Adult literacy learners conducting in- and out-of-classroom interactions: The use of situated objects in requests

Thematic Section: Multilingual interaction – questions of participation and belonging

intercultural encounters; language ideologies; learning ‘in the wild’; linguistic asymmetries; multimodal conversation analysis

Laura Eilola, Tampere University
While the number of migrant populations is growing, more research is required on how learners with low alphabetic literacy tackle the challenges of second language use in their new home countries (see Bigelow & Vinogradov, 2011). This study focuses on how low-literacy second language users of Finnish draw on multimodal resources in the classroom and in everyday-life interactions to accomplish recognizable social actions. The study is based on longitudinal ethnographic fieldwork. The interactions of the groups were video recorded for 8 months in classrooms and in other contexts. The data consists of 22,5 hours of video-recordings.
The method of analysis is multimodal conversation analysis, and the focus is on how students make use of objects that are relevant in the situation at hand to formulate understandable requests in various settings. Such objects or ‘situated resources’ can be seen, touched, smelled, and even tasted (see Nevile et al., 2014). For example, in service encounters in the marketplace, the products are typically not only visible, but also available to experience with the other senses. These kinds of out-of-classroom interactions and their material ecology are contrasted with classroom interactions.

The analysis reveals that by pointing, touching, or maneuvering such objects, beginning second language users manage to design requests that are understandable to their co-participants and that contribute to the progressivity of the interaction in an appropriate way. The analysis sheds new light on the creative methods that second language users draw on in their interactions and highlights the idea of interactional competence as an embodied phenomenon.

Bigelow & Vinogradov 2011. Teaching adult second language learners who are emergent readers. Annual Review of Applied Linguistics.
Nevile, Haddington, Heinemann & Rauniomaa 2014. On the interactional ecology of objects. In Interacting with objects: Language, materiality, and social activity.