivist environment; real-time interaction; variable nature of communication; availability
of different communities; visual impact; simulation, and building.

Can a Virtual World Help Me Learn How to Deal with a Real Life Problem? 273

4 A Theory of Systems: Cultural Historical Activity

Theory (CHAT)
Computer-assisted learning requires a theoretical framework that can
accommodate its complexity and diversity of goals and contexts. CulturalHistorical Activity Theory (CHAT) provides a broad conceptual tool for
representing the societal and collaborative nature of our tool-mediated
social activities and describing the structure, development, and context
of computer-supported activities. Furthermore, learning is an extremely
complex activity, involving the agency of each individual student and
other agencies that may have variable relations amongst them and with
the individual agent itself and only an in-depth analysis of what happens
during the activity of learning can shed light on it and provide ideas for
Activity Theory has its roots in the works of Karl Marx, who, in his
Thesen ber Feuerbach (1845), insisted on the importance of recognizing
the dialectical relationship between man and his environment. In Marxs
view, activity is the praxis through which man shapes reality. The Russian
cultural-historical school of psychology took up the Marxian idea in the
1920s and Vygotsky and his collaborators, Leontev and Luria, recognized
the impact of social interaction for the development of human cognition
and laid the foundation for what was to become the socio-cultural theory
of mind and, particularly with Leontev, of Activity Theory.
Leontev stressed the importance, in human development, of social
relations and rules of conduct governed by cultural, political and economic
institutions. His vision of the structure of human activity encompasses
three elements: subject, object and mediating tools that operate on three
different levels: collective activity, individual or group actions and routine
operations. His theory has been recontextualized and expanded in the
West, particularly by Yrj Engestrm and his team. Engestrms concept
of Activity Theory resulted in a framework where the unit of analysis is the
entire activity, involving subject, mediating artefact, object, outcome, community, rules and division of labour, as represented in Figure 2 (Engestrm
1999: 31). The distinction between activity, action and operations is at the


Susanna Nocchi

basis of the model. Collective activities are motivated by the need to transform the object into the desired outcomes of the subject and presuppose
a common goal for all participants. On the other hand, a collective activity can also be distributed, as each individual fulfils his/her own actions.
Individual (or group) action is driven by a goal and automatic operations
are driven by the conditions and tools of action at hand. This basic framework has later been expanded so as to include the non-linearity of reality, as
different activities may be occurring at the same time and the components
of a community can apply different actions while taking part in the same
activity and aiming at the same object. Some activities can therefore change
from one moment to the next, causing a shift of focus in the system; if an
activity was to lose the motive that started it, it could be converted into
an action, which could then bring about a different activity. This can also
happen if an action turns into a stimulating force and becomes an activity
of its own right.





Division of Labour

Figure 2 Engestrms Activity Theory System

The concept of mediation is central to the activity theoretical view.

Mediation breaks with the notion of human beings controlled either from
the outside by society or from the inside by themselves. Mediating artefacts shape the way human beings interact with reality and the shaping of
external activities ultimately results in shaping internal ones. Besides, tools

Can a Virtual World Help Me Learn How to Deal with a Real Life Problem? 275

reflect the experiences of other people who have tried to solve those similar
problems at an earlier time and invented or modified the tool to make it
more efficient. Such previous experiences are accumulated into the tools
and in the knowledge of how they should be used and tools carry with
them the historical remnants of their development. In this way, the use
of tools becomes a means for the accumulation and transmission of social
knowledge, as it influences not only of external behaviour, but also of the
mental functioning of individuals.
Learning is conceptualized as an activity, and learners are thus conceived as a product of their own and their groups previous history. Learning is thus distributed among individuals, colleagues and co-workers, the
materials used, the artefacts and the practical and semiotic tools used. We
know that Internet-mediated intercultural foreign language communication can produce tension and frustration (Belz 2003; Kramsch, Thorne
2002; Muller-Hartmann 2000; Schneider, von der Emde 2006). In Activity
Theory, when contradictions occur, development may emerge out of their
resolution in the form of Expansive Learning (Engestrm 2004). Problems
in this sense can be resources. This attention to the role of mediation and
to the occurrence of contradictions informs my data analysis and the study
of what occurs during the SL courses.

5 Design of Pilot Study and Data Analysis

This pilot study was the first step in my research into the potential of VWs
for the development of intercultural awareness in the learning of a foreign
language. The course was designed with the collaboration of Ms Carmen
DellAria from the University of Palermo. Ms DellAria was conducting her
own research for her ITALS Master at the University of Venice.
The course was aimed at a group of third-level Irish students of Italian
in the International Business and Languages (IBL) degree at the Dublin
Institute of Technology (DIT), Ireland. The IBL course is a four year degree
course offered by the Faculty of Business with the Faculty of Applied Arts


Susanna Nocchi

and has 50 per cent business content and 50 per cent foreign language
content. The third year of the IBL is spent in the country of the students
major language of study, under the Erasmus Programme. During their
permanence abroad, students attend a foreign academic institution and
are expected to take exams. The SL course was part of the assessment for
Level 9P a year-long module which is taught one hour a week and has
the particular aim to prepare DIT students for their year abroad, by equipping them with the necessary language, information and intercultural skills
needed. The module is assessed through three assessments; project: 40 per
cent, continuous assessment: 30 per cent and presentation: 30 per cent.
The intended learning outcomes of the SL course were to get students
acquainted with some of the situations they may encounter during their
Erasmus experience in Italy, provide them with domain related vocabulary
and immerse them in an Italian setting with native Italian speakers. The
course was taught through Italian and the students FL competence was
mixed, A1 to B1 lower of the CEFR.2
The SL course was structured in six sessions of about ninety minutes
each that took place once a week over a three month period during the
second teaching term. Each session portrayed a different cultural situation,
took place within a different environment and provided various tasks:
role-plays, conversation, simulation, quizzes and games. Each topic was
completed in two lessons: one face-to-face during the Level 9P class and
one in-world. The SL sessions accounted for 40 per cent of the continuous assessment for Level 9P. Students who had home access to SL were
offered the choice to take the course. Other students took an alternative
assessment. During the course, the Irish students interacted with the Italian native speakers, who comprised the two Italian lecturers and four of
Ms. DellArias Italian university students. Specific pair or group tasks were
allocated for the development of language competence and intercultural
awareness. The topics for the six sessions are detailed in Table 18.

Common European Framework of Reference.

Can a Virtual World Help Me Learn How to Deal with a Real Life Problem? 277
Table 18 The SL Course


Arrival and welcome

In a bank

Health and the Health


At the Police Station

Finding Accommodation

At the University




Getting to know people

Dealing with money and bank
Human body, health problems
and health care
Reporting crimes,
police forces
Houses, furniture, dealing with
problems in the house.
Going to college, Italian III
level system

Block of

5.1 Data collection

A wiki was set up for students and tutors. There students could find information for each of the sessions, reading material, vocabulary, videos, grammar
tables and questionnaires. Excerpts from recordings and photos of each
session were regularly uploaded on the wiki. Students were encouraged to
access it, so as to be prepared for the sessions to come and were asked to
write their comments on the sessions they had attended.
Before the start ofthe course, each student was requested to write a few
lines about their experience with the Internet and their expectations regarding this course. None of them had ever visited SL before. The group met
once a week, for six weeks and took active part in various tasks and language
activities during the sessions. Each session was recorded using FRAPS.3 The
recordings were then observed and analysed by the researcher. The recordings of some tasks were transcribed and the transcriptions analysed. Records
of text-chats where kept, when needed. Students were also encouraged to
visit again the areas in SL where the sessions had taken place.
At the end of the course each student was individually interviewed by
the researcher and the semi-structured interviews were recorded.

FRAPS is a screen capture, video capture utility for computer applications.


Susanna Nocchi

The researcher had her own blog where she reported about the sessions
and wrote her observations and thoughts after each of them.
It is important to mention that the students were also asked to provide
additional data for the study carried out by the Italian colleague.
5.2 Data analysis
For the purpose of this paper, I will present an initial analysis of one type
of task, the role-play, and choose it as my unit of analysis. An activity
theoretical representation of a general role-play taking place during one
of the SL sessions is shown in Figure 3, where the subject of the activity is
the student performing the role-play. The object has been identified as the
will to communicate effectively with the native speaker and give or obtain
relevant information from him/her, according to the task set.

Mediating Artefacts
computer used by subject, software, internet
connection, audio hardware, languages used,
the avatar. All the objects with which the
subject interacted during the task. Dictionaries
and online support. Interlocutor/s.


Role-play rules
Rules governing that
particular Italian setting
SL software rules

Irish students and the
Italian lecturer. The
other Italian lecturer,


(intended and unintended)


reinforcing vocabulary.
learning new specific
lexical items, acquiring
awareness of culturally
specific behaviour such as
use of register, importance
of certain personal
information, learning about
specific cultural aspects of
the foreign society, boost
the students confidence and
easiness communicating in
the foreign language.

Division of Labour
Mostly vertical

Figure 3 Activity Theoretical Diagram of a Role-Play

Can a Virtual World Help Me Learn How to Deal with a Real Life Problem? 279

The intended learning outcomes for the role-plays are: reinforcing

vocabulary and learning new lexical items specific to the domain related to
each of the role-plays, acquiring awareness of culturally specific behaviour
such as use of register, importance of certain personal information etc.,
learning about specific cultural aspects of the foreign society (university
organization, different police forces, health service, etc.), boost the students
confidence and easiness communicating in the foreign language.
The community for each role-play consisted of the Irish students and
the Italian lecturer, who was also in charge of assessing the module. The
other Italian lecturer was sometimes part of the community and in some
tasks, the interlocutor of the subject.
Particular attention has to be paid to the mediating artefacts. According to Activity Theory, cultural and material artefacts are not neutral when
used by the subjects. At the same time artefacts take their significance from
the activities they mediate and from the meanings that the subjects attribute
them. Some mediating artefacts in the role-play activity are common to
the SL activity system, that is, the computer used by the subject, software,
Internet connection, audio hardware, the languages used, both in written
and in oral form and the avatar itself. But we have to add to our list of
mediating tools all the objects with which the subject interacted during
the task. In the case of Virtual Worlds, realia, that is real, authentic material objects, part of the social, material and cultural life or the language
of study, have been successfully substituted by scripted objects. Other
mediating artefacts were mentioned by the students in the course of their
interviews, and were dictionaries or online support.
The position of the interlocutor in the activity system was a cause of
reflection for the researcher, who at first felt that the native speakers who
were taking part in the role-play could be conceptualized as part ofthe community. However, when the object of the activity is identified, one can see
that the interlocutors position is not exactly coinciding with the subjects.
I would argue in this case that the interlocutor can be conceptualized as a
tool available to the subject for the completion of the task.


Susanna Nocchi

5.2.1 Preliminary data analysis

Activity Theory sees tensions and problems during the unfolding of an
activity as a possible effect of contradictions that occur in that activity.
Contradictions may lead to a shift of focus of the activity and, eventually, to learning. The researcher observed each role-play and analysed the
transcription of each session in detail, finding instances of disruption and
breakdowns in communication. Sixty-two moments of disruption were
observed during the six role-plays; these were grouped into six different
types. A taxonomy is shown in Table 19.
Table 19 Types of Disruption in Role-Plays
Type of disruption

Number of occurrences

Technical breakdown

Disruption due to incorrect use of the software

Comprehension problems


Choice of incorrect term/phrase


Poor lexical competence

Use of wrong register

The highest number of disruptions was observed in communication.

Such moments of tension were caused either by poor language competence or by poor intercultural awareness on the part of the subject; the
researcher identified four general types of disruption that triggered either
a clear breakdown in communication or a discontinuation in the flow of
communication; comprehension problems, choice of an incorrect term/
phrase, poor lexical competence and use of wrong register. These tensions
and disruptions in communication were managed using different strategies on the part of the interlocutors and, sometimes, resorting to other
members of the group. Attention was focused mainly on moments that
created a potential for the development of intercultural awareness. Here
are a few examples.

Can a Virtual World Help Me Learn How to Deal with a Real Life Problem? 281
Episode A:
At the bank, B wants to open a bank account. The bank employee, M, asks: Ha una
busta paga? [Do you have a pay slip?]. B fails to recognize the words busta paga
and replies: Scusa? [Sorry?]
M repeats: Ha una busta paga? and elaborates: Per aprire un conto deve avere una
busta paga, cio deve avere un lavoro e uno stipendio [In order to open a bank account
you must have a pay slip. You have to have a job and an income].
B understands: Ah, ok, ok, is, s, ce lho [Yes yes, I have it].

In Episode A, the disruption in communication brings to the interlocutor to deal with the problem by providing cultural information about a
common practice.
Episode B:
A is at the university. He approaches the employee at the orientation/information
office and says: Ciao (informal way of saying Hello)
An, the employee, answers using the correct form: Buonasera, posso aiutarLa?
[Hello, can I help you?]
A continues the interaction using the correct form: Buonasera.

In Episode B the disruption is caused by poor intercultural competence on

the part of the student, who is not using the correct register and addresses
the university employee informally. The interlocutor provides the correct
form in his reply and the student takes it on board, changing his approach
to formal. It is interesting to note that this episode occurred during the last
role-play in the course, after similar episodes had taken place during previous sessions. In all instances, the students had been given the correct form
and in one case had even been rebuked by the interlocutor. This, however,
had been a problematic area throughout the whole duration of the course.
The role-plays had highlighted this weakness and provided many occasions
for the students to hear the correct form, and had clearly been useful for
at least one of them.


Susanna Nocchi

There were also moments where the role-play activity opened to

include the entire group, creating the opportunity for a discussion in
plenum, which provided cultural information and the chance for comparing the two cultures:
Episode C:
At the university, S needs to fill in a registration form. She has a problem with the
word stato civile [marital status] and Su, the Italian tutor, opens the discussion to
the other students and the Italian native speakers.
Su: cos lo stato civile ragazzi? [What is stato civile guys?]
A: Curriculum vitae?
Su: No. Quello il curriculum vitae. Stato civile. [No, that is curriculum vitae. Stato
A: Oh, scusi. [Oh, sorry]
S: Chi lo sa? [Who knows?]
Su: Che stato civile che stati civili ci sono in questo gruppo qua? Siamo tutte
nubili? [What stati civili do we have in this group? Are we all single?]
M: Credo di s [I think so]
B: Ah! Single o married.
Su: Esatto. S. [Exactly, yes]
M: S [Yes]
Su: Quindi, come sei Suzanne? Che stato civile hai? [So Suzanne, what is your
marital status?]
S: singolo [Single]
Su: Misy, ora si dice singola anche in italiano? Non si usa pi nubile, vero? [Misy,
do we say single in Italian, too now? We dont use nubile anymore, do we?]
M: Mah, veramente se non sei stato sposato nubile, se sei stato sposato e divorziato,
invece, trovi single. [Actually, if you havent been married you are nubile, if you
have and have divorced, you find the word single]
S: Va bene [fine]
Su: E per Barefoot e Agaw, invece, celibe (writes it in text chat), ok? [And for Barefoot
and Agaw, instead, celibe, ok?]
A: S [Yes]
B: S [Yes]

Can a Virtual World Help Me Learn How to Deal with a Real Life Problem? 283

In the case of Episode C, the disruption was handled by the interlocutor

by changing its status and becoming part of the community in the activity, involving the other Irish students and the Italian native speakers. The
individual action becomes a group action and an activity per se, and the
role-play becomes a first step to getting more acquainted with the Italian
A more in-depth analysis of the role-play activities will shed more light
on what occurs during these tasks and provide examples of best practice.

6 Conclusion
An initial conclusion resulting from the experience achieved during this
course is that VWs offer a wealth of potential that can be exploited by
teachers to create tasks for the development of intercultural awareness. First
and foremost, this multi-cultural environment provides access to a large
number of communities and, more importantly, of native speakers. The
availability of Italian native speakers was indeed one of the strong points
of the course, as they provided an authenticity to the task that cannot be
attained in a standard classroom situation. The mediation supplied by the
Italian native speakers was also a source oflanguage related problems, especially for the weaker student in the group, who, however, was very positive
about the overall experience, during his final interview.
Another useful affordance of SL is the possibility to use or create a
whole environment, which can make the setting look very realistic. The
use of scripted objects, reproductions of Italian documents, forms and
other objects had a central role in the sessions. Students were moving in
realistic surroundings, interacting with realistic looking objects and with
native speakers.
An initial observation of the role-play as an activity system, allowed the
researcher to observe the task in detail, describe it and highlight moments of
disruption in the activity. As it was mentioned before, an activity theoretical


Susanna Nocchi

look at reality sees moments of disruption in the activity as a potential

for change and for possible development. The scope of the study was to
observe how useful the various tasks designed for the sessions could be
for the development of Intercultural Awareness and in several occasions it
was noticed that a disruption in communication during a role-play created
the potential for a moment of intercultural awareness. Sometimes, these
disruptions caused an opening of the question to the group, shifting the
individual action to a group action, and creating an interesting pedagogical
moment. Such moments were led by the lecturer, proving the usefulness
of guided interaction supported by a teacher even in these environments.

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Part Four

Intercultural Issues

Florence Le Baron-Earle

Social Media and the Acquisition of

Intercultural Communicative Competence:
A Focus on Discussion Forums

We should never denigrate any other culture but rather help people to
understand the relationship between their own culture and the dominant
culture. When you understand another culture or language, it does not
mean that you have to lose your own culture.
Edward T. Hall

1 Introduction
In the last few months, several European leaders1 have claimed that their
respective policies of multiculturalism have failed and thus have opened a
new debate on immigration and cultural integration. This highlights the
need to stimulate a deeper understanding between nations or individuals
of varied background. Despite many attempts to develop intercultural
dialogue in the past this need is still very vivid today. This matter can be
addressed in a variety of areas, including the foreign language classroom.
As emphasized by the directives of the Council of Europes Linguistic
Division Policy, language teaching and intercultural citizenship are both
related to communication, the promotion of mutual understanding and
the development of individual responsibility (Lzr et al. 2007: 18).

German Chancellor Angela Merkel made this public statement in October 2010. A
similar sentiment was echoed by British Prime Minister, David Cameron and French
President, Nicolas Sarkozy in February 2011.


Florence Le Baron-Earle

This chapter will demonstrate how sociolinguists have established that

language learners cannot become proficient without understanding the
culture in which the language they are studying is developed, and how their
research has led to a change in the key objectives of language teaching. The
evaluation of a persons ability to relate to and communicate with people
who speak a different language and live in a different cultural context
(Byram 1997: 1) is now considered as an essential teaching objective. Furthermore, in line with the technological advances in education, this chapter
will raise and discuss a number of issues related to the use of social media in
language and intercultural communicative competence teaching, i.e. how
technological advances enable users to be active learners through critical
reflection (McLoughlin, Mynard 2009; Wickersham, Dooley 2006) while
being part of a learning community (Garrison, Vaughan 2008; Tapscott,
Williams 2006). In particular, it will focus on the research related to online
discussion forums used for third-level language teaching purposes. Finally,
the results from the authors PhD thesis will be presented. In a first-year
course to improve oral skills in French, students participate in discussions
on French culture through blended learning. Classroom discussion is supplemented by an online discussion forum with the aim of increasing their
intercultural communicative competence.

2 What is Culture and How is it Linked to Language?

Halverson (1985) divides the notion of culture into two categories: culture
with a big C and culture with a little c. The first represents aspects including literature, arts, history and geography, whereas the second describes
aspects which are less perceptible and, until recently, were often unaccounted for in educational curricula. In the second case, culture is considered as a silent language (Furstenberg et al. 2001; Hall 1973) which is
invisible (Lo Bianco, Crozet 2003) or hidden like the submerged part of
an iceberg (Levine, Adelman 1993). It is important to note that culture is

Social Media and the Acquisition of Intercultural Communicative Competence 293

not static (Byram 1997). Generally speaking, culture is understood to be

the total set of beliefs, attitudes, customs, behaviours, social habits, etc.
of the members of a particular society (Richards et al. 1992: 94). Byram
specifies that behaviours can be verbal or non-verbal (1997). Lado concisely
describes culture as the ways of a people (1957: 110). Kramsch (1998) insists
that it is heterogeneous, in other words, there is a variety of cultures within
a community (different experiences, age, gender, ethnicity, etc).
The relationship between language and culture or language and perception is generally associated with the works of Whorf (1956) and Sapir
(1970). Their analyses of Native American languages such as Hopi which
is known as the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis conclude that language strongly
influences perception and behaviour. The most controversial form of the
hypothesis claims that the way we perceive things is determined by our
native language. According to this hypothesis, translation between very
different languages is impossible. The concept that language determines
thought, i.e. linguistic determinism, has been widely criticized by (socio)
linguists (Kramsch 1998; Martin 1986; Pinker 1994), and the current trend
known as language relativity acknowledges a diluted form of the SapirWhorf hypothesis according to which our native language influences to
a greater or lesser degree our thoughts, behaviours and perceptions of the
world rather than determines them. In other words, language and culture
are intertwined: language expresses cultural reality (Kramsch 1998: 3).
This statement implies that language teachers must also develop a cultural competence in their learners and attempting to omit it would prevent
successful language teaching: Since language and culture are inseparable,
we cannot be teachers of language without being teachers of culture or
vice versa (Byram, Morgan 1994: vii). This is true even from the ab initio
language learner level. In brief, languages convey implicit meanings or
cultural traits which are shared by the members of the same community
(Kramsch 1993). Therefore, being proficient in a language implies more
than mastering linguistic features; it also involves understanding the social
context in which it is spoken, in other words, cultural competence.


Florence Le Baron-Earle

3 From Linguistic Competence to Intercultural

Communicative Competence
The concept of cultural competence, which holds that successful communication in a foreign language cannot be attained without understanding
the culture in which it is spoken, emerged in the 1980s with the advent
of communicative pedagogy (Canale, Swain 1980; Pulverness 2003; van
Ek 1986). At the time, language teaching methods shifted from a focus on
linguistic competence (grammar, vocabulary, syntax, pronunciation) to
communicative competence, i.e. with the aim to develop learners ability
to communicate appropriately according to various social situations.
In later years, this communication pedagogy was criticized (Byram
1997; Kramsch 1993, 1998) because it was based on native speaker language
proficiency. It became apparent that the learning objectives were unrealistic
and regarded learners in a detrimental way as incomplete native speaker[s]
(Byram 1997: 11). Instead, researchers and sociolinguists (Bennett 1993;
Byram 1992, 1997, 2008; Byram et al. 2002: Corbett 2003; Deardorff 2006a,
2006b, 2009a; Kramsch 1993, 1995, 1998; Lzr et al. 2007; Zarate 1995,
Zarate et al. 2004) suggest redefining the foreign language teaching objectives to develop intercultural communicative competence. Indeed, the current world is characterized by a highly mobile society in which people are
constantly interacting within new cultures. Buttjes (1991: 9) claims that at
a time of increasing international dependency and imminent global threats
understanding and respecting other peoples beliefs and attitudes is a priority. Intercultural communicative competence (ICC) aims at bringing
learners to see and manage the relationships between themselves and their
own cultural beliefs, behaviours and meanings, as expressed in a foreign
language, and those of their interlocutors, expressed in the same language
or even a combination of languages (Byram 1997: 12). As a result, experts
in the domain of ICC, including Byram and Zarate, worked in cooperation
with other researchers and the Language Policy Division of the Council of
Europe to establish a standardized foreign language teaching and learning
model. Their work contributed to the creation of the Common European

Social Media and the Acquisition of Intercultural Communicative Competence 295

Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFRL) (Council of Europe

2001): a scheme defining levels of proficiency in languages including levels
of socio-cultural competence, which has now become a standard in Europe.
This framework clearly states the need for developing plurilingualism in
language educational environments:
The plurilingual approach emphasises the fact that as an individual persons experience
of language in its cultural contexts expands, from the language of the home to that
of society at large and then to the languages of other peoples [] in different situations, a person can call flexibly upon different parts of this competence to achieve
effective communication with a particular interlocutor. (2001: 45)

4 Model of Intercultural Communicative Competence

The variety of terms that arose to describe the concept of ICC is a testimony to the amount of work carried out in the area and underlines the
complexity of the notion: cross-cultural competence, intercultural competence, socio-cultural competence, plurilingual competence, trans-cultural
competence, critical cultural awareness, multicultural competence and
intercultural sensitivity, to name but a few. As a result, definitions may
vary. This section provides a definition of ICC in an educational context
as understood by the author.
To begin with, it is believed that intercultural communicative speakers
or mediators have reached an ideal third place (Kramsch 1993) in which
they can take both an insiders and outsiders view on C1 and C2 (Ibid:
210), i.e. on their own culture and on the target culture. Their competence is composed of five savoirs: savoir comprendre, savoirs, savoir tre,
savoir sengager, savoir apprendre/faire (Byram 1997: 34). These five savoirs
involve four elements: knowledge, attitude and two skills. The first two
factors attitudes and knowledge are preconditions for an intercultural
interaction to take place while the two skills listed are necessary aptitudes
(Byram et al. 2002).


Florence Le Baron-Earle

Intercultural mediators avail of a combination of their knowledge,

positive attitude, and skills to maintain relations with individuals from
other social and cultural groups. Byram (1997) and Deardorff (2006a,
2006b, 2008) identify two types of knowledge. Firstly, when individuals are engaging in an interaction, they bring their personal knowledge of
their own culture or social group as well as knowledge about the culture
of their interlocutors. Regarding attitudes, intercultural mediators need
to be curious, open and ready to question their values or adopt the viewpoint of their interlocutors. According to Byram (1997), skills are a way
to complement the knowledge held by intercultural mediators: the skill
of interpreting and relating and the skill of discovery and interaction. In
addition, Deardorff (2008) considers that an intercultural mediator should
possess key analytical and critical skills (listen, observe, evaluate, analyse,
interpret and relate).
Moreover, the lifelong ICC acquisition process develops both an internal and external outcome (Deardorff 2006b, 2008). As the name conveys,
the internal outcome represents the internal changes or the shift in frame
of reference (2006b: 255) occurring within the individuals who become
interculturally competent and comprises qualities of adaptability, flexibility,
ethnorelative view and empathy. To exercise empathy, Deardorff recommends that individuals apply the platinum rule, i.e. behaving with others
as they would like, as opposed to the golden rule which implies behaving
with others as you would like (2008: 39). In other words, to be willing to
understand the other rather than willing to be understood first and only is
essential. The external outcome concerns the capacity to behave and communicate effectively and appropriately in an intercultural situation.
Finally, it is important to note that in this chapter the author makes
a distinction between intercultural competence and intercultural communicative competence. The former depicts individuals who bring into
play the knowledge, attitude and skills described above when interacting
in their native language with people of other cultures, whereas the latter
designates mediators who are able to communicate with different social
groups in a foreign language (Byram, Fleming, 1998).

Social Media and the Acquisition of Intercultural Communicative Competence 297

5 Assessing Intercultural Communicative Competence

Thinking about assessing ICC is important and must be planned carefully.
It is firstly essential to decide on a clear definition ofthe actual concept and
secondly to think about the conceptualization ofthe evaluation method(s),
i.e. to determine which component(s) of ICC will be measured (Deardorff 2009b; Fantini 2009). Also, the assessment must be closely linked
to the learning objectives, the curriculum design and its implementation
(Fantini 2009).2

6 Intercultural Communicative Competence and CALL

Computer-assisted language learning (CALL) which Levy defines as the
search for and study of applications of the computer in language teaching and learning (1997: 1) has evolved significantly since the early years.
The pedagogy focus changed relatively at the same pace as the technology progressed. The 1960s1970s were characterized by a behaviouristic
drill-and-practice-based approach which concentrated on vocabulary and
grammar. Language learners in the 1980s experienced a shift in teaching
methods with the emergence of communicative CALL. This change was
accompanied by the arrival of the microcomputer. But a significant revolution occurred in the 1990s with the apparition of the Internet. This technological innovation enabled human to human interaction as opposed to
human to computer interaction. The Internet linked language teachers and
learners from around the world and allowed for more authentic learning
contexts. In 1993, Helmut Brammerts initiated the international e-mail

Further discussion on assessing ICC is beyond the scope of this chapter but readers
may find the following references of great value: Byram 1997; Byram et al. 2002,
2004; Deardorff 2009a, 2009b; Lzr et al. 2007; and Levy 2007.


Florence Le Baron-Earle

tandem network, and in 1994, the Carnegie Mellon University launched

the Oral Language Archive (OLA) which stores sound recording for foreign
language learning. Since the 2000s, CALL has been further democratized
with the multiplication of freely available virtual learning environments
such as Moodle, and the easiness of use of Web 2.0 tools which do not
require expertise in computer programming (podcast, chat room, videoconferencing, discussion forum, blog, wiki, etc). All of these tools which
were not primarily designed for language teaching use have the potential
to enhance language learning in general and the learning of intercultural
communicative competence in particular.
In the recent years, research projects to develop the intercultural sensitivity of third-level education students with Web 2.0 tools have emerged.
Two studies can serve to illustrate this technological revolution and include
the use of discussion forums:
1. In 19992000, Hanna and de Nooy (2003, 2009) conducted a case
study where undergraduate students of French from of the University of Queensland were asked to participate in public discussion
forums in order to enhance their argumentative skills in the target
language, as these skills are generally highly valued in French culture. Both authors did preparatory work before letting the students
engage in forum discussions. Students firstly sensitized themselves
to the forums conventions and then reflected on what strategies to
use to present themselves. Finally they carefully chose a pseudonym
meaningful to them and started their assignment. This study provided
opportunities for developing ICC and the discussion forum features
proved to be beneficial as participants could negotiate meaning with
native speakers.
2. The Cultura project (Furstenberg et al. 2001) was conducted between
the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and the Institut
National des Tlcommunications (INT) during the spring and
autumn semesters of 1999. The principle was to analyse the process
which the students of both institutions went through to compare
their respective cultures and see the world in a different perspective.

Social Media and the Acquisition of Intercultural Communicative Competence 299

A blended learning approach was adopted, that is, a combination of

activities online and on a face-to-face basis, usually in class. At the
beginning of the project, students of both institutions filled in a series
of Web-based questionnaires; the aim was to discover cultural differences and similarities of each culture. After completing the questionnaires, the participants analysed in their own time at home the results
of the questionnaire or discussed them in class with their respective
teachers. Further reflection and discussions were then carried out via
online forum exchanges with students from both institutions, and
finally in the classroom.
These two studies show that discussion forums may be used to develop
ICC successfully. It seems that the asynchronous feature of online forums
help strengthen users reflective skills a key feature of ICC.

7 Deep Learning and Communities of Practice

Despite technical challenges occurring at times, social media are increasingly
used for the teaching of ICC as they may develop users critical thinking
ability which is essential in acquiring ICC awareness. This chapter will
now concentrate on the features of online asynchronous discussion forums
which allow the building of Communities of Practice (CoPs), and enable
beneficial results such as collaborative work and deep learning.
Discussion forums enable teachers to engage students actively (Garrison et al. 2000). They provide opportunities for learners to build their
own knowledge through socially engaging tasks (Cole 2008), namely
deep learning. Deep learning can be defined as learning that promotes the
development of conditionalized knowledge and metacognition through
communities of inquiry (Weigel 2002: 5). Indeed, the depth education
model is composed of three components: 1. conditionalized knowledge, 2.
metacognition and 3. communities of inquiry. The first element describes


Florence Le Baron-Earle

the relevance of ideas and methods in their domain. This infers that the
depth educational model enables students to apply their knowledge to
various contexts, and therefore to make out a rationale for their use. For
example, students of French would learn that there are two ways of addressing people in the romance language tu and vous and that their use
is strongly related to the situation or the status of the person with whom
the students are interacting. Problem-based learning is considered as a
major contributor to conditionalized knowledge development as it challenges students to learn actively by solving problems collaboratively under
the supervision of their teacher. To go back to our example of students of
French, a teacher using problem-based learning would describe several reallife situations (e.g. You are at your family doctors practice doing a routine
check-up and are engaged in a conversation about your respective summer
holiday plans) and ask the students in an online forum if they should use
the term tu or vous and why. This would enable them to construct their
knowledge as opposed to merely being given a list of situations in which tu
and vous are applicable. The second component, metacognition, relates
to the students aptitude to reflect on their own learning experience and
develop their autonomy as learners: the development of critical thinking
skills and the ability to articulate and reflect on ideas are foundational
to the art of thinking (Weigel 2002: 7). Moreover, students availing of
metacognition are thought to be more competent in using learning skills
acquired in one area of expertise or another. The third component of the
depth education model is communities of inquiry. They are also referred
to as communities of practice (Wenger 2009; Wenger et al. 2002) and
learning communities.
CoPs are groups of people who share a concern or a passion for
something they do and learn how to do it better as they interact regularly (Wenger 2009). CoPs are ubiquitous and are not solely specific to
education; they can also be found in organizations, governmental bodies,
associations, the social sector and on the Web (Ibid. 2009). They can vary
in size (number of members), in geography (local or global), in interaction
(face-to-face and/or online) and in formality (formal or informal). CoPs
comprise a domain in which the group members share an interest; this
makes a distinction between the members and other persons. In addition,

Social Media and the Acquisition of Intercultural Communicative Competence 301

CoPs are characterized by collective learning which is made possible via

relationship building (the community) and unrelenting interaction (the
practice). Examples of activities developed by the practitioners of a CoP
are: problem solving, information requests, experience seeking, coordination and synergy.
In an educational context, communities of practice are key factors of
deep learning or high-order learning (Garrison, Anderson: 2003). They
are composed of teachers and students who interact in order to generate
critical thinking, construct and confirm understanding. Garrison and
Anderson (2003) and Garrison and Vaughan (2008) have elaborated a
framework which depicts the three elements which constitute a CoP: cognitive presence, social presence and teaching presence. These elements
will be illustrated below by examples from the discussion forum referred
to in the introduction. This forum was provided by Sulis the University
of Limericks virtual learning environment in order to establish a CoP,
facilitate deep learning and develop students awareness of intercultural
communicative competence. Cognitive presence is a vital component
of critical thinking and deep learning. It describes the degree of the students ability to build and validate meaning via continuous reflection and
Cognitive presence is created with the use of triggering events which
aim at puzzling the learners and sparking reaction from them. For example,
in the first-year discussion forum, the following instructions were given
to the participants:
Observez le document. Que reprsente chaque image? Pensez-vous que cette reprsentation des Franais est juste?
[Observe the document [The document depicted five stereotypes of French
people]. What does each image symbolize? Do you believe they give an accurate
representation of French people?]

Extract from teachers posting, 29 September 2008

It is also obtained with exploration, integration and resolution. This

means that students seek and exchange information in order to understand
an issue, are able to link different ideas together and apply them to new
ones. Asynchronous text-based tools, e.g. discussion forums, are believed


Florence Le Baron-Earle

to enable students to become deep learners as they provide time for reflection time before writing a contribution and time to read a posting before
replying, for example (Richardson 2006). The second element, social presence, refers to the members ability to portray their true personality to the
other participants via the tool selected for the exercise. It helps to support
cognitive presence by creating a friendly environment.
Social presence is noticeable through emoticons, for example, which
show emotional expression. In the first-year discussion forum, the following messages were posted:
Je mappelle [nom de ltudiante]. Jhabite Clare. J Jai dix sept ans! Je suis un etudiante de Law and Euro studies. Jaime le foot Galique et le musique, surtout U2! J
[My name is [name of student]. I live in Clare. J I am 17! I study Law and Euro
Studies. I like Gaelic football and music, U2 J in particular!]

Extract from students posting, 3 October 2008

Social presence can also be manifested by risk-free expression and

signs encouraging collaboration. These demonstrate that a sense of trust
has been established making open communication and group cohesion
possible, even when the participants viewpoints differ:
Je vois que je suis le seul sur cela qui ne doit pas tre un membre de bebo!! Je dteste le
rseau social. Je crois que cest addictif et un gaspillage de temps! Je vis dans le monde
rel!! Mais aucune noffense, videmment! J Je crois que cela peut tre dangereux!
[I think that I am the only one who is not a bebo member!! I hate social networks.
I think that they are addictive and a waste of time! I prefer to live in the real world!!
But I do not want to offend anyone, of course! J I think they can be dangerous!]

Extract from students posting, 24 November 2008

The third element which constitutes a CoP is teaching presence. The latter
relates to the functions under the responsibility ofthe teacher even though
some functions can be held by other participants at times. The functions
include the design, facilitation and direction of cognitive and social processes for the purpose of realizing personally meaningful and educationally
worthwhile learning outcomes (Garrison, Anderson 2003: 29). In other
words, it is linked to managing the environment before and during the

Social Media and the Acquisition of Intercultural Communicative Competence 303

learning process. Typical functions are design and organisation, facilitating discourse and direct instruction, as seen in the following posts to the
first-year discussion forum:
Bonjour tous! Cette semaine, je propose que lon se prsente afin de faire connaissance.
Postez votre message en cliquant sur Post Reply. Noubliez-pas de mettre une photo ou
un avatar en allant sur My Profile.
[Hi everyone! This week, I invite you to introduce yourself to the class. Post your
message by clicking Post Reply. Do not forget to upload your photo or avatar on
the My Profile page.]

Extract from teachers posting, 2 October 2008

8 Study and Results

The study involved introducing an online discussion forum in a first-year
French class to encourage the development of ICC. As shown earlier in
this chapter, a number of projects aiming at introducing ICC facilitate
interaction between language learners and native speakers from a different
institution. The study presented in this chapter was developed in a standard
language class setting, in other words, the situation faced by the majority
of language learners. Participants were composed of mainly Irish students
with a minority of foreign students and a native French teacher. The three
main study objectives were:
1. Investigate how discussion forums can enhance the teaching and learning of ICC awareness.
2. Integrate resources in French language classes and evaluate learners
reaction and interactions within the new learning environment.
3. Analyse outcomes in comparison to related research.


Florence Le Baron-Earle
Table 20 Project Details

Number of

64 students during Semester 1

55 students during Semester 2

Number of

Three during Semester 1 (One per class of circa twenty students)

Four during Semester 2 (One per class of circa fifteen students)
Only students of the same class group could see the work of others

Duration of

Two semesters composed of twelve weeks, academic year 20082009


Respond to trigger question or statement about French culture

in target language, use personal knowledge or information from
the newspaper article studied in class, and take into consideration
previous messages posted by other participants.

Student roles

Participant, post trigger or start a thread, read and react to trigger,

react to previous post, add and share information, summarize and/or
conclude discussion.

Teacher roles

Participant-observer, give guidelines (tasks, netiquette), post trigger

or start a thread, moderate, comment, encourage, send feedback,
provide technical support, assess work.

The results of the project were evaluated through three student questionnaires (one at the end of each semester and one six months after the
end of the study), two semi-directed interviews (one at the end of each
semester) which were recorded and later transcribed and teachers observations. The latter comprises a narrative diary kept throughout the project
giving details of participants activity in the discussion forum, personal
reflections and the content of an informal talk with students about the
forum. The first two questionnaires were completed by students immediately at the end of each semester in order to collect the participants fresh
impressions. The third questionnaire gathered comments from participants
with more perspective on the project and could compare their experience
of using a discussion forum (Semesters one and two) with their experience
of not using a discussion forum (Semester three). The third questionnaire
also provided a summary of results gathered by the researcher and asked
the participants to comment on them. All three questionnaires included

Social Media and the Acquisition of Intercultural Communicative Competence 305

open-ended, close-ended and multiple choice type questions. Other data

gathered in the project include the individual and group e-mails exchanged
with students, messages posted in the forum and statistical measurement
about students participation and activity. The participants response to
the questionnaires was satisfactory: 86 per cent of students completed
the first questionnaire, 69 per cent completed the second one and 42 per
cent completed the third one. Five students participated in the first semidirected interview and seven took part in the second one.
Results show that students were computer literate for the vast majority
as shown in data collected from the first online questionnaire: 100 per cent
of students had used the Internet and 96 per cent were social networking
sites users. They found that their knowledge of French culture improved
throughout the study: before the project started, 2 per cent of students
considered their knowledge very poor, 36 per cent of students considered
it poor, 59 per cent found it good and a low 2 per cent evaluated it as very
good. At the end of the project, 50 per cent believed it to be good and 50
per cent very good.
Student comments made in the questionnaires and the semi-directed
interviews included a larger number of positive remarks than negative
ones regarding the use of discussion forums for ICC. Students felt that
their knowledge of French culture improved: 4 per cent found the discussion forum extremely helpful in improving their cultural competence in
French, 33 per cent found it very helpful, 36.5 per cent found it helpful, 11
per cent found it a little helpful and 4 per cent found it not at all helpful.
Finally, 11.5 per cent admitted not using the forum. Participants comments
Using a discussion forum allows you to interact with fellow students and see their ideas
and interact thoughts and knowledge.
[I] Probably did not participate enough for it to be helpful.
I found it a good and modern way of learning but I didnt necessarily learn a lot
about France from it.

For the quotations given below, positive and negative comments were chosen to
illustrate all participants viewpoints.


Florence Le Baron-Earle

In addition, 12 per cent of the participants surveyed strongly agreed

with the statement that cultural reflection has also enabled them to learn
about [their] own culture, 79 per cent agreed, 9 per cent did not:
Yes because it makes you think about aspects of another culture and then relate it to
your own.
It helps in terms of making comparisons with your own culture. It is an eyeopener.

At the end of Semester 3, the semester during which students were not
using a discussion forum, participants were asked how they reacted when
they were told that no discussion forum would be used: 50 per cent said
that they would have like to keep using it, 29 per cent said that they were
relieved and 21 per cent said that it made no difference to them. Students
I found that there was definitely something missing in the oral classes this year. I enjoyed
first years classes much more [] I feel that I am not learning a lot in my oral class this
Although I enjoyed the online activities in first year, the workload in all of my subjects
this semester was very heavy and therefore I was slightly relieved that we would not be
continuing with the activities this year, as it reduced some of this pressure.
If given a choice I would have chosen to continue with it. However, I was not unduly
upset by its removal.

Numerous comments showed that the open feature of the tool was
appreciated for it enabled content sharing in a comfortable setting. Students were asked to comment freely about the discussion forum. Responses
include the following:
Using a discussion forum allows you to interact with fellow students and see their ideas
and interact thought and knowledge.
The discussion forum has made me more confident [] I enjoy the fact that it is a
more relaxed way of practising French than homework or tests.
You get to see other peoples perspective on cultures and learn things you previously
had little or no knowledge of.

Social Media and the Acquisition of Intercultural Communicative Competence 307

Teacher observation also highlighted that the introduction of the

discussion forum had an encouraging effect. For example, most students
who had low in-class attendance did participate in the online forum and
students of a shy nature in class were very active online. This was confirmed
by comments made by participants in the questionnaires and in the semidirected interviews. A typical example is given below:
I loved the discussion forum as it allowed everyone to contribute and let you see what
your classmates thought and it was less daunting [sic] than speaking in front of a class
of strangers.

Also, students took different roles and did not merely add their post
to the thread; they also commented on each others messages and shared/
learned new information. For instance, a student would start a message by
acknowledging what had been previously written in the thread:
Comme les autre tudiants je ne suis pas daccord avec [Like the other students, I
disagree with]
Je vois que je suis le seul
[I see that I am the only one to]

Finally, students were highly motivated in the project and took time
to work outside classroom time. Indeed, with the exception of one week
where the teacher organized a hands-on computer lab session with the
students, messages written by the participants were posted in their own
time. An average of seventeen messages was posted every week during the
first semester and six during the second semester.
It is interesting to note that a number of reservations were made
regarding the use of the discussion forum. Firstly, the online participation
decreased quite significantly between Semester 1 and Semester 2. This can
be explained in part by the fact that several students (15 per cent) dropped
out of the first-year French module. In comparison, 22 per cent and 15 per
cent students dropped the modules the two previous academic years when
the discussion forum was not part of the module. Students explained this
drop in participation by an increased workload from other modules, the
fact that the novelty wore out and, more specifically, that more marks


Florence Le Baron-Earle

were awarded to their online participation in the first semester. This shows
that students are highly strategic learners. Despite their acknowledgment
that the online discussions were beneficial to them, the amount of marks
awarded remained a significant incentive to their participation.
As anticipated by the teacher, technical difficulties were a hindrance
for a small proportion of participants and, therefore, a training session
was organized at the beginning of the project. In addition to this session,
custom-made instructions (how to post a message, how to attach a document, etc.) were made available online for participants. According to 86
per cent of the students polled, the computer lab session was very useful. It
not only gave them more confidence using the virtual learning environment
and its tools, such as the discussion forum, but also reinforced their understanding of the forums objectives. A small 8 per cent did not find it useful
and 6 per cent remained neutral. Students who answered no or remained
neutral commented that they did not attend the training session for various
reasons or did attend but would have liked more than one session.
A summary of additional comments made by students in the questionnaires and semi-directed interviews is provided in Table 21.

9 Evidence of Deep Learning in the Study

As outlined in the literature review section, deep learning is composed of
three fundamental elements: 1. conditionalized knowledge or the learners
ability to build-up new knowledge and relate it to previous knowledge, 2.
metacognition or the participants aptitude to think critically and reflect
on their learning and 3. communities of inquiry, which is the context in
which learning occurs. Evidence of these was found in the students online
interaction and comments (Table 22, p.310).

Social Media and the Acquisition of Intercultural Communicative Competence 309

Table 21 Summary of Students Comments
Quick and easy to access

Advantages of discussion forum

Comments on flexibility
and easiness of use

Comments on novelty and

fun aspect

Its a fun way of studying!

Its different and its a more enjoyable way to learn.
It gives you a chance to learn from others in the
class and it gets you thinking more.

Comments on interaction
and group work

I feel that interacting online with others is far

better than sitting down and [] just listening to it
in a lecture. It encouraged me to participate more.
We can read each others comments and share

Comments on dynamic and

general work atmosphere

Disadvantages of discussion forum

The Internet allows people to communicate easily

and quickly with each other, from wherever you
are. [] I found it very useful.

Comments on difficulty
of use

It makes it more interesting and accessible and is

less daunting that having to stand up and speak in
front of a group.
[It] provide[s] the student with a more relaxed and
interesting setting in which to learn about culture
than the average classroom situation can provide.
For people who are not very computer literate,
such as myself, it is difficult and time-consuming to
complete such activities.
Information given can be just one persons opinion.
It doesnt always give accurate information.

Comments on content

Anyone can write anything they want, and it may

not be accurate. This can lead to confusion among

Comments on user role and


It takes time.
You might not understand the instructions.


Florence Le Baron-Earle

Table 22 Students Comments on How the Discussion Forum Made Them Learn
about French Culture

Evidence of deep learning in the study


I loved it. It gave you the opportunity to build up

what other people had said and get new ideas [] it
helped to keep it fresh in your head.
We kind of take it in much better than if we were you
know told to go away and read a book. We learn all
the aspects, the cultural aspects but you are just kind
of passively taking it in whereas [with the forum] you
think about it yourself .
I thought it was good, cos [sic] it gave you time to
think about, if you didnt know things, and if you
didnt know what they were talking about in class, It
made you learn.
It made you interact as well, and you got to see as
well what other people thought.
It was a very informal environment.

Yeah I really liked the class discussions [] because

we have two Erasmus students each from Spain, so
like they say how it is in Spain and then there is us
like the Irish people and then obviously [our teacher]
is a French person [] different people have such
different ideas and like a load of people in our class
3. Community of inquiry
have been to France so like they have observed while
they were there, it was really interesting.
I thought it was helpful to read over what the other
students wrote because you could see the standard of
the French and because they are in your class that is
the standard you should have. Instead of reading out
of a book or something which is very difficult.
It is really engaging, you really dont notice that you
are learning stuff [] it is so interactive.

Social Media and the Acquisition of Intercultural Communicative Competence 311

The introduction of the discussion forum in the French classroom was

in many ways positive and showed evidence of deep learning. The teachers
main aim of enhancing intercultural competence awareness was attained to
some extent and the participants encouraged and supported the future use
of the discussion forum. However, in order to improve the project, some
challenges still need to be overcome regarding the technical competence
of some students and their belief that intercultural competence benefits
language learning. Indeed, one student wrote: I have yet to really convince
myself that knowing more about the French culture will help me to speak
French better. Moreover, the teachers roles need to be examined closely
before and during the project. Should the teacher adopt a central role in
the conversation or, on the contrary, be almost invisible? In this project,
the teacher chose to be a guide on the side (Mazzolini, Maddison 2003)
in order to let participants construct their knowledge, and this is what happened. However, as some comments on content revealed (Table 21), this
approach may mislead students that there is no control on the accuracy
of the knowledge created. The teachers role is thus an issue that has to be
considered carefully.

10 Conclusion
Through the years, as far back as the 1970s, studies have highlighted the
importance of culture in the language classroom. Similarly, interest in
modern technologies in education has grown apace: practices in the classroom have evolved significantly from the beginning of CALL to todays
Network-Based Language Teaching (Warshauer, Kern 2000). Current
methods enable human to human exchanges as opposed to the humancomputer interactions of the early days which make the development of
collaborative work and critical thinking possible. It now seems clear that
quality in language teaching implies awareness of the cultural component
of language use, and that new Web 2.0 tools such as discussion forums do


Florence Le Baron-Earle

make an important contribution to the development of ICC (Hanna, de

Nooy 2009; Levy 2007). However, more research is needed in a number
of areas, such as, what role the teacher should play and how ICC can be
fairly assessed. If these issues are successfully addressed in future research, it
seems probable that discussion forums and other Web 2.0 tools will become
standard elements in the language teaching environment.

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Victor Bayda

Teagasc na Gaeilge i Stt-Ollscoil Mhosc

1 Stair Theagasc na Gaeilge i Stt-Ollscoil Mhosc

Tsaodh ar theagasc na Gaeilge i Stt-Ollscoil Mhosc sa bhliain 1978
nuair a cinneadh i nDmh na Fileolaochta de chuid na hOllscoile nr mhr
lann na dteangacha Ceilteacha a fhorbairt sa Dmh. Tugadh cuireadh do
Garry Bannister, iarchim ireannach a bh i mbun staidir ar an Risis
ag an am, Gaeilge a mhineadh do mhic linn a raibh suim acu inti. I
measc na ndaoine sin bh Tatyana Mikhailova, an t a thug faoin nGaeilge
a theagasc tar is do Garry Bannister filleadh ar irinn. Mar thoradh ar
obair Garry Bannister dearadh agus foilsodh Complasc Foghlamtha na
Gaeilge le haghaidh Cainteoir Riseacha (Bannister 1983) a raibh idir bhar
tagartha agus cleachtaidh ann. Dhear an tOllamh Tatyana Mikhailova
bhar teagaisc (Mikhailova 1990) le tacsanna agus foclir beag GaeilgeRisise. Go dt an bhliain 2001 n raibh ach an tOllamh Mikhailova ag
mineadh na Gaeilge (idir Nua-Ghaeilge agus Shean-Ghaeilge) sa Roinn.
Thinig mad ar lon na dteagascir shin, fach, agus faoi lthair t trir
lachtir buana agus trir eile pirtaimseartha i mbun theagasc na Gaeilge
agus roinnt bhar eile a bhaineann leis an nGaeilge agus na teangacha
Ceilteacha i gcoitinne.
Go dt an bhliain 2010 n raibh an Ghaeilge ar fil sa Roinn ach mar
bhar breise roghnach. M bh mic linn ag danamh crsa i mBarla n i
nGearminis n in aon teanga eile, bh siad in ann tabhairt faoin nGaeilge
freisin. M thg na mic linn na hbhair eile sa chrsa Lann Ceilteach
(Sean-Ghaeilge, stair na Gaeilge, cultr agus litrocht na hireann agus
teanga Cheilteach eile), bh teastais ar fil dibh ag deireadh an chrsa.
Nor mhic linn de chuid na Dimhe amhin a bh in ann freastal ar an


Victor Bayda

gcrsa, n go deimhin mic linn na hollscoile, ach duine ar bith sa chaoi go

raibh an Roinn ag feidhmi mar chinel ionad linn Cheiltigh do chch.
Cpla fadhb a bhain leis an srt sin crsa n go raibh s deacair, scait, a
bheith cinnte c mhad duine a bh ag freastal ar an gcrsa agus s rud
gur bhair bhreise a bh sna hbhair a luadh thuas, bh deacrachta ann
thaobh an chlr ama de freisin agus bh ar na teagascir agus na mic linn
amanna a cuardach a bheadh feilinach do na mic linn uile agus do na
teagascir fin.

2 An Crsa sa L at Inniu Ann

Thinig athr suntasach ar an gcaoi ina n-eagratear an crsa in 2010 nuair a
thosaigh, den chad uair riamh, crsa a raibh an Ghaeilge agus an Barla ina
bpromhbhair ann. Crsa lnaimseartha cime cig bliana at i gceist agus
is iad na hbhair at dteagasc le linn an chrsa seo n Gaeilge, Barla, SeanGhaeilge, stair na Gaeilge (idir theangeolaoch agus shisialta), litrocht
na Gaeilge agus litrocht Angla-ireannach chomh maith le hbhair ina
ndantar cur sos ar stair na hireann agus ar chrsa sisialta an lae inniu.
T s de rn ag foireann na Ranna go minfear ranganna Gaeilge, litrocht
na Gaeilge (chlasaiceach agus nua-aimseartha) agus eolas ar irinn tr
mhen na Gaeilge. Mar is lir liosta na n-bhar seo thuas tagann an
crsa seo mar chomharba ar an gcrsa breise a ndearnadh cur sos gairid
air thuas. N h go gcuirfear an crsa nua in it an chrsa bhreise, ach go
mbeidh s bunaithe ar an taith agus ar na hbhair theagaisc a forbraodh
don seanchrsa.
Tugann stdas nua an chrsa buntist nach beag leis. Ar an gcad
dul sos imonn an fhadhb le sceideal s rud go ndanfar comhthth
na ranganna agus na lachta de chuid an chrsa i bpromhchlr ama na
Dimhe. Caithfear a lua anseo go bhfuil neart bhar eile ann a bhfuil ar
na mic linn staidar a dhanamh orthu de rir an tsiollabais; is iad seo
stair na teanga at foghlaim acu, stair litrocht na hEorpa (n litrocht
Chlasaiceach go dt an litrocht nua-aimseartha), stair litrocht na Rise,
teangeolaocht, teoiric liteartha, stair na fealsnachta, Risis, an dara

Teagasc na Gaeilge i Stt-Ollscoil Mhosc


teanga eachtrannach agus go deimhin bhair nach bhfuil gaol dreach

acu leis an gcrsa agus a mhintear ar feadh tarma amhin an ceann
eacnamaocht, polaitocht, faisneolaocht, sceolaocht agus oideolaocht,
gan trcht ar ranganna aclaochta sa chad d bhliain. Baineann an uilocht
seo le traidisin oideachasil ollscolaochta na Rise; d rir caithfear eolas
cuimsitheach a thabhairt don mhac linn sa chaoi go dtabharfadh s an
deis d/di fs nos leithne a fhil ar a (h)bhar fin agus ar an rimse nos
leithne bhar ar fidir sid a bhaint astu lena c(h)uspir proifisinta fin
a bhaint amach.
Rud eile a chaithfear a thabhairt san ireamh n go gcuirtear nos m
bime ar amanna teagmhla i gcras oideachais na Rise, rud a chiallaonn
scait nach bhfgtar mrn ama ag an mac linn don fhoghlaim fhinriartha.
Bonn buntist leis sin freisin, fach, mar gheall go mbonn nos m
ranganna ar fil do theagasc na teanga fin. Go ginearlta (i gcs teangacha
eile seachas Gaeilge) bonn s rang uair an chloig go leith de ranganna teanga
sa tseachtain, ach s rud nach an Ghaeilge an t-aon teanga sa chrsa agus
go gcaithfidh s an mid channa ranga a roinnt leis an mBarla, bonn
ceithre rang uair an chloig go leith ar fil don Ghaeilge. Dantar iarracht
freisin uaireanta breise teagmhla a chruth nuair is fidir.

3 Prifil na Mac Linn

N mr anois splachadh a chaitheamh ar na mic linn a thugann faoin
nGaeilge sa Ris agus card iad na fthanna at acu leis sin a dhanamh.
Bonn na mic linn ag teacht le clra agsla sisialta agus chathracha
agus bhailte mra agsla na Rise. Go deimhin, n as Mosc ach beirt
as an ngrpa de sheisear at ag danamh an chrsa lnaimseartha. Bonn
teanga eachtrannach amhin ar a laghad ag na mic linn go hiondil nuair
a thosaonn siad ag foghlaim Gaeilge, ach is minic a bhonn nos m n
teanga amhin acu. N deacair tomhas gurb an Barla an teanga is minice a
bhonn ag na mic linn s rud go bhfuil an Barla ina bhar igeantach ar
an gcuraclam i mbeagnach gach scoil, c nach ionann caighden a mhinte
i chuile scoil, ar ndigh.


Victor Bayda

Dfhonn fil amach faoi na fthanna a bhonn ag na mic linn tabhairt

faoin nGaeilge, seoladh cuireadh chuig mic linn (idir iar-mhic linn agus
iad sin at fs ag staidar san ollscoil) le ceistneoir simpl ar lne a fhreagairt.
Cuireadh rimse leathan fthanna ar fil agus bh ar na mic linn tr cinn
acu sid a roghn a bh for ina gcs fin. Le deis a thabhairt do na mic
linn fthanna eile a scrobh seachas fagadh sps do Eile ag bun an liosta.
N raibh diallach ar na mic linn a n-ainmneacha n aon sonra pearsanta
eile a sheoladh agus iad ag freagairt na gceisteanna. Seoladh an cuireadh
chuig 14 agus fritheadh 13 fhreagra. Roghnaigh trir nos m n tr fhth,
ach glacadh lena bhfreagra uilig s rud nrbh fhidir fil amach c hiad
na daoine sin le hiarraidh orthu a athdhanamh, agus chomh maith leis
sin, sleadh nach mbeadh tionchar mr ag na freagra breise sin ar an ttal.
T na freagra de rir an mid roghnuithe i bhFigiir 4.

Figiir 4 Freagra na Mac Linn ar an gCeist

Cn fth ar thug t faoin nGaeilge?

Teagasc na Gaeilge i Stt-Ollscoil Mhosc


T rogha amhin nach bhfuil sa tbla seo thuas n T aithne agam ar

dhaoine at ina gcna in irinn agus is an fth nach bhfuil n mar gheall
nr roghnaigh duine ar bith . Nor scrobh ach trir fthanna faoi Eile
agus fi sa chs seo is an rud a bh i gceist n mni irithe ar na fthanna
a roghnaigh na mic linn. Uair amhin bh freagra breise grinn ann.
Mar is lir n tbla seo thuas is suim i dteangacha i gcoitinne a thagann
sa chad it i measc na bhfthanna at ar an liosta. Is dcha go bhfuil gaol
ag an dara fth leis an gcad cheann. Dfhadfa, fach, ceist a chur c
gcloisfeadh na mic linn an Ghaeilge sular thosaigh siad foghlaim san
ollscoil. Bfhidir go bhfuil an freagra le feiceil sa tr fth eile: suim na mac
linn sa cheol ireannach agus gur sna hamhrin a chuala siad an teanga.
Is lir n suirbh seo gurb iad suim theangeolaoch agus suim sa chultr
ireannach at chun tosaigh i measc na bhfthanna at ag na mic linn
agus iad ag tabhairt faoi fhoghlaim na Gaeilge. Ag an am canna nl gaol
pearsanta le hirinn n le daoine in irinn chomh tbhachtach agus at s i
dtortha eile ar ns na Stt Aontaithe, it arb ceann de na promhfhthanna
at ag na foghlaimeoir le tabhairt faoin nGaeilge n teagmhil a dhanamh
lena ndchas ireannach (Stenson 2000: 108).
Is cis spise freisin go bhfuil suim theangeolaoch chomh hard sin
ar an liosta. Lironn s sin go mbonn spreagadh ag na mic linn cheana
fin nuair a thosaonn siad ag foghlaim na Gaeilge, spreagadh den chinel
is tbhachta, bfhidir, don chrsa a mbonn siad ar t tabhairt faoi.

4 Cur Chuige Theagasc Teangacha i Stt-Ollscoil Mhosc

T traidisin lidir theagasc teangacha i Stt-Ollscoil Mhosc agus is ioma
crsa at deartha ag foireann Dhmh na Fileolaochta. Is teagascir de
bhonn na Rise iad formhr na foirne ach tagann lachtir eachtrannacha
nuair a bhonn s dacmhainn ag an roinn irithe sin a sholthar. T
acmhainn finteagaisc ar fil do na mic linn freisin: t bailichin leabhar
a bhaineann leis na hbhair a mhintear ag formhr na ranna agus baintear
sid as iseanna na teanglainne go rialta.


Victor Bayda

Bonn bim i gcrsa teangacha ar an teoiric agus ar an gcruinneas,

rud nach gciallaonn go mbonn easpa cleachtadh cainte ann: tagann na
gnithe agsla sin de chumas teanga go maith le chile s rud go mbonn
lon measartha mr uaireanta teagmhla in aghaidh na seachtaine ar fil
le freastal ar an d thaobh agus, chomh maith leis sin, cuireann s leis an
muinn m t daoine cinnte go bhfuil an mid at r acu ceart thaobh
foirme de. Is fi a lua go ndrtear ar chrsa cultrtha agus sisialta na
dtortha agus na bpobal a bhaineann le teanga irithe le linn an chrsa
freisin. T s mar aidhm, mar sin, eolas uiloch a thabhairt do na mic linn
ar an earnil a mbeidh siad ag pl li, rud a thagann go maith leis an gcur
chuige ginearlta i leith an phrisis theagaisc mar a lirodh thuas .

5 Cs na Gaeilge
T an cur chuige i leith theagasc na Gaeilge i Stt-Ollscoil Mhosc bunaithe
ar na prionsabail channa agus a sidtear i gcrsa na dteangacha eile.
Murab ionann agus na teangacha sin, fach, baineann roinnt deacrachta
le teagasc na Gaeilge a gcaithfear deileil leo. Seachas na mionfhadhbanna
ar ns go gcaithfear a bheith ag obair le hbhair theagaisc agus thagartha a
scrobhadh i mBarla (teanga eachtrannach do na mic linn) agus a bhonn
drithe ar Bharlir agus ar dhaoine a mbonn tuiscint acu ar chrsa na
hireann den chuid is m agus, ar ndigh, nach gcuirtear riachtanais
irithe na gcainteoir Risise san ireamh iontu, is iad na deacrachta is
m, is dcha, n na cinn a bhaineann le stdas na Gaeilge mar theanga
neamhfhorleathan ( Murch 2001) agus le ceist na gcanint agus an
Cuireann an chad cheann de na fadhbanna sin dshln mr roimh
na teagascir an easpa spreagtha a tharlaonn tar is tamaill a shr. Agus
an chad tonn suime thart is minic a thagann an dspreagadh seo ar na mic
linn leis an tuiscint nach minic is fidir leo sid a bhaint as an teanga
a bhfuil siad i mbun a foghlama. Cinnte go gcuireann castacht na teanga
fin leis na deacrachta seo. Is dcha go bhfuil s sin ar an dar is m a

Teagasc na Gaeilge i Stt-Ollscoil Mhosc


thugadh ar chuid mhr de na mac linn a dirigh as an gcrsa roghnach

an cinneadh seo a dhanamh. Scal eile ar fad i gcs mhic linn an chrsa
lnaimseartha, ar ndigh, s rud gur ceann de phromhbhair igeantacha
an chrsa an Ghaeilge. N chiallaonn s sin, fach, gur fidir a bheith
cinnte nach mbainfear spreagadh astu de rir a chile freisin. An rud at
thar a bheith tbhachtach, fach, n chuile iarracht a dhanamh le teacht
roimh an dspreagadh. Cn chaoi ar fidir sin a dhanamh?
Cinnte go gcaithfear sid a bhaint as chuile chs agus fhric a
thaispenann go bhfuil an Ghaeilge labhairt, gur teanga bheo , ach n
fidir an fhrinne a cheilt orthu ach oiread, is sin, cuir i gcs, nach fidir do
ghn laethil a dhanamh trd an teanga seo ach amhin i gceantair irithe.
I bhfocail eile, n mr pictir radil a thabhairt do na mic linn gan iad
a dhspreagadh. Is cosil gur fidir a leithid a dhanamh ach an bhim a
athr. M chuirtear an bhim i gcs theagasc na Gaeilge ar na hiteanna ina
bhfuil an teanga labhairt go laethil fs, is cuma c chomh gann agus beag
is at siad agus c chomh conspideach is at crsa na teanga iontu fin (
Giollagin 2007; Curnin 2009), dantar mrtheanga as an mionteanga
leis sin i gcomhthacs an ranga. Tugann an cur chuige seo deis dinn al
n mndrthacht a bhaineann scait le crsa feidhmeacha na Gaeilge mar
gheall gur mr an difrocht at idir samhl go bhfuil t ag baint side as
an nGaeilge le bia a ord i gcaif, cuir i gcs, i mBaile tha Cliath agus sa
Spidal. Ceanglatear an teanga leis an timpeallacht ina n-sidtear . N
fidir gan trcht a dhanamh ar dhaoine at ina gcna taobh amuigh de
na hiteacha sin ach a bhaineann sid as an nGaeilge mar sin fin. Ach
is saol eile sin, limistar an Bharla it nach bhfuil dfheidhmeanna ag
an nGaeilge ach mar theanga an teaghlaigh, na scoile agus correagrais. N
bheadh an pictir seo iomln gan trcht a dhanamh ar sid na Gaeilge sna
hinstitiid tr leibhal, rud a thugann deis do na mic linn a riachtanais
acadla a phl sa teanga sin.
An dara fadhb a luadh thuas n ceist na gcanint agus an chaighdein.
Is ioma rud at rite ar an bhar seo ach bonn s pl pheirspictocht
chrsa oideachais in irinn go hiondil agus is cinnte go mba mhr an
buntaiste caighden don Ghaeilge lena foghlaim sna scoileanna ansin.
Caithfear glacadh leis, fach, nach ionann cuspir theagascir na Gaeilge
in irinn agus taobh amuigh di, inr gcs sa Ris. N mr cuimhneamh ar


Victor Bayda

riachtanais na mac linn Riseach mar a lirodh nos luaithe iad. T suim
acu i gcrsa teangeolaocha na Gaeilge thar rud ar bith eile. Tagann s sin
go maith leis an mbim ar eolas cruinn domhain uiloch at mar chuspir
de rir chur chuige na hollscoile. Ciallaonn s seo uilig nach folir an
foghlaimeoir a chur ar an eolas faoi chuile chinel Gaeilge, ar fidir cur
sos James McCloskey a lua anseo ina leith:
Dants cultrtha for-aisteach an rud seo a dtugaimid an Ghaeilge air. T le
hireamh i rimse na coincheapa seo: leaganacha itila na mr-Ghaeltachta
traidisinta, agus an agslacht shaibhir a bhaineann leo it go chile agus
ghlin go chile; an caighden, fana chomhriteach cliste idir na canint uilig agus
fana chuid tarmaochta nua-chumtha uilig, cuid acu grnna agus amsca, cuid acu
deachumtha lainn; caithfear a ireamh fosta leaganacha na gcathracha, Baile tha
Cliath agus Bal Feirste, leaganacha, bfhidir, nach rchosil iad le Gaeilge na
Gaeltachta ach a bhfuil neart agus fuinneamh d gcuid fin iontu. T san ireamh
fosta na leaganacha aisteacha cumaisc at gcruth faoi lthair i dtimpeallacht na
nGaelscoileanna, ar cinel cril is diche at iontu. (McCloskey 2001: 489)

Cn chaoi ar fidir rochtain ar an saibhreas seo a sholthar do na mic

linn? Cn chaoi a bhfadfadh na foghlaimeoir pl leis an oiread seo? Ar
ndigh, n fidir an duine a bh sna leaganacha agsla ths. N mr
dinn buns a thgil a bhfadfa an t-eolas eile a thgil air. Dar linn gurb
ceann de na canint an buns is fearr lena aghaidh sin. N caighden, s
rud nach eisean a sidtear sna comhthacsanna a bhfuil an cur chuige
feidhmeach bunaithe orthu agus a luadh thuas. Is iad na canint at
labhairt sna ceantracha ina mbaintear sid as an teanga go laethil agus,
go deimhin, is ioma dearcadh diltach at i measc mhuintir na gceantracha
sin i leith an chaighdein (N Ghallachair 2002: 203) Ciallaonn s sin
gurbh fhidir go dteipfeadh ar na mic linn ag an nimad is tbhachta
agus iad ag iarraidh a dhul i mbun comhr le duine. Agus is an chis a
theipeadh orthu n nach mbeadh an duine sin ssta labhairt le lucht an
chaighdein. Is minic a chloiseann muid a leithid de scalta a bhaineann
chuile spreagadh as an bhfoghlaimeoir. Nl muid ag iarraidh go mbeadh
s sin i ndn dr gcuid mac linn, ach a mhalairt, go mbeadh cur amach
cu acu ar na difrochta idir na leaganacha agsla teanga agus rud at

Teagasc na Gaeilge i Stt-Ollscoil Mhosc


thar a bheith tbhachtach i gcs na Gaeilge tuairim agus dearcadh i leith

cheist na teanga a thagann leis na difrochta sin.
Tugann an rogha canna mar bhuns do theagaisc na Gaeilge go leor
buntist. Ar an gcad dul sos, mar a dradh cheana, tugann s deiseanna
cainte aidhm crsa ar bith teanga. Chomh maith leis sin, fadfaidh an
mac linn taith a fhil ar na deacrachta a bhonn ag na cainteoir dchais
fin agus iad ag foghlaim na leaganacha caighdenacha d gcuid focal fin
nach fidir leo iad a litri de rir a gcuid fuaimnochta fin. Caithfidh
tuiscint a bheith acu ar a leithid de ruda:
Is minica sidtear an caighden mar bhata leis an channachas a chur faoi chois
Ceadatear go leor leaganacha agus agslacht teangan taobh istigh den chaighden
fin. T mineoir den scoth ann at balta na canint a mhni i gcomhthacs an
chaighdein agus i mo thuairim fin, is seo riteach na faidhbe. Ach is oth liom a
r go bhfuil an leibhal sin saineolais gann go maith agus chonn muid uilig an tan
at ag teacht ar an teanga de thairbhe sin. Glacann cainteoir dchais le canint nach
bhfuil b ar bith acu li agus nach bhfuil dchasach daofa agus d bhr sin, is annamh
a ironn leo a thabhairt i gceart. (N Ghallachair 2002: 23)

Is tuairim duine de bhonn na Gaeltachta iad na focail seo. Buntiste

eile a sholthraonn bim ar chanint n ts ite a thabhairt dreach do na
daoine sin. T s sin de dhth mar gheall ar an mid neamhairde a dheantar
orthu sid. Seo mar a phligh Brian Curnin faoi ghn den fhadhb seo:
Traslam le heagarthir agus dair an leabhair is fintas a n-altanna ag mni chs
na Gaeilge do Bharlir, i bhfianaise, mar shampla, an fhaill scannalach a rinneadh
sna mein Bharla ar an Staidar cuimsitheach teangeolaoch ar sid na Gaeile sa
Ghaeltacht. Ba mhr ab fhi An insiders view a fhil. ( Curnin 2009: 94)

T easpa an insiders view for i gcomhthacs an linn ireannaigh i

True, one of the distinguishing features of Irish Studies has been the degree to which
it focuses on the long negotiation between cultures in the eighteenth and nineteenth
centuries, but for the most part this has been approached from the aspect of Anglophone culture. (N Dhonnchadha 2006: 17)


Victor Bayda

Caithfear dri mar sin ar dhearcadh lucht na teanga fin agus gan a
bheith ssta leis na tuairim agus cur sos a dhanann lucht an Bharla agus
na foghlaimeoir ar chrsa Gaeilge. Cuir i gcs an sampla seo a leanas:
Is cuid dr gcultr an teanga Gaeilge agus is cuid chomh mr canna sacar, rud a
thagann chugainn thr eile! (N Mhistil 2000: 123)

Is i gcomhthacs phl na bunscolaochta a scrobhadh na focail sin

agus bfhidir go bhfuil an comhthacs sin nos feilina dr gcs fin ar
bhealach mar is daoine gan eolas ar an teanga roimhe sin iad r gcuid mac
linn, cosil le gasir sa bhunscoil. Is tuairim ghinearlta at sna focail sin
ar aon chaoi agus taispenann siad an difrocht idir cultr ireannach ar
leis an riteas seo agus cultr na Gaeilge. Is cinnte gur cuid de chultr
ireannach an Ghaeilge mar gheall go maireann s tr Bharla go promha
ach n fidir le teanga a bheith ina cuid de chultr m t an cultr sin uilig
bunaithe ar an teanga sin, ms ise bun an chultir sin cultir na Gaeilge
inr gcs fin. N fidir le teanga a bheith ann gan cultr a bheith aici, n
mar gheall gurb an chaoi a gcaithfear cultr igin a chumadh don teanga
go mbeadh s in ann maireachtil ach mar gheall go gcruthaonn teanga
cultr ar aon chaoi, teorainn at sa teanga at nos buaine n teorann ar
an larscil. Is at i gcultr na Gaeilge n chuile thaith saoil a fhaightear
tr Ghaeilge na suantraithe, an chaint sa teaghlach, coinn le daoine,
foghlaim sa scoil. Bfhidir gurb anseo a chrochnaonn taith na Gaeilge
do go leor cainteoir dchais. Ach t feinimin eile fs a bhaineann le cultr
na Gaeilge: leithid Gluaiseacht Cearta Sibhialta na Gaeltachta, dars
na Gaeltachta, Raidi na Gaeltachta. Is tama, scalta, daoine, focail agus
fuaimeanna iad seo nach bhfuil taith ag duine nach bhfuil Gaeilge aige
orthu. Seo toradh anailse le Mirtn Murch a dhanann s le ceist a
fhreagairt an bhfuil cultr na Gaeltachta ann:
Ar deireadh thiar thall is ar an teanga, agus ar an teanga amhin at sainilacht
phobal na Gaeltachta ag brath. Agus is uaithi go hirithe at an d shaintrith eagair
is deimhnith at tagtha chun cinn inti le rian, .i. an cras cumarside agus an cras
rialaithe, chomh maith le foris dhchasacha eile, ar ns Chl Iar-Chonnachta at
pramhaithe go frinneach in ithir na Gaeltachta. ( Murch 2000: 15)

Teagasc na Gaeilge i Stt-Ollscoil Mhosc


I bhfocail eile, is minic a bhreathnatear ar chultr na Gaeilge tr

thuairim chultr an Bharla, cur chuige nach dtugann cothrom na Finne
don chad cheann agus a cheadaonn lu do shamhl steiritopa ag an am
canna. Is fidir na feinimin seo a thaispeint dfhoghlaimeoir teanga,
idir dhalta scoile agus dhaoine fsta, agus nl aon dabht go gcaithfear iad
a theagasc dr gcuid mac linn fin. M t muid ag iarraidh nach dtiocfadh
na steiritopa agus a leithid i gcion ar r gcuid mhac linn ach go mbeids
in ann crsa teanga agus cultir a thuiscint i gceart caithfear idirdheal
tbhachtach a dhanamh idir cultr na Gaeltachta, cultr Gaelach agus
cultr na Gaeilge. Is at i gcultr na Gaeltachta n leithid na ruda a luadh
thuas, ruda a bhfuil taith ag daoine de bhunadh na Gaeltachta orthu. Is
iad seo na ruda a bhaineann leis an gcultr Gaelach de rir Shorcha N
Mhistil (2000: 123): an Ghaeilge, seanscalta, logainmneacha, sloinnte
agus ainmneacha, seanfhocail, rabhlga, amhrin Ghaeilge agus rinc/
ceol, cluich Gaelacha iomnaocht, peil, liathrid limhe, paidreacha,
ainmneacha na mblthanna agus na gcrann. Is lir n liosta sin nach bhfuil
mrn bainte ag an gcultr Gaelach leis an nGaeilge sa l at inniu ann.
Is iad na ruda at luaite sa liosta seo n gnithe de chultr na hireann a
cheangail iad leis an seansaol, le seanchultr na Gaeilge. Is cinnte, mar sin, go
ndeirtear go [bhfuil] an d chultr seo [Gaelach agus ireannach] fite fuaite
le chile in irinn inniu (ibid.: 123). Dantar ceangal idir an Ghaeilge agus
an cultr Gaelach, idir an teanga agus an cultr ar irigh leis maireachtil
gan ar chor ar bith (cuir i gcs cluich Gaelacha sa liosta thuas). N g
Gaeilge a bheith ag duine leis na ruda a luadh a lamh/imirt/dhanamh.
N ionann cultr na Gaeilge agus an cultr Gaelach. N chiallaonn s
sin, fach, nach bhfuil baint ag cultr na Gaeilge leis an gcultr Gaelach, t
s chomh fite fuaite le cultr Bharla na hireann a cheiltear taobh thiar
den tarma cultr ireannach. Nl sa chultr Gaelach ach gnithe irithe
de chultr na Gaeilge agus Bharla na hireann ar aon.
Cn difrocht at idir cultr na Gaeltachta agus cultr na Gaeilge? M
aontaonn muid le tuairim Mhirtn U Mhurch [nach] i bpobal urlabhra
na Gaeltachta ach an taobh is treise Gaeilge sa chointeanid dhtheangach
at ar fil ar fud na tre (2000: 16) is fidir a r gurb cultr na Gaeltachta
an taobh is lidre de chointeanid chultr na Gaeilge. N dhanann a
leithid seo de thuairim ach athneart ar an gcinneadh go gcaithfear ts


Victor Bayda

ite a thabhairt do theanga na Gaeltachta thar chinel teanga ar bith eile,

mar gheall go bhfuil an dearcadh seo i lr struchtr an chultir Ghaelaigh.
Is an fth a raibh orainn idirghnomaochta idir cultir agsla a
phl i bhfad anseo n go bhfuil chuile chomhr sainiil don chultr agus t
s riachtanach an teanga a shocr sa chomhthacs cultrtha ina maireann
s. T cultr ar leith Gaeilge ann agus is fi staidar a dhanamh air agus
n fidir sin a dhanamh gan an teanga a bheith agat agus is lir gurb iad
na canint a thugann an deis dinn rochtain a fhil ar an gcultr seo agus
dearcadh n taobh istigh a fhil amach.
Thairis sin, eascraonn ceann de na fthanna is tbhachta leis an
gcinneadh sin as riachtanais na mac linn, an tsuim theangeolaoch at
acu agus aidhmeanna an chrsa, is sin an teanga ndrtha ar toradh
seachadaidh idirghline a theagasc sa chaoi go mbeadh na mic linn in
ann ruda a chur i gcomparid: canint amhin le canint eile agus iad
uilig leis an gcaighden.
Leis an gcur chuige seo a chur i bhfeidhm baintear sid as na
tacsleabhair agus bhair theagaisc agus thagartha at bunaithe ar chanint
n ina bplitear gnithe agsla na gcanint, leithid Stenson 2008a
agus 2008b, Ihde et al. 2008 agus Siadhail 1995. Baintear leas as crsa
ilmhenach U Dhnaill 2004 s rud go bhfuil fseanna an-sdeacha sa
chrsa sin. Ar libhal nos airde sidtear an tsraith leabhar An Teanga
Bheo de chuid IT ( S 1995; Baoill 1996; Murch 1998) a thugann
largas ar na canint. Baintear sid freisin as na hiseanna at ar fil ar
an idirlon Raidi na Gaeltacha agus TG4 go promha.

6 Achoimre
Tugann teagasc na Gaeilge sa Ris, is sin taobh amuigh de chomhthacs
traidisinta na hireann (agus bfhidir nos leithne tortha an Bharla),
idir bhuntist agus dhshlin. Is comhthacs suimiil ann fin ar fidir
leis a bheith ina chinel de ghorlann do smaointe nua i leith theagasc na

Teagasc na Gaeilge i Stt-Ollscoil Mhosc


teanga s rud go bhfuil difrochta irithe ann idir riachtanais na mac linn
agus an cur chuige oideachasil sa d chs. N bhonn Gaeilge ar scoil ag
mic linn na Rise agus is i gcrsa teangeolaocha a bhonn promhshuim
acu, ruda a chiallaonn nach g obair cheartaithe a dhanamh ar a gcuid
Gaeilge agus gurb an teanga ndrtha ar toradh seachadaidh idirghline
a dfheilfeadh d gcuid suime. T buns an-fhabhrach i leith fhoghlaim na
teanga ann, mar sin. Nl na mic linn inr gcomhthacs gaolta le lucht na
Gaeilge n lucht an Bharla, leis na cainteoir dchais n na foghlaimeoir
ireannacha. Is deis sin dibh largas a fhil a dtugtar tuairimocht an
d thaobh san ireamh ann. An dshln is m, gan dabht, a thagann as
mionteangachas na Gaeilge, s rud go n-ilonn s cur chuige irithe, cuid
aige pleanilte go sonra roimh r, cuid eile, cumtha dreach ar an bpointe,
sa chaoi nach mbainf an spreagadh as na mic linn ar thaobh amhin
ach go dtugtar tuiscint radil ar chrsa teanga dibh ar an taobh eile.
N mr trcht a dhanamh ar ghn eile a bhaineann le teagasc na Gaeilge
taobh amuigh dirinn, is sin an rl a imronn r gcuid mac linn ag
liri suim idirnisinta sa teanga, rud a thugann breis muinne do lucht
a labhartha, rud at thar a bheith tbhachtach agus muid ag breathn siar
ar an tuairimocht i leith na Gaeilge a mhaireadh in irinn agus a bhonn
fs le haireachtil, is cosil.
Tosaodh ar theagasc na Gaeilge i Stt-Ollscoil Mhosc os cionn
trocha bliain shin. Bh s mineadh mar bhar breise ach anois t crsa
cime seolta, rud a ilonn nos m na teagascir agus na mic linn ar
aon. T muid dchasach go mbeidh crsa acadla na Gaeilge i Mosc ag
dul neart go neart fs.
T muid dchasach go mbeidh r gcuid mac linn gnomhach amach
anseo agus go dtabharfaidh siad smaointe agus tuairim nua leo fin agus
go gcuirfidh siad leis an bhfs at faoin Lann ireannach anois:
It is clear that the future growth ofthe Irish Studies lies mainly in the non-Anglophone
world. This is due to the fact that the vast majority of the worlds population lives in
the part of the world which is not English-speaking. (Cronin and Izarra 2006: 25)
It is important, furthermore, that Irish Studies not be seen as a wholly Anglophone
activity, so that due cognisance is taken of the Irish-language reality of Ireland, both
in the present and in the past. (Ibid.: 27)


Victor Bayda

Tagann an mid at plite san alt seo go maith i gcomhthacs na

tuairimochta idirnisinta. T forbairt dhreach den chinel seo danamh
againn ar chrsa theagasc na Gaeilge i Stt-Ollscoil Mhosc, teagasc at
bunaithe ar thaith agus phrionsabail na hollscoile i leith teagasc teangacha
i gcoitinne agus ar riachtanais agus leas r gcuid mhac linn.

Bannister, G. (1983). Complasc Foghlamtha na Gaeilge le haghaidh Cainteoir
Riseacha. Dublin: Dublin University Press.
Cronin, M. and Izarra, L. (2006). Irish Studies in the non-Anglophone world. In
Mahony, C.H., Izarra, L., Malcolm, E., Harrington, J.P., Piln, O. and Crowe,C.
(eds) (2006). The Future of Irish Studies: Report of the Irish Forum. Centre for
Irish Studies, Charles University: Prague.
Ihde, T., N Neachtain, M., Blyn-LaDrew, R. and Gillen, J. (2008). Colloquial Irish.
New York, London: Routledge.
McCloskey, J. (2001). Guthanna in ag an Mairfidh an Ghaeilge Beo? Baile tha
Cliath: Cois Life.
Mikhailova, T. (1990). Irlandskiy yazyk. I. Teksty Dlya Chteniya. II. Slovar. Moskva.
Mahony, C.H., Izarra, L., Malcolm, E., Harrington, J.P., Piln, O. and Crowe, C. (eds)
(2006). The Future of Irish Studies: Report of the Irish Forum. Centre for Irish
Studies, Charles University: Prague.
N Dhonnachadha, M. (2006). Irish-language Teaching and Irish-Language Literature. In Mahony, C.H., Izarra, L., Malcolm, E., Harrington, J.P., Piln, O. and
Crowe, C. (eds) (2006). The Future of Irish Studies: Report of the Irish Forum.
Centre for Irish Studies, Charles University: Prague.
N Ghallachair, A. (2002). An bhFuil an Cras Oideachais ag Loiceadh ar Phobal
na Gaeilge? In hUiginn, R. (eag.), Lachta Cholm Cille XXXII: Curaclam
na Gaeilge, 1927. Maigh Nuad: An Sagart.
N Mhistil, S. (2000). Smaointe i gComhair Teagaisc sa Bhunscoil. In Laoire,
M. agus Murch, H. (eag.), Teagasc na Gaeilge 7, 11645. Baile tha Cliath:
Comhar na Minteoir Gaeilge.
Baoill, D.P. (1996). An Teanga Bheo: Gaeilge Uladh. Baile tha Cliath: Institiid
Teangeolaochta ireann.

Teagasc na Gaeilge i Stt-Ollscoil Mhosc


Curnin, B. (2009). Mionteang na Gaeilge. In Cathin, B. (eag.), Lachta

Cholm Cille XXXIX: Sochtheangeolaocht na Gaeilge, 90143. Maigh Nuad:
An Sagart.
Dnaill, . (2004). Turas Teanga. Dublin: RT and Gill and Macmillan.
Giollagin, C., Mac Donnacha, S., N Chualin, F., N Shaghdha, A. agus O Brien,
M. (2007). Staidar Cuimsitheach Teangeolaoch ar Usid na Gaeilge sa Ghaeltacht:
Tuarascil Chrochnaitheach. Oifig an tSolthair: Baile tha Cliath.
Murch, H. (2001). An Ghaeilge mar theanga neamhfhorleathan. In hUiginn,
R. (eag.), Lachta Cholm Cille XXXI: Ceist na Teanga, 150224. Maigh Nuad:
An Sagart.
Murch, M. (2000). An Ghaeltacht mar Rigin Cultrtha: Largas Teangeolaoch.
In Mac Mathna, L., Mac Murchaidh, C. agus Nic Eoin, M. (eag.), Teanga Pobal
agus Rigin: Aist ar Chultr na Gaeltachta inniu, 920. Baile tha Cliath:
Murch, S. (1998). An Teanga Bheo: Gaeilge Chonamara. Baile tha Cliath: Institiid
Teangeolaochta ireann.
S, D. (1995). An Teanga Bheo: Corca Dhuibhne. Baile tha Cliath: Institiid
Teangeolaochta ireann.
Siadhail, M. (1995). Learning Irish. New Haven, London: Yale University Press.
Stenson, N. (2000). Crsa Gaeilge i Meirice Thuaidh. In Laoire, M. agus
Murch, H. (eag.), Teagasc na Gaeilge 7, 10713. Baile tha Cliath: Comhar
na Minteoir.
Stenson, N. (2008a). Basic Irish: A Grammar and Workbook. New York, London:
Stenson, N. (2008b). Intermediate Irish, A Grammar and Workbook. New York,
London: Routledge.

Claudia Borghetti

Pursuing Intercultural and Communicative Goals

in the Foreign Language Classroom: Clues from
Selected Models of Intercultural Competence

After more than twenty years of research into Intercultural Foreign Language Education (IFLE), the importance of Intercultural Competence
(IC) in the foreign language classroom is largely recognized.
Less consensus is found on the little debated question of how IC can
be taught. Questions that still remain open include: what are the objectives
of intercultural learning? What relationship do intercultural objectives
entertain with linguistic/communicative ones? What methodological
principles should be adopted in order to promote the organic acquisition
of IC and Communicative Competence (CC) in a foreign language?
In this article these issues are addressed by illustrating a study carried
out on a variety of models of IC. The aim of the study is to isolate those
aspects of IC which can be significant and pertinent to guide language
teachers in pursuing educational goals concretely alongside communicative
objectives. As will be shown in the discussion, the investigated issues are
made more problematic by the lack of theoretical and conceptual consensus on the nature of the relationship linking CC and IC, both within and
without IFLE. While some scholars define them (more or less explicitly)
as separate competences (Bennett 1993; Brislin, Yoshida 1994; Deardorff
2006), others place cultural competence as a subcomponent of communicative competence (Risager 2007: 223) (e.g. Kramsch 1993, 1998a or
Balboni 2006) or, conversely, consider CC as an appendage of the wider
intercultural communicative competence (Byram 1997).
In what follows, an introduction is provided to the set of theoretical
models analysed in the study and to the criteria adopted to explore them
( 1). Some of the models are then analysed in more detail ( 2). Finally,


Claudia Borghetti

based on the results of the analysis, a number of considerations are proposed

concerning intercultural objectives, the relationship between intercultural
objectives and communicative ones, and the methodological principles to
be adopted to pursue both of them ( 3).

1 The Study: Preliminary Definitions

Given the vagueness of the term model and the variety of labels and definitions provided for the concept of IC in literature, the first step of the
present study was a careful selection of the frameworks to be taken into
consideration ( 1.1). During the selection process, a number of research
questions were formulated for the analysis and assessment of the selected
frameworks ( 1.2).
1.1 Towards a set of models of IC
1.1.1 The notion of IC
In her substantial research on the definition and assessment of IC, Deardorff mentions forty-nine relevant studies, each one with their own definition of IC (2006: 242). Further definitions are provided by Fantini (1997,
2000) and Balboni (2006). Such variety can be ascribed to two main factors.
First, the notion of IC is intrinsically interdisciplinary and has, therefore,
taken up different forms, names and definitions depending on the objects
and aims of the studies within which it was considered. Second, even after
becoming established within a given field of knowledge, IC kept evolving,
although generally only after a period of time of conceptual confusion and
terminological overlapping.
The interdisciplinary nature of IC is apparent from its very history. The
term was first used in international relations literature about peace corps
and their relationships with developing countries, especially in the work of

Pursuing Intercultural and Communicative Goals in the Language Classroom 335

Hoselitz (1954) and Gardner (1962). Having originated in the pedagogical

needs of professional training, IC later became the object of a considerable
amount of studies on intercultural communication, where it provided a
useful conceptual construct for theories such as adaptation, acculturation,
culture shock, etc. Only later did IFLE discover ICs deep educational significance for foreign language students (Byram 1989, 1997).
The evolution of the concept within each discipline has led to some
conceptual and terminological overlapping, with a few notable persistent
ambiguities. A case of overlapping was due to the shift from socio-cultural
competence (Byram, Zarate 1994) to intercultural competence within
IFLE: Even though deliberate and coherent, such a shift has not yet been
completely assimilated. In the field of intercultural communication further
examples of ambiguity are provided by the adjectives cross-cultural and
intercultural,1 and by the seeming equivalence of the terms competence
and competency.2
Given the number and variety of definitions available for IC, a criterion
was needed for selecting the set of IC models to take into consideration.
It was thus established that the study should focus on those frameworks
which regard IC as an integral whole of cognitive, affective and behavioural
factors that influence the understanding of and interaction with diversity
in a broad sense, and which can be developed through education and/
or experience. In accordance with these two criteria, the focus included
models of intercultural communication competence, intercultural communicative competence, cross-cultural competence and cultural sensitivity. Terminological distinctions were not considered as selection criteria,
nor was the discipline within which the models were developed or the
forms used for their illustration (graphical representations, lists of traits,
descriptions and so on).

These were used interchangeably for a long time, but have now come to indicate
different competences and research fields: cross-cultural competence refers to the
encounter of cultures, while intercultural competence is a specific term used in the
analysis of interaction among people with different backgrounds (Knapp, KnappPotthoff 1987: 7).
The term competency, originally from American English, is often used also in Europe
in relation to intercultural studies when aimed at professional training.


Claudia Borghetti

1.1.2 The notion of model

General criteria were also needed to define the notion of model3 among
the wealth of frameworks developed within disciplines as varied as IFLE,
intercultural communication, counselling, social psychology, and multicultural education. Balbonis definition of model as a generative framework,
i.e. a pattern or a structure which can include all possible occurrences,
and is able to generate behaviour (2006: 6) can be accepted as valid. Yet,
for the purposes of this study and to avoid an excessively strict selection,
either one of the two conditions posed by Balboni is considered sufficient
in defining a model. This allowed inclusion of those frameworks of IC
which, either descriptive or developmental (Borghetti 2008),4 did not
meet both conditions, yet proved of great interest to the objectives of the
present study. While descriptive models aim to faithfully reproduce the
phenomenon in detail as considered at its climax, developmental models
concentrate on the phases necessary to reach such a climax. This is foremost
interesting for the present study since within this macro-categorization of
model types, further subdivision is also possible: for example, descriptive
models can present the components of competence in either an analytical
manner (Chen, Starosta 1996; Samovar, Porter 2004; Spitzberg 2000), or
they can delve into the factors that the teacher must consider during the
teaching process in detail (Byram 1997; Balboni 2006). In the same way,
developmental models can be divided into frameworks that aim to represent the steps of competence acquisition as they occur on the psychological level of the individual (Bennett 1993; Gaston 2005) and those which
concentrate on the progression of teaching operations in a manner more
or less coherent to hypotheses of psychological change (Kramsch 1993,
1998a; Brislin, Yoshida 1994).

See Byram (2009: 21719) for a comprehensive discussion of the notion of model
both in general and in the specific domain of intercultural competence.
The distinction between descriptive and developmental models ofIC lays on different
basis than Byrams differentation between descriptive and prescriptive models (2009:
217): here the main criterion is synchronic (descriptive) versus diachronic (developmental), whereas Byram first analyses their manifest (descriptive or pedagogical)
intent and mentions their being dynamic as a possible additional feature.

Pursuing Intercultural and Communicative Goals in the Language Classroom 337

1.1.3 Selected models of IC

Based on the two criteria mentioned above ( 1.1.1 and 1.1.2), the study
focused on the following set of models of IC: Samovar, Porter 2004; Spitzberg 2000; Chen, Starosta 1996; Deardorff 2006; Brislin, Yoshida 1994;
Bennett 1993; Balboni 2006; Gaston 2005; Kramsch 1993, 1998a; Seelye
1994; Byram 1997; Fantini 1997, 2000.
1.2 Method
The study looks to compare the selected models of IC based on how they
define intercultural objectives, conceive the relationship between intercultural and linguistic objectives, and handle with the implementation
of theoretical statements into teaching. Its ultimate aim is to find practical avenues for the integrated pursuit of both objectives in the foreign
language classroom. As such, the chosen standpoint is that of IFLE, even
when the models discussed were not originally developed for educational
settings but rather for the needs of professional training (Brislin, Yoshida
1994), or as purely descriptive constructs (Chen, Starosta 1996; Samovar,
Porter 2004), or disregarding the role of the foreign language (Bennett
1993; Deardorff 2006).
In light of this, the set of models was examined in relation to the following three research questions:
1. What are the objectives of intercultural learning?
2. What relationship do intercultural objectives have with communicative ones?
3. What methodological principles should be adopted in order to jointly
pursue both kinds of objectives?


Claudia Borghetti

2 A Critical Review of the Models of IC

Table 23 shows an overview of the selected models, stating for each one of
them whether they address the three research questions.
Table 23 The Selected Models in Relation to the Three Research Questions

Relation with commu- Methodological
nicative objectives

Samovar, Porter 2004




Spitzberg 2000




Chen, Starosta 1996




Deardorff 2006




Brislin, Yoshida 1994




Bennett 1993




Balboni 2006




Gaston 2005




Kramsch 1993, 1998a




Seelye 1994




Byram 1997




Fantini 1997, 2000




Table 23 shows that some of the models do not fully address all the
research questions (Samovar, Porter 2004), while others do not answer any
of them (Spitzberg 2000; Chen, Starosta 1996; Deardorff 2006). This is
due to the fact that, with the exception of Deardorff s Process Model of
Intercultural Competence, these models arose within the field of intercultural communication and have no interest in describing IC in terms
of learning objectives, especially linguistic ones. As a result, these four

Pursuing Intercultural and Communicative Goals in the Language Classroom 339

models are not devoted a separate section and are only briefly described
with reference to other frameworks. However, given the interest of some
of the issues they raise, even the models which do not directly address the
main research focus have offered useful insights, especially at a theoretical
and conceptual level.5
As far as methodological principles are concerned, the third research
question clearly applies only to those frameworks which consider both
intercultural and linguistic objectives. In all other cases (indicated with
an asterisk in Table 23), the research question is articulated exclusively in
terms of intercultural objectives.
2.1 Brislin, Yoshida 1994
Brislin and Yoshidas Intercultural communication model is aimed at the
design of intercultural training programmes; consequently, it is not aimed
at students in educational settings, let alone for language students. Indeed,
as shown in the second column of Table 23, it does not consider the foreign
language at all. The authors are aware of this and, to justify their decision,
affirm that too often training courses focus too much on the target language
and thus end up creating fluent fools, people who can speak a language
fluently yet know nothing about the culture (1994: 48).
Nevertheless, this model is of great interest not only because it proposes
a number of intercultural objectives (for example personal autonomy or
flexibility and openness), but also because it relates each of them to a specific component of the competence (for example, flexibility and openness
are associated with the skills component).

To mention but a few examples, Spitzbergs intercultural communication competence

is of interest for the relevance it assigns to contextual and interactional factors in
the activation and development of the competence (2000: 375). Chen and Starostas
contribution stands out for the originality of the link they establish between their
notion of intercultural communication competence and multiple identity theory
(1996: 35859).


Claudia Borghetti

The authors identify four IC components: awareness, knowledge,

emotions and skills. These are defined based on research in social and
cognitive psychology and on the tripartite distinction between affect, cognition, and behaviour. While the application of such distinction to the field
of education is mainly due to Bloom and his Taxonomy of Educational
Objectives (1956), Brislin and Yoshida state that they take it from counselling (1994: 26). Whatever its origin and the terms adopted to indicate each
component,6 this tripartite distinction is undoubtedly the most productive
in the development of IC models both within intercultural communication and training (Samovar, Porter 2004; Spitzberg 2000; Chen, Starosta
1996; Deardorff 2006) and within IFLE (Byram 1997; Fantini 2000).
What is totally new in Brislin and Yoshidas model, however, is that
such components are intended sequentially as part of a four-step approach
marking the progression of a hypothetical training course.
Equally relevant are the operational proposals put forward by the
model for promoting IC. Their interest lies in the fact that the suggested
activities, games and exercises are tailored to each specific component/step
of the theorized teaching process.
2.2 Bennett 1993
Bennetts Developmental Model of Intercultural Sensitivity, first formulated in 1986, aims to explain how individuals respond to cultural differences and, at the same time, to design teaching activities in agreement with
typical learning patterns.
His model consists of six stages grouped into three ethnocentric and
three ethnorelative stages, which the individual goes through in the development of his/her intercultural sensitivity:

While the cognitive component is almost universally called knowledge, more controversial is the definition of the affective component, referred to as emotions,
attitudes or motivation by different authors and within different models. Outright
chaotic is the case of the behavioural component, which is nonetheless associated
with a set of skills in most cases.

Pursuing Intercultural and Communicative Goals in the Language Classroom 341


1. Denial
A. Isolation
B. Separation
2. Defence
A. Denigration
B. Superiority
C. Reversal
3. Minimization
A. Physical Universalism
B. Transcendent Universalism
4. Acceptance
A. Respect for Behavioural Difference
B. Respect for Value Difference
5. Adaptation
A. Empathy
B. Pluralism
6. Integration
A. Contextual Evaluation
B. Constructive Marginality
Bennett 1993: 29
Bennetts developmental model is one of the rare attempts to identify the learning processes involved in IC acquisition. The classification of
the process into stages appears as over-rigid since the acquisition of cultural sensitivity is described as a sequence of successive steps culminating
ideally in the multicultural man (Adler 1974) or, in less optimistic and


Claudia Borghetti

more postmodern terms, in different forms of multiple or hybrid identity.

However, Bennetts model is relatively adaptable and allows for a degree of
flexibility as it acknowledges that, under peculiar circumstances, a learners
progress can come to a halt or even regress (Bennett 1993: 27).
From a developmental perspective, another important aspect of
Bennetts model (especially in consideration of other models) is that the
different stages in the acquisition of intercultural sensitivity develop sequentially following the successive acquisition of the cognitive, affective and
behavioural components. The progression described by the model is such
that the cognitive and affective components alternate during the ethnocentric stages and start to integrate with each other and with the behavioural
component only in the acceptance stage, becoming fully assimilated and
synergetic only in the final stage of constructive marginality (last stage
of the integration phase). Stating that the multidimensional nature of
the model does not require a clear-cut distinction of the three functions,
Bennett does not provide further details about their interaction (1993: 26)
and mentions it only sporadically and marginally in his otherwise detailed
account of the six developmental stages.
The model is not articulated around intercultural objectives and makes
no mention of foreign languages; yet, it is quite relevant for the third
research question outlined above, since it links every stage of intercultural
sensitivity development with the teaching activities which most suitably
stimulate it. In this sense, Bennetts attempt is very similar to Brislin and
Yoshidas. The main difference between the two lies in that Bennetts teaching activities are proposed based on the postulated developmental stages
rather than on the IC components.
2.3 Balboni 2006
Unlike the two previous examples, Balbonis model of Intercultural Communication Competence addresses foreign language teaching contexts.
This is evident also in the fact that, along with cultural objectives, careful

Pursuing Intercultural and Communicative Goals in the Language Classroom 343

consideration is given to verbal and non-verbal objectives.7 However, as is

shown in Figure 5, cultural and communicative objectives are only placed
side by side and the relation between them is not further clarified. What
is definitely noteworthy, however, is that besides the cultural and linguistic dimensions which are central to the competence a further contextual dimension is defined,8 which allows the move from competence
to performance.


Verbal and nonverbal codes used to


cultural values
which influence

communicative events

Figure 5 Balbonis Model of Intercultural Communication Competence

(Balboni 2006: 15)


In fact, numerous other models originating in different contexts (e.g. Samovar, Porter
2004) emphasize the importance of linguistic, paralinguistic and extra-linguistic
issues in intercultural interaction.
While lying on different conceptual foundations, this intuition is not too distant
from Spitzbergs (2000).


Claudia Borghetti

After a description of the different components of Intercultural communication competence, a list is proposed of elements which, within each
component, may prove crucial to intercultural communication and to the
definition of pedagogical objectives. With the exception of verbal and nonverbal codes which constitute closed systems, i.e. no further elements can
or need be added (2006: 17), the other components can only be described
through examples, since they are open systems subject to constant integrations and modifications.
As far as the second research question is concerned, in Balbonis model
language is intended exclusively in terms of languaculture and not of
discourse9. In other words, the framework focuses on language intended
exclusively as a whole made up of (verbal, non-verbal, socio-linguistic and
pragmatic) factors that may negatively affect intercultural communication. It is indeed self-evident that this approach limits the educational
value of language teaching since it excludes all the cultural aspects that
are not encoded into languages (such as cultural habits, values, attitudes
and so on).
2.4 Gaston 2005
Formulated in its first version in 1984, Gastons model is shaped around the
needs of ESL teaching settings. With its roots in the North American tradition of multicultural education, the model has nonetheless had significant
impact in foreign language teaching also in Europe (Camilleri 2002).
The focal point of the model is the notion of cultural awareness
defined as the recognition that culture affects perception and that culture influences values, attitudes and behavior (Gaston 2005: 2). Based
on this definition, Gastons cultural (or intercultural) awareness should

The cultural view of language [] may be said to comprise two levels: the level of
languaculture, bound to specific languages, and the level of discourse, not necessarily bound to any one language since discourse is primarily defined in relation to its
content and deals with a certain subject matter from a certain perspective (Risager
2007: 1734).

Pursuing Intercultural and Communicative Goals in the Language Classroom 345

not be included in this review since it lacks all the affective, cognitive and
behavioural factors defining IC. However, careful consideration suggests
that this special instance of cultural awareness can be assimilated to the
wider notion of IC thanks to the role it accords to skills. After defining
four stages in the acquisition of cultural awareness, the author links each
of the stages to the development of a different skill. Since such skills are
the result (both potential and actual) of the interaction between affective
and cognitive factors, Gastons cultural awareness indirectly displays all
the components usually identified within IC:
Skill: Non-judgemental observation
Skill: Coping with ambiguity
Skill: Ability to empathize
Skill: Ability to respect

Gaston 2005: 35

As in Bennetts work, the processes hypothesized for IC acquisition become

the starting point for defining different stages of pedagogical practice.
What distinguishes Gastons model from Bennetts Developmental Model
of Intercultural Sensitivity is that here each pedagogical stage is designed
around a macro-objective (i.e. one of the four skills). This is in turn articulated into more specific and detailed objectives, which are accurately
described at the beginning of each suggested teaching activity.
The relevance of Gastons model lies precisely in the fact that its theoretical framework is preparatory for the design of an analytical pedagogical
plan made up of twenty teaching activities. These are divided into four
units of five activities each, which correspond to the proposed four stages
involved in the acquisition/teaching of cultural awareness.


Claudia Borghetti

As far as foreign languages are concerned, these are not given a significant role in the conceptual model or in the teaching activities. The
model simply ignores the role language may play in either hindering or
promoting the development of the competence. The teaching techniques
address linguistic aspects only when dealing with text comprehension and
production in a target language, but do not consider the cultural values of
language and do not use language for communicative ends.
2.5 Kramsch 1993, 1998a
First formulated in 1993 and slightly revised a few years later (1998a), Kramschs model is developed within IFLE. The framework aims at promoting
cross-cultural understanding and is founded on a notion ofculture which
can be summed up as follows:
Culture is difference. Hence, national traits are but one of the many
aspects of a persons culture (1993: 206);
Culture is an interpersonal process of meaning construction (1998a:
17). Since culture emerges dynamically from the interaction among
individuals (1993: 30), context and dialogue are key notions in crosscultural education;
Culture (whether of the Self or of Others) is the complex result of
the interaction between cultural reality and imagination. The latter,
no less real than the former, is a social product, hence, the teaching
of culture is all the more difficult as imagination and reality both
contradict and reinforce one another (1998a: 19).
Based on these premises,10 Kramsch sums up her theory claiming that,
when two individuals interact, the cultural context that they construct
through their dialogue is shaped not only by the objective reality of their
10 Implicitly underlying Kramschs premises is the notion of identity as a multiple,
unstable, and relative construct. Interesting analogies are found between Kramschs
definition of culture and that proposed by Chen and Starosta, who state that culture is a set of preferences and possibilities that inform, rather than determine, given

Pursuing Intercultural and Communicative Goals in the Language Classroom 347

respective cultures (C1 and C2), but also (and to a greater extent) by the
self-perception each one of them has of their own native culture (C1 and
C2) and by the perception they have of the cultural group of the Other
(C1 and C2). Moreover, very often the heterostereotype (C1) is linked
to the autostereotype (C1) more than to the foreign cultural reality (C2)
(1993: 208).
The model here illustrated intends to guide the language teacher
through such an entangled web of perceptions to the development of a
third perspective that would enable learners to take both an insiders and
an outsiders view on C1 and C2 (1993: 210). The framework proposes
a four-stage (or macro-objective) approach through which students are
guided to the creation of a third place. The four stages are:
1. Construct with the foreign learners their own context of reception,
i.e. find an equivalent phenomenon in IC and construct that IC phenomenon with its network of meanings (C1, C1).
2. Reconstruct the context of production and reception of the text within
the foreign culture (C2, C2).
3. Examine the way in which C1 e C2 contexts in part determine C1
e C2, i.e. the way each culture sees the other.
4. Lay the ground for a dialogue that could lead to change.
Kramsch, 1993: 21011
The role assigned to the foreign language is of extreme interest. Kramsch
considers culture as a feature of language (1993: 8). In other words, culture
plays a role within IFLE only because language is a social practice and, as
such, it needs to be understood in its cultural meanings. Unfortunately,
the model itself does not reflect this strong stand and keeps the lid on the
possible role of the mother tongue and foreign language in cross-cultural


interactions. Communicators both shape and are shaped by these familiar meanings (1996: 359).
The content of this quotation is taken from Kramsch (1993: 210), but Stage 1 and 2
are inverted following Kramsch (1998a: 256).


Claudia Borghetti

In terms of the third research question, Kramsch proposes a few communicative teaching activities enriched with a contrastive cultural dimension (Ibid.: 22931). However, the suggested activities are only generically
tailored around the four stages envisaged by the model and very limited
detail is provided as to the specific actions to be taken for achieving the
objectives delineated in each stage.
2.6 Seelye 1994
Seelyes model also has a strong educational focus, as evidenced by its articulation into teaching objectives or instructional goals. In the authors own
Goal 1 Interest: The student shows curiosity about another culture
(or another segment or subculture of ones own culture) and empathy
towards its members.
Goal 2 Who: The student recognizes the role expectation and
other social variables such as age, sex, social class, religion, ethnicity,
and place of residence affect the way people speak and behave.
Goal 3 What: The student realizes that effective communication
requires discovering the culturally conditioned images that are evoked
in the minds of people when they think, act, and react to the world
around them.
Goal 4 Where and When: The student recognizes the situational
variables and convention shape behaviour in important ways.
Goal 5 Why: The student understands that people act the way they
do because they are using options their society allows for satisfying
basic physical and psychological needs, and that cultural patterns are
interrelated and tend to support need satisfaction.
Goal 6 Exploration: The student can evaluate a generalization
about the target culture in terms of the amount of terms substantiating it, and ha s the skills needed to locate and organize information
about the target culture from the library, the mass media, people, and
personal observation.
Seelye 1994: 31

Pursuing Intercultural and Communicative Goals in the Language Classroom 349

When the first version of the model made its appearance in 1974,
it was presented as a pioneering attempt to renew cultural pedagogy by
adopting a wider, anthropological notion of culture. In spite of this, Seelyes proposals appear dated today, especially since they consider diversity
merely in terms of nationality (Risager 2007: 43).
As for the role of foreign languages, there is no mention of any analysis of the relationship between the two linguistic oriented goals12 and the
other goals, i.e. there is no analysis of the relationship between teaching
language and teaching culture (Ibid.: 45). However, while this is true
of the objectives set forth by the theoretical model, the same cannot be
said of the sections devoted to the teaching activities, as most of them set
out with the analysis of dialogues, situations, adverts, etc. in the foreign
language. Moreover, language itself is used as a cultural phenomenon to
provide the necessary context and, occasionally, illustrate the cultural issues
in discussion.
With the exception ofByrams proposal, what distinguishes this model
from all the others is that it explicitly illustrates ad-hoc teaching and assessment methods for each educational goal and its corresponding pedagogical
objectives. Methodological suggestions, most of which are used to introduce
precise teaching activities, are present and are inextricably linked to the
specific objective for which they are devised. As a result, while the proposed
activities have inherent weaknesses because they are dated and often rely
on audacious generalizations, their definition in close correspondence with
the educational objectives is of undoubted relevance.
2.7 Byram 1997
Byrams Intercultural Communicative Model, the most famous in IFLE,
is described in terms of five components: Attitudes, Knowledge, Skills
of interpreting and relating, Skills of discovering and interacting and
Critical cultural awareness (Byram, 2008: 230). The definition of each of
the components leads to the identification of general and specific teaching


The second and the third goals.


Claudia Borghetti

objectives (Byram 1997: 5670) and corresponding assessment criteria

(Ibid.: 87111). Indeed, Byram follows Seelyes example in expressing the
competence through a set of teaching objectives; however, while Seelye
only identified general objectives with no preliminary theoretical analysis
of the competence, Byram provides precise definitions of the IC components so that teachers can more easily and autonomously translate them
into teaching practice.
The most original contribution of Byrams model, however, is the idea
that intercultural and communicative objectives should be thought of and
treated separately. In particular, Byram distinguishes between intercultural competence and intercultural communicative competence: in the
former case individuals have the ability to interact in their own language
with people from another culture; in the latter case, while interacting, they
also put into practice their linguistic, socio-linguistic and discourse competences in the foreign language. As a consequence, rightly pointed out
by Risager, Byram emphasizes that the five savoirs are not just minted for
the person who acquires/learns a foreign language (or second language).
Everyone, including monolinguals, can and ought to develop their intercultural competence (2007: 225).
In terms of pedagogical proposals, Byram (1997) remains deliberately
vague13 and offers only very general guidelines for the evaluation of the
educational setting. Such evaluation can then be the starting point for
defining the objectives, the order in which they should be pursued, as well
as appropriate assessment methods.
2.8 Fantini 1997, 2000
Fantini has devoted two different models to IC which, unfortunately, are
unrelated to each other. For a detailed discussion, I will start by illustrating
the authors theoretical treatment of IC (2000) and will then proceed to
reviewing his 1997 methodological proposals.

More detailed methodological and operational proposals can be found in Byram,

Morgan (1994) and Byram, Zarate (1995).

Pursuing Intercultural and Communicative Goals in the Language Classroom 351

In the 2000 model, IC is described in terms of awareness, attitudes,

skills and knowledge (A+ASK), and is a reinterpretation of the tripartite
taxonomy (affective, cognitive, and psychomotor) proposed by Bloom for
the definition of his educational objectives (1956). Fantini adds the notion
of awareness as a superordinate component to the other three. This model
is purely descriptive and simply aims at describing the dimensions interacting within IC, with no pedagogic end in mind.
On the other hand, the second model, called the Process Approach
(PA) Framework, is a useful device which language teachers can use to
develop intercultural course syllabi. It is a seven-stage framework suggesting appropriate activities for each teaching stage:
1. Presentation of new material;
2. Practice of new material within a limited and controlled context;
3. Explanation or elucidation of the grammar rules behind the material,
where necessary or useful [];
4. Transposition and use of new material (in accumulation with other
materials previously learned by the students) into freer, less controlled
contexts and more spontaneous conversation;
5. Sociolinguistic exploration of the interrelationships of social context
and language use, emphasizing the appropriateness of specific language
styles (as opposed to grammaticality) [];
6. Culture exploration for determining appropriate strategies and behaviours, while also learning about values, beliefs, customs, and so on of
the target culture [];
7. Intercultural exploration for comparing and contrasting the target
culture with the students native culture [].
Fantini 1997: 401
The interest of this model lies in its aim as the proposed activities link
intercultural and linguistic objectives. However, its validity is seriously
challenged by the lack of reference to the IC components described in
the theoretical model. As a consequence, the model cannot rely on a solid
theoretical basis to justify and support the methodological proposals put


Claudia Borghetti

As far as the second research question is concerned, while foreign

language teaching is given a crucial role in the methodological model,
the relationship between IC and foreign language proficiency is considerably less clear in the theoretical framework. Like in Byrams model, IC
and foreign language proficiency are kept separate. The difference is that
Fantini does not take a stand on this topic and language is only seen as an
appendage of intercultural competence: in this construct of ICC, there
are [] five dimensions. These are awareness, attitudes, skills, knowledge
(A+ASK), and proficiency in the host tongue (2000: 28).

3 Discussion
The review offered so far has highlighted a number of aspects of interest for moving from theoretical descriptions of IC to their pedagogical
implementation in the foreign language classroom. In what follows, these
aspects are discussed in more detail based on the three research questions
which have guided the review of the models.
Table 24 A Summary of the Analysis

Relation with


Samovar, Porter 2004




Spitzberg 2000




Chen, Starosta 1996




Deardorff 2006




In relation to IC


In relation to intercultural objectives*

Brislin, Yoshida 1994

Pursuing Intercultural and Communicative Goals in the Language Classroom 353

Bennett 1993



In relation to developmental stages*

Balboni 2006

In relation to IC

Just placed side

by side


Gaston 2005

In relation to IC


In relation to developmental stages

Kramsch 1993, 1998a

In relation to IC

In activities

Activities. Not
linked to specific

Seelye 1994

In relation to IC

Just placed side by

side + in activities

General suggestions.
In relation to intercultural objectives

Byram 1997

In relation to IC There is not always

a relationship

Fantini 1997, 2000

In relation to IC

Just placed side by

side + in activities

In relation to
teaching stages

3.1 Intercultural objectives

Most of the models considered mention intercultural objectives. This is
encouraging for the aims ofthis study, since, as indicated by Byram, articulating a framework in terms of objectives implies a refinement ofthe definitions
[] and a step towards describing teaching and assessment (1997: 50).
The analysis shows that three categories of IC models can be identified based on the criteria they use to define intercultural objectives: first
are the models which link intercultural objectives directly to the different
stages of IC acquisition (Gaston 2005); second, those which shape the
objectives around the teaching process, whether generically (Seelye 1994)
or through a detailed sequencing of teaching actions (Kramsch 1993, 1998a;
Fantini 1997); lastly, the models which derive their pedagogical objectives
from the different IC components (Brislin, Yoshida 1994; Balboni 2006;
Byram 1997).


Claudia Borghetti

Ideally, the most interesting of these categories would be the first one,
which derives intercultural objectives directly from the learning processes
involved in IC acquisition. The undoubted advantage is that this could
allow teaching practices to be based directly on learning theories. However,
since little is currently known about IC acquisition at the individual level,14
attempts of this kind risk generating a great number of developmental
models lacking solid theoretical foundations. An even weaker theoretical
basis is found in the second category, where teaching processes are designed
without any further investigation on the nature of IC. In this respect, the
third category seems to be the most convincing, since its models explore the
nature of IC components to provide their educational objectives with solid
theoretical foundations. Their main strength lies in that their descriptions
are based on recognized research in social and cognitive psychology.
3.2 Communicative objectives
The second research question is the one which has yielded the poorest
results. The few models (five out of twelve) which mention the foreign
language do not specify how this is linked to IC, neither in terms of their
acquisition nor in terms of teaching practice.
As far as acquisition is concerned, the lack of relevant models can be
ascribed to the difficulty in finding empirical evidence of the factors that
promote or hinder IC acquisition and, consequently, of how this is linked to
second language acquisition. While not fully addressing the issue, Byrams
model is the only one which considers the need to define the relationship
between intercultural and communicative objectives. The author indirectly
postulates their relative independence by suggesting that the relationship
between Intercultural Competence and Intercultural Communicative
Competence is one of degrees of complexity (1997: 71). In other words,
intercultural development and language acquisition do not seem to affect
each other in significant ways.

See for example: Lantolf (1999), Pavlenko, Lantolf (2000).

Pursuing Intercultural and Communicative Goals in the Language Classroom 355

The models which adopt an applied approach and tackle this issue
from a pedagogical standpoint prove similarly elusive: whether they place
intercultural and linguistic objectives side by side (Balboni 2006) or they
give them a more organic treatment (Kramsch 1993; Seelye 1994; Fantini
1997), no theoretical or operational justification seems to support them.
This negligence and lack of appropriate research efforts is all the more
significant if we consider that the question of how to integrate these two
kinds of objectives is crucial for the future of IFLE, where teaching a foreign language obviously remains a priority.
3.3 Methodological proposals
Interestingly, most of the IC models taken into considerations put forward
operational proposals of some sort.
At a closer look, however, it becomes clear that all of them, with the
partial exception of Seelyes one, present teaching activities instead of proper
methodological principles. This could be thought of as a limit since the
latter would offer to language teachers viable and theoretically founded
guidelines in order to devise the activities that better match their own
teaching context.
However, results concerning the third research question are quite
interesting for the variety of the solutions offered by the models for connecting pedagogical practices to conceptual principles. Every framework
develops teaching activities in a different way, although always in agreement
with the specific conceptual principles it is based on: intercultural objectives (Brislin, Yoshida 1994; Seelye 1994), teaching stages (Fantini 1997) or
developmental stages of IC acquisition (Bennett 1993; Gaston 2005). As
a consequence, the theoretical weaknesses emerged from the first research
question are found again here, although from a different perspective.


Claudia Borghetti

4 Conclusions
The study here presented has allowed the identification of specific features a model should have to become, as well as a theoretical construct, an
invaluable source of teaching behaviours, which can guide foreign language
teachers in their work. The mere fact that most of the frameworks considered offer teaching suggestions alongside theoretical principles shows
the validity of the route undertaken by this study. In other words, it is a
worthwhile endeavour to look to create a model of IC which describes
the competence in terms of components, relations among components,
educational goals and pedagogical objectives, while offering instructions
as to how to translate these into methodological choices related to course
planning, material development, activities and procedures.
The study presented here offers useful indications for the creation of
such a methodological model of IC.15
First of all, solid theoretical foundations are needed to define IC in
terms of its constituent components. In this respect, although most IC
experts and researchers agree that the development of the competence is
essentially unpredictable, invaluable input could come from relating the IC
model to hypotheses about the learning processes involved in IC acquisition. More generally, the model should place the utmost emphasis on the
definition of teaching objectives since they may provide an essential link
between theory and teaching practice. In this respect, a valuable solution
suggested by the present research is to define linguistic and intercultural
objectives around IC components.
Moreover, the model should address the delicate and unresolved issue
of the relationship between intercultural and communicative objectives,
both in terms of acquisition and of pedagogical applications. Such an
issue, perhaps less prominent in general educational contexts, is of primary
importance for intercultural foreign language education, where a lack of
integrating intercultural objectives with existing linguistic objectives on
the theoretical terrain might be a reason why intercultural competence is
not regularly pursued in foreign language classrooms.

An attempt can be found in Borghetti (2011).

Pursuing Intercultural and Communicative Goals in the Language Classroom 357

Finally, this study has highlighted the necessity for such a model to
offer a classification of methodological directions which, unlike detail
collections of pre-set activities, foreign language teachers can adopt to
prepare their courses and conceive original educational pathways in line
with both the goals of intercultural foreign language education and the
specific teaching context they work in.

Adler, P. (1974). Beyond Cultural Identity: Reflection upon Cultural and Multicultural Man, Topics in Culture Learning 2, 2341.
Balboni, P.E. (2006). Intercultural Communicative Competence: A Mode.l Perugia:
Bennett, M.J. (1993). Towards Ethnorelativism: A Developmental Model of Intercultural Sensitivity. In Paige, R.M. (ed.), Education for the Intercultural Experience,
2171. Yarmouth, ME: Intercultural Press.
Bloom, B.S. (1956). Taxonomy of Educational Objectives. New York: David McKay.
Borghetti, C. (2011). How to Teach it? Proposal for a Methodological Model of
Intercultural Competence. In Witte, A. and Harden, T. (eds), Intercultural
Competence: Concepts, Challenges, Evaluations, 14160. Oxford: Peter Lang.
Borghetti, C. (2008). Un Modello Metodologico per lInsegnamento Interculturale della
Lingua Straniera. Dalla Pratica Didattica alla Generazione Teorica. PhD thesis.
National University of Ireland, Galway.
Brislin, R.W. and Yoshida, T. (1994). Intercultural Communication Training: An
Introduction. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
Byram, M. (1989). Cultural Studies in Foreign Language Education. Clevedon: Multilingual Matters.
Byram, M. and Zarate, G. (1994). Definitions, Objectives and Assessment of SocioCultural Competence. Strasbourg: Council of Europe.
Byram, M. (2009). Evaluation and/or Assessment ofIntercultural Competence. In Hu,
A. and Byram, M. (eds), Intercultural Competence and Foreign Language Learning: Models, Empiricism, Assessment, 21534. Berlin: Gunter Narr Verlag.
Byram, M. (2008). From Foreign Language Education to Education for Intercultural
Citizenship. Essays and Reflections. Clevedon: Multilingual Matters.
Byram, M. (1997). Teaching and Assessing Intercultural Communicative Competence.
Clevedon: Multilingual Matters.


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Byram, M. and Morgan, C. (1994). Teaching-and-Learning Language-and-Culture.

Clevedon: Multilingual Matters.
Byram, M. and Zarate, G. (1995). Young People Facing Difference: Some Proposal for
Teachers. Strasbourg: Council of Europe.
Camilleri, G.A. (2002). How Strange! The Use of Anecdotes in the Development of
Intercultural Competence. Graz: Council of Europe.
Chen, G.and Starosta, W.J. (1996). Intercultural Communicative Competence: A
Synthesis, Communication Yearbook, 19, 35383.
Deardorff, D.K. (2006). Identification and Assessment of Intercultural Competence
as a Student Outcome of Internalization, Journal of Studies in International
Education 10(3), 24166.
Fantini, A.E. (2000). A Central Concern: Developing Intercultural Competence.
In SIT Occasional Paper Series 2542. Brattleboro, VT, <http://test.sit.edu/
publications/docs/competence.pdf> accessed 4 January 2011.
Fantini, A.E. (1997). Developing Intercultural Competence: A Process Approach
Framework. In Fantini, A.E. (ed.), New Ways in Teaching Culture, 404. Alexandria, VA: TESOL.
Gardner, G.H. (1962). Cross Cultural Communication, The Journal of Social Psychology, 58, 24156.
Gaston, J. (2005). Cultural Awareness Teaching Techniques. Maine: Pro Lingua
Hoselitz, B.F. (1954). Problems of Adapting and Communicating Modern Techniques to Less Developed Areas, Economic Development and Cultural Change
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and Knapp-Potthoff, A. (eds), Analysing Intercultural Communication 113.
Berlin: Walter de Gruyter.
Kramsch, C. (1993). Context and Culture in Language Teaching. Oxford: Oxford
University Press.
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C.A., Paige, M.R. and Yershova, Y.A. (eds), Culture as the Core: Interdisciplinary
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Part Five

Autonomous Learning and the Portfolio

Encarnacin Atienza and M. Vicenta Gonzlez Argello

El portafolio de formacin desde el punto

de visa del formando

1 Introduccin
En el contexto educativo actual, se entiende por competencia docente el
conjunto de conocimientos del profesorado sobre la materia que imparte
junto con el desarrollo de habilidades docentes, comunicativas, profesionales, interculturales y de autoformacin, adems de una actitud de
respeto hacia los estudiantes, haca s mismo y hacia la institucin en la
que trabaja.
Es cierto que, para poder alcanzar el nivel ptimo de formacin en
cuanto a contenidos sobre la materia que imparte, el profesor se vale de la
formacin terico-prctica a travs de la formacin recibida en los centros
universitarios. Sin embargo, para saber ms de su propia actitud, o potenciar aspectos positivos de su accin docente con ese tipo de formacin no
le es suficiente; para alcanzar dichos objetivos es conveniente partir de la
observacin, la reflexin, la introspeccin y, por ltimo, la autoevaluacin.
En la formacin inicial del profesorado se han de incorporar metodologas
didcticas que faciliten el desarrollo de la competencia reflexiva con el fin
de que estos puedan introducir la reflexin como un elemento ms de su
prctica docente. En este trabajo se propone el portafolio docente como
la herramienta que puede ayudar al profesor en formacin a encaminar
ese proceso de toma de conciencia sobre su propia evolucin que le ha de
proporcionar cambios significativos en su prctica docente.


Encarnacin Atienza and M. Vicenta Gonzlez Argello

El objetivo de este estudio es, pues, caracterizar las ventajas e inconvenientes que reporta el empleo del portafolio como herramienta formativa
para sus usuarios, profesores en formacin.

2 Corpus; Objeto de Estudio

En este artculo se presenta un estudio exploratorio de diferentes tipos de
portafolios con el fin de extraer las categoras que se aplicarn, en trabajos
futuros, a la totalidad de los datos manejados.
Se ha procedido de este modo por trabajar con portafolios de diferente procedencia, lo que no nos permite asegurar que sus caractersticas
sean totalmente coincidentes; aunque por la experiencia de varios cursos
tutorizando portafolios s se intuye que la mayora de sus rasgos, en cuanto
a las ventajas y los inconvenientes que los portafolios presentan como
herramienta de formacin, sern comunes a muchos de ellos.
Por un lado, contamos con un total de 90 portafolios del Mster de
formacin de profesores de ELE IL3 Universitat de Barcelona (desde el
curso 20032004); adems, 300 Portafolios de lenguas de futuros maestros,
de la Universidad de Barcelona (desde el curso 20042005). Otra fuente de
datos ha sido el Portafolio Reflexivo del Profesor (Pujol y Gonzlez 2008)
de ahora en adelante PRP . Dicho portafolio, nace con la idea de apoyar
la formacin continua, de forma autnoma, a profesores de espaol como
lengua extranjera <http://www.prpele.wordpress.com>.
Por tanto, como se aprecia en la tabla (25), el nmero total del corpus
es amplio y variado en su procedencia: futuros docentes en formacin
inicial, docentes en formacin de tercer ciclo y docentes no vinculados a
cursos reglados pero con experiencia docente.


El portafolio de formacin desde el punto de visa del formando

Tabla 25 Corpus de anlisis
Tipo de Portafolio


Nmero de portafolios

Portafolio de futuros profesores en

formacin inicial

Universidad de


Portafolio de formacin de profesores de ELE

IL3, Universidad
de Barcelona


Portafolio Reflexivo del Profesor

(profesores con experiencia).

Blogs pblicos


3 Fundamentacin Terica
Los portafolios cuentan con una historia de peso en otras profesiones, y
en cursos de redaccin para uso de los estudiantes. Sin embargo, los portafolios se popularizaron en la carrera del magisterio en la dcada de los
ochenta (Lyons 1999) al dar cabida a las distintas formas en que el profesor
reflexiona sobre su enseanza con el fin de descubrir su propia identidad
como docente y transformarla en aquellos aspectos que considere pertinentes. Es esta la cualidad distintiva del portafolio de formacin, la reflexin
al servicio de la toma de conciencia de la propia competencia docente y la
disposicin al cambio, a la transformacin.
El portafolio de formacin puede ser definido como una carpeta
docente que recoge una seleccin de materiales, llamadas muestras o evidencias, con la intencin de dar cuenta del aprendizaje realizado en un
proceso de formacin, reflexionar sobre ello y evaluar la transformacin
efectuada, sobre todo en el sistema de creencias sobre el proceso de ensear aprender.
La reflexin promovida en el portafolio se concibe como el proceso que
lleva a su autor a examinar sus propios valores y creencias sobre la enseanza
y el aprendizaje de lenguas, con el fin de que pueda asumir ms responsabilidad sobre sus actuaciones docentes (Korthagen 2001, Farrell 2004).


Encarnacin Atienza and M. Vicenta Gonzlez Argello

4 Marco Terico en el que se Inscribe el Portafolio Docente

Se debe a Lewin (1946) la acuacin del trmino investigacin accin,
para describir un sistema de investigacin que liga el enfoque experimental de la ciencia social con programas de accin social que respondan a
problemas concretos. Este concepto pasa al mbito de la educacin de
la mano de Stenhouse (1984). As pues, la investigacin en la accin propugna que el docente pueda llevar a cabo una investigacin sistemtica
sobre su propia accin educativa con el objetivo de mejorarla. Desde esta
ptica, el docente es investigador y observador. En tanto que investigador,
se plantea un problema que observar y resolver en su accin pedaggica;
propone acciones que l observa en su quehacer pedaggico y las analiza
para resolver el problema planteado. El portafolio de formacin se nutre
de este planteamiento epistemolgico y metodolgico, pero se alimenta
tambin de los presupuestos tericos de la prctica reflexiva, heredera de
los enfoques metodolgicos de la investigacin en la accin.
Schn (1987), en su teora de la prctica reflexiva, construye la figura
de un docente que reflexiona sobre su prctica de enseanza con el fin de
transformarla, y considerando que la investigacin est al servicio de la
docencia. Esta premisa es la clave desde la que debe entenderse el apogeo
del portafolio como instrumento de formacin. Se aboga por un docente
reflexivo que desde la docencia indague en las teoras existentes para aplicarlas a la problemtica observada, por lo que se rompe la relacin vertical
entre teora y prctica. Esta forma de concebir al docente lo capacita, como
ya haba propugnado la investigacin en la accin, para identificar sus
problemas o dificultades profesionales y reflexionar sobre ellos. Es de este
modo que el docente es el verdadero protagonista de la creacin de conocimiento y es quien, mediante la reflexin sobre la prctica, puede crear y
construir, especialmente si lo hace en colaboracin con otros colegas, ese
conocimiento pedaggico (Cano 2005).
Por otra parte, la visin que subyace del docente est acorde con una
concepcin de la enseanza centrada en los procesos cognitivos, en el papel
activo de los protagonistas del proceso de enseanza aprendizaje en la

El portafolio de formacin desde el punto de visa del formando


construccin de conocimiento, en la concepcin de la evaluacin como un

instrumento formativo y de mejora. Asimismo, con el portafolio se construyen aprendizajes significativos en tanto que enlazan sustantivamente con los
conocimientos previos del docente. Adems, se pueden elaborar procesos
de andamiaje, pues el portafolio permite la existencia de un mentor que
gue el proceso de construccin de ese nuevo conocimiento (Cano 2005).
Asimismo, la herramienta fundamental para abordar el portafolio es
la escritura, por lo que cognitivamente, el portafolio es heredero de una
concepcin de la escritura como formativa, heurstica y epistmica. El ser
humano emplea el lenguaje para construir conocimiento en su funcin
dialctica, esto es, en el proceso de composicin que le lleva a materializar una idea. Quiere esto decir que la escritura tiene un importante papel
formativo en la creacin de conocimiento, por lo que puede afirmarse que
texto y conocimiento establecen una relacin de doble direccin (Beugrande
1984). Es en el proceso de composicin llevado a cabo por el escritor donde
puede hablarse de funcin formativa de la escritura y esto es lo que propugna
el portafolio como herramienta bsica de formacin. La escritura se convierte, por cuanto tiene de funcin heurstica y epistmica, en el utensilio
ms eficaz para alcanzar lo propugnado: dibujar la propia identidad como
docente, reflexionar sobre ello y construir conocimiento.
Por ltimo, el portafolio se alimenta tambin de investigaciones en
torno a creencias, representaciones o el concepto mismo de currculo oculto.
As, debe relacionarse con el apogeo de las historias de vida, cuyo fin es
permitir a los docentes comprender la incidencia que valores y creencias
tienen en la interpretacin de sus situaciones educativas (Vargas 2008).
En cualquier caso, el portafolio del docente puede considerarse desde
tres puntos de vista:
a) Como conjunto de documentos y datos o credencial que convalidan
la propia autoridad docente, como un modo de evaluacin docente,
mediante un conjunto de criterios y se lo considera responsable o no
para estar al frente de una clase.
b) Como un conjunto de premisas sobre la enseanza aprendizaje.
c) Como la posibilidad de realizar una experiencia de aprendizaje genuina
y reflexiva. El portafolio como andamiaje para una formacin docente


Encarnacin Atienza and M. Vicenta Gonzlez Argello

reflexiva. En lugar de exhibir ttulos y diplomas, el docente se sita en

el centro de su proceso de enseanza aprendizaje, y desde ah define y
defiende la autoridad de un ttulo. Es esta funcin formativa del portafolio la que nos interesa en este artculo y en la que nos centraremos.

5 La Estructura del Portafolio

El portafolio docente no tiene una estructura preconfigurada como
pudiera tener el portafolio para la enseanza de lenguas. Sin embargo,
para ser considerado como tal deber, al menos, tener dos componentes
1. Muestras o evidencias de enseanza o aprendizaje
2. Una reflexin sobre lo que dicha muestra supone para el profesor, en
su concepcin de la enseanza aprendizaje.
Los portafolios con los que estamos ms familiarizados incluyen la
siguiente estructura:
1. Punto de partida: incluye el estado del profesor al inicio de elaboracin
del portafolio y los objetivos que se propone alcanzar.
2. Muestras o evidencias del proceso que se lleva a cabo.
3. Reflexin sobre las muestras.
4. Documento final: se escribe en el momento en que se decide que se
ha alcanzado el objetivo o para hacer pblico el documento para su
discusin o evaluacin.

El portafolio de formacin desde el punto de visa del formando


6 Qu son las Muestras o Evidencias?

Pueden considerarse muestras de un portafolio los planes de clase preparados por el profesor, las actividades de enseanza llevadas a cabo, las
lecturas especializadas para ampliar informacin sobre aspectos concretos de su profesin, notas de seminarios o congresos, programaciones de
cursos, actas de reuniones entre colegas, resultados de aprendizaje de sus
estudiantes, etc.

7 Qu se Entiende por Reflexin?

La reflexin propugnada desde el paradigma en que se entiende el portafolio no es esttica, sino que implica una accin y un cambio. Para Dewey
(1938), el pensamiento reflexivo comprende, en un primer momento, un
estado de duda, vacilacin, perplejidad, dificultad mental, en el que se origina el pensamiento; a continuacin, un acto de bsqueda, de pesquisa,
investigacin, para encontrar material que disipe la duda, resuelva y ponga
fin a la perplejidad.
El portafolio se considera la herramienta que permite potenciar una
reflexin activa a partir de las actuaciones e ideas propias, por lo que el
docente ha de ser capaz de indagar en sus propias ideas para encontrar la
razn que justifique o censure su actuacin, y de este modo actuar en consecuencia, reajustando y transformndola. Es al explicitar y verbalizar esas
relaciones cuando se inicia el proceso de reflexin que permite explicarse
a s mismo y a los dems la razn de lo que son sus prcticas en el aula. La
reflexin se proyecta, pues, hacia atrs y hacia adelante: hacia atrs, entretejiendo el conocimiento de lo aprendido; y hacia adelante, a travs de una
nueva conciencia de las propias metas y propsitos para la enseanza y el
aprendizaje de los estudiantes. La esencia de la reflexin est presente en
diversos momentos del portafolio, como en el apartado siguiente se ver.


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8 Anlisis y Discusin
La historia del portafolio como experiencia personal de aprendizaje, potente
por el proceso reflexivo que promueve, tal vez se observa mejor en los relatos
de sus propios autores. Es a partir de la voz de sus autores que conocemos
las dificultades que conlleva iniciar un proceso de formacin basado en la
reflexin, las ventajas y los inconvenientes de la herramienta, a la vez que
tambin son ellos mismos los que informan de sus progresos formativos
gracias al trabajo reflexivo que realizan.
Por tanto, la informacin que se presenta es una sistematizacin, a partir
de los datos, sobre las impresiones que el uso del portafolio provoca en sus
usuarios. Conocerlas ayudar a un trabajo de tutorizacin ms profundo
y exhaustivo para poder dar una retroalimentacin eficaz, que conecte con
sus apreciaciones.
8.1 Ventajas
A continuacin se presentan algunos de los aspectos positivos que los
autores han mencionado en sus documentos.
8.1.1 El portafolio fomenta la reflexin

de modo recurrente
La gran ventaja del portafolio est en su esencia como documento que
fomenta la reflexin. Dicha operacin cognitiva tiene lugar en diferentes
momentos a lo largo del portafolio. En realidad, hemos podido constatar
marcas de dicha reflexin por parte del docente en cuatro momentos diferentes de la gestacin del portafolio:
1. El proceso de reflexin en el portafolio se inicia desde el momento
en que el docente decide iniciar su elaboracin al comprometerse con un
intento de desarrollo profesional.

El portafolio de formacin desde el punto de visa del formando


Vase un ejemplo (1) de la reflexin que implica el inicio de elaboracin

de un portafolio por parte de un profesor de espaol.
1. Considero que la reflexin y la formacin continua son pilares bsicos para un profesor de idiomas. Mi propsito era no dejar de lado
esto cuando acabara el Mster y creo que hacer el PRP es una buena
forma de seguir adelante con el proceso de aprendizaje iniciado hace
un ao. Quera hacer algo concreto, una actividad tangible, para que
ese propsito no fuera solamente una buena intencin que nunca se
materializa. Hacer el PRP me muestra a m mismo que estoy haciendo
lo que me haba propuesto. En cualquier caso, revisar la labor hecha
con el PRP y decidir entonces si es til o no para m y, en consecuencia, si sigo o no adelante con l. <http://algarabias.wordpress.com/
El profesor deja constancia de la necesidad de hacer tangible la reflexin,
de compartirla y revisarla, por lo que es muy consciente de la relevancia del
proceso de formacin que comporta la herramienta.
2. El proceso reflexivo contina cuando el docente ha de seleccionar
qu evidencias incorpora en su portafolio para mostrarse a s mismo como
docente. La decisin de por qu una actividad merece ser seleccionada es
una cuestin que implica desestimar otras actividades que tambin pueden
resultar formativas:
2. El Portafolio del Certificado, que seguidamente se presenta, est basado
en los contenidos que como profesora ms me han hecho reflexionar y
evolucionar en mi prctica docente habitual. Siguiendo este objetivo,
este trabajo est compuesto de cinco muestras distintas, que se pueden
agrupar en tres temas: el papel del profesor, y del estudiante en el aula
ELE; las formas del pasado, con sus dificultades; y la expresin escrita,
creacin de textos y correccin. (IL3)
Seleccionar implica dotar a la decisin tomada de mayor validez en
el proceso seguido; por el contrario, desestimar evidencias demuestra que
hay aspectos de la prctica docente sobre los que no vale la pena entrar a


Encarnacin Atienza and M. Vicenta Gonzlez Argello

reflexionar, bien porque ya se han superado, bien porque en ese momento

no son significativos para su autor.
3. Se ha de tener tambin en cuenta que la muestra se selecciona por
diferentes motivos: como prueba de un xito alcanzado o como una carencia no superada. Se espera que el profesor reflexione acerca de qu le puede
aportar la inclusin de dicha muestra en su portafolio.
3. Esta muestra me parece interesante para reflexionar, por varios motivos:
en primer lugar, porque define una estrategia clara para la enseanza;
asimismo, porque muestra cmo el estudiante aprende; y en tercer
lugar, porque me conduce a reflexionar sobre el papel del profesor, y
en particular, sobre el que tiene en el aula de ELE. (IL3)
4. Se reflexiona tambin en la valoracin final, esto es, en el momento
en el que el docente en formacin ve cumplidos los objetivos que se haba
propuesto al inicio y decide que puede comenzar otro proceso con nuevos
objetivos, y as sucesivamente.
4. Tras haber reflexionado sobre las cinco muestras seleccionadas, es
necesario hacer una autoevaluacin del proceso formativo llevado a
cabo hasta el momento, en el que se haga referencia a mi evolucin
tanto formativa como profesional. (IL3)
Los ejemplos expuestos muestran que el proceso de reflexin es algo
constante, est presente en el mismo hecho de ver la necesidad de elaborar
el portafolio, en la seleccin de las muestras que se van a incorporar, en la
informacin que puede extraerse en su anlisis y culmina con el cierre del
portafolio. La reflexin no es, pues, una de las partes de que se integra el
portafolio, sino que es su razn de ser.
Esta ventaja permite abordar una dificultad metodolgica que comporta el uso del portafolio: qu es reflexionar?, se puede ensear a
reflexionar? La respuesta se halla al explicitar esta primera ventaja del uso
del portafolio. Reflexionar es hacer visible lo invisible, tomar conciencia
de la accin, saber por qu y para qu se acta de un modo determinado,
saber explicitar los criterios de una accin. Dicho de otro modo, la reflexin

El portafolio de formacin desde el punto de visa del formando


est superestructural y macroestructuralmente en el portafolio, por cuanto

el empleo de dicha herramienta no puede sino promover dicha operacin
8.1.2 El portafolio propicia la necesaria imbricacin

entre proceso y producto de aprendizaje
Otra ventaja manifiesta en los portafolios analizados es que fomentan la
reconexin entre proceso y producto. Los mejores portafolios son los que
incluyen no slo la documentacin de la enseanza, sino tambin la documentacin del aprendizaje del docente.
Veamos a continuacin un ejemplo de la introduccin que hace un
docente en formacin inicial en la primera entrega de su portafolio.
5. Este trabajo consta de un punto de partida donde el alumno expone
sus creencias iniciales, su manera de entender la enseanza de un
idioma extranjero, aquello que espera del curso y la lnea profesional
que querr tomar. A continuacin vendr el grueso del trabajo: la
exposicin, evaluacin y anlisis conceptual de 4 muestras que me
parecen importantes durante mi proceso de formacin. La inclusin
de ciertas muestras puede sorprender. No puedo separar la creacin
de este Portafolios con mi propia experiencia personal y profesional
y, sobre todo, mis intereses generales. S que mi formacin previa me
hace muy sensible a temas como la multiculturalidad, la identidad o
el etnocentrismo. Estos son temas que sin duda han formado parte de
mi vida intelectual y no debe sorprender que vuelvan a aparecer en
algunos casos, cuando el lector revise alguno de estos folios. A continuacin se expone un plan de accin. Ahora puedo escribir que mis
ideas preconcebidas (que se encuentran en el apartado del punto de
partida han variado en algunos casos. En otras ocasiones, si bien no
he cambiado demasiado mi opinin, s he dejado una puerta abierta
para la duda y la sospecha. He observado el plan de accin como un
nuevo punto de partida que he escrito despus de asimilar ciertos
conceptos tericos que habrn influido en mi formacin de manera
ms o menos profunda. Los cambios no han sido radicales. (IL3)


Encarnacin Atienza and M. Vicenta Gonzlez Argello

El estudiante pone de manifiesto algunas cuestiones que difcilmente

se podran apreciar con otras formas de evaluacin: en su portafolio expone
lo que para l ha sido materia de aprendizaje, lo que le permite demostrarse
a s mismo la asimilacin de los objetivos de aprendizaje; adems es l el
que evala la validez de esos contenidos para su desarrollo profesional, a
la vez que relaciona sus creencias previas con los conceptos aprendidos
y pone de manifiesto cmo todo ello le ha supuesto entrar en conflicto
consigo mismo. De la resolucin de ese conflicto entre lo que crea antes
y sus nuevas dudas es de donde surgir el conocimiento que le permitir
Por tanto, el uso del portafolio evidencia que este cumple con la validez
de consecuencia, pues permite mejorar la enseanza y convertir a su autor en
mejor docente. Es decir, si los portafolios representan los modos como los
docentes han progresado, y si los portafolios han tenido un impacto positivo
sobre el trabajo en el aula, entonces satisfacen la validez sealada.
8.1.3 El portafolio institucionaliza normas

de colaboracin, reflexin y anlisis
La capacidad de analizar el proceso de formacin que se est llevando a
cabo es algo que el tutor ha de ir incorporando en su trabajo, de modo
que las aportaciones o sugerencias que le haga al formando reviertan en
una progresiva toma de conciencia del potencial que este posee para poder
llevar a cabo anlisis ms profundos.
6. El proceso de aprendizaje que se dio mediante estos comentarios del
tutor, fue muy interesante, porque me sirvieron, no slo para reformular la tarea, sino para desencasillarme de un proceder que estaba
haciendo prcticamente sin darme cuenta y creyendo, adems, que
lo haca bien. Relacionando las ideas que l me daba (sobre todo las
marcadas en amarillo) y las propuestas de algunas de mis clases, descubr una falencia que no esperaba encontrar para nada a travs de esta
asignatura opcional (IL3).

El portafolio de formacin desde el punto de visa del formando


El formando ha tomado como punto de reflexin la correccin efectuada por su tutor. Ante un primer momento de no querer aceptar la valoracin efectuada, reflexiona sobre la aportacin del profesor, y de este modo,
vara radicalmente su percepcin.
8.1.4 La elaboracin de un portafolio requiere

una actitud humilde
Ser riguroso en la elaboracin del portafolio y analizar la informacin
recogida es un acto de valenta y humildad para el que no siempre se est
7. Tanto el ejercicio de autoevaluacin como el prcticum que he presentado en las muestras me han llevado a realizar un profundo anlisis y
una atenta reflexin acerca de mis creencias y mis actuaciones.

He llegado a sentir que quizs mis investigaciones en clase son
slo un modo a travs del cual busco una confirmacin de la idea de que
lo que estoy haciendo est bien y que en el fondo no estoy de verdad
dispuesta a poner en crisis mis creencias y a modificarlas porque es
muy difcil.
Pero esta sensacin, que considero humana, no es definitiva.
Quizs sea el reflejo de que a veces somos dbiles, de que veces es
muy dura la crtica, sobre todo la que nos hacemos a nosotros mismos,
y de que es muy duro mantener una postura reflexiva y abierta a la
evolucin y al cambio. Y a pesar de todo ello, no he decidido tirar la
toalla, sino que sigo muy entusiasmada con la idea de seguir adelante
con el aprendizaje. (IL3)
Los docentes que se enfrentan por primera vez a la labor de armar un
portafolio reconocen las dudas que les surgen y las hacen pblicas: desde
el primer momento se muestra pblicamente la incertidumbre ante la
novedad de la tarea.


Encarnacin Atienza and M. Vicenta Gonzlez Argello

8.2 Inconvenientes
Aun siendo muchas las ventajas que puede aportar el uso de portafolios,
tambin se han de tener en cuenta algunos inconvenientes. A continuacin
mostramos algunas de las desventajas segn se desprenden de los portafolios
con los que hemos trabajado.
8.2.1 Representacin errnea de lo que es un portafolio
El gran peligro es que los portafolios puedan convertirse en recopilaciones
de apuntes. En sentido tcnico el portafolio tiene que superar esta primera
acepcin y no limitarse a presentar actividades de aula sin una justificacin
que relacione esos contenidos con el proceso de formacin del autor del
8. En clase hubo mucha gente que se interes por el tema de mi exposicin, en l se trataron algunas cuestiones que mis compaeros no
tenan demasiado claras por eso he credo conveniente reflejarlas en mi
portafolio. A continuacin presento las diferencias entre los trminos
que despertaron ms inters entre el grupo. (UB)
El ejemplo (8) muestra como al formando le preocupa ms demostrar
su superioridad de conocimientos frente al resto del grupo que extraer las
ventajas que le ha reportado esa actividad. Es evidente que no acaba de
ver el significado de su propio portafolio, ya que incorporar los conceptos
novedosos para sus compaeros no revierte en su formacin.
8.2.2 Confusin entre reflexionar y fustigarse
En algunos portafolios, especialmente en los de los estudiantes de Formacin del Profesorado se ve una tendencia en las reflexiones a limitarse a
expresar sus carencias y dificultades. Los estudiantes se centran en sus aspectos negativos sin percibir su evolucin en relacin al dominio de la lengua.

El portafolio de formacin desde el punto de visa del formando


9. Tras ver los textos que he ido escribiendo a lo largo del curso he llegado
a una conclusin: a partir de ahora s que debo mirar ms mis escritos,
utilizar tcnicas ms apropiadas al receptor y no limitarme a escribir
como a m me plazca, debe ser una informacin atractiva de leer y en
el nivel que exija cada ocasin; he de adecuarme al contexto y a los
conocimientos del lector sobre el tema. Tengo la sensacin de que son
muchos los aspectos que no he considerado. No s si podr llegar a
tenerlos todos en cuenta, creo que cada vez me cuesta ms escribir algo
que sea medianamente comprensible. Asimismo ocurre con la expresin
oral, aunque con ella no siento tanta dificultad reconozco que me falta
la palabra apropiada en el momento justo. Algo que tiene solucin,
aunque requiera mucho tiempo y esfuerzo. Debo leer ms a menudo y
seleccionar un tipo de lectura apropiada para tal efecto. (UB)
Para algunos estudiantes (9) es difcil percibir su evolucin a lo largo
del curso; una vez detectadas sus dificultades estas pasan a ser prioritarias.
El trabajo hecho para superarse queda minimizado al no obtener los resultados esperados, todo ello les da una visin catastrofista del proceso y as lo
reflejan en sus reflexiones. Una explicacin posible a por qu este tipo de
informacin se presenta ms en este tipo de portafolio que en el resto pueda
ser por la falta de experiencia de estos estudiantes en procesos reflexivos.
8.2.3 Dificultad para distinguir entre descripcin,

anlisis, reflexin
En algunos portafolios sus autores se extienden en la descripcin de las
actividades realizadas y apenas se detienen en su anlisis por lo que no
pueden llegar a un nivel de reflexin ptimo.
10. Invert mucho tiempo en las lecturas, sobre todo en la bsqueda de la
informacin relacionada con el tema. La informacin deba ser apropiada a lo que yo tena en mente, a lo que quera transmitir. Despus
fotocopi las pginas que me interesaban. An conservo las fotocopias
en casa, por si acaso debo cambiar alguna cosa.


Encarnacin Atienza and M. Vicenta Gonzlez Argello

De todo el proceso lo que ms me ha costado es escoger el tema. Sin

nimo de querer ser original busqu algo que me satisficiera, algo de
lo que tuviera un poco ms de conocimiento personal y no solo aquel
que adquiero leyendo los libros. Me llev casi tres das seleccionarlo,
otros cuntos ms en la biblioteca para buscar lo que quera y otros
tantos ms llegar a hacer lo que es ahora. Buscar las palabras apropiadas,
seleccionar frases importantes, omitir informacin superflua (UB)
Si el autor del portafolio se limita a describir cmo realiz la actividad
o a presentarla es difcil que ese trabajo de escritura le sea til. Es necesario
ir ms all, que explicite los procesos cognitivos que dados en el proceso
de realizacin de la actividad. Si no reflexiona sobre ellos y no afloran es
difcil asegurar que haya surgido algn tipo de aprendizaje significativo en
el desarrollo de la misma.
8.2.4 Incomodidad en el uso del portafolio por

lo que tiene de exhibicin
Como seala Shulman (1999), el peligro del portafolio es que este se convierta en una mera exhibicin. Si el concepto de exhibicin predomina,
prevalece la ostentacin de los logros alcanzados, por encima de una actitud
reflexiva sobre el camino andado.
Muchos de los que arman portafolios hablan sobre las dificultades
de este proceso. As, en ocasiones, las personas se sienten incmodas si
se les pide que confeccionen una especie de aviso publicitario sobre ellas
mismas. Ello puede apreciarse en algunos comentarios de los formandos
que se muestran reacios a que su portafolio tenga una versin pblica a
otros lectores que no sea su tutor.
11. A veces, cuando tengo que escribir en el portafolio, caigo en la trampa
de una falta de honestidad, y escribo lo que el tutor quiere ver escrito.
Luego, me doy cuenta de que de este modo el nico engaado soy yo
mismo, pues el portafolio es en s mismo una herramienta de autoevaluacin. Ser por mis propias creencias, demasiado arraigadas, que
no me acabo de creer que el tutor no me vaya a juzgar. Adems, me
incomoda hablar constantemente de m y de mis angustias como

El portafolio de formacin desde el punto de visa del formando


profesor, no s, a veces, me parece que es una exhibicin o, peor an,

considerarse el ombligo del mundo. Es verdad que focalizar la atencin en aspectos de mi propia docencia me ha ayudado a mejorar
como profesor, pero todo este proceso de ponerlo por escrito y luego
compartirlo me parece a veces un ejercicio de vanidad. (IL3)
8.2.5 Resistencia a desarrollar un aprendizaje autnomo
Otro de los objetivos es lograr la autonoma, con un compromiso y con una
actitud autocrtica. Si se autoevalan aprenden a conocerse, y a ver cules
son sus debilidades y fortalezas. A mayor conocimiento, mayor amplitud
de criterios. No obstante, en ocasiones se desprende cierta resistencia ante
el aprendizaje autnomo. El rol del profesor como el que imparte la enseanza todava est arraigado:
12. Las reflexiones han sido tiles para confirmar que el proceso de aprendizaje que normalmente llevo a cabo es ptimo y he podido, de este
modo, explicitar mis potencialidades como profesor. En mis clases,
queda claro que pongo el nfasis en conceptos como autonoma en el
aprendizaje. El aprendiente deja de ser visto como un receptor pasivo
de los conocimientos, para concebirse como el protagonista y agente
del proceso de aprendizaje; el aula es considerada como el espacio
social en el que se produce el aprendizaje y la interaccin. []
En los comentarios de mi tutora a mi portafolio he echado de
menos alguna pauta ms concreta sobre qu es lo que se esperaba
de m. Me he sentido como alguno de mis estudiantes cuando tras
entregarle un texto con mis anotaciones se ha quedado esperando que
le d una calificacin numrica a su trabajo. (IL3)
Los formandos perciben que la tutorizacin del portafolio no se ha
de limitar a calificar el trabajo hecho, esperan del tutor algo ms que sugerencias o preguntas que inviten a continuar reflexionando sobre las muestras. Por ello, es revelador el ejemplo proporcionado (12). A pesar de saber
que con sus estudiantes este profesor acta como lo hace con l su tutor
eso no le satisface plenamente: se reconoce en su rol de estudiante como


Encarnacin Atienza and M. Vicenta Gonzlez Argello

8.2.6 Ambigedad sobre la funcin del portafolio

Una de las tensiones que supone la herramienta del portafolio es si considerarlo como herramienta para el desarrollo profesional o para la evaluacin. Dicho de otro modo, deben considerarse los portafolios como una
herramienta transformadora o tcnica?
Esta cuestin plantea respuestas diferentes. En los portafolios ligados
a cursos de formacin se espera que el portafolio sea una herramienta que
facilite la transformacin del autor. Pero tambin es posible que los estudiantes lo vean solo como herramienta para la evaluacin de sus aprendizajes. En este caso, el estudiante percibe el portafolio como el medio en el
que ha de exhibir los conocimientos alcanzados:
13. Ahora una vez llegados al final del curso puedo decir que la informacin que contiene este portafolio demuestra que he superado los
objetivos que se haban propuesto para esta asignatura. Las diferentes
actividades que he aportado espero que as lo demuestren. (UB)
Los estudiantes de formacin inicial perciben el portafolio como una
herramienta de evaluacin y les cuesta llegar a ver que tambin les puede
ser til como una dinmica de trabajo que pueda revertir en su propio
desarrollo profesional.
8.2.7 Dedicacin excesiva para poder armar un portafolio
Otro peligro es el tiempo que supone elaborar un portafolio. Este requiere
mucha dedicacin, no solo en la fase inicial de descripcin de objetivos o
recogida de evidencias, sino tambin en la fase de anlisis de las muestras,
en la interpretacin de estas para la valoracin de la prctica docente y en
el nuevo planteamiento de objetivos a la luz del anlisis realizado.
14. Cada da cuando termino con las actividades de las diferentes asignaturas obligatorias, entro en el portafolio para anotar algunas ideas
que me faciliten el trabajo final cuando me tenga que poner a redactar
el documento definitivo. Me estoy dando cuenta de que llevar mis

El portafolio de formacin desde el punto de visa del formando


anotaciones al da me obliga a releer lo que he escrito previamente y

a intentar relacionar las actividades de las diferentes asignaturas con
el punto de partida del principio de curso. He de reconocer que hay
momentos en los que me siento desbordada. (IL3)
Son muchos los estudiantes que en su portafolio incluyen comentarios
sobre el tiempo dedicado a elaborar su portafolio. Al inicio del curso puede
parecerles fcil la reflexin sobre lo que se est haciendo, pero pronto los
estudiantes perciben que no basta con anotar algunas ideas para despus
elaborar un texto que demuestre que han reflexionado sobre su docencia. El trabajo de armar su portafolio les obliga a dedicar ms tiempo del

9 Conclusiones
El portafolio como proceso que exige reflexin permanente sobre la enseanza y el aprendizaje contiene la promesa de obligar a una reflexin ms
amplia sobre la educacin de los propios docentes y su desarrollo profesional. Por tanto, la creacin de un portafolio didctico puede tener un efecto
transformador a nivel social tambin; de ah la importancia de conocer la
herramienta y sus efectos en quien la usa.
Tras el estudio exploratorio llevado a cabo podemos afirmar que los
portafolios analizados presentan caractersticas comunes en cuanto a las
ventajas e inconvenientes como herramienta de formacin.
Entre las ventajas sealadas, destaca el fomento de la reflexin, de modo
recurrente, por la estructura de la herramienta misma, lo que permite afirmar
que dicha herramienta es vlida para su objetivo. Cuenta tambin con la
validez de consecuencia, pues, como se ha visto, propicia una mejora de la
enseanza, del docente y del aprendizaje. Asimismo, permite la constante
imbricacin entre el proceso y el producto de aprendizaje del formando,
entendiendo que la docencia es una forma de pensamiento y opinin, en


Encarnacin Atienza and M. Vicenta Gonzlez Argello

contra de la idea predominante de la docencia como conducta especializada. La docencia tampoco es una actividad efectuada de modo aislado e
individual, sino que el portafolio institucionaliza normas de colaboracin,
reflexin y anlisis, sin miedo a que el docente se muestre con sus carencias
e inquietudes, en constante formacin.
Entre los inconvenientes, el formando suele tener una representacin
errnea de lo que es elaborar un portafolio; lo que puede confundir reflexionar con fustigarse. Por otro lado, puede dificultar distinguir descripcin,
anlisis y reflexin. Incluso, puede resistirse a desarrollar un aprendizaje
autnomo y estar confundido sobre la funcin del portafolio en tanto que
herramienta evaluativa. Asimismo, elaborar un portafolio tiene dos grandes
inconvenientes en relacin con su logstica: la excesiva dedicacin de tiempo
que comporta as como la incomodidad de sentirse exhibido.
Lo que se ha presentado es una sistematizacin, a partir de lo hallado
en los datos, sobre las impresiones que el uso del portafolio provoca en sus
usuarios. Conocerlas puede ayudar, sin duda, a un trabajo de tutorizacin
ms profundo y exhaustivo; entre otras razones, para dar una retroalimentacin eficaz, que conecte con sus apreciaciones. Sin embargo, es necesario
realizar otro tipo de estudios centrados en el anlisis de la retroalimentacin
que los tutores ofrecen a sus estudiantes para obtener una visin global del
proceso de formacin que puede llevarse a cabo a travs del portafolio.

Referencias bibliogrficas
Beaugrande, R. de (1984). Text Production: Toward a Science of Composition. Norwood,
N.J.: Ablex Publishing Corporation.
Cano, E. (2005). El Portafolios del Profesorado Universitario. Barcelona: Octaedro.
Dewey, J. (1938). Experience and Education. New York: Collier.
Farell, T.S.C. (2004). Reflective Practice in Action. Thousand Claks: Corwin Press.
Korthagen, F.A.J. (2001). Linking Practice and Theory: The Pedagogy of Realistic Teacher Education. London: LEA.

El portafolio de formacin desde el punto de visa del formando


Lewin, K. (1946). Action-Research into Minority Problems, Journal of Social Issues,

2, 3446.
Lyons, N. (comp.) (1999). El uso de Portafolios. Propuesta para un Nuevo Profesionalismo Docente. Buenos Aires: Amorrortu.
Pujola, J.T. y Gonzlez, V. (2008). El uso del Portafolio para la Autoevaluacin en la
Formacin Continua del Profesor, Revista Marco ELE, 7, 7798.
Schn, D.A. (1987). Educating the Reflective Practitioner: Toward a New Design for Teaching and Learning in the Professions. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers.
Shulman, L.S. (1999). Portafolios del Docente: una Actividad Terica. En Lyons, N.
(ed.), El uso de Portafolios: Propuesta Para un Nuevo Profesionalismo Docente,
4462. Buenos Aires: Amorrortu.
Stenhouse, L. (1984). Investigacin y Desarrollo del Currculum. Madrid: Morata.
Vargas, A. (2008). El Profesor como Escritor. Santiago de Cali: Programa editorial
Universidad del Valle.

Patrick Farren

Autonomous Language Teaching:

Pre-requisite to Autonomous Language Learning

1 Background and Rationale for Study

In a recent report on the teaching of modern languages in post-primary
schools in Ireland, the Inspectorate found an over-reliance on textbooks
and past examination papers (Inspection of Modern Languages, DES 2004).
A survey carried out at NUI, Galway among educators (supervisors and
mentors) and student-teachers supports this finding: 55 per cent of studentteachers and 50 per cent of mentors believed that teaching was principally a matter of getting students through examinations (Farren 2008).
Interestingly, however, a much higher percentage of respondents, 77 per
cent of student-teachers and 100 per cent of mentors, believed that teaching should be about something quite different: it should involve learners
taking a more active part in their learning by involving them in planning,
monitoring and self-assessing characteristics respondents associated with
the good language learner.
The DES Inspectorate has argued that teachers need to encourage
greater learner autonomy (ibid.) and the White Paper, published almost ten
years previously, implied this as well when it called for an essential shift
from external examinations to internal assessment (DES 1995: 60) that
includes projects, orals, aurals and practical work, and for formative assessment that is intended to be an integral part of teaching and has a key part
to play in a process that is intended to be learner-centred (ibid.: 59).


Patrick Farren

2 Outline of Paper
This paper addresses a concern about a lack of coordinated support being
offered to student-teachers in the context of the Post Graduate Diploma in
Education (PGDE),1 and by implication, a concern that student-teachers
were not being supported in developing as autonomous teachers. The
particular focus of this paper is on examining the impact of autonomous
language teaching supported by the professional portfolio.2 A central
premise of the study is that in order for autonomous language learning to
take place there must first be autonomous language teaching. The context
of the study will be outlined before a brief overview of key points in the
literature about the ELP and autonomous language teaching and learning
will be offered.

3 Context of Study
The paper is set in the context of modern language teacher education on
the Post Graduate Diploma in Education (PGDE), 20032005. The process has led to the development of a professional portfolio across the whole
PGDE programme in NUI Galway. Interestingly, a professional portfolio
is required by the Teaching Council of Ireland to form part of all PGDE
programmes in Ireland from 2011.
The traditional Leaving Certificate examination is mainly a terminal
and written examination that pupils take at the end of two years of study.


From 2011 onwards the Post Graduate Diploma in Education (PGDE) is known as
the Professional Diploma in Education (PDE).
For an account of impact of autonomous language learning that made use of ELP
see forthcoming paper in TEANGA (25), journal of the Irish Research Association
for Applied Linguistics (IRAAL).

Autonomous Language Teaching


This examination is a high-stakes examination that has the merit of offering

anonymity to all candidates and a level playing field. Generally, higher
education institutions offer places on courses to candidates based on a
points system in this examination. Findings from a preliminary survey
referred to above showed that PGDE educators had different expectations
of student-teachers, e.g. several supervisors believed that student-teachers
were often obliged [by their mentors] to follow what [was] in situoutdated methods (Farren 2008). While the traditional Leaving Certificate
has had some merit in the past, there is need for the assessment process to
support anticipated teaching and learning behaviour. In order for this to
happen in the future a more coherent initial teacher education approach is
needed. Student-teachers need to be supported in accepting responsibility
for developing their own capacity and in supporting pupils in developing
their capacity to make use of the target language that is, after all, the goal
of language teaching and learning.
In the spring of 2003, I came upon a version of the ELP, developed by
the Centre for Language and Communications Studies at Trinity College
Dublin for Irish post-primary schools that had been validated by the Council of Europe. It had recently been launched on the market as a reflective
process tool intended to mediate the Common European Framework of
Reference (CEFR) for teaching, learning and assessment. It was clear that
the ELP was a catalyst that could help to bring about change in language

4 The European Language Portfolio

The ELP has two functions: a) reporting and b) pedagogical. In the Passport the learner records any significant intercultural experiences he/she has
had, e.g. those achieved in formal contexts such as certified courses, formal
language qualifications or intercultural experiences in informal contexts.
The learner records his/her own language proficiency. The second part of


Patrick Farren

the ELP is the Biography. This supports the development of the learners
metacognitive capacity, i.e. planning, monitoring and self-assessing in the
target language that is linked to a criterion-referenced system of descriptors drawn from the Common European Framework of Reference for
Languages: learning, teaching, assessment (CEFR). The third part of the
ELP is the Dossier. It supports the development of learner responsibility,
e.g. he/she is expected to select pieces of evidence that demonstrate learning
according to their preferred learning style(s). In short, the ELP supports
the development of the learners self-awareness and identity as a language
learner and language user.
There is evidence in the literature that the ELP is an effective learning
process tool. Ridley reported that it helped pupils to apply their metacognitive knowledge effectively (Ridley 1997: 14), and the official evaluation
of the ELP carried out by Schrer found that the ELP:
led pupils and teachers to reflect on the reasons for learning languages, learning process, and the criteria by which learning might be evaluated. 68 per cent of pupils felt
that the time they spent keeping an ELP was time well spent. 70 per cent of teachers
found that the ELP was a useful tool for pupils, while 78 per cent found that it is a
useful tool for teachers. (2000, in Little 2002: 184)

More recent literature supports this view; Kohonen (2006) claims

that the CEFR offers a new paradigm in language education, an actionoriented notion of communication. It offers new goals in language education (CEFR 2001: 5; Byram 2003; Kaikkonen 2001; Kohonen 2006: 3).
The language user is understood as a person who uses cognitive, emotional
and volitional resources and abilities to achieve aims of communication
(Kohonen 2007). Kohonen has argued that intercultural communicative
competence involves the development of autonomy as a person in relation
to others (ibid). All of the above are inherent in the ELP.

Autonomous Language Teaching


5 Brief Overview of Literature on Autonomous Language

Learning and Teaching
5.1 Independence and interdependence
In the 1970s, the term autonomy referred to self-directed learning that
was associated with learners working in isolation both from one another
and from the teacher. However, in more recent literature the term is used
to refer to self-directed learning that is associated with learning involving
a social dimension (Thomson 1996; Kohonen 2000; Little 2001), and,
by implication, collaboration and interdependence (Benson 2001: 12).
Indeed, several researchers argue that cognitive development and human
interdependence are interlinked processes (Allwright 1990; Little 1995;
Benson 2001). Vygotsky, in his theory of the zone of proximal development (ZPD), argued that social interaction was the basis for higher order
cognitive development. He defined ZPD as:
The distance between actual development level as determined by independent problem solving and the level of potential development as determined through problem
solving under adult guidance or in collaboration with more capable peers. (Vygotsky
1978: 86)

Central to autonomous learning is the notion that learners have an

active role in constructing knowledge (Terwell 1999: 195). Interestingly,
Kohonen (2006) has argued that in socio-cultural, socio-constructivist
and experiential learning theories the pupil is understood as a person consisting of a self with a social identity and as a member of and participant
in a society and culture. The learner here is understood as a whole person
who is called on to construct his/her own meanings fostered through collaboration and social interaction (Kohonen 2006: 4). Thus, developing
autonomy as a psychological capacity depends on an internalization of a
capacity to participate fully and critically in social interaction (Little 1996:
201). It is clear that there is a strong body of opinion that argues that cognitive development and social interaction go hand in hand. In the context


Patrick Farren

of language learning, this implies that language proficiency can only be

attained by learners making use of the target language to express their own
meanings or messages that imply a social context.
5.2 Attitudinal dimension
Acceptance of responsibility for expressing ones meanings in the target
language implies motivation. There is, therefore, an important attitudinal dimensional to language learning. Autonomous learning necessitates
learners developing a particular kind of psychological relation to the process and content of learning (Little 1995; Macaro 1997). The inclusion of
I can self-assessment check-list statements in the ELP demonstrates how
the ELP supports the development of self-awareness, self-confidence and
a more positive attitude to language learning.
5.3 Critical reflection
Autonomy is not an absolute state (Little 1990; Thomson 1996), but involves
the learner developing a capacity for detachment, critical reflection and
decision-making (Little 1991).This concept of capacity building is one
that Macaro views as being integral to autonomous learning. He defines
autonomous learning as an ability that is learned through knowing how
to make decisions about the self as well as being allowed to make those
decisions (Macaro 1997). This view resonates with Trims view (1978, cited
in Benson, Voller 1997): an adaptive ability allowing learners to develop
supporting structures within themselves.
5.4 Target language use
Little has argued that the successful practice of autonomy logically
entails the interaction of target language learning and target language use
(1999: 176). Because metacognition and language use are so thoroughly

Autonomous Language Teaching


interdependent (ibid.: 85), making use of the target language to construct

meanings and to evaluate learning should be seen as interlinked processes.
Naturally, appropriate support needs to be offered by the teacher to achieve
this aim. The act of constructing meanings in the target language implies
that the learner develops his/her metacognitive capacity. By making decisions about the content and process of learning the learner is involved in
making adjustments to his current understanding of how language behaves
in different social contexts. The learners current declarative and procedural
knowledge, metacognitive capacity, communicative and pragmatic strategies develop in conjunction with one another. The I can self-assessment
check lists in the ELP expressed in the target language support the learner
in making use of the target language to reflect on their learning.
5.5 Autonomous language teaching
In order for learners to develop as autonomous language learners and, by
implication, as autonomous users of the target language, it is first necessary
that student-teachers develop as autonomous teachers and, by implication, as autonomous users of the target language in their teaching. Nunan
(1992) has claimed that the notion of teacher as researcher of his practice
is an important one in experiential learning. It involves a reflective awareness of ones practice as teaching involves making decisions regarding the
learner (38). He believes that mutual support and cooperation (ibid.) of
colleagues is an essential part of reflective teaching. According to Pollard,
the value of engaging in reflective activity is almost always enhanced if it
can be carried out in association with other colleagues (2005: 21).
Clearly, critical reflection and social interaction/collaboration have a
central place in supporting autonomous language teaching, just as we have
found they have in autonomous language learning. By supporting studentteachers in developing greater awareness of their teaching and learning
beliefs and in critically reflecting on their teaching, they are supported in
developing in self-awareness, and, by implication, in their capacity to selfdirect and to accept responsibility for improving their teaching.


Patrick Farren

6 Professional Portfolio
Examining the tenets of the ELP inspired me to take the first steps in developing a teaching portfolio in the context of the PGDE that was aimed at
supporting more autonomous teaching and at having a more transformative
role than the traditional teaching practice file that had been characterized
by a collection of lesson plans (Farren 2008). Prior to this study it had been
common practice for student teachers to observe lessons for one week in
the context of a primary and a post-primary school. The context of this
study introduced the practice of student-teachers articulating their teaching and learning beliefs. They engaged in this process immediately after
their school observations. I invited them to reflect on and to draw on their
observational experience as they went about articulating their teaching and
learning beliefs. In addition, student-teachers were encouraged to keep a
reflective journal during the PGDE. This confidential journal was aimed
at supporting student-teachers in developing their capacity to make sense
of their teaching experience. They could draw on taught elements of the
PGDE programme as they reflected on their school experience. Below I
outline the framework of the language teaching portfolio in the context
of the PGDE (20032005).3 The different parts of the professional portfolio was inspired by those contained in the ELP. My justification for this
was that it would support student-teachers in engaging in a similar process
with pupils in the context of the ELP.
1. Passport
a) Teaching and Learning beliefs:
Student-teachers articulated their beliefs, values, attitudes and assumptions about language teaching and learning. By implication, this process
supported student-teachers in developing their professional identity.

Later, as Coordinator of Professional Practice on the PGDE I had responsibility for

coordinating the development of a professional portfolio for the PGDE as a whole
a process that was helped by this study.

Autonomous Language Teaching


b) Scheme of work:
In this student-teachers articulated their teaching and learning goals
and intentions, likely directions course would take, representative
samples of activities, anticipated challenges and possible solutions in
the context of the classes they taught (Perrone 1999).
2. Biography
Student-teachers engaged in critical reflective writing after completing
each unit/topic of teaching. Input support was offered to them about
the literature on critical reflection and journal writing. A framework
for writing was suggested: a) evaluation of previous unit of teaching/
learning, e.g. as a result of negotiating with learners about learning
objectives and outcomes, activities, target language use, self-assessment
by learners, cultural awareness, strategies and b) goals for next unit.
3. Dossier of Evidence
Student-teachers were expected to show sample pieces of evidence of
the development of their capacity to accept responsibility for teaching
and for making use of formative assessment. The pedagogical project
that formed part of the PGDE Modern Languages assessment process formed part of this evidence. It was aimed at supporting studentteachers in autonomous teaching. An oral-aural interview formed the
other part of the PGDE assessment process and involved studentteachers by discussing their project with me as methodologist and with
their target language tutor. Student-teachers were expected to show
pieces of evidence that demonstrated how they had involved pupils
in formative assessment and in developing their capacity to express
their meanings in the target language.
A useful component in any future professional portfolio would be
to have student-teachers critically reflect on the extent to which they
had succeeded in achieving their goals, as well as on any transformations in their thinking, beliefs, values, attitudes and assumptions.


Patrick Farren

7 A New Paradigm
What we have said above suggests the need for a paradigm shift in the
traditional understanding of language teaching. No longer can teaching
be about teaching to the examination or learning be about learning off
by heart teachers knowledge in order to regurgitate it in the examination
hall. What is required is that the teacher involves learners in developing
the capacity to make decisions about the content and process of learning
that is linked to target language use. As we have seen this can be done
through pupil-teacher negotiation (and through the pupils) involvement
in decision-making (Macaro, 1997: 168) and target language use. Kohonen
(2000) has suggested that autonomous learning can be supported by pupils
developing their competence in the context of three areas: (1) personal
identity and self-direction, (2)becoming skilled language learners and
users who are also capable of evaluating their own proficiency and (3)
monitoring and reflecting on learning processes. In this instance Littles
expression pedagogical dialogue in the here and now (2001: 51) succinctly
encapsulates what should characterize teacher-learner relationship.

8 Action Research Approach

An action research approach was seen as appropriate in the context of examining the impact of autonomous language teaching and learning. Among the
principles of action research identified by Mills (2000) are that practitioners have the decision-making authority and are committed to professional
development through systematic reflection in the context of studying a
concern. Frost (2002: 25) believes that action research relates to a process
that involves systematic reflection, study and action carried out by individuals. Carr and Kemmis (1986: 162) define it as a form of self-reflective
study undertaken by participants in a social situation in order to improve

Autonomous Language Teaching


the rationality and justice of their own practices, their understandings of

these practices, and the situations in which these practices are. Thus, for
Mills (2000) and Carr and Kemmis (1986) it means that individually and
collectively, members of a profession reserve the right to make autonomous
and independent judgements, free from external non-professional controls
and constraints, about the particular courses of action to be adopted in
any particular situation. According to Elliott, a precondition for action
research is a felt need on the part of practitioners to initiate change, to
innovate (1991: 53). He has argued that action research:
Improves practice by developing the practitioners capacity for discrimination and
judgement in particular, complex, human situations. It unifies inquiry, the improvement of performance and the development of persons in their professional role.
(Elliott 1991: 52)

9 Data Collection Process

Focus group discussions were held with educators during the course of each
year of the study. Triangulation of data was achieved through semi-structured interviews with student-teachers and responses to a questionnaire
that was completed by post-primary pupils at the end of each year. Year 2
led to further clarification of themes in Year 1 and took the form of a more
focused and intensive study with a smaller group of student-teachers. In
Year 2 data for educators was linked to each of the three student-teachers.
In addition, in order to supplement and enrich the data for each studentteacher, the data for their particular pedagogical project and for their
particular class group were linked. Sample pieces of evidence drawn from
each pedagogical project were shown in the appendix of the study.
The following themes relating to autonomous language teaching
formed part of the study.


Patrick Farren

1. Student-teachers understanding of autonomous language teaching

and learning
2. Interaction/collaboration between educators and student teachers
(Data not collected in Year 1 in context of mentors interaction with
3. Critical reflective writing and growth in student-teachers metacognitive capacity
(Data not collected in Year 1)
4. Student-teachers acceptance of responsibility for expressing their own
understandings about teaching and for making use of target language
in teaching
5. PGDE pedagogical project
(Data not collected in Year 1 with mentors)
6. Challenges to autonomous teaching

10 Summary of Findings
Year 1
Collaboration among educators supported educators in developing a more
coherent educational approach. Educators found that by reflecting on learning and teaching, pupils and student-teachers developed self-awareness and