Applied Linguistics, TESOL and Languages Research Group

The Applied Linguistics, TESOL and Languages Research Group is one of the main research groups within our School of Education.

It is run by 11 full-time academic staff members, who deliver Curtin’s postgraduate courses in applied linguistics, supervise higher degree by research (HDR) students and work on numerous national and international collaborative research projects.

You may be interested in studying applied linguistics if you wish to develop your expertise in course design, language teaching, and materials development for teaching English to speakers of other languages (TESOL).

Applied linguistics defines and addresses real-world problems related to language use and learning. It informs the theory and practice for teaching second and foreign languages.


Research activities

The Applied Linguistics Research Group has research grants in the following areas:

  • Meeting the needs of Aboriginal students for whom English is a second language or dialect.
  • Developing culturally inclusive language assessments for Aboriginal students.
  • Measuring pragmatic competence in a second language.
  • Helping culturally and linguistically diverse students transition into university study.

Much of the research focuses on content and language-integrated learning.

The group also works on projects related to task-based language teaching, including corrective feedback, learner-generated task content, learners’ personal investment in tasks, task-induced interaction and language acquisition, the role of planning in task performance, and the use of tasks in diverse cultural contexts.

Further research areas include digital technology in language teaching, second language literacies, academic writing, the efficacy of CLIL, translanguaging, linguistic human rights, Global Englishes, and World Englishes.

Research projects

Semantics of connective particles in Japanese: te ‘and’, ga ‘but’, noni ‘although’ and kuseni ‘despite’
This study presents an analysis of four Japanese connective particles. This research uses the framework of the Natural Semantic Metalanguage approach (Goddard, 2008; Peeters, 2006; Wierzbicka & Goddard, 2014) to articulate the meaning of these expressions. The study presents semantic explications for each word to clarify the emotions embedded in each expression.

Investigator: Dr Yuko Asano-Cavanagh


Semantics of Japanese “aesthetics” – mono no aware and wabi-sabi
This study investigates the semantics of mono no aware (‘pathos of things’) and wabi-sabi using the Natural Semantic Metalanguage (NSM) approach (Wierzbicka, 1992; Peeters, 2006; Goddard & Wierzbicka, 2014).

Investigators: Dr Yuko Asano-Cavanagh & Professor Rob Cavanagh


Emergency remote teaching: Voices from Asian language professionals
This timely project is proposed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic challenging all the Asian language academics at the School of Education.

While mainstream online courses generally require considerable time and effort to develop before the roll-out, the outcomes and implications of “emergency remote teaching” (ERT)—adopted by the current Asian language staff—are still an uncharted territory. It also bears significant relevance to the stakeholders at the School (and beyond) greatly affected by this unprecedented turmoil.

Therefore, the project investigates how Asian language professionals combat this pandemic by transforming their in-class teaching into ERT and how this drastic transition shapes their teacher identity and professionalism at the affective, cognitive, and technical levels through action research conducted remotely.

Principal Investigator: Dr Julian Chen
Co-Investigators: Dr Qian Gong, Dr Hiroshi Hasegawa


Mentoring HDR students in Applied Linguistics and TESOL through interinstitutional telecollaboration: A participatory action research design
Funded by the Research and Innovation Support Program (RISP) at the School of Education, this grant project aims to scaffold HDR students to position themselves as emergent researchers and foster their research capability, resilience and agency in the global research community.

To better address this research agenda, the project examines the effectiveness of transnational telecollaboration on HDR apprenticeship and professional development in TESOL/Applied Linguistics programs at both Aberdeen and Curtin Universities. Digital technologies that alleviate the time/distance constraints and promote social networking are also integrated to facilitate the project delivery in virtual exchanges.

Principal Investigator: Dr Julian Chen
Co-Investigator: Dr Vincent Greenier (Aberdeen)


Catering for EAL/D students in mainstream classes
A yearlong action research project instigated by the principal of the school through the Professional Learning Hub to try to increase the literacy levels of students K-6 whose first language is not English. It involves Curtin academics observing classes, conversations and workshops with teachers, peer/team teaching, focus group activities with students in which issues in teaching and learning are identified and finally an evaluation of the intervention and publication of the research component of the project.

Investigator: Associate Professor Toni Dobinson
Partners: Queens Park Primary School


Investigating the visibility of diverse languages and cultures on Curtin campuses
This project explores the visibility and valuing of languages other than English on Curtin Bentley and Curtin Mauritius campuses. It also investigates the experiences of students who have to operate in the dominant discourse on these campuses.

Investigators: Associate Professor Toni Dobinson, Dr Qian Gong, Dr Paul Mercieca and Dr Sender Dovchin
Partners: Curtin Mauritius


Fostering the integration of humanitarian entrants to Western Australia through alternative approaches to second language education
This project aims to foster the integration of humanitarian entrants to WA with culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) backgrounds through advancing their English language education. The project focuses on understanding the needs and backgrounds of these migrants and empowering them to make a personal investment in their English learning processes.

First, qualitative research methodologies such as open ethnographic observations and interviews will be conducted in order to investigate these migrants’ and needs. Second, a series of English workshops will be followed at Curtin with non-traditional language instruction approaches focused on developing the migrants’ pragmatic and interactive competence in English.

Outcomes will include a resource kit, including a policy recommendation and a practical guideline, which will provide systematic and practical resources to inform educators, instructors and policy-makers on fostering the integration of migrants to Australia through English language education.

Principal Investigator: Dr Sender Dovchin
Co-Investigator: Professor Rhonda Oliver
Funded by the Department of Home Affairs, Western Australia


Empowering vulnerable youth in Australia by combatting linguistic racism
This project aims to investigate how linguistic racism – a violation of basic human rights based on an individual’s use of language – is experienced in the everyday online and offline lives of Indigenous and culturally and linguistically diverse young Australians. The project will generate new knowledge in the area of sociolinguistics theories, addressing the critical need to review the linguistic disparity experienced by bi/multilingual speakers.

Outcomes include the empirical findings on multiple ideologies and practices of linguistic racism experienced by youths. Major benefits are policy recommendations to inform Australia’s national strategic priorities on improving health and welfare of the population and safeguarding cybersecurity.

Investigator: Dr Sender Dovchin
Funded by Australian Research Council


Assessing the pragmatic competence of L2 users
This is a $265,000 Australian Research Council funded project that aims to develop tests that will distinguish L2 learners’ implicit and explicit knowledge of a range of pragmatic features and then to use the tests to investigate the effectiveness of instruction in developing learners’ pragmatic knowledge of English.

Investigator: Professor Rod Ellis
Co-Investigators: Associate Professor Craig Lambert and Associate Professor Carsten Roever.
Funded by Australian Research Council


Reflections on task-based language teaching
This is a sole-authored book to be published by Multilingual Matters. It focuses on both the research that has investigated task-based language teaching and practical issues involved in its implementation in classrooms. It brings together some of my previously published articles on TBLT and new chapters and suggests ways in which TBLT can be made to work in different teaching contexts.

Investigator: Professor Rod Ellis


Building connectivity through digital storytelling by Chinese international students in Western Australia
This project investigates the digital connectivity that Chinese migrants build and maintain with the host society. Using both the digital storytelling workshop and semi-structured interviews, it examines how the digitally afforded creative process among young Chinese migrants, particularly Chinese university students studying abroad, challenges or accommodates some established notions and discourses around international education and mobility.

Investigator: Dr Qian Gong


In press: The use of VoiceThread as a multimodal digital platform to foster online students’ task engagement, communication, and online community building 

This study investigates online learning of Japanese as a foreign language, and Kanji in particular. Because of the multiple strokes involved in re-producing each Kanji character, the learning of writing Kanji skills differs from the acquisition of semantic skills. The result of this can be observed in that some students are able to recognise a particular Kanji semantically without necessarily being able to write it. Consequently, students need to devote sufficient time and effort to mastering the accurate production of Kanji characters, as it corresponds to vocabulary learning in Japanese including phonologically, semantically and orthographically oriented learning process.

Hasegawa, H. (in press). The use of VoiceThread as a multimodal digital platform to foster online students’ task engagement, communication, and online community building In S. Dovchin (Ed.), Digital communication, linguistic diversity and education. Peter Lang: Oxford

Investigator: Dr Hiroshi Hasegawa


The effectiveness of online instruction with regards to acquiring script writing when learning Japanese as a second language

This study explores the importance of well-balanced approaches (online as well as hand-written) required for Japanese learning by analysing the students’ common Kanji mistakes and their perspectives.

Hasegawa, H. Chen, J., & Collopy, T. (2020). First-year Japanese learners’ perceptions of computerised vs. face-to-face oral testing: Challenges and implications. In M. Kruk & M. Peterson (Eds.), New Technological Applications for Foreign and Second Language Learning and Teaching (pp. 203-221). Hershey, PA: IGI Global. DOI:10.4018/978-1-7998-2591-3.ch010

Investigators: Dr Hiroshi Hasegawa, Dr Julian Chen, Teagan Collopy


Teachers of Japanese in higher education institutions
This project investigates the strategic approaches and embedded theories of teachers of Japanese as a foreign language in higher education institutions. It examines the tactics for encountering the pressures caused by high demands from their universities.

Investigator: Dr Hiroshi Hasegawa


Pre-Task Preparation and Second Language Speech Processing
This joint project with universities in Japan and Hong Kong looks at the effects of different options for optimizing foreign language learners’ L2 speech processing capacity on oral communication tasks. Initial publications connected with the project are appearing in TESOL Quarterly and Language Teaching Research.

Investigators: Associate Professor Craig Lambert, Associate Professor Scott Aubrey, Associate Professor Paul Leeming


The Impact of Learner Investment on L2 Pragmatics, Memory and Non-Verbal Behaviour
This project looks at the impact of learner investment in the form of learner-generated content on the L2 performance and acquisition of Chinese as a Foreign Language. Initial publications connected with the project have appeared in Modern Language Journal.

Investigators: Associate Professor Craig Lambert, Professor Grace Zhang, Dr Qian Gong, Dr Sabine Tan


Affective Factors in Second Language Task Design and Performance
This is a guest edited special edition for Language Teaching Research which explores the relationship between tasks design and learner engagement in L2 performance.

Investigator: Associate Professor Craig Lambert


Using Tasks in Second Language Teaching: Practice in Diverse Contexts
This co-edited book brings together the perspectives of practitioners and researchers from Mexico, Brazil, Chile, Japan, Vietnam, Australia, Iran, the United States and Europe on the use of tasks in L2 instruction.  It seeks to illuminate key issues in using tasks, approaches to using tasks and research on the impact of tasks on performance.

Investigators: Associate Professor Craig Lambert, Professor Rhonda Oliver


EALD Action Research Project with Queens Park Primary School
The aim of this project is to building sustainable development in better teaching and learning for inclusive EALD education.

Investigator: Dr Paul Mercieca


Towards culturally inclusive language assessments for Aboriginal students
A $445,000 Australian Research Council funded project investigating the development of culturally inclusive language assessments for Aboriginal students. It examines the translanguaging practices of Aboriginal students who speak Aboriginal English and/or creoles and looks at how this informs the development of SAE literacy practices.

Investigator: Professor Rhonda Oliver, Professor Gillian Wigglesworth, Professor Tim Mcnamara and Professor Ute Knoch.
Funded by Australian Research Council


Content and Language Integrated Learning: Science and Maths as a context for children to learn Mandarin as a second language
In this study we are examining how CLIL provides a useful context for second language learning. It forms part of an ongoing commitment to the CLIL program at Oberthur Primary School.

Investigator: Professor Rhonda Oliver


Elastic health communication in Australia and Taiwan: A cross-cultural perspective
This study investigates the important role of elastic language in healthcare communication, based on corpora of online medical information on various diseases from professional websites in Taiwan and Australia. This kind of information often is deliberately imprecise, and the challenge is to find an appropriate balance between institutional requirements to communicate clearly and accurately and website readers’ desire to avoid undue precision, or imposing and alarming information.

Investigator: Professor Grace Zhang
Funded by Chiang Ching-kuo Foundation, Taiwan


Elastic language in persuasion and soothing: a comparative study between Chinese and English
(forthcoming book for Palgrave Macmillan, London)
This study examines how and why elastic language was used in persuasion and soothing. The findings are drawn from the corpora of The Voice reality television shows (Australia and China versions).

Investigator: Professor Grace Zhang