Learning-to-write and writing-to-learn in an additional language

Learning-to-write and writing-to-learn in an additional language. Ed. by Rosa M. Manchón. (Language learning and language teaching 31.) Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 2011. Pp. xii, 263. ISBN 9789027213044. $54.

Reviewed by Beril T. Arik, Purdue University

This book successfully explores the interaction between learning and writing from the perspective of three main areas of inquiry in second-language writing (SLW): learning-to-write (LW), writing-to-learn content (WLC), and writing-to-learn language (WLL). The book consists of a preface by Alister Cumming, an introductory chapter by Rosa M. Manchón, nine chapters, and a concluding chapter by Lourdes Ortega. Manchón’s introductory chapter situates the book, which attempts to further our understanding of LW, WLC, and WLL, and their interaction, in second-language acquisition (SLA) and SLW literature.

Part 1 consists of three chapters presenting the theoretical foundations of and the research base in the LW, WLC, and WLL perspectives, respectively. In Ch. 2, Ken Hyland reviews the main strands of research on LW in university settings, their theoretical underpinnings, and pedagogical applications, by categorizing them according to their main foci: writers, texts, and readers. Similarly, in Ch. 3, Alan Hirvela surveys the empirical research and the pedagogical perspectives derived from these studies in WLC and calls for more research in this promising area. In Ch. 4, Rosa M. Manchón gives an overview of SLA research that investigates what writing can afford for language learning.

Part 2 focuses on empirical studies exploring how learning and writing interact in specific contexts. Ilona Leki’s chapter, ‘Learning to write in a second language: Multilingual graduates and undergraduates expanding genre repertoires’, investigates the interaction between LW and WLL from a multilingual perspective. Similarly, Suresh Canagarajah’s case study, ‘Writing to learn and learning to write by shuttling between languages’, emphasizes agency and a multilingual approach and claims that learning-to-write and writing-to-learn are inextricably intertwined. In ‘Beyond writing as language learning or content learning: Construing foreign language writing as meaning-making’, Heidi Byrnes explores how language and content learning can inform each other in a foreign language context. In Ch. 8, Fiona Hyland investigates the interactions between form-focused feedback and agency by focusing on student and teacher perceptions in an English as a foreign language (EFL) context. A chapter by Rosa M. Manchón and Julio Roca de Larios focuses on WLL and examines the development of the writers and their perceptions in an EFL university context in Spain. John Hedgcock and Natalie Lefkowitz illustrate how LW and WLL can come into contact in a detrimental way for learning in ‘Exploring the learning potential of writing development in heritage language education’.

Finally, Ortega summarizes the main themes of the book and draws attention to the interconnectedness between the three perspectives explored: LW, WLL and WLC. Overall, the chapters highlight the importance of investigating the interactions between various contexts and agency for multilingual writers, as well as illustrate how writing-to-learn and learning-to-write can facilitate or hinder each other. This book makes a great contribution to both the SLW and SLA fields by giving an overview of relevant research at the intersection of writing and language learning, encouraging a fruitful conversation between SLA and SLW research, and opening new avenues for future research to explore the interactions among LW, WLC, and WLL.