Dr. David Malinowski is Language Technology and Research Specialist with the Center for Language Study at Yale University. With a background in language and literacy education, multimodal communication, and technology-enhanced learning, he conducts research and supports pedagogical innovation on such technology-related topics as internet-mediated intercultural language learning (telecollaboration) and course sharing with videoconferencing. His second, parallel, research interest is in linguistic landscape, through which he seeks to find productive intersections between urban sociolinguistics and place-based language learning. David holds a Master’s Degree in TESOL from San Francisco State University and a Ph.D. in Education from UC Berkeley.
Language learning across ecologies of discourse: Transcultural lessons in Japanese and U.S. public spaces
In her introduction to an edited volume mapping new relationships between the fields of Second Language Acquisition and Language Socialization, Kramsch (2002) asserts the growing relevance of an “ecological perspective” for language researchers and educators. Offering a way of seeing that is both relational and reflexive, such a perspective strives to encompass not only “the totality of the relationships that a learner, as a living organism, entertains with all aspects of his/her environment,” but also “the spatially and historically contingent way in which researchers and teachers relate to themselves and their environment as they study language development” (Kramsch, 2002, p. 8).
It is in this dual sense—as an environmental affordance in language learning, and as occasion for reflection on teaching and learning possibilities—that the linguistic landscape of visible and audible discourses in public space (e.g., Shohamy & Gorter, 2009; Jaworski & Thurlow, 2010; Blommaert, 2013) can valuably inform discussions of ecological approaches to language education. In this presentation, I draw from several ongoing projects in order to outline opportunities enabled by linguistic landscape as a pedagogical site that challenges language learners and teachers to contend with new sociocultural knowledges and subject positions.
In particular, I address such opportunities for U.S.-based learners of Japanese, as they are informed by Japan’s considerable role in the linguistic landscape literature and imaginary (e.g., Masai, 1983; Backhaus, 2007), and by Japan-U.S. intercultural studies more broadly. While recognizing the danger of slipping into cultural binaries, I suggest that observations such as Wetzel’s (2011, p. 326) that “place [as enacted in the linguistic landscape] in the U.S. is understood through the lens of l/you while place in Japan is understood through the lens of uchi and soto” suggest a possibility for deeper cultural learning. By documenting, contrasting, and reimagining and re-languaging public discourses from both here and there, Japanese learners and teachers can put words to social categories, identities, and power relations that might otherwise remain invisible.