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The phenomenological interview: Exploring awareness of second language learning in the international ESL college student community

Leor Alcalay, University of Massachusetts Amherst


This dissertation argues for a novel methodological approach to the investigation of phenomena of second language acquisition (SLA). The field of second language acquisition arose in a historical academic context which traditionally linked it to primarily quantitative research methodologies. Introspective verbalized articulations of learners had been devalued in favor of observational examination of behavioral characteristics, an approach which, despite massive investments of research energies, failed to yield a coherent theoretical understanding of the SLA process, especially in adults. An individually conducted, dialogically oriented, open-ended or phenomenological interview enables the exploration of the concerns, interests, experiences, and meanings developed by a second-language learner during the course of the process of second-language acquisition. Approximately two dozen such interviews were carried out with international speakers of English as a Second Language (ESL) studying in a community college in the United States. Analysis of these interviews permitted the demonstration of distinctive interests and focuses of attention and awareness by learners both individually, and collectively, as emergent themes came to be delineated from the group data. In sum, the argument is made that it is ultimately the recognition and the revelation of the individual learner's awareness, through the dialogically articulated learner voice, that proves more significant to an understanding of the phenomenon of SLA within learners from a theoretical research perspective, as well as to a potential enabling of enhanced pedagogical efficiency.

Subject Area

Language arts|Bilingual education|Multicultural education|Community colleges

Recommended Citation

Alcalay, Leor, "The phenomenological interview: Exploring awareness of second language learning in the international ESL college student community" (2001). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI3027174.