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: The Interaction Approach

Bryan Smith is Associate Professor of English at Arizona State University's Tempe campus. His research focuses on computer-assisted language learning (CALL) - specifically, the intersection of CALL and second language acquisition. He is Editor (along with Mat Schulze) of the CALICO Journal, which is an international journal devoted to research and discussion on technology and language learning.

For this month’s theme, I’d like to outline the importance of input, interaction, and output as fundamental to language learning. Few theoretical perspectives on instructed second language acquisition (SLA) would contest the facilitative effect each of these has for second language development; however, theoretical perspectives will differ on their operationalization and relative importance of each. While there are theories that argue that SLA is essentially an input-driven phenomenon (Krashen’s Monitor Model and van Patten’s Input Processing framework) as well as those that ascribe a heightened importance for output (Swain’s Output Hypothesis), most of the recent pedagogically-relevant work on learner interaction has been from what is called the Interactionist Approach to SLA, with a growing interest in studying interaction from a more socio-cultural perspective.

The interaction approach (IA) has its origins in the late 1970s and early 1980s. The IA essentially says that through input from and interaction with other speakers, language learners have opportunities to notice differences between their own output and the formulations of the target language they hear from conversational partners. They also receive corrective feedback, which both modifies the linguistic input they receive and “pushes” them to modify their output during conversation. This interaction helps draw learners’ attention to linguistic problems when they occur and may also lead learners to notice linguistic input in the absence of a problem. Interactionally modified input, refers to modifications made as needed during goal-oriented conversation and is argued to be more effective than pre-modified input, which is modified to be target-like before any learner error occurs. An example of pre-modified input might appear in a reading passage that provides simplified or glossed language for vocabulary. Some of the most commonly investigated phenomena that inform these constructs include negotiated interaction, whereby learners first have a breakdown in understanding and then regain understanding through a series of communication moves, such as recasts, which are a type of corrective feedback and learner uptake, whereby a learner appropriates the target language forms of their interlocutor in some productive way. Such constructs have also been investigated in settings where technology is used to mediate the interactions such as during synchronous chat and texting as well as asynchronous interaction, such as during e-mail or discussion board posts. Some argue that text-based interaction may make aspects of the input more salient due to the slower rate of delivery and the permanence of the message, which remains on the screen, allowing learners to re-read the input. Keep in mind that the discussion above has been from a cognitive interactionist theoretical perspective. The nature and role of input, interaction, and output are viewed differently by researchers espousing other cognitive perspectives, such as information processing and emergentist – as well as more sociocultural or Vygotskyan perspectives. 

Activity of the Week

  • Taking on different perspectives: Where should we vacation?

    This activity has students reading the same reading from two different perspectives and highlighting key information that would be relevant to each perspective. Then, they give a speech to convince their family where to take a family trip, catering their information to each member’s interests. After watching the speeches, students write a list of pros and cons from the perspective of the different family members.

    Objectives: Students will be able to...

    • read an article from two different perspectives, highlighting relevant information based on that perspective
    • present a persuasive argument in a speech based on the likes and dislikes of the audience
    • listen to other student speeches from the different perspectives, listing the pros and cons as presented in the speech

    Modes: Interpretive Reading, Presentational Speaking, Interpretive Listening

    Materials neededHandout, Reading, Answer key


    1.Introduce the topic, perhaps by saying you’re thinking about traveling somewhere so you are doing some research about the place and the things you can do there. Then mention that you friend is going too, but you have different interests, so you are interested in doing different things while you are there. Give students the handout.

    2. Pass out (or have students read online) the reading, “Top 10 Reasons to Visit Portland, Oregon.” What any one person finds interesting will vary based on their interests. Have the students imagine first they are vegan hikers who want to visit Portland. As they read, they should highlight the things that would be interesting to this person.

    3.Once they’ve read and highlighted, then have them go back and re-read the article from the perspective of a hipster who doesn’t like addictive substances (like alcohol and caffeine). They should highlight the things that would be interesting to this person in a different color than the one before.

    4.Afterwards, let students check their work with the answer key. Discuss the answers as a class as needed.

    5.Next students will pretend they live in Kansas with their family and they want to take a family trip to Portland. Students need to persuade their family to go to Portland. Taking in mind the different likes and dislikes of the members of their imaginary family on the handout, they need to prepare the speech they will give to persuade them. They can use the handout to help them prepare.

    6.After students have recorded their speech, they should post it on a class discussion forum or somewhere where other students can watch them. Each student must watch 5 different speeches from the perspective of the different members of the family and post a list of pros and cons as if they were that family member (for example, maybe the first video the student pretends to be the sister, then the next video the student pretends to be the brother, etc.) 

    7.Look at some of videos and pros and cons posted with the whole class and discuss together if they were persuasive enough to convince the family to go to Portland for vacation. Address any language, structure, or register topics that arise.

CASLS Spotlight: Flagship Technology Innovation Center

The Language Flagship Technology Innovation Center is challenging the ways in which educators integrate technology into the classroom. The center brings together leaders in technology, education, and government to determine how technology can meet educational needs and truly transform the learning experience for students. When talking about technology in education, it's not about digital flashcards, but rather ideas like PERLS (PERvasive Learning System), which is an adaptive learning app designed in collaboration with the Advance Distributed Learning (ADL) initiative to provide adult learners who need flexibility in time and place with micro-learning opportunities on mobile devices.

The goal of the Language Flagship Technology Innovation Center initiative is to create, develop and implement effective technology use into existing Language Flagship Programs. Last year was the first year of the planning stages and three symposiums were held (see our previous Spotlight). This year on March 9-10 a workshop was held in San Francisco called Common Ground, Common Future. One of the teams presenting mentioned LinguaFolio Online, an e-Portfolio incorporating NCSSFL-ACTFL Can-Do statements, goal-setting and reflection, as a feature tool the group found valuable. In attendance was CASLS' Director Dr. Sykes, a founding design team member of the center. The core facilities of the Flagship Technology Innovation Center is based out of the University of Hawai'i. Dr. Julio Rodriguez and Dr. Madeline K. Spring, both at the University of Hawai'i, are the co-directors of the center. The initiative is sponsored by the Defense Language and National Security Agency (DLNSEO) and is funded by the National Security Education Program (NSEP).

CASLS continues to be excited to be involved in a project that works to enhance the Flagship Program experience through thoughtful, creative and intentional use of technology.

 This project is a public-private partnership sponsored by the National Security Education Program (NSEP). The content of the information provided does not reflect the position of the U.S. government nor imply endorsement.

Language Corner

Materials Promoting Study Abroad

Source: SEELANGS Back to Quick Links

Partners of the Americas’ Capacity Building Grants for U.S. Undergraduate Study Abroad program has two new resources available.

The first is a  Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) called “Learn how to build and grow a study abroad program at your institution,” offered through Arizona State University. This course “will jump-start your program planning through actionable information and ready-to-use templates developed by leaders in the study abroad field. You will discover practical approaches for increasing study abroad participation and learn from in-depth case studies, helping you build a long-term strategy for growth and diversification.”

A digital platform,, also promotes study abroad.

Learn more about the Capacity Building Grants for U.S. Undergraduate Study Abroad program at
Learn more about the MOOC at

Article: Using Students’ Native Languages in K-12 Classrooms

Source: District Administration Back to Quick Links


Breaking school language barriers
Teaching K12 students content in native language shows promise, though translations beyond Spanish can be hard to find
by Deborah Yaffe
April 11, 2017

Despite research showing that native-language instruction improves the achievement of English learners, such localized efforts seem more exception than rule.

Across the country, for reasons both political and practical, even districts with substantial numbers of students who don’t yet know English seldom rely on native-language curricular materials.

…How best to educate students who don’t yet speak English has long been hotly debated.

Should they get instruction exclusively in English to maximize the time spent learning the new language? Or should they get at least some instruction in their native language to ensure they don’t fall behind in other subjects?

For scholars, the debate is largely settled, says Ilana Umansky, an assistant professor in the University of Oregon’s College of Education. Native-language instruction confers a modest but real learning advantage, both in English acquisition and in other subjects, says Umansky, who studies how education policy affects ELLs.

Read the full article at

Article: Finding the Focal Point in Language and Content

Source: Back to Quick Links


Here’s a great, short article about sheltered science instruction for high school English language learners:

Five Strategies for Better Reading Comprehension

Source: TESOL Blog Back to Quick Links


Elena Shvidko shares five strategies for improving reading comprehension in this recent blog post:

Reading Activities

Source: Lindsay Does Languages Back to Quick Links


Intended as a list of three big ideas for online language classes, this article actually contains many adaptations and extra activities ideas that can be used in any classroom context:

SpeakToGo: Voice Recognition, Virtual Reality, and Geography

Source: SpeakToGo Back to Quick Links

Your English learning students can use a new VR experiment by Google to explore geography through voice recognition. The experience is best on mobile phones, ideally with a VR headset; students say the name of a place and are taken to that place in virtual reality.

SpeakToGo is available at

Read a review of this resource at

Seating Arrangements for Language Classes

Source: Throw Away Your Textbook! Back to Quick Links


Here are 8 seating arrangements you can use in language classes, with what each arrangement works well for (for example, class discussions, information gap activities, collaborative projects):

Activity Idea: Four Corners

Source: Mis Clases Locas Back to Quick Links


The four corners activity is simple: one of four possible answers to a question is posted in each corner of the room, and students move to the corner that they agree with. Read this blog post for a description of the original idea plus some adaptations:

How Librarians Can Help Bilingual Researchers

Source: Language Magazine Back to Quick Links


School librarian Melanie Curl describes the many approaches that Bean Elementary takes to support dual language learners in this article:

Professional Development

Webinar: Virtual Reality in the Language Classroom

Source: University of Colorado Boulder Back to Quick Links


Virtual Reality in the Language Classroom

Free webinar by Trent Hoy, student in the certificate in language teaching with technology and French adjunct professor at Broward college (FL) . May 4th, 10am Pacific, 11am Mountain, noon Central, and 1pm. Eastern. In this webinar, Trent will present a classroom project where his students will use mobile VR technology (Google Cardboard and Cardboard Camera) to create, share, and narrate immersive snapshots of their lives.

This webinar is offered by the Graduate Certificate in Language Teaching with Technology at the University of Colorado Boulder. For more information, visit

Register for the webinar at

Call for Papers: First World Conference on Technology, Education and Multilinguism

Source: First World Conference on Technology, Education and Multilinguism Back to Quick Links


The First World Conference on Technology, Education and Multilinguism (TECLIN17) will be held from 4th to 8th December 2017 in Buenos Aires.

The main objective of TECLIN17 is to debate and propose guidelines for the development of plurilingual societies with either minorized, minorities or under-resourced languages and their support from the sociolinguistic, legal, technological and pedagogical/educational dimensions. Social welfare must integrate the linguistic dimension and it cannot be achieved without the enhancement of so-called minorized languages, like local, regional, indigenous, and languages of the immigration which constitute the mother tongue of many speakers. Societies cannot achieve social welfare without fully articulating their linguistic rights. Technology, legal and educational frameworks constitute tools for the consecution of a plurilingual society.

The thematic organization of the congress revolves around three pillars: multilingualism, technology and education. These three areas will be treated separately, hence defining their own tracks at the conference. Authors can submit to one or various tracks and will be evaluated by different program committees.

Paper Submission Deadline: July 15, 2017

View the full call for papers at

Call for 2017-2018 Research Project Proposals: ACTFL Research Priorities

Source: ACTFL Back to Quick Links


The American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages’ Research Priorities Project aims to support empirical research on priority areas that are currently critical to improving foreign language education. Proposals can initiate a new research study, support/expand a study under way, or explore an emerging research area that is connected to one or more Research Priority areas.  The research grants are funded by ACTFL. Preference will be given to proposals that focus on the cognitive developments of language learning.

View a list of priority areas at

The deadline for research proposals is June 1, 2017.

CALICO Conference 2017

Source: CALICO Back to Quick Links

The Computer Assisted Language Instruction Consortium will hold its 2017 conference May 16-20 in Flagstaff, Arizona. The conference theme is Multilingualism and Digital Literacies. Visit the conference website to learn more and to register:


Book: Traces of Transfer?

Source: LOT Publications Back to Quick Links


Traces of Transfer?
By Sanne van Vuuren
Published by LOT

This thesis investigates the nature of language development at advanced stages of acquisition by presenting a contrastive and developmental corpus-analysis of advanced Dutch EFL learners’ use of clause-initial adverbials. It also looks into the possible underlying causes of Dutch learners’ frequent use of initial adverbials by considering whether it might be a) a transfer-induced feature of Dutch English, b) an interlanguage feature shared by learners of English with other L1 backgrounds, or c) a characteristic of novice writing in general. The results suggests that it is not so much the overall frequency of initial adverbials that sets apart advanced Dutch learners’ EFL writing from the writing of novice and expert native speakers, but the way initial adverbials are used for discourse linking purposes. There appear to be two (possibly interrelated) causes of this heavy reliance on initial adverbials to achieve textual cohesion: transfer and teaching. On the one hand, subtle traces of transfer at the syntax-pragmatics interface are likely to lie at the root of advanced Dutch learners’ use of initial adverbials to ‘anchor’ the sentence in which they occur to an antecedent in the directly preceding discourse. Dutch learners’ heavy reliance on initial linking adverbials, on the other hand, appears to be a more widely shared interlanguage feature. This may be at least partly explained by a largely reductionist approach to teaching textual cohesion in L2 English coursebooks, in which a focus on linking words comes at the expense of representative discussion of other cohesive strategies.

Visit the publisher’s website at

Book: The Usage-based Study of Language Learning and Multilingualism

Source: Georgetown University Press Back to Quick Links


The Usage-based Study of Language Learning and Multilingualism
Edited by Lourdes Ortega, Andrea E. Tyler, Hae In Park, and Mariko Uno
Published by Georgetown University Press

When humans learn languages, are they also learning how to create shared meaning? In The Usage-based Study of Language Learning and Multilingualism, a cadre of international experts say yes and offer cutting-edge research in usage-based linguistics to explore how language acquisition, in particular multilingual language acquisition, works.

Each chapter presents an original study that supports the view that language learning is initiated through local and meaningful communication with others. Over an accumulated history of such usage, people gradually create more abstract, interactive schematic representations, or a mental grammar. This process of acquiring language is the same for infants and adults and across varied contexts, such as the family, the classroom, the laboratory, a hospital, or a public encounter. Employing diverse methodologies to study this process, the contributors here work with target languages, including Cantonese, English, French, French Sign Language, German, Hebrew, Malay, Mandarin, Spanish, and Swedish, and offer a much-needed exploration of this growing area of linguistic research.

Visit the publisher’s website at

Report: Promoting the Educational Success of Children and Youth Learning English: Promising Futures

Source: The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, Medicine Back to Quick Links


Educating dual language learners (DLLs) and English learners (ELs) effectively is a national challenge with consequences both for individuals and for American society. Despite their linguistic, cognitive, and social potential, many ELs—who account for more than 9 percent of enrollment in grades K-12 in U.S. schools—are struggling to meet the requirements for academic success, and their prospects for success in postsecondary education and in the workforce are jeopardized as a result.

Promoting the Educational Success of Children and Youth Learning English: Promising Futures examines how evidence based on research relevant to the development of DLLs/ELs from birth to age 21 can inform education and health policies and related practices that can result in better educational outcomes. This report makes recommendations for policy, practice, and research and data collection focused on addressing the challenges in caring for and educating DLLs/ELs from birth to grade 12.

The report is available for download at
New America is running a series of posts exploring the report’s key themes; you can read the first post at

April 2017 Issue of Reading in a Foreign Language

Source: NFLRC Back to Quick Links


The April 2017 issue of Reading in a Foreign Language, a refereed international online journal of issues in foreign language reading and literacy, is available at

In this issue:

Narrow reading: Effects on EFL learners’ reading speed, comprehension, and perceptions
Anna C-S Chang & Sonia Millett

An exploratory study of NNES graduate students’ reading comprehension of English journal articles
Kate Tzu-Ching Chen

Discipline-specific reading expectation and challenges for ESL learners in US universities
K. James Hartshorn, Norman W. Evans, Jesse Egbert, and Amy Johnson

The differential impact of reading and listening on L2 incidental acquisition of different dimensions of word knowledge
Sarvenaz Hatami

Standards of coherence in second language reading: Sentence connectivity and reading proficiency
Shingo Nahatame

L2 Japanese learners’ responses to translation, speed reading, and ‘pleasure reading’ as a form of extensive reading
Mitsue Tabata-Sandom

The effects of L1 and L2 group discussions on L2 reading comprehension
Blake Turnbull and Moyra Sweetnam Evans

Foreign language reading anxiety in a Chinese as a foreign language context
Jing Zhou

Plus reviews, discussion, and more.

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