Uncovering the Difficulties of Language

and Language Learning


J. Sánchez-Naranjo, Ph.D.

My Research

Understanding the complexities of language and language learning has been the driving impetus behind my research. My research experience involves the study of structural descriptions of languages, the study of their social uses, and the study of language learning and teaching in first (L1) and second language (L2) settings. My recent research focuses on  learners’ difficulties in the acquisition of L2 Spanish and classroom pedagogies that contribute to circumvent those difficulties. By combining various modes of inquiry, I strive to address questions that result from both disciplinary and pedagogical realms.

Ongoing Research Projects

On Second Language Writing:

Pathways to Quality and Value in Second Language Learning: Getting the Best out of Peer Review


How second language (l2) learners who receive/provide trained peer feedback improve their writing skills in the L2 ? Which writing aspects (both global and local) do L2 writers improve when receiving/giving trained peer feedback?


In second language settings, instructors are hesitant to use “peer review" and express concerns about students’ ability to assist other students. The idea of "the blind leading the blind" heightens teachers’ doubts about the effectiveness of one student correcting another student’s work. Without sufficient classroom time devoted to teaching L2 writing, students are rarely involved in writing tasks that develop knowledge-transforming skills and allow them to integrate their L2 knowledge. By only getting teachers’ feedback, students are discouraged to reflect on what they know, preventing them to actively participate in their second language learning. To gain greater insight into the peer review process in L2 settings, I propose to examine how learners of Spanish can offer effective feedback and improve their language knowledge from the peer review process. My aim is to show how trained peer feedback can positively impact the students’ revision and quality of writing and learning in a second language.

Academic Service Learning: Connecting Classrooms and Communities in the Teaching and Learning of L2 Spanish


How does Academic Service Learning impact L2 Spanish learners and the community that the project serves?


Academic Service Learning (AcSL) has been considered as an effective mechanism for developing and maintaining the connection between universities and the communities within which they function. The link between AcSL, L2 language skills improvement, and cultural understanding, however, is seldom explored. This project challenges both pragmatic and institutional difficulties of this type of research, and aims to provide insight into the impact of AcSL on learning outcomes as they relate to language skills and cultural and diversity understanding.


On Service Learning and Second Language Learning:

New technologies and old teaching practices do not mix: The impact of podcasting on L2 Spanish proficiency


How does podcasting contribute to improve L2 Spanish proficiency?


One enabling technology that has been shown to be a formative interactive tool that facilitates expansion of learning opportunities and L2 pronunciation improvement is podcasting. Podcasts are versatile in the sense they can be used with a variety of digital audio formats and play on almost any MP3 player or portable digital audio device —as well as any brand of computer. In general, they are relatively inexpensive and easy to use. Podcasts also allow both instructors and students to create course materials outside of the classroom and share them. By participating in their creation, students can practice listening and speaking, and deal with authentic and meaningful contexts in the L2 (Stanley 2006; Ducate and Lomicka 2006). This project explores proficiency within a contextualized podcasting approach, and aims to examine how podcasting can benefit the L2 Spanish classroom by providing a teaching strategy to maximize student-centered activities and improve L2 learners’ proficiency in Spanish.


On Second Language Oral Proficiency:

Genres: A Bridge Between Linguistic Knowledge Integration and L2 Spanish Writing.


How to improve second language learners’ writing skills in Spanish?


The genre-based approach has been recognized as an important step forward to improve L2 writing. It blends the best practices from the fields of applied linguistics, and rhetoric and composition. It also offers students and instructors a powerful pedagogical L2 writing tool and allows them to increase their awareness about different ways of organizing information in writing. By discussing distinctive features of purposeful texts, learners systemically acquire L2 metalinguistic awareness, which empowers them to manipulate information and accomplish different purposes through writing. In L2 Spanish courses, in particular, the range of settings and contexts where writing is taught is enormous; nevertheless, the genre-based approach has been remarkably overlooked and the need for research is especially great. This project investigates the contribution of the genre-based approach in L2 Spanish writing classes. It specifically examines the impact and effectiveness of this approach on L2 Spanish writing skill development.

© J. Sánchez-Naranjo, 2017. All Rights Reserved.


Assistant Professor of SLA and Spanish Linguistics

Amherst College

Department of Spanish

5 Barret Hill Drive

P.O. Box 5000

Amherst, 01002

Phone: (413) 542-5108

Jeannette Sánchez-Naranjo, Ph.D.