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The Innovative and Creative Informal Language Learning of Fans


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Keynote talk for InnoConf17, Innovative Language Teaching and Learning at University (16 June 2017) at the Open University, Milton Keynes, UK.

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The Innovative and Creative Informal Language Learning of Fans

  2. 2. “A fan is a person with a relatively deep positive emotional conviction about someone or something famous...” (Duffet, 2013, p. 18)
  3. 3. “…’fan’ is actually a much wider social category, referring to a mode of participation with a long history in a variety of cultural activities, including literature, sports, theater, film, and television.” (Cavicchi, 1998 p. 3)
  4. 4. Online Fandom “the local and international networks of fans that develop around a particular program, text or other media product” (Sauro, 2014, p. 239)
  5. 5. CALL (computer assisted language learning) in the Digital Wilds “informal language learning that takes places in digital spaces, communities, and networks that are independent of formal instructional contexts” (Sauro & Zourou, 2017, p. 186)
  6. 6. A Few Fan Practices • Anime and manga consumption • Fan site web design • Debating and modding • Amateur translation • Spoiling • Fanfiction (Sauro, 2017)
  7. 7. Anime and Manga Consumption Anime consumption inspired and enhanced Japanese learning which inspired further engagement with Japanese anime (Fukunaga, 2006).
  8. 8. Website Design One learner developed a new textual identity through regular correspondence in English around the design of a fan website. (Lam, 2000).
  9. 9. Debating and Moderating Advanced leadership and literacy skill development by a 13-year-old engaged in debate and moderating discussions in online discussion boards and fan sites. (Curwood, 2013).
  10. 10. Fansubbing The multimodal and plurilingual nature of a Spanish to Chinese fansubbing community (Zhang & Cassany, 2016)
  11. 11. Scanlation The development and use of intercultural and language skills of a 26-year-old Spanish manga fan who engaged in amateur translations (scanlation) of Japanese manga into Spanish (Valero-Porras & Cassany, 2015).
  12. 12. Spoiling “…the purposeful discovery of crucial developments in the plot of a fictional story of a film or TV series before the relevant material has been broadcast or released.” (Duffett, 2013, p. 168)
  13. 13. Case Study of a Sherlock Fan To explore the informal L2 language learning and digital literacy development of a Sherlock fan.
  14. 14. Steevee’s Fan History 2009 • Joined Supernatural Fandom • Joined Twitter; Created a fan FB page 2010 • Joined Torchwood and Doctor Who fandoms • Created a fan Tumblr 2012 • Joined Sherlock fandom • First read and wrote fanfiction 2013 • Began reporting on filming of Sherlock #setlock
  15. 15. Extramural English “…English-related activities that learners come in contact with or are engaged in outside the walls of the English classroom, generally on a voluntary basis.” (Sundqvist & Sylvén, 2014, p. 4)
  16. 16. “As we have noted, motivation is never simply in the hands of the motivated individual learner but is constructed and constrained through social relations with others” (Ushioda, 2008, p. 157)
  17. 17. I tried to shift my accent from American English to British English. I tried to learn to write colour with ‘ou’ and so on. And I started to watch Doctor Who and Torchwood. Those were my next two big fandoms. (Interview, 14 December 2015) …it was the opportunity to completely immerse myself in the English language. That was it for me. I was so stoked. I’m going to get online and I’m going to talk to people and learn English. And I’m going to learn new words. And I used to sit there with a notepad next to Twitter and write down words I’d never seen before, look them up, learn them. (Interview, 14 December 2015)
  18. 18. “The non-native speakers are really the lose canon because they might understand something incorrectly because of their own lack of knowledge of the English language or sarcasm or whatever is being used as a metaphor for example.” (Interview, 14 December 2015)
  19. 19. Due to the massive increase of hits and followers due to setlock, I somehow became someone who was consulted on various things and I realized that if I wanted to help/give answers etc, I’d have to make myself understood in the way I wanted to be – that’s when my answers got longer and more in-depth, as I wanted to make sure my arse was covered XD (Email, 7 January 2016)
  20. 20. Fanfiction "writing that continues, interrupts, reimagines, or just riffs on stories and characters other people have already written about." (Jamison, 2013 p. 17)
  21. 21. “Fanfiction is a story written by a person in the fandom because breaking into the creators [sic] office and telling them that everything that they did is wrong and rewriting it is considered ´rude´ and ´illegal´” (Fan definition reported in Klink, 2017)
  22. 22. Fanfiction and Language Learning • Case studies of teen learners’ use of fanfiction in anime fandoms to transition from novice writer in English to successful writer (Black, 2006) • Bilingual fanfiction writing practices of young Finnish fans of American television shows to index multilingualism and global citizenship (Lepännen, et al, 2009)
  23. 23. The Blogging Hobbit Blog-Based Collaborative Role-play
  24. 24. Inspiration from the Harry Potter role play fanfic community, Darkness Rising, on LiveJournal. • Communal Blog • Individual players/writers participated using blogs made for their character • Stories begin with a prompt or background in a post. • The story evolves in nested comments (Sauro, 2014)
  25. 25. A collaborative story of a missing moment from Tolkien’s The Hobbit: Task 1: Story outline and map Task 2: Collaborative roleplay fanfiction - each group member to write from the perspective of one character from The Hobbit Task 3: Reflective paper Detailed instructions available as a PDF here.
  26. 26. “this writing activity has influenced my language skills…. During this project I have been able to expand my repertoar [sic] of English words which are not so commonly used in everyday English anymore.” (Student 14, Cohort 2013)
  27. 27. It is lying still, yet it spins around It tries to move but its body is bound All because of the precious it stole Fool us again and they eats it whole. (from The Mirkwood Mysteries; Sauro & Sundmark, 2016, p. 418)
  28. 28. Learner Fanfiction (172,911) • N=31 stories produced by Cohorts 2013 & 2014 • 2000-16000 words each • Rated Teen • Gen • Canon compliant Ao3 Fanfiction (92,760) • N=18 stories posted Dec 1 2013 – Jan 31, 2015 • 2000-16000 words each • Rated Teen • Gen (no het or slash) • Not alternate universe or other sub-genres
  29. 29. Top 10 Content Lexemes in Classroom Fanfiction Top 10 Content Lexemes in Online Fanfiction Thorin Bilbo Gandalf Dwarves Say Kili Time Fili Think Bombur Thorin Kili Bilbo Say Thranduil Eyes Time Head Fili Brother
  30. 30. Keywords Third Person Plural Pronouns: we, our, us Character Names: Gandalf, Beorn, Balin, Elrond, Gollum, Dori, Bombur, Bilbo Species: dwarves, goblins, wizard, elves
  31. 31. Negative Keywords Third person singular pronouns: she, her, his, him Kinship terms: son, sister, mother, brother, uncle Character names: Thranduil, Legolas, Tauriel, Bifur Contracted forms: d, s, re, t
  32. 32. “…fanfics that get really popular, they kind of answer to some kind of fantasy that people have about the characters. Or something they really want to explore or they create an alternate universe … We didn’t have anything like that, really. I mean, I think ours was very, kind of, very much like the book it a way, so maybe it wasn’t as exciting as some other fanfiction because it wasn’t innovating in that way…” B, Dream Team Interview (Cohort 2014)
  33. 33. “…I would choose another book. I felt it unfair to work with The Hobbit on such a project since a big part was to connect with a character from the book and write from that perspective. To choose a book with absolutely no women at all made me not wanting to take neither Tolkien nor this assignment to heart.” (Nonfan, Cohort 2014)
  34. 34. A Study in Sherlock CollaborativeCasefic
  35. 35. Casefic Collaborative mystery writing 1. Retell a Sherlock Holmes mystery or tell an original mystery but in an alternate universe. 2. Tell an original Sherlock Holmes mystery in the original context (Victorian London) OR an alternate universe. Instructions available in PDF here
  36. 36. Training on Alternate Universe • Swapping & Bending • Example casefic • Writing workshops provided by fans
  37. 37. “A graffiti?... well… what does ‘Rache’ mean? somebody certainly tried to write Rachel and could not finish the writing?” [...] To this she laughed loudly, “‘Rache’ means, of course, revenge in German; regardless of this, this graffiti is just a distraction.” (from A Study in Graffiti)
  38. 38. “Well, now I bother. Now and again a case turns up which is a little more complex. Then I have to bustle about and see things with my own eyes. Because obviously, Oswald was not the murderer,” he said as if it was the most blatant fact in the world. (from The Missing Case)
  39. 39. “…my interest in Doyle and the Sherlock Holmes world is still at an intermediate level…. On the other hand, my knowledge of the Scooby Doo universe is far greater and I could enter that verse much easier than the universe of Sherlock Holmes. As a child I loved the characters of the Mystery Gang and therefore I really enjoyed this task.” (Student 18, Cohort 2015)
  40. 40. “…instead of saying “he said”, we and Doyle instead used “said he”. Second, we and Doyle often, from Watson’s perspective, referred to Sherlock Holmes as “my colleague”, and from Sherlock’s perspective referring to Watson as “my friend”. Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes often said “pray” instead of “please”, and “I fancy” instead of “I believe”, which we also used in our fanfiction. “ (Student 16, Cohort 2015)
  41. 41. “First off, I am highly Americanized in my English use, and I blame Hollywood. It has been a welcomed challenge to write in British. My biggest inspiration has once again been the BBC show.…I truly enjoyed using the word ‘foggiest’ in a text, and it is now a part of my vocabulary. My American is being invaded, ‘the British are coming!’” (Student 54, Cohort 2015)
  42. 42. References Black, R.W. (2006). Language, culture, and identity in online fanfiction. E-learning, 3, 180–184. Cavicchi, D. (1998). Tramps like us: Music and meaning among Springsteen fans. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Curwood, J.S. (2013). Fan fiction, remix culture, and The Potter Games. In V.E. Frankel (Ed.), Teaching with Harry Potter (pp. 81-92). Jefferson, NC: McFarland. Duffett, M. (2013). Understanding fandom: An introduction to the study of media fan culture. New York/London: Bloomsbury. Fukunaga, N. (2006). “Those anime students”: Foreign language literacy development through Japanese popular culture. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 50(3), 206- 222. Jamison, A. (2013). ‘Why Fic?’ in A. Jamison (ed.). Fic: Why fanfiction is taking over the world. Dallas, TX: Smart Pop Books. Klink, F. (2017). Towards a definition of “fanfiction”. Retrieved from Lam, W. S. E. (2000). Literacy and the design of the self: A case study of a teenager writing on the Internet. TESOL Quarterly, 34, 457-484. Lepännen, S., Pitkänen-Huhta, A., Piirainen-Marsch, A., Nikula, T., & Peuronen, S. (2009). Young people’s translocal new media uses: A multiperspective analysis of language choice and hetero-glossia. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 14, 1080–1107. Sauro, S. (2017). Online fan practices and CALL. CALICO Journal, 34(2), 131-146. doi: 10.1558/CJ.33077 Sauro, S. (2014). Lessons from the fandom: Task models for technology-enhanced language learning. In M. González-Lloret & L. Ortega (Eds). Technology-mediated TBLT: Researching technology and tasks, (pp. 239-262). Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins. Sauro, S., & Sundmark, B. (2016,) Report from Middle Earth: Fanfiction tasks in the EFL classroom. ELT Journal, 70(4), 414-423 . doi: 10.1093/elt/ccv075 Sauro, S., & Zourou, K. (2017). CALL for papers for CALL in the Digital Wilds special issue. Language Learning & Technology, 21(1), 186. Sundqvist, P., & Sylvén, L.K., (2014). Language-related computer use: Focus on young L2 English learners in Sweden. ReCALL, 26(1), 3-20. Ushioda, E. (2008). Language motivation in a reconfigured Europe: Access, identity, autonomy. Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development, 27(2), 148-161. Zhang, L. T., & Cassany, D. (2016). Fansubbing del español al chino: Organización, roles y normas en las escritura colaborativa. BiD: Textos Universitaris de Biblioteconomia i Documentació, 37.
  43. 43. Acknowledgements Graphics Fox Estacado of The Art of Fox Estacado: Fine Fan Art and Geekery ( All rights reserved and used in this presentation with permission. Photographs of #setlock Shannon Sauro. Presentation available at