Acculturation, Interpersonal Networks, and the Learner’s Sense of Self: The Effects of Social Relationships on Second Language Learning

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Kathy Bluestone


In reaction to what they considered the prevailing bias of second language acquisition (SLA) research towards cognitive-oriented theories, Firth and Wagner (1997) called for a greater recognition of the social context and interactive nature of language use. Without negating the importance of cognitive dimensions of learning, the authors noted that ―language is acquired and learned through social interaction … and should be studied in interactive encounters‖ (Firth & Wagner, 1997, p. 287). The article set off a firestorm of controversy. Some critics argued that language acquisition is ―fundamentally a psycholinguistic process‖ (Gass & Selinker, 2001, p. 239), and that language acquisition and language use are two entirely separate entities (Gass 1998). Firth and Wagner acknowledged this criticism, but still maintained that language acquisition ―is built on language use‖ (Firth & Wagner, 2007, p. 806) and that it is a process that takes place ―in the micromoments of social interaction‖ (Firth & Wagner, 2007, p. 807). This perspective was echoed by Wenger (1998), who stated that ―learners are social beings … this fact is a central aspect of learning‖ (Wenger, 1998, p. 4).

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APPLE Award Winning Papers in AL & TESOL