Drawing from Interactional Sociolinguistics (IS), this article presents an analysis of a Research Group Meeting in Microbiology occurring at a mid-western US university. We focus on the performance of a South Korean postdoctoral scholar who claims limited proficiency in English and demonstrate how he makes valued contributions by leveraging embodied semiotic resources alongside verbal ones. The analysis also highlights the co-participants’ openness in accepting non-standard linguistic and discourse features in working toward shared professional goals because of the way this activity is framed. Such an orientation to interaction suggests distributed practice, where co-participants take joint responsibility for the generation of meanings. Based on the findings, we question institutional policies that privilege advanced proficiency in normative English grammar for skilled migrants, which leads to unfairly judging their competence. We encourage a focus on how participants frame their tasks to judge what semiotic resources are critical for different professional interactions. Findings also have theoretical implications that help IS develop in the direction of embodiment, beyond verbal contextualization cues, individual competence, and intercultural misunderstandings.
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