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Ecological perspectives on foreign language education

  • Claire Kramsch (a1)

Ecological approaches to language learning and teaching have captured the interest of language educators as both native and non-native speakers find themselves operating in increasingly multilingual and multicultural environments. This paper builds on Kramsch & Whiteside (in press) to conceptualize what an ecological perspective on foreign language education, based on complexity theory, would look like. It first explains some of the major tenets of complexity theory, and analyzes transcriptions of exchanges taking place among multilingual individuals in multicultural settings using the ecological approach offered by complexity theory. Based on what these analyses reveal about the ability of these individuals to shape the very context in which language is learned and used, it discusses the notion of ‘symbolic competence’ recently proposed by Kramsch (2006) and explores how symbolic competence might be developed through foreign language education in institutional contexts.

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F. Capra (2005). Complexity and life. Theory, Culture and Society 22.5, 3344.

N. Ellis & D. Larsen-Freeman (2006). Language emergence: Implications for applied linguistics – Introduction to the special issue. Applied Linguistics 27.4, 558589.

C. Kramsch (2006). From communicative competence to symbolic competence. The Modern Language Journal 90.2, 249252.

D. Larsen-Freeman (1997). Chaos/complexity science and second language acquisition. Applied Linguistics 18.2, 141165.

J. Leather & J. van Dam (eds.) (2002). Ecology of language acquisition. Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic.

B. Rampton (1999a). ‘Deutsch’ in Inner London and the animation of an instructed foreign language. Journal of Sociolinguistics 3, 480504.

L Van Lier . (2004). The ecology and semiotics of language learning: A sociocultural perspective. Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic.

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Language Teaching
  • ISSN: 0261-4448
  • EISSN: 1475-3049
  • URL: /core/journals/language-teaching
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