Presenting the L2 User: Considerations on foreign language psychology and teaching

María del Carmen Arau-Ribeiro


Given the lack of self-confidence and diversified learning strategies identified in foreign language learners in Portugal, this paper proposes a solution that mediates the needs of both students and teachers. The introduction of a teaching perspective that treats students as users of the language instead of separating native speakers from language learners could benefit students in a number of ways, beginning with increased self-esteem and self-respect. L2 users (the students) taught in this way are not seen as having an L2 deficit but rather are celebrated for the knowledge they possess in not just one but two (or even more) languages.  They also learn to value their own multicompetence and how to acquire new approaches to learning, in general and for language learning, as well as toward acquiring skills for self-assessment. For the teacher, this approach is also beneficial given the breadth of possibilities for new positioning in the classroom; the teacher’s role can be transformed into that of a more dynamic facilitator and strategist for getting the students to truly use their multicompetence. This perspective also sheds the terrible practice of classifying the non-native language teacher as less capable, withdrawing the prohibition of use of the L2 in the classroom and honouring the cognitive flexibility and linguistic resources used in interlanguage, language transfer and interculturality. Working with L2 users also pays special heed to the teacher’s ability to put L2 users in situations that provide real opportunities to use the target language. This approach, considering the L2 users in all their abilities, goes a long way in reducing the fear of a foreign language, the unknown, to motivate students to recall the knowledge they already possess which serves as the basis for constructing new competences with the appropriate level of support so that, later, their competences can continue to grow autonomously.

Palabras clave

Foreign Language Learning; L2 Users; Psychological Profile; Mutual Respect; Teaching Strategies for Children and Adults

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Arau Ribeiro, M. C. (2011). Insights from Interlanguage as Revealed in Writing: Toward the development of metalinguistic competences for Portuguese adult learners of English. Unpublished Doctoral Thesis, Universidade da Beira Interior, Covilhã, Portugal.

Birdsong, D. (2003, May). The end state of L2 acquisition. Paper presented at the Language and Mind Conference III, University of Southern California, CA.

Cook, V. (1999). Going beyond the native speaker in language teaching. TESOL Quarterly, 33, 185-209.

Cook, V. (2005). Multicompetence: Black-hole or Worm-hole? Plenary speech presented at the Second Language Research Forum, New York City, NY


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Esta revista es continuación de: Revista Galego-Portuguesa de Psicoloxía e Educación (años 1997-2013) - ISSN: 1138-1663.