Within the parameters of intensively competitive labor and job markets, on the one hand, and global markets for goods and services, on the other, literacy, in all its variant forms and manifestations, has assumed unique importance…
Within the parameters of intensively competitive labor and job markets, on the one hand, and global markets for goods and services, on the other, literacy, in all its variant forms and manifestations, has assumed unique importance.Whether as relates to immigrant L2 communities in the United States or native citizens, literacy often emerges as a non-negotiable criterion for employment and hence, the capacities and abilities of individuals to integrate into their societies and become constructive members therein. Given the importance of literacy, both on the individual and the societal levels, understanding what literacy means, clarifying the variances between L1 and L2 literacy and outlining the socio-cultural and ideological implications of literacy emerge as the primary concerns and objectives of this paper.Popular understandings of literacy as the ability to read and write, while accurate, effectively obscure the inherent complexities of the term and over-simplify its implications. As Speilmann and Radnofsky (2001) contend, literacy extends beyond the narrow parameters of the aforementioned definition to encompass the communicative skills requisite for both integration in society and the realization of individual career and social potentials and aspirations. Concurring with the aforementioned Kern (2000) defines literacy as "an elastic concept: its meaning varies according to the disciplinary lens through which one examines it." It is, from this definitional perspective, a mercurial and fluid concept, both difficult to pin down and even more problematic to pin down.
Not withstanding the fluid nature of the concept or the multiple contending definitions which surround it, Tompkins (2001) defines concept as functional/basic and computer/post-modern literacy. The former refers to the capacity to read and write with some degrees of skill and competency. The latter, whose importance has expanded with the onset of the present century, references computer skills and an individual's ability to use and work with computers and other information technologies. The proliferation of computers as a primary medium of communication and information exchange has, according to McGrail (2007), made computer literacy as important as basic/functional literacy, insofar as the former is needed just as much as is the latter for employment and social integrative, let alone communicative, purposes.
In further testament to the highly complex and multi-dimensional nature of literacy Baynham (1995) identifies six literacy models. These are the (1) skills development, (2) the therapeutic, (3) the personal empowerment, (4) the social empowerment, (5) functional and (6) the critical models of literacy. Taken together, these models effectively underscore the extent, to which literacy facilitates all of personal development, social integration and the acquisition of career/job skills, on the one hand, and allows an individual to realize his/her potential, on the other.
Proceeding on the basis of the literature reviewed in the above, it is evident that literacy encompasses far more than reading and writing skills. Indeed, it may very well be defined as the primary predicator of social and professional success. The concept, complex enough as it is, is rendered even more so upon its contextualization with L1 and L2 frameworks.
3 L1 and L2 Literacy
Within the context of an L2 setting, the definition of literacy, as outlined in the preceding section, retains both its validity and viability. Hayes and Schrier (2000) make this amply clear when they define L2 literacy as socio-communicative skills within a non-mother tongue environment or linguistic setting. In the L2 setting, just as in the L1, being literate means possessing reading and writing skills and having the capacity to utilize those skills in both ...
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