Second Language Acquisition: The Classroom Discourse

Subject: Linguistics
Pages: 4
Words: 1217
Reading time:
5 min
Study level: Master


In modern academic literature that is largely devoted to the problems of education, the idea that a teacher is not only the most important subject of the educational process, but also the designer of this process, on whose effectiveness it depends, becomes increasingly persistent. It is emphasized that any meaningful statement is aimed at influencing the recipient (Kumaravadivelu, 1999). Accordingly, classroom discourse is a tool of influencing the learner, and, consequently, public opinion on a larger scale. This paper aims to discuss classroom discourse essence and potential application to the second language acquisition context.

Examining Classroom Discourse Analysis

Classroom discourse can be regarded as the language of interaction in a social sphere, where the central figure is a teacher, acting within a professional framework. In this context, a conceptual metaphor is a universal means of presenting information, which is capable of conceptualizing and categorizing reality (Kumaravadivelu, 1999). In human consciousness, concepts arise as a result of activities, as well as the experiential comprehension of the world. Any concept incorporates the generalized content of many forms of expression in natural language, including those spheres of human life that are predetermined by language and are unthinkable without it. In particular, the classroom teaching implies the face-to-face interaction between a teacher and students, leading to a conversation (Domalewska, 2015). This interaction is the result of combining the meaning of words with one’s personal and cultural experience.

The analysis of the classroom discourse dates back to the 1960s and 1970s. This period is characterized by the emergence of several studies. This analysis can be traced in in the works of Sinclair and Coulthard, who made a commitment to the overall classroom activity as a structural experience (Walsh, 2003). For these theorists, language played a huge role in structuring experience, and the status of language differed depending on the theoretical perspective adopted. In turn, Van Dijk (2015) focuses on such an important issue as context that can be considered from the point of a communication situation in case of the classroom disburse analysis. Students learn through words, but the environment they interact in also matters. For instance, beliefs held by students and teachers differ based on various factors, and their mental models can change dynamically. The trajectories of classroom context vary, depending on interactional features, such as feedback, requests, questions, and scaffolding.

Within the framework of the communicative approach to the study of classroom discourse, researchers are engaged in teaching language behavior in the classroom. For example, Domalewska (2015) states that teachers often act as role models, who control and limit learning, as they restrict students’ speaking opportunities. In addition, teacher-fronted activities cause the simplification of assignments and a lack of interest in the given subject. A significant place was given to the language as a social phenomenon and part of social interaction. The author argues that teachers should involve students in knowledge acquisition by asking questions and encouraging critical thinking, which is consistent with the socio-cultural theory (Domalewska, 2015). The engagement in discussion identifies a high-level discourse, which not only improves students’ academic performance but also promotes cooperative behaviors.

Applying Classroom Discourse to SLA Context

In a classroom, discourse is composed of various opinions and interactions of students and teachers. However, every member of the interaction has his or her own language and “voice” and a special conceptual apparatus, which includes experience and unique perceptions of the world. In them, as in a sign system, some central points can be distinguished, around which other signs are ordered and acquire their meaning (DeKeyser & Botana, 2019). For example, in the area of second language acquisition (SLA), such a nodal point is the concept of a word, phrase, rules, and so on. These signs crystallize around phenomena that are studied during lessons. In the language of these signs that make up discursive practices, the teacher transmits messages (information) to the students. This is how the transfer of central signs from the teacher to the students is carried out (DeKeyser & Botana, 2019). In addition, classroom discourse promotes the emergence of attitudes towards meanings transmitted and understanding social reality, which is reproduced in these meanings.

In SLA, the goal of learning a new language is closely intertwined with knowing more about the culture and practices of this language. For example, while Chinese students learn English, they are expected to be taught about the US and the UK countries, even though English is one of the global languages. In other words, the semantic nodes of the classroom discourse are formed by key concepts. It is the concepts that make up the picture of the world, affect the perception of the world, and shape the vision of oneself in relation to other people and ongoing events. Walsh (2003) states that long-term and frequent contact with one or another conceptual apparatus leads to the assimilation and consolidation of the meaning of certain concepts in consciousness. Teachers should understand that classroom discourse can be used to change students’ pictures of the world, for example, by making their attitudes more diverse and aware of respect and tolerance.

In today’s learning environment, the leading educational stance refers to considering the process of learning as an interactive process. Teachers are no longer those who share knowledge, yet they encourage students’ minds and broaden their horizons. One of the ways to apply classroom discourse to the SLA is to ask questions and guide answers to create a progressive curriculum (Walsh, 2003). For example, after introducing a rule, the teacher may ask questions to understand the extent to which students mastered it. If additional assistance is needed, the teacher may note some examples and ask questions if they can come up with their own situations to illustrate new knowledge. Each of the questions and answers depends on the context. Most importantly, teachers should make sure to involve all students in the conversation, avoiding the case when only 2-3 students contribute to the discourse (Loewen & Sato, 2018). The primary goal of implementing the principles of the classroom interaction is to educate students on arguing constructively and justifying their beliefs.

In terms of the interaction approach, there are three phases of communication between teachers and students, such as input, interaction, and output. As rationally claimed by Loewen and Sato (2018), interaction helps learners in SLA, especially in cases when teachers are able to understand the factors that motivate a certain student. The context of the SLA is regarded as quite complex due to the need to pay attention to a range of aspects, such as vocabulary, settings, and individual differences. Therefore, further research is proposed to explore the effectiveness of implementing classroom discourse into this environment, focusing on possible benefits, challenges, and opportunities. In addition, the ways students develop their thinking patterns can be used as another research direction, which is helpful to extend knowledge about the role of classroom discourse.


To conclude, classroom discourse analysis shows that it is the language that is used for the purpose of communication between students and teachers. This process involves not only the exchange of information, but also shaping one’s attitudes and sharing cultural backgrounds. In the SLA context, classroom discourse is essential to engage students in conversation, learn more about cultures, as well as develop their thinking and learning capabilities.


DeKeyser, R. M., & Botana, G. P. (2019). Doing SLA research with implications for the classroom: Reconciling methodological demands and pedagogical applicability. John Benjamins Publishing Company.

Domalewska, D. (2015). Classroom discourse analysis in EFL elementary lessons. International Journal of Languages, Literature and Linguistics, 1(1), 6-9.

Kumaravadivelu, B. (1999). Critical classroom discourse analysis. TESOL Quarterly, 33(3), 453-484.

Loewen, S., & Sato, M. (2018). Interaction and instructed second language acquisition. Language Teaching, 51(3), 285-329.

Van Dijk, T. A. (2015). Context. In K. Tracy, C. Ilie, & T. Sandel (Eds.), The international encyclopedia of language and social interaction. Wiley & Sons.

Walsh, S. (2003). Developing interactional awareness in the second language classroom through teacher self-evaluation. Language Awareness, 12(2), 124-142.