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An Analysis on Negotiation of Meaning in English

as Second Language Learners’s Spoken Activity

Agung Putra M, Vena Fadillah, Heri Yufrizal, M.A., Ph.D.

Faculty of Education, Lampung University, Lampung Province, Indonesia.

Abstract-This paper examines (1) how many frequencies the English

Second language Learners make on negotiation of meaing when
performing a role play through information gap task and what is the
mostly used aspects (2) to find the patterns usually made or used by
the learners in expressing the aspects on negotiation of meaning. In
order to obtain the data, there will be speaking test using role play
mixed with information gap. The data obtained will be analyzed
descriptively. To answer these research questions, six advanced
English learners were involved and divided into 3 groups. The
subjects were taken purposively to answer the questions. The subjects
have differencies on background, the researcher foccused on the
contrasting the culture which will be explained more in the methods.
Through qualitative data analysis, which is the design of this research,
it was found that the subjects showed various of 5 aspects in
negotiation of meaning. The analysis on learners which English as a
second language is needed to examine how the learners communicate
in English and moreover, using speaking task will make the class more
atractive and fun.

Keywords: Negotiation of Meaning, English as a Second Language,

Information Gap, Role Play.


Speaking skill is an important aspect of language which L2 learners should be

studied and acquired so that the learners can communicate one to another. The
ability to speak in foreign language itself is at the very heart of what it means to
be able to use foreign language.There have benn a lot of research about students
speaking. Some research about speaking may be regarding with the students
motivation, teaching material and teaching strategy, and students error in speaking
class. Since speaking is believed as a two way or more communictaion, so both of
the speaker and the hearer must have at least or minimum same background
knowledge so the hearer can understand what the speaker try to say and maintain
the communication. Mainatining the communication, speaker has to understand
the hearer knowledge atleas he or she uses understandable language, of course the
speaker must have several strategies in order to maintain the communication and
both the hearer and the speaker not only to mind the strategies but also how they
interpret the meaning and negotiate what the intelocutor try to say.

In order to understand and the maintain the conversation, the comunicater as we

call the people whi involved in communication, will have some interpret and
negotiate the meaning among them. In discourse analysis, negotiation of meaning
itself, there are several studies examining negotiation of meaning in spoken task.

Samani (2015) states that Being aware of the characteristics of these environments
in terms of the use of functions like clarification, confirmation, and elaboration,
reply clarification, reply confirmation, and reply elaboration, students can build on
their scaffolding within their zone of proximal development in the process of
second of foreign language learning. The study was found that there were 10 types
in negotiation of meaning and confirmation was mostl used by the participants
because confirmation was found to be the most frequent negotiated function. This
can be explained from a social point of view in which negotiation needs to be
balanced by the smooth flow of even exchange. That is, too many impasses and
repairs create uneasy social relationships. clarification questions can be downright
annoying (Pica, 1994).

Another study about negotiation of meaning was done by Saeed (2014). He states
that negotiation of meaning was mostly used when the participant was given the
unfocused communication task where they could explore themselves. She added,
through analyzing the negotiation of meaning through students speaking, we could
see how the students proficiency, because every students has their own way in
expressing something.

This present study will try to find the frequencies and the mostly used types in
negotiation of meaning and the pattern usually used by the participant in
expressing something. The research is a qualitative data which the sample taking
will be a purposively sampling. Therefore 6 advanced students in english
education are selected to be as the participant.

The research question of this research are (1) how many frequencies do the
English Second language Learners make on negotiation of meaing when
performing a role play through information gap task? and what is the mostly used
aspects? And (2) what the patterns is usually made or used by the learners in
expressing the aspects on negotiation of meaning?
2.1. Concept of Speaking

Speaking skill is an important aspect of language which L2 learners should study

and acquire so that the learners can communicate one to another. The ability to
speak in foreign language itself is at the very heart of what it means to be able to
use foreign language. This importance relies on two aspects. First, our personality,
our self-image, our knowledge of the world and our ability to reason and express
our thoughts are reflected to in our spoken performance in a foreign language
where L2 learner’s goals are being able to speak to friends, colleagues, visitors, in
L2 language. Second, the linkage between students’ classroom participation and
their academic achievement is undeniable.

Chaney in Kayi (2006) says that speaking is a process of building and sharing
learning through the use of verbal and non-verbal symbols, in a variety of

Haris (1974:9) says that speaking is encoding process whereby, we communicate

our ideas, thought and feeling through one or other forms of language. In short,
we can produce spoken message to someone. The message here is our idea,
thoughts, or feeling which we want to share. In this case, the speaker needs a
listener in order to communicate.

As quoted in Handayani (2012), Byrne (1984) states that speaking is oral

communication. It is a two-ways process between speaker and listener and
involving productive and reactive skill of understanding. And it is agreed by
Welty (1976) as she states that speaking is the main skill in communication. In
brief, we can conclude that through speaking, someone can communicate to other
in oral and it is the main skill in communication.

Handayani (2012) states that Lado (1976: 240) defines speaking as an ability to
converse or to express a sequence of ideas fluently. It means that in the process of
speaking there must be at least two people, one is the speaker and one other as the
listener. In communication or speaking process, the speakers must beable to share
the ideas clearly, so that the listener can receive what the speaker communicates,
he or she must comprehend in coming massage and the organize appropriate
response for production.

Referring the explanation above, it can be concluded that speaking is the main
instrument in communication and it uses to send or to express speaker’s thought,
ideas, feeling to the listener as a two-ways process which is including producing,
receiving, and processing information
2.2. Concept about Negotiation of Meaning

As Kramsch (1986) advocates, learners must be given opportunities in the

classroom to interact with both the teacher and fellow learners through turn-
taking, giving feedback to speakers, asking for clarification, and starting and
ending conversations. In other words, learners should be able to express, interpret
and negotiate meanings.

Based on the output hypothesis, it would seem that, for interaction to facilitate
second language acquisition (SLA), learners need to have opportunities for output
during interaction. In many second language classrooms, learners often observe
the output of others without producing their own output. Nevertheless, it seems
that opportunities to produce output are crucial in improving learner's use of the
target structure, and negotiation promotes output production (Cheon, 2003).

Pica (1994, p.494) has stated that negotiation of meaning (NfM) refers to "the
modification and restructuring of interaction that occurs when learners and
interlocutors perceive or experience difficulties in message comprehensibility"
According to Gass (1997, p.107) negotiation of meaning refers to
“communication in which participants' attention is focused on resolving a
communication problem as opposed to communication in which there is a free
flowing exchange of information". Consequently, meanings are not simply
transferred from one person to another but 'negotiated' (Ellis, 1988).

"The negotiation of meaning has been proposed as the key to second (and /or
foreign) language development" (Allwright, 1998) because it appears to facilitate
comprehension and successful communication among learners (Pelletieri, 1999;
Blake, 2000). Pica (1994) claims that negotiating meaning, as a particular way of
modifying interaction, can accomplish a great deal of SLA by helping learners
make input comprehensible and modify their own output and can provide
opportunities for them to access the second language (L2) form and meaning.
These negotiations tend to increase input comprehensibility through language
modifications such as simplifications, elaborations, confirmation and
comprehension checks, clarification requests, or recasts. These language
modifications provide the L2 learner with feedback to facilitate L2 development
(Gass, 1997; Long 1996).

Moreover, Long & Robinson (1998) argued that SLA is crucially enhanced by
having L2 learners negotiate meaning and therefore it is considered very
important for L2 teachers to construct an interactive learning environment in
which learners can associate with each other in the target language and negotiate
meaning through interaction. Mackey (1999) also highlights the importance of the
learner's active participation in the interaction, considering participation as one of
the features that facilitate language development. The negotiation of meaning has
been taken as the basis for the provision of comprehensible input (Gass &
Varounis, 1994; Holliday, 1995; Long, 1996; Pica, Young & Doughty, 1987)

Braden (1997, p. 626-627) argues that L2 learners' enhanced performance is

primarily determined not by their level of language proficiency, but by the
frequency of negotiation routines that they are engaged in. He emphasizes that
negotiation pushes the learners' production level significantly higher. According to
Braden's claim (1997, p.630) "during negotiations learners can be pushed to the
production of output that is more complete and accurate, far more than merely

2.3. Concept of Role Play

Ladousse (1995) explains that when students assume a “Role”, they play a part
(either their own or somebody else’s) in specific situation. “Play” means that the
role is taken on in a safe environment in which students are as inventive and
playful as possible. In role playing, the participant is representing and
experiencing some character types known in everyday life (Scarcella and Oxford,
in Tompskin, 1998). Students pretend that they are in various social contexts and
have a variety of social roles. In role-play activities, the teacher gives information
to the learners such as who they are and what they think or feel (Harmer, 1984).

In his book, Ladousse (1995) says that role-play will build up self-confidence
rather than damage it. It implies that they assumed all learners would enjoy and
feel free from any tension. However, we also need to see the learners as individual
that have different personalities and styles of learning which could influence their
performance. It is in line with Murray and Mount in Erton (2010) who says that
individual’s personality can have an effect on to what extent he is able to achieve

In view of the person taking an actor, Ladousse (1995) explains that there are
several types of role. The first is the roles which correspond to a real need in the
students’ lives. In this category, it involves such roles as doctors dealing with
patients, or salesman travelling abroad. The second type of role is the students
play themselves in a variety of situations which may or may not have direct
experience. The example which includes in this category is a customer
complaining or a passenger asking for information. The third type is the type that
few students will experience directly themselves, but it is easy to play because the
teachers have such vast indirect experience of them. The television journalist is a
good example of this type and it is a very useful type of role taken from real life.
The last type is fantasy roles, which are fictitious, imaginary, and possible even

2.4. Concept of Information Gap

As human being, we need to communicate and interact with other people. We

need to exchange information because sometimes other people have information
that we need, and on the other hand other people need information that we have.

Therefore we share information. So, to develop the students‟ speaking skills, the
researcher uses Information gap technique. The idea of the information gap
technique as an organizing concept for a speaking activity is that one person has
information that another lacks. It means that the students must use English to
share that information in order to accomplish a task. Information gap technique
is a technique where the students usually working in pairs, each has accessed to
some information (Watcyn. J, 1995). By working together they try to solve the

Afterwards, there are three definitions of information gap. The first by Neu &
Reeser (1997) he states in information gap activity, one person has certain
information that must be shared with others in order to solve a problem, gather
information or make decisions. The second is by Harmer who writes information
gap is where two speakers have different bits of information, and they can only
complete the whole pictures by sharing that information because they have
different information, there is a „gap‟ between them. The third is by Dorit Sasson
who defines that information gap activities are those in which students
exchange information in order to complete a required lesson plan activity. Most
information gap activities are done in pairs, with each student having a part of the

The coding used by the researcher are Confirmation (are also made by the listener
to establish that the preceding utterance has been heard and understood correctly.
They include repetition accompanied by rising intonation), Clarification Request
(are made by the listener to clarify what the speaker has said and include
statements such as “I don’t understand,” wh- questions, yes/no questions, and tag
questions.), Reaction (A reaction is an extension or a response to the repair. In this
article, direct and indirect responses are considered without further differentiation
as both are part of the negotiation process.), Confirmation Check (Asking for
confirmation of a previously made statement to be sure he or she has understood
correctly.), Trigger (trigger is “an utterance or part of an utterance that is not

3.1. Participants

The paricipants consisted of 6 advanced english learners who were sitting on 7th
semester from English Department of UNILA. All of the participants were
seventh semester and were the ages around 21 and to 23 years old. The
participants will be divided into 3 groups which were intent to avoid overcorwded
chat session and threats that it may have on following conversation. The
participants would act like someon writtten in the task. Every task had their own
charateriscs so there would be no coppy act.

3.2. Matrial

3 pair of information gap pictures. They include: Famous Artist, Go Directin by

Foot and Go Direction by Way. Those materials were chosen as the topic in role
play becasue it is high in level of complexity of the vocabulary and asking for
some background knowledge of the participants.

3.3. Data Collecting Technique and Procedure

(1) The reseacher will administrate the materials and the participants, (2) the
researcher will administrate the speaking test data, (3) the researcher will collect
the data by using tape recorder (4) the researcher will analyze the data by using
manual data analysis due to the qualitative research analyzing, (5) the research
will report the result.

3.4. Method in Analyzing the Data Gained

The researcher will use manual data analyzing since the research is qualitative
data. The researcher will callculate the amount of all aspects from all participants
without searching the mean regarding the each particioants has their own style in
types or aspects.

3.5. Transcribing and Coding Procedure

The transcription use natural transcribing direct from the source, so the pausse,
stop, utterance will be directly typed without any deleting and reviewing part
regarding the authenticity of the data gained. All of the participants will use a
pseudonyms name such as Rowena Ravenclaw, Helga Hufflepuff, Albus
Dumbledore, Gellert Grindewald, Ignotus and Cadmus. The researchers use
pseudonyms in order to maintain the secret of the subjects. The coding used by the
researcher are Confirmation, Clarification Request, Reaction, Confirmation
Check, Trigger.


Two research questions were asked in this study. One of them is related to the
types and frequencies of negotiation of meaning functions, and the second one is
related to the patterns mostly used in typcal negotiation of meaning. There are 5
types of negotiation of meaning were analyzied in this study. There are
Confirmation, Clarification Request, Reaction, Confirmation Check, Trigger.
Table 1.1 Gellert and Albus Conversation (Giving Direction by Road)
No Gellert Grindewald Albus Dumbledore Jumlah
1 Confirmatio 6 Confirmatio 12 18
n n
2 Clarification 9 Clarification 1 10
Request Request
3 Reaction 7 Reaction 8 15
4 Confirmatio 2 Confirmatio 1 3
n Check n Check
5 Trigger 4 Trigger - 1

Table 1.2 Cadmus Peverell and Ignotus Peverell (Famous Artists)

No Cadmus Peverell Ignotus Peverell Jumlah
1 Confirmatio 6 Confirmatio 11 17
n n
2 Clarification 13 Clarification 5 18
Request Request
3 Reaction 5 Reaction 7 12
4 Confirmatio 1 Confirmatio - 1
n Check n Check
5 Trigger 9 Trigger 8 17

Table 1.3 Rowena Raven Claw and Helga Huffle Puff (Giving Direction by Foot)
No Rowena Ravenclaw Helga Huflepuff Jumlah
1 Confirmatio 8 Confirmatio 8 17
n n
2 Clarification 3 Clarification 3 18
Request Request
3 Reaction 11 Reaction 6 12
4 Confirmatio 1 Confirmatio 4 1
n Check n Check
5 Trigger 6 Trigger 1 17
Table 1.5 Amount All
No Totall Table 1.1 Table 1.2 Table 1.3 Tottal
1 Confirmation 18 17 17 52
2 Clarification Request 10 18 18 46
3 Reaction 15 12 12 39
4 Confirmation Check 3 1 1 5
5 Trigger 1 17 17 35

According to the result of th table 1.4 we can see that the nost used of all
participants is confirmation, it is in line with the Samani (2015) theory. This can
be explained from a social point of view in which negotiation needs to be
balanced by the smooth flow of even exchange. That is, too many impasses and
repairs create uneasy social relationships. clarification questions can be downright
annoying (Pica, 1994).

The second mostly used is confirmation check, this result was not in line with
Samani (2015) where she states that clarification request is too boring and make
the conversation broke down. But in this present study, found that the second
place was clarification check. Accodring to the conversation attached, we can seee
that the participants use clarification request for asking in a humble way and not
to intimidate by asking a conformation (do you) than using a form of clarification
(would you).


According to the result, we can see that mostly students use confirmtion to asnwer
and clarifcation request to ask for something. Negotiation of meaning can be used
for reseacrher and teacher to examine hhow students actually have a conversation
with others by getting help from roleplay which is mixed by the information gap,
the speaking ability of the students will be exposed deeple by themselves and they
will explore their speaking. Using information gap mixed by the role play will
enhance students background knowledge and their sensitivity in speaking suing
englsish. Not only studens grammar sensitivity but social sensitivity and also
students confidence in speaking for sure. Negotiation of meaning can be used by
the teacher in order to know hoy proficiency the students because each students
has their own style and the result can be sude by teacher to treat their students
properly. For firther study, the land of motivationseems to be nice if it examined
along with the negotiation of meainig. The researcher may try to examine how
motivation works in students daily conversation along with their negotiation of
meaning. It would be nice if there will be a link between high and low motivated
students and their negotiation meaning.

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This is a transciption between Rowena and Helga (pseudonyms). They used

Direction by Foot task. The transcription use natural transcribing direct from the
source, so the pausse, stop, utterance will be directly typed without any deleting
and reviewing part. Rowena owned the A map and Helga owned the B map. Here.
In a clearing in a magical city. Rowena, a new comer in Huflepuff city met Helga
who was a city officer nearby. They got along with time. One day, Rowena asked
Helga to get her walk around the city.
Rowena : Hi, Helga, what a nice sun rise in Huflepuff city. How are you?
Helga : Morning, Rowena. Tottaly, it couldnt’t be happier. What’s
Rowena : It would be so nice for me if there is someone who can get me
walk around this city.
Helga : alright then, i will get you walk around. What place do you want
to see?
Rowena : this is too early in the morning, how if we have a breakfast? Do
you know nearest and the most foodies restaurant?
Helga : yeah i know, it is Lu’s Italian Restaurants. Do you want?
Rowena : yeah why not? Let’s try it. Where is it?
Helga : ah, we are in Maple street, it should not be far from here.
Rowena : are you sure?
Helga : yeah, it is on the next intersection. There. Opposite the Hez
Rowena : what a nice food, i like it. It is so tasty. Hmm. I think it is the best
time to walk around the city. Is there any park or central garden here?
Helga : yeah, of course there is. Do you want to see it?
Rowena : of course, I want... Hit me up...
Helga : it is not so far from this restaurant. If my guess is right. It is on
the Broadway Avenue Street.
Rowena : hmm, is it next this street, isn’t it?
Helga : yes, youre right. Look, that’s the sign.
Rowena : oh I see, waaaaw what a marvelous park.
Helga : it is late in the afternoon, do you want to go back to the hotel?
Rowena : yeah, i am so tired, tired but fantastic day. By the way, i stay in
star hotel. Do you know it?
Helga : Star?star what?
Rowena : Star Hotel, on the Oak Street.
Helga : hmm i dont get the point,
Rowena : Oak Street, the only building on the first block after 7th avenue.
Helga :ah Isee, the big ones...
Rowena : yess, see you Helga, nice day with you.
Helga : see you Helga. You are welcome.
This is a transciption between Dumbledore and Grindelwald (pseudonyms). They
used Direction by Foot task. The transcription use natural transcribing direct from
the source, so the pausse, stop, utterance will be directly typed without any
deleting and reviewing part. Dumbledore owned the A map and Grindelwald
owned the B map. Here.

One day in a rainy season in a Godric’s Hollow. Gellert Grindelwald was a new
teacher of black magic defense in a Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry
while Albus Dumbledore was a transfiguration teacher at that time. As a new
teacher in that school and in that town. Gellert asked Albus to explore the city.

Gellert : Good Morning, Sir. I am a new teacher here and new comer in this city. I
am Grindelwald, Gellert Grindelwald. Nice to see you, Mr??
Albus : Dumbledore, Albus Dumbledore, Albus wil be fine. Nice to meet you Mr.
Gellert. When did you arrive here?
Gellert : ah, Mr. Albus. Around the twilight tail, Sir.
Albus : a twilight?
Gellert : at Sir. Sir, I wonder, how this big city looks like. Would you please
accompany me explore this city, Sir?
Albus : what a nice invitation, I will accompany you to explore this city.
Gellert : Sir, ah I only have a pair of shoes, i want to buy the new one. Is there any
shoe store in this city?
Albus : of course, there is one good and big shpe store. It’s called Elegant Store.
It is on the 3rd Avenue opposites the Post Office.
Gellert : on the 3rd Avenue, Sir? Is it near Bedwell Theatrre?
Albus : yes, you are right. Costly but got style.
Gellert : mean, Sir?
Albus : the shoes sold there, usuallh have a highly cost but no doubt in quality
and style.
Gellert : ah, no doubt. Yes. Are you hungry, Sir? I will buy us some food to eat.
Albus : Thanks, i know the nearest foodcourt. They sell the most delicious burger
in town.
Gellert : are you sure? I love burger. Where is it located, Sir?
Albus : it is on the intersection between Oak Street and 2nd Avenue. It is on the
left side if we are from Oak Street.
Gellert : Oak Street? Pardon me, Sir.
Albus : Oak Street, near the Aquariums.
Gellert : ah, so the foodcurt is near the Aquarium?
Albus : No, it is opposites the aquarium, it is near the Police station.
Gellert : aye, police office on the Pine Street?
Albus : yes, behind the police station.
Gellert : let’s go have some food there.
This is a transciption between Ignotus Peverell and Cadmus Peverell
(pseudonyms). They used Direction by Foot task. The transcription use natural
transcribing direct from the source, so the pausse, stop, utterance will be directly
typed without any deleting and reviewing part. Ignotus owned the A Sheet and
Cadmus owned the B Sheet. Here.

In an art class, of the first year. Two brothers, Ignotus and Cadmus were a
freshmen in Dumstrang and they were learning an art class. They had several
work arts in fornt of them. They strated to share their knowledge in that class.

Cadmus : hey, waht are you looking at, Ignotus?

Ignotus : ah, this is a picture of sunflowers. It is beautiful, isn’t it?
Cadmus : a bit, i dont like flower actualy. Who is the painter?
Ignotus : ah, hmm... i think Van Gogh is the painter.
Cadmus : are you sure? I think he is more creative than just a flower.
Ignotus : come on every artist has their own style.
Cadmus : when did he paint it? Do you know?
Ignotus : arround 1889, look at the tecnique.
Cadmus : is it an oil paints?
Ignotus : yes it is, and what do you have? Is that the great Mona Lisa?
Cadmus : yes of course brother, the great Mona Lisa. One of artistic pride
Ignotus : who is the painter?
Cadmus : are you sure? You don’t know the maker?
Ignotus : no, I don’t. Is it Rodin?
Cadmus : Beard Merlin, He is the great Leonardo Da Vinci who paints the
Mona Lisa.
Ignotus : is it around 1503?
Cadmus : yap you are right, he made it around 1503 until 1506.
Ignotus : what is the materials?
Cadmus : hmm there is no clear information about that. But by looking he
scrub here, i think he used an oil paints.
Ignotus : fair enough, looks like the sun flowers has.
Cadmus : the scrubs?
Ignotus : yap, the scubs look like the scrub in sunflower picture.
Cadmus : do you know this picture? Like an ox.
Ignotus : yap it is indeed The Ox.
Cadmus : is that the name? The Ox?
Ignotus : yes The Ox. Joong-sup Lee the painter.
Cadmus : Junk Soup, what?
Ignotus : It is J-o-o-n-g S-u-p L-e-e..
Cadmus : ah, a chinese?
Ignotus : unidentified yet, but there’s a believe that he is a chinese.
Cadmus : when was it made? And
Ignotus : ah, around 1950s i do not know the exact time, he used oil paints
but rather more modern we can see from the technique.