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 six 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.

Postgraduate courses

Curtin’s postgraduate courses in applied linguistics provide an introduction to the principles of working language and systems of language, and may support your career as a teaching professional working in a language-related area.

Curtin offers three courses in applied linguistics:

You can study the Master of Education online through Curtin, and all three courses can be studied online through Open Universities Australia.

View School of Education courses

HDR supervision

Staff supervise PhD and Master of Philosophy students who focus on linguistic topics including task-based language teaching, technology-enhanced language learning, second language acquisition and second dialect acquisition.

Find out more

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 and academic writing.

Research projects

Quasi-body terms in Japanese: inochi & tamashii
This study investigates the semantics of inochi ‘life’ and tamashii ‘soul’ using the Natural Semantic Metalanguage (NSM) Approach (Wierzbicka, 1992; Peeters, 2006; Goddard & Wierzbicka, 2014).

Investigator: Dr Yuko Asano-Cavanagh

‘Being actively engaged’ in Japan: the cultural semantics of katsu ‘activity’ compound words
This study presents an analysis of two Japanese compound words which share a common suffix. This research uses the framework of the Natural Semantic Metalanguage Approach (Goddard, 2008; Peeters, 2006; Wierzbicka & Goddard, 2014) to articulate the meaning of two compound words. The study presents semantic explications for each compound word to clarify the cultural significance embedded in each expression.

Investigators: Dr Yuko Asano-Cavanagh and Dr Gian Marco Farese


Integrating Digital Technology in an Intensive, Online Course for Japanese Beginners
This is a collaborative project that examines how the synergy of multimodal digital platforms, and a standards-based, task-driven curriculum design can make a difference in Japanese beginners’ oral performance.

Investigator: Dr Julian Chen


Avatar identities on EFL learners’ self-efficacy and task-based practices in Second Life
This study explores how EFL learners position and negotiate their virtual identities during task-based instruction in a second language.

Investigator: Dr Julian Chen


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: Dr Toni Dobinson
Partners: Queens Park Primary School


Managers perspectives of the suitability of CELTA in a changing Australian TESOL context
A yearlong Cambridge University funded project which examines the perceived effectiveness of pre-service TESOL qualifications (and one pre-service qualification, in particular) through qualitative and quantitative data collected via national surveys and one on one interviews with managers in English language provider schools and centres in three Australian states.

Investigator: Dr Toni Dobinson
Partner: Cambridge English Examinations
Funded by Cambridge University


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: Dr Rod Ellis
Co-researchers: Dr Craig Lambert and 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: Dr 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


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


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: Dr Craig Lambert


Using Tasks in Diverse Contexts
This is a book co-edited with Rhonda Oliver that seeks to identify issues involved in the use of tasks in L2 instruction. It seeks to provide an international perspective on task-based language teaching.

Investigator: Dr Craig Lambert


Cambridge English Research Programme
A project investigating managers’ perspectives of the suitability of CELTA in a changing Australia.

Investigator: Dr Paul Mercieca


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, Gillian Wigglesworth, Tim Mcnamara and 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