Working Papers in Educational Linguistics (WPEL)




Student-initiated interaction is often difficult to achieve in English as a second language classes, despite its value for improving students’ oral communication skills. This problem is exacerbated by English-only rhetoric, common in classrooms around the world, which demands monolingual communication or no communication at all. In contrast, students can be encouraged to draw on their diverse communicative repertoires even in English language classes with mixed first languages (L1s) when those repertoires are seen as assets. In the example analyzed in this article, a Chinese student managed to break her way into a clique of Saudi Arabian students by bringing Chinese humor into the classroom in English. The dramatic shift in participation patterns that followed this interaction demonstrates the powerful effects of encouraging students to draw on all their communicative resources, even without a common L1.