An ELL’s journey in learning to demonstrate solidarity in job application letters


  • Daniel Portman Beit Berl College Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya
  • Caroline Coffin Open University (retired)



Appraisal theory, English as a second language, Business English, Job application letters, Genre learning, Systemic functional linguistics, employment mobility, capacity building


In recent years, tertiary institutes worldwide have begun to emphasize capacity building of their students for future employment, particularly with regard to international mobility. An integral part of building such capacity among English language learners (ELLs) is to equip them with the ability to apply for jobs in English. This paper reports on a research project which tracked, over the course of eight weeks an Israeli English language learner's improved understanding of how to write a US-oriented job application letter. Using the theoretical framework of systemic functional linguistics (cf. Halliday and Matthiessen, 2004), we present the results of a fine grained linguistic analysis of the texts produced by a student at three different points in the learning process. Against the background of a large corpus of linguistically analysed successful job application letters, the paper focuses on the extent to which the student developed in managing the applicant-potential employer relationship, which we call 'demonstrating solidarity', as evidenced through his changing use of interpersonal linguistic resources. We interpret the student's development in light of cross-cultural differences that might have influenced his learning trajectory. The paper concludes by setting out the most significant implications of the findings for pedagogic practice and institutional policy, especially important for English language learners.

Author Biographies

Daniel Portman, Beit Berl College Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya

I am a lecturer at Beit Berl in the Faculty of Education, English Department and at the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya in the EFL Department.

Caroline Coffin, Open University (retired)

Caroline Coffin was Professor in English Language and Applied Linguistics at the Open University, UK until her retirement in 2015. During that time she used a language as social semiotic approach (drawing on Systemic functional theory and analytical tools) to investigate the role of language in learning in a range of contexts. Published books include A Language as Social Semiotic Approach to Teaching and Learning in Higher Education (Wiley‐Blackwell, 2014 with Donohue), Exploring Grammar (Routledge, 2009, with Donohue and North, new edition forthcoming) and Historical Discourse (Continuum, 2006).


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How to Cite

Portman, D., & Coffin, C. (2019). An ELL’s journey in learning to demonstrate solidarity in job application letters. Linguistics and the Human Sciences, 13(1-2), 118–149.