InterCom, a customizable weekly newsletter for language professionals, is provided by the Center for Applied Second Language Studies (CASLS) at the University of Oregon. InterCom is sponsored through a Title VI Language Resource Center grant.

Topic of the Week: Domain-specific Lexical Acquisition

by Julie Sykes, CASLS Director

In recent decades, the study of the acquisition of language for specific purposes (LSP) has increased in both relevance and complexity. "LSP courses have long been learner-centered, with a focus on helping students discover and practice the types of language they need to meet their specific professional goals" (Crouse, 2013, p. 32). Critical to success in this area is lexicon development.

In the study of LSP, domain-specific lexicon is critical to meaningful acquisition. As learners not only become experts in language, but also their own domain, they must acquire the specific repertoire of words necessary to, for example, conduct business, provide medical advice, or meet with parents. The study of vocabulary must, therefore, include one-to-one relationships with concepts they are already familiar with and associated domain training to ensure the appropriate use and interpretation of those lexical items.

A number of strategies can be useful in building domain-specific skills.

  • Semantic mapping: have learners categorize words according to relevant conceptual areas. This can build depth of understanding.
  • Frequency: have learners engage in study of the most frequent words in their domain, often different from frequently used words in more general areas.
  • Self-study: ask learners to identify the areas most relevant to their success in their professional domain and allow opportunity for study.


Crouse, D. (2013). Language for specific purposes in the 21st century. The Language Educator, ACTFL, April 2013.

Activity of the Week

  • Vocabulary for Specific Purposes: Job-hunting

    Renée Marshall is a Research Assistant at CASLS. Her interests are in bilingualism, bicultural identity, second language acquisition, and language policy and advocacy. She has taught French at both the high school and university level. She earned her Master’s in Education from UC Santa Barbara in 2011.

    Both size and depth of vocabulary are essential components of language acquisition. Size refers to the number of words learners can use and depth refers to how familiar a learner is with the complex uses of a word. The goal of this activity is to help language learners expand their vocabulary within a particular domain. For my example, I have chosen the topic of job-hunting, but this activity can be adapted for varying specific purposes.

    Objective: Students will be able to identify high frequency and useful vocabulary for job-hunting in the target language.



    1. Have students brainstorm with a partner about what they already know about job-hunting in general in their home culture and/or the target culture. Elicit from students the different steps people go through when searching for a job (job-hunting, applying, interviewing, etc.). Where do people go to search for jobs (newspapers, online websites)? What vocabulary do the students think they will need to know in order to search for a job in the target language? This is also a good time to point out any important cultural differences when job-hunting in the target culture.

    2. Pass out the Job-hunting Vocabulary handout to all students. Have students complete #1 either alone or with a partner. Circulate and offer any help/commentary as needed. Review Activity #1 as a class, ensuring comprehension of vocabulary words and highlighting any relevant cultural information or additional vocabulary as needed.

    3. Have students move to #2 on the handout. They will complete #2 on their own. Note that students will most likely need to use a dictionary (online or hardcopy) as well as guidance from the teacher in order to find the vocabulary they need for their specific job interests. The vocabulary words on the Job-hunting Vocabulary handout are mainly nouns, but there may be specific verbs that students will need, particularly for the job duties section (such as: answer, provide, read, write, handle, file, etc.)

    4. Once #2 on the handout is finished, have students do a real job search (#3-#5 on handout). The teacher will need to provide students with, or point them in the direction of, resources for job-hunting in the target language, such as newspaper help-wanted ads or online resources like or (see the helpful job-hunting websites handout.

    Note: You can give students the freedom to search websites and newspapers for job postings on their own, or you can structure the activity more by selecting job postings yourself and providing only the selected job postings to students. With either variation, it is important for the job postings to be authentic postings in the target language.

CASLS Spotlight: CASLS Director Leads BYU Seminar on Language Learning in Digital Spaces by Mandy Gettler, CASLS Associate Director

CASLS Director Dr. Julie Sykes just completed a week as guest professor for a weeklong mini course offered by Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah. The course, "Expanding Contexts: Teaching and Learning Language in Digital Spaces" examined online language learning and learners' digital behaviors.

"It was an exciting, engaged and thoughtful group of people. We had a lot of fun exploring a complex topic." said Dr. Sykes of the course. "The mini course concept is a great resource for BYU students and presents great opportunities for breadth of study. It was a honor to be a small part of that."

Students in the course began by learning the current landscape of online teaching and learning. They then explored various learning management systems and discovered ways to facilitate interaction and conversation in a digital environment. The course also covered reading, writing, and assessment in digital contexts.

Upon conclusion of the seminar, students will be able to select and evaluate tools useful for both hybrid and distance learning contexts, create and administer online courses, and assess students' learning.

Language Corner

Teaching Dictionary Skills

Language: ANY Back to Quick Links

An FLTEACH listserv user recently asked the following:

“In researching a paper comparing online to paper dictionaries, I found that dictionary skills were far more important than anything else as far as a student's ability to look up a word and use it correctly, and researchers agreed that this is a skill that FL teachers should teach. … Have any of you taught dictionary skills? How did you do it?”

Several teachers offered suggestions; you can read them by going to;8a98154c.1411 and then clicking on “Next” to the right of “By Topic.”

Ideas for Reducing Student Anxiety about Not Understanding

Source: Language Sensei
Language: ANY Back to Quick Links


Teacher Colleen Lee-Hayes writes,

“I know we’ve all seen it – the student who won’t/can’t/doesn’t want to participate until they know they won’t say something incorrectly. Or maybe you’ve had the one who won’t work with others because they’re afraid they’ll use a word they don’t know. How do we teach for communication and not for understanding? How do we help students to not fear a word – and to carry on a conversation confidently and without fear?”

Read on to see what Ms. Lee-Hayes does in her classroom to make her students comfortable with “I don’t understand”:

Idea: Use QR Codes for Understanding Directions

Language: ANY Back to Quick Links

Anna Cartwright, a French teacher in New York, recently shared this idea on the FLTEACH listserv:

I used QR codes with a classroom set of iPads at the MS level to have students practice following directions (with expressions like "Turn left" and "Turn right" etc.). I selected 9 locations around my school building and wrote directions from location to location, so the directions formed a sort of circuit as a whole. I placed each set of directions on a page of my website, created a QR code with the link to that page, and then hung the QR codes around the building.

Students worked in pairs for the activity. I gave them a map of the building to use as reference and a question to answer at each location so I could verify that they'd been there. I sent each group to a different starting point. Then I circulated through the areas they'd be likely to be passing through when stuck so that I could assist them with finding their way.

It was a ridiculous amount of work to prepare that lesson. It was also voted the students' favorite activity of the year, and the group that I did this with knew their right from their left in French better than in English.

Cartwright, A. Re: [FLTEACH] QR codes. FLTEACH listserv (FLTEACH@LISTSERV.BUFFALO.EDU, 4 Nov 2014).

Article: Key Considerations for Mainstream Teachers of Newcomer ELLs

Source: Multibriefs
Language: ESL/Bilingual Back to Quick Links


Key considerations for mainstream teachers of newcomer ELLs
by Holly Hansen-Thomas
November 5, 2104

Content-area specialist teachers new to English language learners (ELLs) might experience something of a shock the first time a student who speaks not a word of English is placed in the class.

Read on for notions that teachers should keep in mind when teaching newcomers:

Article: Unlocking Language for English-Learners

Source: Education Week
Language: ESL/Bilingual Back to Quick Links


Unlocking Language for English-Learners
by Justin Minkel
November 4, 2014

Eighty-five percent of the students at my school speak English as a second language. Many of these children come to us in kindergarten without knowing the English words for “pencil” or “butter.” But by the time they leave us in 5th grade, they’re talking confidently about cytoplasm, the associative property of multiplication, and key features of informational texts.

What’s the secret to this dramatic growth? It comes down to a few simple factors:

 Explicit language instruction in structures of English that are invisible to native speakers.
 High expectations paired with individualized instruction.
 A school where every teacher is trained in ESL techniques, in a district where everyone from the custodians to the superintendent respects the family, nation, and culture that each child comes from.

Read the full article at

Generation Study Abroad Initiative

Source: Generation Study Abroad
Language: ANY Back to Quick Links


Generation Study Abroad is a five-year initiative of the Institute of International Education (IIE) to mobilize resources and commitments with the goal of doubling the number of U.S. students studying abroad by the end of the decade. IIE is investing $2 million in the initiative and seeking funds to provide scholarships to college and high school students and grants to institutions.

Learn more about Generation Study Abroad on their website:

This Week Is International Education Week

Source: Department of State
Language: ANY Back to Quick Links


International Education Week is an opportunity to celebrate the benefits of international education and exchange worldwide. This joint initiative of the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Department of Education is part of efforts to promote programs that prepare Americans for a global environment and attract future leaders from abroad to study, learn, and exchange experiences in the United States.

This year’s activities will be held from November 17-21, 2014.

The organizers encourage the participation of all individuals and institutions interested in international education and exchange activities, including schools, colleges and universities, embassies, international organizations, businesses, associations, and community organizations. Individuals and institutions tend to hold IEW events as it is convenient for them in their local communities. Celebrate as much and as often as you like! Promotional materials allow you the flexibility to promote events whenever they may be planned!

For additional resources or to search for or post events please go to

Professional Development

Global Competence Certificate for K-12 Teachers

Source: Asia Society
Content Area: Culture, Curriculum Design, Heritage, Learning Materials & Resources, Learning Science, Methods, Policy/Issues/Advocacy, Specific Purpose, Standards Back to Quick Links


The Global Competence Certificate (GCC) is the premier, online, graduate-level certificate program in global competence education for in-service educators. The GCC is designed to increase the number of K-12 teachers who are able to teach for global competence, and effectively prepare students to be globally informed, engaged citizens.

Learn more about global competence, the GCC, and how to apply at

Here is the latest in a series of articles in Education Week about global competence:

Conference on Multilingual Phonology

Source: CUNY
Content Area: Learning Science Back to Quick Links


Conference on Multilingual Phonology
Sponsored by the CUNY Graduate Center Linguistics Program and the CUNY Phonology Forum
15 - 16 January 2015 at the CUNY Graduate Center, 365 Fifth Ave., New York City

For more information go to

Call for Papers: Ninth International Conference on Language Teacher Education

Source: CARLA
Content Area: ANY Back to Quick Links


Changes and Challenges in Language Teacher Education
Ninth International Conference on Language Teacher Education

May 14-16, 2015
Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA
The Ninth International Conference on Language Teacher Education welcomes proposals for papers and symposia on all aspects of the education and professional development of language teachers. Papers and symposia may report on data-based research, theoretical and conceptual analyses, or best practices in language teacher education.

The mission of the conference is to address the education of teachers of all languages, at all instructional and institutional levels, and in all the many national and international contexts in which this takes place, including: English as a Second or Foreign Language (ESL/EFL) instruction; foreign/modern/world language teaching; bilingual education; immersion education; indigenous and minority language education; and the teaching of less commonly taught languages. The conference aims to bring together teacher educators from these many contexts to discuss and share research, theory, and best practices and to initiate and sustain meaningful professional dialogue across languages, levels, and settings. The conference will focus on four broad themes, which are described below. Proposals are more likely to be accepted if they address one of these themes.

Theme I: The Knowledge Base of Language Teacher Education
Theme II: Social, Cultural, and Political Contexts of Language Teacher Education
Theme III: Collaborations in Language Teacher Education
Theme IV: Practices of Language Teacher Education

Proposal Deadline: January 15, 2015

View the full call for papers at


Video: Learning the SIOP Model

Source: CAL Back to Quick Links


Learning the SIOP Model
By Jennifer Himmel and Julie Mazrum
Published by Center for Applied Linguistics

Learning the SIOP Model is a practical, hands-on tool for educators to learn more about the SIOP Model and how to use it with greater effectiveness. It can be used by those who are new to the SIOP Model and by those who are already familiar with it and are seeking to enhance the effectiveness of their implementation.

Learning the SIOP Model has two components: a DVD with authentic classroom video and a companion viewers guide with information for viewing the video and hands-on resources for use in professional development and in the classroom.

Learn more about this product on the CAL website:

Book: Input and Experience in Bilingual Development

Source: John Benjamins Publishing Company Back to Quick Links


Input and Experience in Bilingual Development
Edited by Theres Grüter and Johanne Paradis
Published by John Benjamins Publishing Company

Children acquiring two languages, either simultaneously or sequentially, have more variation in their linguistic input than their monolingual peers. Understanding the nature and consequences of this variability has been the focus of much recent research on childhood bilingualism. This volume constitutes the first collection of research solely dedicated to the topic of input in childhood bilingualism. Chapters represent a range of theoretical and methodological approaches to the study of childhood bilingualism, covering a variety of language combinations and sociocultural contexts in Europe, Israel, North and South America. As a reflection of the field’s current understanding of the intricate relationship between experience and development in children growing up with two or more languages, this volume will be of interest to scholars and practitioners working with bi- and multilingual learners in various sociolinguistic and educational contexts.

Visit the publisher’s website at

Book: Mixed Methods Research for TESOL

Source: Edinburgh University Press Back to Quick Links


Mixed Methods Research for TESOL
By James Brown
Published by Edinburgh University Press

This textbook arises out of a need that has existed for years: for trained TESOL teachers to understand both qualitative and quantitative research methods. It proposes that mixed methods research (MMR) meets that need by combining the best aspects of both research traditions. Divided into three main sections, each chapter illustrates core principles in practice, using case studies of English teaching worldwide. Written specifically for those studying TESOL teaching, this textbook is the first to teach methods and practice in a global context. In linking to the latest developments in the field, it introduces TESOL teachers to MMR in a reflective and accessible manner.

Visit the publisher’s website at

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