Culture in Language Acquisition

Oct 28, 2018 | 10:45 AM - 12:15 PM | Loft 2

Jacqulyn Graber, MA  Carnegie Mellon University

Acquiring an American Sense of Academic Logic: A Literate Act for Chinese English Language Learners

American universities are seeing a steady increase of enrolled Non-Native English Speakers, and students from China make up the largest percentage of this international population. In order to be admitted into most stateside colleges, Chinese students are required to take the TOEFL exam. This exam is often the first time Chinese English Language Learners encounter American academic writing in a high-stakes context. Currently, the thesis-driven essay – an integral part of the TOEFL exam and a foundational American academic genre – is taught to Chinese students via isolated approaches. Chinese students may score well on the writing portion of the TOEFL exam, but then flounder once immersed in American academia. This is because Chinese students must not only learn the linguistic skills necessary for academic writing, but must also adopt American rhetorical skills which accurately display an American sense of academic logic. This research will use a multi-voiced inquiry - by consulting both academic research and personal accounts of Chinese ESL students and ESL instructors - to assert that this literate act of acquiring an American sense of logic is difficult one because of vast differences in philosophy, culture, and reader expectations between the U.S. and China. It will then suggest that effective Chinese ESL writing instruction must be framed with these competing logical structures in mind.

Kasey Whalley, BA, LITA, University of Toronto

Classifying: Culture and Language Work in Libraries

Classification schema in libraries are often antithetical to the social goals and design intentions of libraries. Libraries are community spaces and places of discovery, often with strategic plans and initiatives which aim to be open to technological trends and emerging pedagogies, that allow library professionals to continually work towards inclusive, responsive, and equitable treatment of all people and material subjects. Underneath the intention and design of libraries there is often outdated, biased, and colonial classification schema that constrain and negate much of the work libraries strive to achieve. Languages, cultures, and individual identities are threatened by these schemas. Taking a journey through the history of the Dewey Decimal Classification System and the Library of Congress Classification categories, a fuller understanding of how these colonial and restrictive systems are being challenged, replaced, and reimagined. Efforts by library professionals to be inclusive and reflective of the community while balancing the need to remain effective repositories and community spaces is challenging work that requires a multidisciplinary approach. By examining these classification practices closely and practically, and developing responsive programming, services, and schema, libraries will be able to make good on their social goals and design intentions to serve everyone in their community.

Xiaoxiao Du, PhD and and Kate Guan, MPEd University of Western Ontario

Understanding Complex Identities Through Different Languages and Cultures in Education

In the context of globalization and internationalization, Canada has welcomed 494, 525 international students in 2017 (Canadian Bureau for International Education, 2018). Language education is not just about teaching a particular language to different students in a classroom setting but calls for a better understanding of language teaching and learning practices to meet diverse student needs in the current globalized world. Drawing upon sociocultural approaches to language learning and teaching (Atkinson, 2011), this paper investigates the interconnected relationships among language, culture and identity through dynamic learning and teaching practices.

Language learning and teaching can be considered as socially and culturally situated practices (Lave & Wenger, 1991). Both learners and teachers make their investment in the situated process of learning and teaching. The presenters conducted discourse analysis to examine their learning and teaching practices from three different levels, that is, macro, meso, and micro (Douglas Fir Group, 2016) with the goal of further understanding the dynamic and negotiated teacher and learner identities (De Costa & Norton, 2017; Norton & De Costa, 2018). Initial findings will be shared regarding how ideologies such as cultural values affect identity negotiation, how learner and teacher agency can transform language learning and teaching practices, and how identity can be reconstructed in socially negotiated context drawing upon social, cultural and linguistic capitals (De Costa & Norton, 2016). Implications will be made regarding challenges and strategies of language learning and teaching from international education perspectives.


Jacqulyn Graber, MA

Jacqulyn Graber attended SUNY University at Buffalo where she obtained a BA in English Honors and Philosophy, as well as a Certificate in Irish Studies from the National University of Ireland in Maynooth. As an undergraduate, she became invested in her university's global community.  Through volunteering at the Study Abroad Office, she served as a Global Ambassador, and was awarded the distinction Global Scholar. Jacqulyn worked as an Undergraduate Writing Consultant, specializing in first year writers, and conducted research concerning collegiate writing centers' role in instructing first year English Language Learners at the university. These interests in culture and pedagogy, combined with her literary and philosophical background, inspired Jacqulyn to pursue a master's degree in Literary and Cultural Studies from Carnegie Mellon University. Due to Carnegie Mellon's diverse English department and student body, she was able to take a more rhetorical approach to cultural studies, focusing on first year writing pedagogy while still staying involved in writing center and English literacy research. Jacqulyn's interest in academic literacy has grown, and her current research focuses on writing pedagogy for various "non-traditional" collegiate writers - from ESL students, to minority dialect speakers, to first generation college students. She plans to pursue a PhD in Rhetoric so that she may become more actively involved in the planning and implementing of writing pedagogy that will better serve our increasingly globalized community and diversifying Western campuses.

Kasey Whalley, BA

Kasey (Mallen) Whalley has been working in and with libraries for over ten years. After completing her undergraduate degree in English from McMaster University, she immediately enrolled in and completed Seneca College’s Accelerated Library and Information Technician program. She is currently completing the final year of her Masters of Information (Library & Information Science) from the University of Toronto. She is incredibly passionate about libraries, language, and learning. She is currently employed as a Library and Information Technician with the Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board. She has worked with children’s book selection committees and public library teen programs, lead technology workshops and writing clubs, and sits on two technology-centered committees within her organization. She has recently written an article for the Ontario Library Association's Open Shelf magazine exploring video games, remix culture, and ideas of ownership, and is currently working on an limited series about e-learning to be published this summer. Kasey loves libraries and what they can (and should) do for the communities and cultures they represent. To connect, please email her at

Xiaoxiao Du, PhD

Dr. Xiaoxiao Du teaches language and literacy courses in the Faculty of Education at Western University. She serves as the 1st vice-president of the Language and Literacy Researchers of Canada. Her research interests include multiliteracies, multimodal meaning making, identity construction, family literacies, and heritage language education. She has presented on these topics at international and national conferences and shared her research in book chapters, conference proceedings, journal articles, and newsletters.

Kate Guan, MPED

Kate Guan earned her MPED in TESOL from Western University, focusing on facilitating language learning with art-based research and investigating English as a second language learning and teaching. She was invited by the Association of German Kids Globe to Study in Atelier Der Künste studio. She was also invited to visit Poland as a scholar. She was an art teacher working at a public secondary school for fifteen years in Guangzhou, China. She has also worked as a lecturer in the youth council. She was a committee member of Fine Art Research and Development Council of public school teachers and earned the title of “Core Teacher” in Guangzhou. Her students have won more than 200 awards from national, provincial, or local art competitions in China.  Kate Guan is highly responsible and enthusiastic with her teaching. She cares about her students and constantly applies innovative ways to support learners’ artistic creation, so both students and parents admire her work and passion. Currently, she works as an art teacher in Toronto.