Angel Lin's current focus is language use in the classroom. She’s exploring new theoretical horizons in classroom language education, beginning with the ways that formal teaching and the use of standardized national languages are in tension with ordinary language use. The tensions between standardizing powers and the emergent living processes that they control are a key focus of Angel's language education research. Two examples from her recent research publications are language use in “immersion” or “content-based” language learning and the feeling or affective dimension of language learning.
Dr. Lin questions the foundations of what some think of as normal in language. Her research in multi-modal semiotics uses real classroom examples from around the world to focus on how normal communication often means drawing on and combining more than one system of symbols. Her articles might include a transcription complete with gestures and with indentation clearly showing the timing of quick interactions, like stage directions in a play, or could present one exchange with common phrases in five languages. The idea of just teaching “a language,” or teaching “in” a language, starts to seem doubtful when she explains how typical “translanguaging” can be.
Immersion learning — also called “content-based education” — is one of the areas to which Angel has recently turned her theoretical toolkit. That’s the teaching practice she examines in her recent paper, “Theories of trans/languaging and trans-semiotizing: implications for content-based education classrooms” (2018). In this paper she uses data from immersion classes to show the possibilities of translanguaging as a process of making meaning by combining what we might ordinarily think of as multiple meaning-making systems. She argues that this kind of language use is an essential tool in language learning; that this needs to be counterbalanced against the need to develop a sense of meaning in the target language; and that students would benefit from it if teachers would look at the students’ language repertoires as something they can expand, rather than correct or replace.
Content-based education, immersion, by any name it’s the practice of teaching new languages by “immersing” students in environments where speakers are using the new language (and sometimes only the new language). One of the basic questions in immersion classrooms is how restrictive the immersion should be. Dr. Lin advocates for a balanced approach. Her examples of classroom dialogs show people using language flexibly to communicate and to build understanding as a group. For example, one of the classroom dialogues Dr. Lin analyzes in “Theories of trans/languaging…” shows students using vocabulary from one language during a conversation held in another, using the familiar word to maintain the flow of thought. Another example has a group of students exploring different ways to ask a question until one of them lands on a winner.