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The Learning Conference 2003

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Presentation Details


Cultural Construction of Meaning: The Metaphor “Meaning Design” in Foreign Language Learning

Cecilia Silva.

How we design meaning is constrained by aspects such as our mother tongue, the target language, the target language community, and cultural experiences. Meaning design implies choice, usage and transmission: choosing words, phrases (vocabulary), using them properly (grammar) and transmitting them effectively (emphasis, feelings, conventions, practices of communication).

The present article refers to the combination of four elements Narrative, Vocabulary, Exposition and Decoding-Spelling with the metaphor “meaning design”. According to that metaphor suggested by the New London Group, every act performed by the students –reading, writing, speaking- “is a creative process of recycling and recombining old materials in fresh ways, exploring and establishing new relationships among stock elements” (Kern 2000:54).
68 university Japanese students of Spanish as a Foreign Language participated in the activity. For the accomplishment of classroom work, each student chose a film or a book and wrote about it: theme, plot, characters, setting, feelings, ending, and words evocated by the story. During classroom activity it was carried an action tending to make students become aware of resources they had used when they built their texts, i.e., when they designed meaning.


Cecilia Silva  (Japan)
Higher Education Research Center
Tohoku University

Cecilia Silva is a Teacher of Language, Department of Educational System Technology, School of Graduates, Faculty of Human Sciences, Osaka University, Japan.

  • Foreign language learning
  • Cultural construction
  • Meaning design

(30 min Conference Paper, English)