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: Digital and Intercultural Communication: A Few Ideas from the Cultures-of-Use Perspective

by Julie Sykes, CASLS Director

“Internet communication tools cannot be fully apprehended from a positivist vantage point as generically 'there' in the world. Cultural artifacts such as global communication technologies are produced by and productive of socio-historically located subjects. Such artifacts take their functional form and significance from the human activities they mediate and the meanings that communities create through them.” (Thorne, 2008, p. 58)

The use of digital technologies to facilitate human communication is an ever growing phenomenon, with more and more tools available each day to share our lives and explore the lives of others around the world.  As we consider ways to integrate these technologies into the language classroom, especially by connecting learners via tellecollaboration projects, the cultures-of-use model invites us to ponder more deeply the human activity attached to those technologies. In his 2008 paper, Thorne presents three case studies as exemplars of possibilities, with both challenging and exciting results, for digitally-mediated intercultural communication activity in language learning. In other words, what happens when you connect learners of French with French students learning English or pair Spanish students with English learners in Mexico to complete a task? Most critical to these findings is the call to explore the complex nature of mediated human connection in all communicative contexts which facilitate intercultural communication.

As language teachers, we are in the unique position to both create the ideal contexts for meaningful interaction via tellecollaboration and, at the same time, are always in danger of oversimplifying the intercultural communicative process. The cultures-of-use model reminds us to continually consider the complex without shying away from it.

  1. If you build it, they will come…but not always in the ways you expect.  Research on tellecollaboration and intercultural communication projects suggests digitally-mediated, intercultural communication can result in both amazing experiences and changed viewpoints, as well as inherent miscommunication or reinforced stereotypes. As language teachers, we can foreground these potential challenges and help learners approach their language partners with resources for varying types of digitally-mediated interactions and deep reflection around both positive and negative experiences.
  2. Consider the task and the platform. Just as rhetoric and genre vary in face-to-face interaction, digital contexts also form their own behavioral expectations. Before asking learners to engage with a tool in a certain way, it is fundamental to consider the human behaviors associated with that space. For example, with the advent of instant messenging and video conferencing, synchronous collaboration via email is no longer the best option. Likewise, learners way be wary of Facebook as their instructional platform, but happy to collaborate via Facebook messenger. Whatever the choice of task and behaviors, the tool should match and we, as teachers, should be well versed in the communicative norms of the space.


Thorne, S. L. (2008). Artifacts and cultures-of-use in intercultural communication. Language Learning and Technology (7) 2, 38-67.  Available at:

Activity of the Week

  • Complaint Questions

    by Sara Li and Siri Sitthiwong, LTS Graduate Students

    This activity is designed to increase the pragmatic awareness of English learners with intermediate-low to intermediate-high proficiency levels. In completing this activity, learners will gain awareness of the speech act of complaint in the form of a question.

    Learning Objectives: Learners will be able to:

    • Identify the intended meaning of questions used by speakers in a variety of contexts
    • Analyze the characteristics of verbal and written complaints by noticing the speakers’ facial expressions, gestures, tone, and other pragmatic devices.
    • Apply the learned characteristics of complaints to appropriately make complaints to produce actions/changes in role plays.

    Modes: Interpretive Reading, Interpersonal Communication, Presentational Writing

    Materials Needed: Passages from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, Excerpts from American Born Chinese, “What would you do?” clip ( and transcript, worksheet, peer evaluation form


    1. To begin, the teacher provides learner groups (no more than four members each) with a different passage of text from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. These passages show different types of questions that indicate complaints: statements with rising intonation and questions marks, negative interrogative, and pure questions. The teams will find the questions and predict/explain the purpose of these questions.
    2. The learner teams will report what they found to the class. The learners will discuss the intended meaning of the speakers within the passage and come to a consensus regarding how to categorize the questions that were found. The teacher will embed instruction regarding the use of questions in order to exact complaints throughout this discussion.
    3. Learners return to their group to analyze excerpts from American Born Chinese, a graphic novel.  They will (1) identify the questions in the excerpts; (2) observe the characters’ facial expressions, gestures, and actions to determine/predict the purpose of the questions; (3) identify the devices/terms used to intensify the complaint questions; and (4) rank the intensity of the complaint questions by using a worksheet with a graphic organizer.
    4. Learner teams report their findings and explain their analyses to the class.
    5. Next, the teacher plays the clip (1:06-3:45) from the reality show “What would you do?” Learners take notes regarding facial expressions and gestures, devices/terms used to intensify complaint questions, and the purpose of each question posed. A script has been included with this activity for teacher reference.
    6. Learners rejoin their groups in order to compare their notes and categorize the questions into the three types discussed in class.
    7. Next, learner groups begin to apply the information that they have analyzed by writing scripts for short scenes related to social maltreatment. These scenes include a restaurant owner kicking a beggar out of the restaurant, a kid being bullied on the playground, an adult torturing an animal, and a blind woman being cheated out of change by a seller. As they write the script, learners must consider the following roles: the wrongdoer, the victim, and witnesses.
    8. Learners practice the script and focus on incorporating appropriate facial expressions, tone, and gestures.
    9. Learner groups present their scenes to the class. As they present, the classmates observing the performances evaluate the groups with the peer observation form. Simultaneously, the teacher takes notes to provide the class with global feedback.

    Notes: A possible extension of this activity would be to provide the learners with different scenarios to create a non-scripted role play to be recorded and uploaded to a class website for another round of analysis in class. This second round of analysis should include attention to the social context of the situation at hand (the power dynamic between the individuals involved in the interaction, for example).

CASLS Spotlight: New and Improved LinguaFolio Online

We debuted our e-portfolio system, called LinguaFolio Online, back in 2009. Based on the successful paper-and-pencil version developed by the National Council of State Supervisors for Languages, LinguaFolio Online:

  • Encourages programs to align curriculum with Can-Do Statements, thereby making programs more proficiency based
  • Promotes student ownership by concretely showing learners what they will be able to do using the target language
  • Empowers students to set their own goals, understand proficiency levels and what they will achieve, and reflect on their growing proficiency
  • Showcases the great work students do

As a result of feedback from teachers, we have made some targeted improvements that we’re excited to unveil at the upcoming STARTALK spring conference May 6-7, and we’ll release a non-STARTALK version with the same improvements for all programs in August 2016.

In addition to a more professional and sleek design, the new version of LinguaFolio Online will include:

  • Easier navigation
  • Quicker ways to capture and upload evidence
  • Improved teacher report screens
  • Easier to use functionality for teachers to assign Can-Do Statements to a their classes
  • Ability for teachers to reset passwords

Of course, programs can still use our free mobile app to capture language proficiency where it happens. Students can record themselves using the target language as they order food from a restaurant, ask someone for directions, or even give a presentation during a world languages appreciation night.

If you use LinguaFolio Online, please let us know what you think of the new version. Email us at or share with us on Facebook (casls.nflrc), Twitter (@casls_nflrc), or Instagram (@casls_nflrc).

The STARTALK Program administered by the National Foreign Language Center at the University of Maryland and the U.S. Department of Education Title VI, under grant #P229A140004, support development of LinguaFolio Online. Contents do not necessarily represent the policy of the U.S. Department of Education nor imply endorsement by the federal government.

Language Corner

Student Feedback: The F.E.D. Model

Source: path to proficiency Back to Quick Links


Alyssa Villarreal writes, “Feedback is critical to any learning endeavor but I would pose that more important than feedback is to feed forward. It is one thing to tell learners what they did right and what they did wrong. We do that rather naturally because that is what any graded paper tells students. All too often though those papers or rubrics end up on the floor or in the trash as soon as students see a score. When this happens, there is an obviously disconnect between the feedback we have provided and what the students find helpful or useful. We need to ask ourselves how then can we provide feedback that feeds forward improving student performance? First, focus on clear expectations for performance. Next, use evidence to provide feedback on the performance. Finally, devise a plan for continued growth based on the focus and evidence.”

Read on for a more complete description of these steps:

Life Skills-based Education in the EFL Classroom

Source: Foreign Language Education in the 21st Century Back to Quick Links


Jürgen Kurtz writes, “In its landmark report to UNESCO on the role of education in the future, the International Commission on Education for the Twenty-first Century (Delors et al.1996) underlined the growing importance of learning throughout life and the need to focus on four pillars of education, in particular: learning to know, learning to do, learning to live together, and learning to be – ‘learning to be’ including ‘learning to learn’. In accordance with this vision, the United Nations Educational Framework for Action (UNESCO 2000: 36) obliged governments to ensure ‘that the learning needs of all young people and adults are met through equitable access to appropriate learning and life skills programmes’ within the first decade of the twenty-first century.

“However, even though the main goals of life skills-based education are largely agreed upon world-wide (i.e. enabling young people to lead a fulfilling and healthful life and to take control of their destiny, as well as empowering them to fully, responsibly and creatively participate in their societies, which increasingly entails being familiar with and tolerant of other societies and cultures), a generally accepted definition as to what exactly is meant by ‘life skills’ is still missing.”

Read on for a nuanced definition of life skills and a discussion of its place in language education:

Resources for a World Languages and Cultures Exploratory Class

Source: OFLA Back to Quick Links

Spanish teacher Angela Gardner recently asked her colleagues on the Ohio Foreign Language Association listserv for suggested resources for a world languages and cultures exploratory class. She has compiled shared resources and others found through a Google search on this Google Drive: Be sure to click on the different documents (especially the “Special Thanks” document) to see some contributors’ names.

Quick Ideas for Disrupted Classes

Source: FLTEACH Back to Quick Links

As the end of the school year approaches, many teachers have class days full of disruptions - students leaving for appointments, testing, and special events. An FLTEACH listserv user recently requested ideas for activities that her students can work on independently as they come and go on these disrupted days.

Go to to see the original query, and then click on “Next” in “By Topic” to see other teachers’ suggestions.

Authentic Text Time in Adult Ed

Source: TESOL Back to Quick Links


Robert Sheppard writes, “Adult learners, especially immigrants who have various competing priorities which may take precedence over English, need to see an immediate application for their new language. In many contexts, English can be a luxury; for adult immigrants, it cannot be. As teachers, we must approach it with an urgency and immediacy that might be unusual in, say, a business EFL program. A student-driven environmental/authentic text time is one way to add relevance, immediacy, and authenticity to your adult English classes.”

Read on for how to implement this idea:

Professional Development

Call for Proposals: Consortium on Useful Assessment in Language and Humanities Education 2016 Annual Meeting and Conference

Source: SUALHE Back to Quick Links


Consortium on Useful Assessment in Language and Humanities Education
2016 Annual Meeting and Conference
October 7-8
University of Notre Dame

CUALHE 2016 is seeking proposals for paper presentations, panel discussions, roundtables, colloquia, or other session formats that address any of the following topics:

 The purposes, goals, and values of student learning outcomes (SLO) assessment

  • Contexts for outcomes assessment: community colleges, undergraduate/graduate programs, employment/professions
  • Assessing learning & outcomes at distinct points in college education, e.g.:
  • The first year experience and the language requirement
  • The minor and the major
  • Study abroad
  • The future professoriate
  • Outcomes assessment of diverse knowledge, skills, and dispositions, e.g.:
  • Cultural (e.g., intercultural competence, historical knowledge)
  • Humanistic (e.g., literary interpretation, critical thinking, aesthetic capacity)
  • Linguistic (e.g., proficiency, four skills, complexity/accuracy/fluency)
  • Integration of the above (e.g., genre or task abilities, professional competencies)

Deadline for proposal submissions is June 5, 2016.

View the full call for proposals at

Free Webinar on Language Testing

Source: LTEST-L Back to Quick Links

From the LTEST-L listserv:

Dear all,

IATEFL TEASIG will be holding a webinar on
11 May 2016 at 5pm UK local time / 6pm CET.
with Sheila Thorn, BA (Hons), PGCE, RSADipTEFLA, MSc, who will be speaking on:

Listening testing – time for a rethink? Currently listening testing focuses on the product of listening rather than the process of listening. In other words the emphasis is on listening comprehension rather than on decoding the sound substance. This has an impact on how we teach listening skills in the ELT classroom, but times are changing. In this webinar I shall make the case for a new approach to the teaching and testing of listening skills, using 100% authentic listening texts.

To find out what time the webinar airs where you are, check out the world clock here

The webinar is free and open to anyone who is interested. It will be recorded.

You can access the webinar through the IATEFL website or directly here:

We hope to meet many of you there!

With best wishes
Judith Mader and Neil Bullock
IATEFL TEASIG Coordinators

Mader, J. [LTEST-L] IATEFL TEASIG Webinar on 11 May. LTEST-L listserv (LTEST-L@LISTS.PSU.EDU, 23 Apr 2016).

Call for Chapter Proposals: When “Home” Means More Than One Country

Source: LINGUIST List Back to Quick Links


Call for Chapter Proposals
When "Home" Means More Than One Country: The Discursive (Re) Construction of Identities in Trans-National Migrant Communities

The proposed book will investigate the linguistic practices, norms and controversies woven around identity construction and reconstruction by, and of, migrants. By implication, it will contribute to scholarship on migrant/refugee discourse which, at present, is taking an unprecedented rate in the world. A proposed book of this nature is, therefore, important as it will provide new insights and perspectives to the studies on migrant communities.

Proposals Submission Deadline: 31 May, 2016

View the full call for proposals at

Workshop: The FLLITE Approach: Activity Creation, Assessment, and Publication

Source: COERLL Back to Quick Links

Summer Workshop
The FLLITE Approach: Activity Creation, Assessment, and Publication
July 15-16, 2016
Glickman Center, UT Austin
Facilitators: Carl Blyth, Director of COERLL at UT Austin, Joanna Luks, Cornell University, and Chantelle Warner, Co-director of CERCLL at University of Arizona

Mark your calendars now with the dates of the summer FLLITE (Foreign Languages and the Literary in the Everyday) workshop July 15-16, 2016 on the UT Austin campus where you will learn more about how to apply FLLITE principles to create your own open FLLITE lessons. You will also get a chance to design appropriate assessments, conduct peer-editing, license and share your work, and prepare your lessons for possible publication on the FLLITE website (

Register at for COERLL's summer FLLITE workshop.

CALICO Hands-on Workshops 2016

Source: CALICO Back to Quick Links


The Computer Assisted Language Instruction Consortium will be holding preconferences workshops May 10-14 at Michigan State University. Here are the workshops:

Tuesday, May 10

Practical Tech Tools for Arabic Language Teachers
Technology for Building Multiple Literacies and Intercultural Communicative Competence
Creating Engaging Video Lessons with Zaption

Wednesday, May 11

Building eBooks for Language Classes with iBooks Author
Preparing Students for Digital Storytelling
Design and Delivery of Basic Online Language Instruction I
Design and Delivery of Basic Online Language Instruction II
Saturday, May 14

Technology Tools for Language Teachers and Learners Beyond the Classroom
Meaningful Play: Gamers as Teachers
Save Time and Get Connected - Google Apps for Collaboration and Productivity for the Language Classroom
Using ANVILL-LTI: Making Web-Based Speech Tasks Easy and Pragmatically Pleasing
Your Students Are a Group of Snapchatters!

View full workshop descriptions at
Learn more about the CALICO conference at

Elevate: Online Graduate Certificate in Technology Integration

Source: University of Colorado Boulder Back to Quick Links


The Elevate Certificate is offered by the Anderson Language & Technology Center at the University of Colorado Boulder. It is a 16-credit fully online graduate program dedicated to the theory and practice of technology integration in the language classroom. It is designed for language educators who wish to improve their technological, pedagogical and linguistic proficiency.

The summer 2016 courses are now open for registration. Learn more at


Book: Authenticity, Language and Interaction in Second Language Contexts

Source: Multilingual Matters Back to Quick Links


Authenticity, Language and Interaction in Second Language Contexts
Edited by Rémi A. van Compernolle and Janice McGregor
Published by Multilingual Matters

This collection addresses issues of authenticity in second language contexts from a variety of theoretical and methodological approaches along three principal themes: What is authentic language? Who is an authentic speaker? How is authenticity achieved? The volume attempts to answer these questions by bringing together scholars working in a range of contexts, including with language learners in the classroom and on residence or study abroad, with a variety of second or additional languages: Chinese, English, French, German, Japanese and Spanish. Contributions focus on authenticity as it relates to patterns of language and meaning, and to agency, identity and culture, and will serve as an opening to an extended conversation about the nature of authenticity and its development in L2 contexts. It will be of relevance to students and scholars interested in learning about or investigating questions of authenticity and interaction in a wide range of language learning contexts.

Visit the publisher’s website at

Book: A Practical Guide to Integrating Technology into Task-Based Language Teaching

Source: Georgetown University Press Back to Quick Links


A Practical Guide to Integrating Technology into Task-Based Language Teaching
By Marta González-Lloret
Published by Georgetown University Press

However exciting new technologies and educational tools may seem, they can become solely for entertainment unless their design, use, and evaluation are guided by principles of education and language development. Task-based Language Teaching (TBLT) provides an excellent approach for teachers who want to realize the potential of technology to engage learners and improve language learning inside and outside the classroom.

This practical guide shows teachers how to successfully incorporate technology into TBLT in the classroom and to develop technology-mediated materials. Whether the goal is to conduct a needs analysis, to develop classroom or homework materials, or to implement a new approach of student assessment, A Practical Guide to Integrating Technology into Task-Based Language Teaching will be a welcome resource for language teachers at all levels.

Designed for use in the classroom as well as for independent study, the book includes reflective questions, activities, and further reading at the end of each chapter. Examples of units in Chinese, Spanish, ESL, and the hospitality industry are provided.

Visit the publisher’s website at

Book: Positive Psychology in SLA

Source: Multilingual Matters Back to Quick Links


Positive Psychology in SLA
Edited by Peter D. MacIntyre, Tammy Gregersen, and Sarah Mercer
Published by Multilingual Matters

Positive psychology is the scientific study of how human beings prosper and thrive. This is the first book in SLA dedicated to theories in positive psychology and their implications for language teaching, learning and communication. Chapters examine the characteristics of individuals, contexts and relationships that facilitate learning: positive emotional states such as love, enjoyment and flow, and character traits such as empathy, hardiness and perseverance. The contributors present several innovative teaching ideas to bring out these characteristics among learners. The collection thus blends new teaching techniques with cutting-edge theory and empirical research undertaken using qualitative, quantitative and mixed-methods approaches. It will be of interest to SLA researchers, graduate students, trainee and experienced teachers who wish to learn more about language learning psychology, individual differences, learner characteristics and new classroom practices.

Visit the publisher’s website at

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