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Traces of interactional change over time: A longitudinal Conversation Analysis of informal second language conversations

In this PhD project, I investigate informal language learning at language cafés.

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Jenny Gudmundsen (photo: Nadia Frantsen/UiO)

About the project

When moving to another country, many language learners have few opportunities to practice their new language. At language cafés, second language users (L2) can practice informal language learning with volunteering first language users of Norwegian (L1). Because of distancing during the Covid-19 pandemic, many language cafés moved to video-mediated settings.

The new integration law in Norway will make it more difficult for immigrants to qualify for Norwegian citizenship, with those applying having to prove higher levels of oral language competency (B1 instead of A2). Applicants face being tested on their ability “to converse on a variety of topics and address unforeseen situations” (Regjeringen, 2019), according to the proposal. In the integration strategy (Kunnskapsdepartementet, 2019), language cafés are mentioned as an arena for integration of immigrants with the purpose of “lowering the threshold of participation in the Norwegian society”.

In this study, I zoom in on naturally occurring interactions between L1 and L2 users at physical and digital language cafés. More specifically, I analyze how the participants use interactional practices and multimodal resources in specific sequential environments. As my aim is to collect data from the same L2 speakers over time, I will investigate how such practices or resources may vary or change over time across different instances of interaction. The project uses longitudinal Conversation Analysis (CA) with a multimodal approach.

Theoretical framework

Conversation analysis studies language learning as a social and situated interactive practice, and rejects the model of the second language speaker as deficient communicator (Firth and Wagner, 1997; 2007). During the past years, a growing line of conversation analytic approach to second language acquisition (SLA) outside of pedagogical settings have emerged (Hellermann et al., 2019, Kunitz, S.; Majlesi, A.R., & Jansson, G., in preparation). Simultaneously, longitudinal work has given birth to new perspectives on the development of L2 interactional competence (Skogmyr and Balaman, 2018). Yet, only a few of these studies have investigated informal settings (Pekarek Doehler and Berger, 2018; 2019) and video-mediated environments (Balaman, 2016; Sert and Balaman, 2018). This study aims to contribute to these theoretical branches. Furthermore, the study will add new knowledge to the field video-mediated interaction (Arminen, Licoppe and Spagnolli, 2016) and to the “visual”, “multimodal” or “embodied turn” in CA (Depperman, 2013; Nevile, 2015) and in SLA (Majlesi and Markee, 2018).

Data and method

The data for this study will consist of video recordings of naturally occurring interactions of first and second language speakers of Norwegian at language cafés in Oslo. As a part of my master’s project (Gudmundsen, 2019), I collected data consisting of five hours of video recordings from one these language cafés. For this project, I am expanding the data sets by collecting recordings from new participants. Because of the shifting regulations during the pandemic, this study will consist of data from both video-mediated interactions and face-to-face interactions. 

The primary participant in this study is one L2 user whom I collect data from at regular time-intervals over a longer period (preferably 12 months). Alongside video-recordings of the naturally occurring interactions, I conduct short interviews with the participants after each session at the language café. In this way, I get a glimpse of the participants’ immediate reflections and perspectives on their own understanding and learning.

Longitudinal CA shares the same emic perspective and uses the same methodological tools as CA – e.g. the next-turn proof procedure – but in addition, the data need to be ordered chronologically, with contrasting instances, often produced by the same participants, occurring across at different moments in time. To maximize comparability over time, I will collect comparable instances of certain phenomena across the whole data corpus, and narrow down the focus of my analysis to similar types of sequences (e.g. vocabulary-oriented sequences initiated by the L2 speaker) within the same sequential environment (e.g. initiation phase of vocabulary-oriented sequences) (Wagner et al, 2018, p.26-28).


March 2020 - March 2023. 


Arminen, I., Licoppe, C., & Spagnolli, A. (2016). Respecifying Mediated Interaction. Research on Language and Social Interaction, 49(4), 290–309.

Balaman, U. (2016). A conversation analytic study on the development of interactional competence in English in an online task‐oriented environment. Doctoral thesis, Hacettepe University.

Depperman, A. (2013). Introduction. Multimodal interaction from a conversation analytic perspective. Journal of pragmatics, 46, 1-7.

Firth, A. & Wagner, J. (1997). On discourse, communication and some fundamental concepts in SLA research. The Modern Language Journal, 81, 285–300.

Gudmundsen. (2019). Mutual understanding at risk: A multimodal conversation       analysis of vocabulary-oriented sequences in second language conversations     (Master thesis). Oslo: University of Oslo. 

Hellermann, J., Eskildsen, S. W., Pekarek Doehler, S., & A. Piirainen-Marsh (2019), Conversation analytic research on Learning-in-Action: The complex ecology of second language interaction ‘in the wild’. Springer. Educational Linguistics.

Hutchins, E. (1995). Cognition in the wild. Cambridge: MA: The MIT Press.

Kunitz, S., Majlesi, A.R., & Jansson, G. (in preparation). Multimodal gestalts in reformulating practices at language cafés.

Kunnskapsdepartementet (2019, 7. August). Integrering gjennom kunnskap: Regjeringens integreringsstrategi 2019-2022 [Strategy]. Downloaded from:

Majlesi, A.R. & Markee, N. (2018). "Multimodality in Second Language Talk: The Impact of Video Analysis on SLA Research", In Co-operative Engagements in Intertwined Semiosis: Essays in Honour of Charles Goodwin (Donald Favareau, ed.), Tartu, University of Tartu Press, 247–260.

Nevile, M. (2015). The Embodied Turn in Research on Language and Social Interaction. Research on Language and Social Interaction, 48 (2), 121-151. 

Pekarek Doehler, S., & Berger, E. (2018). L2 interactional competence as increased ability for context-sensitive conduct: A longitudinal study of story openings. Applied Linguistics, 39 (4), 555-578.

Pekarek Doehler, Simona & Evelyne Berger (2019). On the reflexive relation between developing L2 interactional competence and evolving social relationships: A longitudinal study of word-searches in the ‘wild’. In J. Hellermann, S. Eskildsen, S. Pekarek Doehler, A. Piirainen-Marsch (eds.), Conversation Analytic Research on Learning-in-Action: The Complex Ecology of L2 Interaction in the Wild (pp.51-75). Berlin: Springer.

Regjeringen (2019, 16. August). Ny integreringslov på høring: Ny lov skal gi flyktninger  bedre forutsetninger for å komme i jobb [Press release]. Downloaded from: for-a-komme-i-jobb/id2664201/ 

Sert, O., & Balaman, U. (2018). Orientations to negotiated language and task rules in online L2 interaction. ReCALL 30(3): 355–374.

Skogmyr, M. K., & Balaman, U. (2018). Second language interactional competence and its development: An overview of conversation analytic research on interactional change over time. Language and linguistics compass, 12(8).

Wagner, J., Pekarek Doehler, S. and González Martínez, E. (2018). Longitudinal Research on the Organization of Social Interaction: Current Developments and  Methodological  Challenges. In: Doehler, S.P., Wagner, J. and González Martínez, E. (Ed.), Longitudinal Studies on the Organization of Social  Interaction (pp. 3-35). London:  Palgrave macmillan.


Tags: Multilingual language practices
Published Aug. 7, 2020 4:18 PM - Last modified Jan. 26, 2021 11:40 AM