Bruna Sommer Farias
Second Language Acquisition and Teaching
Symposium on Second Language Writing
November 13-16, 2019
This colloquium explores how writers build genre knowledge and awareness across languages. We offer a theoretical framework for studying multilingual genre learning, share research and pedagogical explorations from various contexts, and consider prominent themes and possible future directions.
Abstract for Lay Audience
The study "Genre awareness across languages and the role of formal knowledge" examined how students with multiple language backgrounds negotiate previous experiences with a variety of texts in other languages, i.e. genres, and how pedagogical tasks facilitated writing specific genres in an additional language. Being an expert in writing specific texts can be referred to as pursuing genre knowledge, which is essential to realize advanced practices in reading and writing (i.e. literacy) in a second language (Hyland, 2004; Tardy, 2009). While genre knowledge has been used to describe writers’ understanding of and ability to use specific written or oral texts (Tardy, 2009), genre awareness generally refers to a metacognitive understanding of these texts (Devitt, 2009; Johns, 2008). Previous scholars have argued that tasks that help students notice textual features can aid transfer of genre knowledge to new contexts (Cheng, 2007; Negretti & McGrath, 2018), however research on how linguistic background plays into this process deserves more attention (Gentil, 2011). Numbers from the United States Census Bureau (2017) revealed that 20.14% of the US population is bilingual. The Suroeste region, a sociolinguistic classification proposed by Escobar and Potowski (2015) that includes Arizona, is composed of 56% of Latinos. Specifically in Arizona, 31.4% of the population is composed of Spanish speakers. The number of Hispanic Serving Institutions (HSI), title conferred to universities with a least 25% of Hispanic students, grew from 194 in 1994 to 523 in 2017 (Hispanic Association, 2019). These numbers depict a specific portion of U.S. territory nonetheless they already attest the significant presence of multilingual students in U.S. universities. The increasing number of immigrants from varied backgrounds and their access to higher education in the U.S. underscores the need to support students' development of translingual competence, or an ability to read and write confidently across languages, therefore promoting sustainable multilingualism (Cenoz & Gorter, 2017). The portion of my dissertation study to be presented in this conference analyzes portfolio reflections and post-course completion interviews completed by Spanish-English bilingual learners of Portuguese in a genre-based writing course. Results were triangulated with genre analysis tasks and written assignments, and showed how students built genre awareness along the course and how specific writing features across languages were used to write specific genres 1) in Portuguese during the course, and 2) in Portuguese and other languages after course completion. Findings of this study also demonstrated that, for these focal students, metacognitive genre awareness was understood as applicable across languages at the same time it put in evidence language specificities that helped them write genres in each of the languages of their repertoire. This study sought to understand how foreign language writing classes can validate cross-cultural writing practices of bilingual students through a pedagogical focus on writing texts for authentic purposes.