Document Type : Book Review
University of Aberdeen, Scotland
During my doctoral viva voce, my external examiner, Professor Phil Benson, asked if I could clarify my admittedly nebulous application of the term “learning environment,” and the ambiguously synonymous usage of others like “setting,” “context”, “atmosphere”, “learning space(s)”, and “classroom.” To simplify this entanglement for the purpose of passing my oral examination, I asserted that I just meant “classroom.” However, in the months that followed, I reflected more deeply on this question. I first began to think about language itself as being a type of “environment” with its own inextricable qualities of space and structure, and with language use (spoken and written) giving breath to these dimensional attributes. As this metaphor seemed decidedly structuralist, I turned my attention to what I felt was a more interesting extrapolation of a spatial theme embedded in the concept of environments: the complex interactions in specific spaces and how such interactions relate to learning. It is on this first point (the spatial aspects of language) that Benson’s book begins and on the second (language learning environments) that it concludes.