Adrienn Fekete 

University of Pécs, Hungary;


Bibliographic citation: (ISSN 2657-9774) Educational Role of Language Journal.  Volume 2023-2(10).  THE EMOTIONAL DIMENSION OF LANGUAGE AND OF LINGUISTIC EDUCATION, pp. 61-77.



In the field of English applied linguistics, learners and their learning processes including their psychological and emotional responses to second language acquisition (SLA) were traditionally researched in isolation following the psychometric tradition. By contrast, learners’ idiosyncratic, and often life-changing experiences that shape their identities are usually examined holistically drawing on interviews and case studies. In this paper, I discuss how I brought under the same roof these two seemingly incompatible research traditions to shed light on language learners’ multilingual and multicultural identity construction. The paper draws on the basic tenets that language and culture are inherently intertwined in SLA (Kramsch 1998) and that language learning is embodied (Damasio 1994) generating powerful emotional responses to language learning and use. In the paper, I delineate three holistic approaches to the study of emotions and identity in SLA including complex dynamic systems theory (CDST), language ecology, and post-structuralism. These approaches have three important principles in common. (1) They look at learners holistically in their complexity and entirety.  (2) They perceive learner-intrinsic and contextual factors as interconnected, dynamic, and changing over time. (3) They examine learners and their learning processes in response to environmental stimuli in the form of interactions with others, learning materials, the learning environment, languages spoken by the individual, as well as the educational and sociocultural context. Following the introduction of the three theories, I present my latest research results drawing on these theoretical underpinnings. I explain how I conceptualized learners’ identity construction as a complex dynamic system of individual differences and how I detected novel patterns of psychological behavior using CDST in online education. Then, I discuss the impact of language socialization on language learning and use drawing on case studies. Finally, I present examples of powerful emotional and identity responses to language learning and use, the transformative potential of SLA, and the language learner’s imagined L2 habitus (Fekete 2018) pinpointing how learners speak, think, feel, and behave differently when they switch to different languages.

Keywords: emotions, identity, language learning, the psychology of learners, complex dynamic systems theory, language ecology, post-structuralism, holistic approaches, online education, language socialization, the learner’s imagined L2 habitus, online education 

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