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Social Dimensions of L2 learning Ortega,R.(2009).Understanding second language acquisition.Routledge Kendra & BANCY


  1. In the 1980s and 1990s, SLA research focused on understanding universal patterns in how learners acquire a second language, guided by cognitive-interactionist theories.
  2. By mid 1990s the focus shifted to a more social perspective following the “social turns” in other disciplines.
  3. Critics suggested that reality is social and unknowable, so studying particulars instead of seeking universal patterns would be more helpful in complex issues like second language learning.

The chameleon metaphor

  • Language learning is inextricably bound to the social context in which it occurs.
  • Just as a chameleon's color changes based on its surroundings, one's language proficiency and the entirety of the learning process is fundamentally shaped by the social environment and context.
  • Any attempt to study it independently of that context is inaccurate

Social constructivist, social cultural and post structuralist views

Social constructivism

Reality is created by humans and social groups, not given naturally Reality does not exist independently to be grasped by the individual mind


Reality is radically collective and social, appropriated through relationships Knowledge source is in social communities, learning emerges from social processes The individual mind learns from historical and social contexts Only processes, events, activities are real, not structures or patterns


Structures proposed by structuralists are insufficient to explain human condition Nothing can be known independently from the discourse that names/creates itPower is embedded in knowledge and discourses Reality is socially constructed, distributed, multiple, intersubjective Reality is discursively constituted and a site of power struggles