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Navigating the language-learning classroom without previous schooling

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Abstract

Drawing on understandings of classrooms as communities of practice and using analytic methods including conversation analysis, this paper describes the path of English language learning taken by an adult immigrant to the U.S. (‘Li’) who had no previous experience with formal education. Although standardized assessment measures indicated that Li did not make progress in her language acquisition during the 18 months of data collection, analysis of intensive video recordings of teacher-student and student-student interactions show how Li moves from peripheral to fuller participation as a member of the community of classroom participants and the community of English language users. Findings suggest that ‘participation’ rather than ‘acquisition’ is a more appropriate metaphor for understanding language learning in this situation.

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