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Language.Culture.Matters Seminar Series

Convenors: Clay Becker, Yvette Wang, Zening Yang

When: Every Wednesday,16:00-17:00 (UK time) during term time

Where: MS Teams + A 0.23

Register here to access the MS Teams link:

22/23 Term3
03 May, 16:00 - 17:00

Pedagogical Concepts: Tools for Developing 'Reasoned Teaching'

Prof. Karen Johnson, Prof. Deryn Verity and Prof. Sharon Childs, The Pennsylvania State University


This presentation explores the “unresolved” question of what constitutes impactful teacher education and outlines the developmental trajectory of novice ESL teachers as they move through three praxis-oriented pedagogy courses in an MATESL program. Praxis-oriented pedagogy consists of educational innovations that reflect the Vygotskian/sociocultural (VSCT) principle that symbolic and material engagement in activity affects cognitive development. Highlighted will be a set of VSCT-informed pedagogical concepts developed to help novice teachers construct pedagogically and theoretically sound reasoning and instructional practices. After laying out the VSCT underpinnings of praxis-oriented pedagogy, we will trace how specific pedagogical concepts functions as mediational means to help novices reorient their instructional stance, engage responsively with learners, and reason agentively about their teaching. The presentation offers rich descriptions of the developmental trajectory of novice L2 teacher reasoning and how it can be informed by engagement in praxis-oriented pedagogy.


Karen E. Johnson is Kirby Professor of Language Learning and Applied Linguistics at The Pennsylvania State University, USA.

Deryn P. Verity is a Teaching Professor in Applied Linguistics and Director of ESL/EAP Programs at The Pennsylvania State University, USA.

Sharon S. Childs is an Associate Teaching Professor and Chair of the MA TESL Program at The Pennsylvania State University, USA.

10 May,16:00 - 17:00

Intercultural relations and Western stereotypes of the Japanese

Prof. Perry Hinton, University of Warwick


Since the arrival of the first Europeans in Japan in the mid-16th century, Westerners have sought to explain the Japanese “character”, which has typically been viewed in contrast to their own. In the 20th century, Western academics, such as the anthropologist Ruth Benedict and personality psychologists, have sought to distinguish the “true” Japanese character from “false” stereotypes. Yet these explanations have been criticised in terms of Orientalism and their cultural assumptions. In this paper, I turn the focus away from the Japanese and back onto the Western authors who have described the Japanese character during the past five hundred years. By examining these representations (“stereotypes”) of the Japanese in their historical context, I demonstrate that they provide cultural explanations for the current state of intercultural relations and shift, sometimes radically, when that relationship changes. Hence, I argue that these judgements are neither “true” nor “misperceptions” (mental error or bias) of Japanese “personality”, but are Western constructions of a cultural “other” within communication for an ideological purpose.


Perry R. Hinton is a professor in the Department of Applied Linguistics at the University of Warwick, UK. His research focuses on the relationship between stereotypes and intercultural communication, specifically the cultural formation of stereotypes, and on Western media interpretation of Japanese popular culture. His book Stereotypes and the Construction of the Social World (Routledge 2020) argues that stereotypes are ideological constructions reflecting intergroup relations within a social organization, rather than cognitive errors and biases. His soon-to-be-published monograph, The Japanese in the Western Mind (Routledge, June 2023), charts the history of Western-Japanese intercultural relations through the ways in which Western authors have represented the Japanese as a cultural “other” in their writings.

17 May, 16:00 - 17:00

Learning languages through cultural activities: The ENACT Web App

Prof. Paul Seedhouse, Newcastle University


ENACT is a free web app developed at Newcastle University, co-funded by the European Union. Released in February 2021, the app enables people to learn aspects of foreign languages while performing a meaningful real-world task which enables them to experience the culture of the foreign language. With the ENACT interactive player, users can learn a foreign language through the foreign culture by carrying out a cultural activity. Learn Italian while you’re making a Venetian carnival mask or Turkish while you’re making a shadow puppet! Devices will guide users through the stages of doing the activity through structured interactive content using photos, text, audio and video to help them. People can use the ENACT Author to create their own favourite cultural activity in their own language so that anyone else round the world can use it to learn the language and culture. ENACT has been used by over 11,000 people in 153 countries.

In this presentation, I will provide an overview of the project aims, introduce the task-based language teaching and online interactive material design principles underlying the app design, and briefly demonstrate the key features of the ENACT app: the interactive player, the author, and the community. During the Q&A, we can explore opportunities for producing materials for other cultures and languages.


Paul Seedhouse is Professor of Educational and Applied Linguistics and Director of ilab:learn at Newcastle University, UK. With colleagues in Computing Science over 12 years, he has worked on 4 grants to use digital technology to teach users languages and cultural tasks simultaneously, resulting in the Linguacuisine and ENACT apps.

He has also had 5 grants from the IELTS consortium to study spoken interaction in the IELTS Speaking Test. He has published 10 books and over 70 articles and book chapters in the areas of spoken interaction, applied linguistics and language teaching. His book The Interactional Architecture of the Language Classroom: A Conversation Analysis Perspective won the 2005 Modern Language Association of America Kenneth W. Mildenberger Prize.

24 May, 16:00-17:00

Pragmatic Grammar as a New Approach to Teaching Contextualised Language

Dr. Hussain Al Sharoufi, Gulf University for Science & Technology


There is a strong affinity between theory and practice and teaching English as a foreign language, TEFL, is the best area where TEFL practice is heavily impacted by theory. Over the last fifty years, the linguistic theory has undergone several upheavals that have paved the way for the emergence of certain dogmas that have severely affected ELT practice afterwards. Formal language theories are principally based on two important pillars, the first of which is decontextualisation, and the second of which is reductionism. These two pillars have negatively affected the linguistic theory and have hindered any development of a genuine sociocultural understanding of language, creating thus grave dogmas in linguistics and in TEFL. With the emergence of pragmatics in the sixties and cultural linguistics in the 90s, a new approach to linguistics was born, and as such a new ray of hope for breaking linguistic dogmas appeared. In this talk, I will focus on the new outcomes of cultural linguistics and pragmatics in envisaging a new era of effective English language teaching, away from the shackles of linguistic dogmas that hinder foreign students from learning and producing English naturally. Non-native students of English need to construe the sociocultural context in second language learning and should develop an awareness of using language effectively in appropriate situations. Grammar, as such, should be taught as a spring of water serving the communicative purposes of non-native speakers. English teachers thus should not be teaching sporadic sentences, simply to show their students how phrase structure rules operate. Rather, the mechanics of language should be presented to students as helpful tools to achieve communicative goals. This is achieved through observing the following:

Identifying causes of non-native speakers’ mistakes when communicating their messages in English,

Developing pragmatic repertoires as instructional components,

Developing tests based on gauging pragmatic skills,

Helping non-native speakers to be strategically aware of using pragmatic acts in real-time situations,

Incorporating technology into teaching pragmatic skills.

In a nutshell, if English teachers really want their non-native students to excel at performing English naturally, they should pay heed to the crucial importance of pragmatics and its role in creating a communicative confluence in English language teaching and learning.

Bio: Dr. Hussain Al Sharoufi, associate professor of applied linguistics in the English department at Gulf University for Science and Technology in Kuwait and former president of TESOL Kuwait, presented papers at over twenty-eight international refereed conferences. He published numerous refereed articles in applied linguistics, pragmatics, discourse analysis, and language teaching in various international academic journals. He is an active member of IPRA, International Pragmatics Association, AMPRA, American Pragmatics Association, TESOL International, and TESOL Kuwait. He further reviews academic articles for several international journals, including Journalism: Theory, Practice & Criticism (Published by SAGE, UK), Journal of Pragmatics (Elsevier-UK), the International Journal of Language and Communication, Denmark, and Reading and Writing Quarterly, USA. Dr. Al Sharoufi is also known for originating the Academic Writing Wizard, AWW, which is a new web-based application for teaching academic writing.

31 May, 16:00 - 17:00

In-sessional EAP language teacher wellbeing

Dr. Christine Muir, University of Nottingham


Teachers in good physical and mental health are better able to facilitate meaningful learning experiences for their students. A growing focus on teacher wellbeing has opened important avenues of discussion (e.g. Mercer, 2021), however, there remains much ground to cover to ensure meaningful support and intervention at both an individual and, critically, also at institutional/collective levels. A teaching context yet to have come into focus is teaching English for academic purposes (EAP). In this talk, I report findings from the first steps of a multi-stage research project exploring EAP teacher wellbeing. Qualitative data was collected via a two-stage interview process with 11 in-sessional EAP teachers located in universities across England and Scotland. The aims of this study were to understand which factors affecting wellbeing identified in other contexts are relevant here, and to explore charactristics more specific to the EAP role. I will share key findings emerged and future plans.


Christine Muir is an Assistant Professor in Second Language Acquisition at the School of English, University of Nottingham. Her research interests center broadly around the psychology of language teaching and learning. She has published in the areas of language learning motivation, including her most recent book Directed Motivational Currents and Language Education (Multilingual Matters, 2020), and around language teacher wellbeing and emotional labour.

07 June, 16:00 - 17:00

Understanding International Student Mobility from an interdisciplinary perspective

Dr Joana Almeida, University of Warwick


This talk addresses the theoretical foundations and practical applications to understanding international student mobility from an interdisciplinary perspective, i.e., against the multiple variables of interest rather than pre-set mono-disciplinary frameworks.

Building on the speaker’s 2020 book “Understanding Student Mobility in Europe: An interdisciplinary approach” by Routledge, and the lived experiences of 50 sojourners in Portugal and the UK, this talk aims to raise awareness of how our own conceptual and methodological positioning can influence knowledge generation. It is sought, in this way, to demonstrate the strengths of an interdisciplinarity perspective, and its underlying ‘both/and’ rather than ‘either/or’ approach, to developing a comprehensive account of international student mobility, at both conceptual and methodological levels.


Joana Almeida is Assistant Professor in intercultural communication at the Department of Applied Linguistics, University of Warwick. With a 15-year academic portfolio across education institutions in Portugal, Spain, the UK and the USA, Joana has worked on multiple research projects on cross-cultural communication and/or international higher education, including: research capacity-building in Mozambican higher education (Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency), internationalisation at home in European higher education (Erasmus+), internationalisation of the curriculum in Brazilian higher education (British Council), teacher education and intercultural competence development in the EU (European Commission Joint Research Centre) inter alia.

Joana’s primary research interests are centred on the internationalisation of higher education, international student mobility and intercultural competence by developing an interdisciplinary understanding of these topics. She has published in various academic journals including European Journal of Higher Education, Intercultural Education, and is the author of Understanding Student Mobility in Europe: An Interdisciplinary Approach (Routledge, 2020).

14 June, 16:00 - 17:00

Shared Laughter to Manage Relationship Work in Interactional Troubles During Multiparty Peer Interaction

Yanyan Li, University of Warwick


According to Vygotsky’s Sociocultural Theory (SCT), second language learning is social and occurs where learners interact with their group members during group work. In group work, it is inevitable that learners will need to manage their relationships with one another in addition to operationalising group tasks. Despite transactional dimensions (e.g. accomplishing group tasks) being pivotal to classroom group work, relational aspects (e.g. relationship building and management) which underpin the group work dynamic are also significant. By using multimodal conversation analysis, this study aims to unravel the interactional processes of learners’ doing relationship work in multiparty group work in second language classrooms. Video and audio recordings of naturally occurring peer interactions were collected, transcribed and analysed. It is observed that while conducting group work, members usually share laughter in interactional troubles, which have relational consequences. Findings demonstrate that shared laughter can contribute to potential relationship breaches between group members, as well as relationship restoration, maintenance and reinforcement through affiliation among members. It is also shown that shared laughter may help sustain positive relationships before disaffiliation is reached. This study sheds light on how relationships are processed by participants to operationalise group work.

Bio: I am a third-year PhD student at Department of Applied Linguistics, University of Warwick. My research interests cover multimodal communication, conversion analysis, and classroom interaction. My current project explores how peers manage their relationships during multiparty classroom peer interaction. I am currently working for several taught and professional programmes at Warwick. As a senior graduate teaching assistant, I support the teaching and marking of MA modules and supervise MA dissertations at the department. I deliver intercultural training workshops for World at Warwick and work for Community Values Education Programme as well. I am also a peer-to-peer tutor at Warwick Library, where I offer skill-oriented talks, language exchange workshops and academic writing tutorials for Warwick students.


21 June, 16:00 - 17:00

Why history (of ELT)? Whose history?

Prof. Richard Smith, University of Warwick

Abstract: Looking back is not typical in applied linguistics or language teacher education except to consign the past to the ‘dustbin of history’ and hold up current ideas as shiny, new and enlightened. What’s the point of history of ELT, then, and whose interests should it serve? I use the opportunity presented by this talk to review some my own historical work over the last two decades and, on this basis, to indicate some directions for the future. I take this as an incentive to build stronger arguments than hitherto for bringing history into the mainstream of applied linguistics and (English) language teacher education, especially through a focus on histories of practice in different contexts, and on under-represented viewpoints.

Bio: Richard Smithis a Professor of ELT and Applied Linguistics in the Department of Applied Linguistics, University of Warwick, where he founded the Warwick ELT ArchiveLink opens in a new window in 2002. His most recent publications in the field of history of language learning and teaching are Policies and Practice in Language Learning and Teaching: 20th-Century Historical Perspectives (Amsterdam University Press, 2022) and Innovation in Language Learning and Teaching: Historical Perspectives (Benjamins, 2023), co-edited with Sabine Doff and Tim Giesler, respectively. Further information: opens in a new window

See our previous seminars here: