Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin

Sloganizations in Language Education Discourse

Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Germany, May 8-10, 2014



The conference focuses critically on widespread concepts in current second/foreign language research that have become increasingly sloganized in FL discourses. Some of the core concepts of our discipline (e.g., intercultural learning, communicative competence, learner autonomy, media competence, language awareness, multilingualism, etc.) are often taken for granted, and despite (or precisely because of) their popularity, they remain undertheorized in FL discourses. As a result, many of them appear to have become slogans rather than carefully defined concepts.

What sloganized concepts have in common is that they have been and continue to be used frequently and in a variety of different contexts. The lack of attention to specific context of use results in a dilution of meaning. Core concepts of our discipline may thus be rendered merely fashionable buzz-words. Arguably, it is often tempting to believe that high-frequency terms are clearly defined and do not require further elaboration or explanation. This assumption, however, may lead many to use such buzz-words without adequately taking into account their respective cultural, historical, and institutional backgrounds and origins.

The sloganization of key terms entails their trivialization, and key terms of second/foreign language research may end up as rather empty slogans in many discourses. Another problem arising from such sloganization is that if a term has gained currency as a buzz-word, it is difficult to even think of possible alternative meanings and to develop or maintain de-sloganized versions of the key terms in question. Sloganizations thus require us to critically examine possible alternatives and to subvert fashionable mainstream jargon in order to expose it for what it is: a loss of conceptual clarity and a loss of theoretical precision.

The conference aims to deal with sloganizations of key terms, focusing on three aspects:

  1. Identification of key terms that have or are about to become sloganized;
  2. A closer look at specific processes of sloganization that can be observed in second/foreign language research;
  3. Developing strategies to de-sloganize and detrivialize such buzz-words.