Category Archives: Research

Influences on emergent L2 writers

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As a grade-one teacher in a Toronto inner city elementary school for over 30 years, I have had the privilege of teaching a wide range of second language learners with a variety of different L1s. Most of these young learners were in the emergent writing stage. Emergent writing is a developmental stage of writing that all young L1 and L2 writers pass through. Emergent writers are beginning to understand that print carries a message and they may be familiar with many concepts about print simply from living in a print rich environment (Clay, 1988). These writers may use pictures, single letters to represent words, and inventive spelling to communicate their messages. Literacy acquisition in an L2 is a highly complex process,  Continue Reading →


Language and the brain: What we have learned from 30 years of brain imaging

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With the advancement of cognitive neuroscience and the development of modern brain imaging methods in the 1990s, the field of language neurobiology—the study of the relationship between the brain and language functions—has grown immensely and rapidly over the past thirty years, and finds itself at a crossroad with respect to its theoretical underpinning. The main message of our recent article “Broca and Wernicke are Dead, or Moving Past the Classic Model of Language Neurobiology” (Tremblay & Dick, 2016) is that the most historically important model in the field, the Classic “Wernicke-Geschwind” Model, and associated terminology, is no longer useful to guide research and clinical intervention in the field.

A Brief History of the Classic Model

The Classic Model was the first major model of language neurobiology.  Continue Reading →


The art of conversation: Why it’s harder than you might think


Most people like to chat. It’s pleasant to talk to your family over breakfast, and at work, you might go to the coffee room or water cooler mainly because you hope to bump into someone and have a little chat. These observations are consistent with scientific findings: As far as we know, conversation exists in all cultures (Levinson & Torreira, 2015). It is the most common form of using language and it is, of course, where children acquire their language.

What are conversations? A defining feature is that they consist of turns. As Levinson et al. put it, speakers adhere to a “one-at-a-time” principle: Speaker A says something and then B, then A again, or perhaps C,  Continue Reading →


“Please look at me!”

Cross-cultural competence in the ESL classroom

Our understanding of theories of Second Language Acquisition (SLA) and more speci cally teaching English as a Second Language (ESL) has traditionally been grounded in linguistics, psycholinguistics, cognitive psychology, and more recently in pragmatics and speech acts. I would like to argue that in order to do the most effective teaching of ESL, especially in light of the many recent newcomers to Canada, we must also have a stronger sense of the theories and best implementation of cross-cultural communication1.

How often have we been in a classroom, intent on being as helpful and constructive as we can, only to nd that some students are resistant or silent or respond in totally unexpected ways? Even when we fully intend to respect the diverse cultures of our students,  Continue Reading →


Literacy lessons

Core Concepts from Multiliteracies for Language Teachers in Contemporary Times

Three nine-year-old boys are sitting on a porch in urban Canada. They are engaged in a multiplayer session of Terraria, a video game that purports to combine the creativity and freedom of a sandbox environment with the strategic requirements of an action game. Each child is holding his own device—an iPod Touch, an iPad, an android tablet. Their eyes are xed on their own screens, sometimes scanning over to the others’, ngers busily pushing and swiping as they build biomes. During the game, one of the boys opens an Internet browser, types in a term from the game, and the children collectively research how to nd an element they want. Through the search results they read blog posts from other players and add their own information to the mix.  Continue Reading →


Telephone Oral Interview Tasks in University Admissions Language Testing

Interactive functions and reports of anxiety

We report here on research we undertook to examine the entrance tests for applicants to second-language teaching programs in either English or French. In particular, we were interested in examining the speaking portion of this test, a one-on-one telephone interview. Individual one-on-one interviews are still the most common method of assessing speaking for high stakes contexts such as these (Luoma, 2004), and they are often conducted by telephone for cost and time savings.

This oral interview task follows a standard format, consisting of a warm-up, two separate tasks (a role play with the interviewer and a single long turn discussing an opinion on an issue), and a wind-down. The complete interview lasts approximately 10 to 15 minutes.  Continue Reading →

Assessment, Research