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How Languages Are Learned 4th edition

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1 How Languages Are Learned 4th edition
Patsy M. Lightbown and Nina Spada Summary of Chapter 6

2 Six proposals for classroom teaching
Get it right from the beginning Just listen ... and read Let’s talk Get two for one Teach what is teachable Get it right in the end

3 Research approaches to assess proposals
Quantitative research Descriptive or experimental Goal is to identify specific variables that may affect learning similarly in different contexts. Often involves large numbers in order to draw conclusions about learners in general. Qualitative research Descriptive (e.g. ethnographies, case studies) Emphasis on a thorough understanding of what is particular about a classroom/a learner. Often involves small numbers (e.g. one class or one or two learners)

4 Action research Carried out by teachers in their own classrooms
Essential to answer specific, local questions

5 Get it right from the beginning
Grammar translation approach Emphasis on written language, rule learning, translating literary works Audiolingual approach Emphasis on oral language, repetitive drill, memorization

6 Research relevant to ‘Get it right from the beginning’
Little research to assess these approaches in ‘ordinary school programmes’ Lightbown (1983): Descriptive study of interlanguage development in audiolingual pattern drill (high school) Savignon (1972): Experimental study of learning in audiolingual instruction with or without communicative practice (university).

7 Interpreting the research
Learners who receive audio-lingual or grammar-translation instruction are often unable to communicate effectively outside the classroom. Exclusively structure-based approaches to L2 teaching do not prevent learners from making developmental errors when using language spontaneously.

8 Just listen ... and read Based in part on the ‘comprehensible input hypothesis’ (Krashen, 1985) Acquisition occurs when ‘comprehensible input’ is available. Emphasis is on providing comprehensible input through listening and/or reading activities. It is not necessary to drill and memorize language forms in order to learn them. It is not necessary to produce language (speaking or writing).

9 Research relevant to ‘Just listen ... and read’
Comprehension-based instruction (Lightbown et al., 2002) Reading for words (Horst, 2005) Input flood (Trahey and L. White, 1993; L. White, 1991) Enhanced input (J. White, 1998) Processing instruction (VanPatten, 2004)

10 Interpreting the research
Learners can make considerable progress if they have sustained exposure to language they understand. Comprehension-based learning is an excellent way to begin learning and is a valuable supplement to other kinds of learning for more advanced learners.

11 Interpreting the research (Cont.)
However, comprehensible input alone is not sufficient for L2 learning. Input-based instruction is most effective when it includes guided learning as well as listening/reading for meaning. Evidence from input-based learning led Swain (1985) to propose the ‘comprehensible output hypothesis’.

12 Let’s talk The ‘comprehensible output hypothesis’ (Swain, 1985) suggested that learners develop when they must produce language. The ‘interaction hypothesis’ (Long, 1983, 1996) emphasized the role of conversational interaction. Learners ‘negotiate for meaning’ to express and clarify their thoughts in a way that leads to mutual comprehension.

13 Negotiation for meaning
According to the interaction hypothesis, negotiation leads learners to acquire the words and grammatical structures to express their intended meaning. This involves requests for clarification requests for confirmation repetition with rising intonation.

14 Research relevant to ‘Let’s talk’
Learners talking to learners (Long and Porter, 1985) Learner language and proficiency level (Yule and MacDonald, (1990) The dynamics of pair work (Storch, 2002) Interaction and L2 development (Mackey, 1999) Learner–learner interaction in a Thai classroom (McDonough, 2004)

15 Interpreting the research
Learners can develop fluency and communication abilities in conversational interaction. It is difficult for learners to provide each other with accurate corrective feedback in conversational interaction. Corrective feedback (e.g. recasts) in conversational interaction can help learners in terms of their accuracy and development of language forms.

16 Get two for one Content-based language teaching (CBLT)
Learners acquire a second or foreign language as they study subject matter taught in that language. Types of CBLT include Immersion, Content and Language-Integrated Learning (CLIL), and bilingual education.

17 Research relevant to ‘Get two for one’
French immersion programs in Canada (Harley and Swain, 1984) Late immersion under stress in Hong Kong (Johnson, 1997) Dual immersion (Lightbown, 2007) Inuit children in content-based programmes (Spada and Lightbown, 2002)

18 Interpreting the research
Advantages of content-based language teaching Increases amount of exposure to L2 Creates a genuine need to communicate Cognitively challenging Challenges of content-based language teaching Children need many years to acquire language for cognitively challenging academic material In content-based language teaching both language and content must be attended to.

19 Teach what is teachable
Pienemann (1988) and his colleagues suggest that: Some aspects of language are best taught according to learners’ internal schedule (i.e. developmental features). Other aspects of language can be taught at any time (i.e. variational features). Instruction cannot change the ‘natural’ developmental course. Important to assess learners’ development and teach what would naturally come next.

20 Research relevant to ‘Teach what is teachable’
Ready to learn (Pienemann, 1988) Readies, unreadies, and recasts (Mackey and Philp, 1998) Developmental stage and first language influence (Spada and Lightbown, 1999)

21 Interpreting the research
Targeting instruction to developmental stages can be beneficial, but other factors need to be taken into consideration. Type of instructional input More focused instruction (either more explicit instruction or recasts focused on single language feature) resulted in progress by ‘ready’ learners. Learners’ first language Patterns of L1 may prevent generalization of an L2 pattern, even if learners are developmentally ready.

22 Get it right in the end Advocates of this proposal suggest that:
Not everything has to be taught; lots of language can be acquired naturally with sufficient exposure. Some aspects of language must be taught and may need to be taught explicitly (e.g. when learners share the same first language). Other aspects of language can be taught by helping learners to notice certain features in the input and to increase their awareness of form.

23 Research relevant to ‘Get it right in the end’
Form-focus experiments in ESL (e.g. Lightbown and Spada, 1994; White et al., 1991; Spada et al., 2005) Focusing on gender in French immersion (Harley, 1998) Focusing on sociolinguistic forms in French immersion (Lyster, 1994) Focusing on verbs in content-based science classrooms (Doughty and Varela, 1998)

24 Research relevant to ‘Get it right in the end’ (Cont.)
Recasts and prompts in French immersion classrooms (Lyster, 2004) Focus on form through collaborative dialogue (Swain and Lapkin, 2002) Focus on form in task-based instruction (Samuda, 2001) The timing of form-focused instruction (Spada et al., 2012)

25 Interpreting the research
Form-focused instruction and corrective feedback within communicative and content-based language teaching can help learners improve their knowledge and use of language forms. Long-term effects of instruction may be related to whether there is continued exposure to the language feature after the instruction ends.

26 Interpreting the research (Cont.)
Teachers are not the only source of information about language forms––students can help each other to reflect on language form if given adequate guidance. Form-focused instruction may be more effective for some features than others. Form-focused instruction may be essential for some features (e.g. those based on misleading similarity between L1 and L2).

27 Interpreting the research (Cont.)
‘Isolated’ and ‘integrated’ form-focused instruction may lead to different kinds of knowledge. There is a need for more research that measures ‘implicit’ as well as ‘explicit’ knowledge. The overall context of learning interacts with the type of instruction and corrective feedback (e.g. Lyster and Mori’s counterbalance hypothesis).

28 Assessing the proposals
• ‘Get it right from the beginning’ Evidence suggests that this approach does not correspond to the way that the majority of successful L2 learners have acquired their proficiency. ‘Just listen and read’ and ‘Get two for one’ There is no support for the hypothesis that language acquisition will take care of itself if L2 learners focus exclusively on meaning/content.

29 Assessing the proposals (Cont.)
‘Let’s talk’ Conversational interactions in group and paired activities can lead to increased fluency and the ability to manage conversations in the L2. However, learners may make slow progress on acquiring more accurate and sophisticated language if there is no focus on form. This is particularly the case in classes where learners share the same first language and learning backgrounds.

30 Assessing the proposals (Cont.)
‘Teach what is teachable’ No strong evidence that teaching according to learners’ developmental level is necessary or desirable, or that it will lead to long-term benefits. Most valuable feature about this proposal is that it helps teachers set realistic expectations about the way learners’ interlanguage may change in response to instruction and that ‘progress’ does not always appear as increased accuracy.

31 Assessing the proposals (Cont.)
‘Get it right in the end’ Strong evidence that form-focused instruction within the context of communicative and content-based language teaching is more effective in promoting L2 learning than instructional approaches that are limited to an exclusive emphasis on accuracy, comprehension, or interaction. Decisions about balancing form-focus and meaning-focus must take into account differences in learners’ characteristics (e.g. age, goals for learning, etc.).

32 Summary It is not necessary (or desirable) to choose between form-based and meaning-based instruction. The challenge is to find the best balance between these two orientations. Many questions about L2 teaching remain to be answered by classroom-based research on L2 learning.

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