Sudden Switch to Post-COVID-19 Online Classes and Cognitive Transformation of ESL Learners: Critical Analysis of Discourse of Fear
The study investigates how COVID-19 has transformed ESL learners' cognition due to the sudden shift from traditional classes to complete distant-virtual learning under the perpetual discourse of fear. The data were based on the semi-structured interviews taken by ESL learners and teachers from Punjab, Pakistan. A purposive sample of 20 female ESL learners of various social backgrounds was selected to record their lived experiences of COVID-19, which transformed their cognition. Two male and three female ESL teachers, based on purposive sampling, were also selected to investigate the reasons for the cognitive transformation of ESL learners during the pandemic. The discursive themes were explored by codifying and interpreting the qualitative data. Findings revealed that contagion had promoted bizarre linguistic forms about socio-cultural and economic transformation, which generated the discourse of fear and equally affected learner’s cognition and learning process. Researchers used transformative cognitive learning as a lens to analyze the discourse of fear, which worked as a theoretical framework to portray a prevailing threat under the surveillance of COVID-19. Consequently, it resulted in the cognitive transformation of ESL learners in Pakistan due to social, psychological, economic, and technological factors. The study recommends that proper planning and support of higher authorities and better methodologies by teachers may help learners attain desirable language proficiency in such a scenario. Further, the use of neutral and contextual language by media and teachers can overcome the prevailing fear among ESL learners and maximize learning outcomes through distance or online learning.