Paul Kei Matsuda
Beyond the L2 Metaphor: Towards a Mutually
Transformative Model of ESL/WAC Collaboration

Academic.Writing 1 (2000)

Learning to write in the disciplines is often difficult because students tend to be unfamiliar with discipline-specific writing practices, such as linguistic and discourse conventions, audience expectations as well as dominant cultural and epistemological assumptions. To many undergraduate and graduate students, the experience of learning to write in various academic contexts is akin to learning a new language. To characterize this experience, the analogy of "writing in the disciplines as a second language" has been invoked by some writing across the curriculum (WAC) specialists. We want to argue, however, that the second-language metaphor – or, for short, the L2 metaphor – needs to be approached critically because writing in the disciplines, after all, is not the same as learning a second language. Our first goal in this paper, then, is to critically examine the "WID as a second language" metaphor and consider its implications for WAC programs. Specifically, we want to argue for a critical approach to the use of this metaphor because its broad and uncritical use can mask the complexity of second-language learning and can lead to the marginalization of second-language writers in WAC programs as well as in the professional discourse of composition studies in general. By critiquing the use of the L2 metaphor in composition studies, however, we do not mean to suggest that second-language studies has nothing to offer WAC specialists; on the contrary, we believe that specialists in both WAC and English as a second language (ESL) have much to learn from one another. Our second goal, then, is to consider mutually beneficial ways of achieving interdisciplinary collaboration between WAC and ESL specialists.

Matsuda, P. K., & Jablonski, J. (2000). Beyond the L2 metaphor: Towards a mutually transformative model of ESL/WAC collaboration. Academic.Writing, 1. Available:

Updated on April 28, 2013