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T h ec o m p a n i ovno l u m e isn t h i ss e r i e sa r e :
by AnneBurnsand CarolineCoffin
AnalysingEnglishin a GtobalContextedited
editedby DavidR. Hall and Ann Hewings
Innovationin EnglishLanguageTeaching

T h e s et h r e e r e a d e r sa r e p a r t o f a s c h e m eo f s t u d yj o i n t l y d e v e l o p ebdy M a c q u a r i e
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From 2001 it will alsobe availablw e o r l d w i d eT. h e M A i n E d u c a t i o ins d e s i g n e d
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t h e p r o g r a m m teh a t b e s tf i t s i n w i t h t h e i r i n t e r e s tasn d p r o f e s s i o ngaol a l s .T h e M A
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t h e i r o w n t i m e . T h e y r e c e i v es p e c i a l l py r e p a r e d b
( A p p l i e dL i n g u i s t i c s )
a p e r s o n at lu t o r . ( S u c c e s s f cuol m p l e t i o on f t h e M A i n E d u c a t i o n
e n t i l e ss t u d e n ttso a p p l yf o r e n t r yt o t h e O p e nU n i v e r s i t y D o c t o r a t ien E d u c a t i o (nE d D )

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724,W altonHall, M ilton l(eynesMl<76ZW, or<, or telephone
+44 (0)1g0 65323I or visitthe website, For more information on the
MA in Education(AppliedLinguistics)

MacquarieUniversityintroduced distance versions of its influentialon-campus degrees in

]994 and now has studentsin over thirty countries.Both the Postgraduate Diploma
a n d t h e M a s t e r sa r e o f f e r e di n t h r e ev e r s i o n sA: p p l i e dL i n g u i s t i c s , A p p l i e dL i n guistics
( T E S O L )a n d A p p l i e dL i n g u i s t i c(sL i t e r a c y )C. r e d i t sa r e f r e e l yt r a n s f e r a b lbee t w e etnh e
Diplomaand the Mastersand betweenthe three versions,and studentsmay change
b e t w e e dn i s t a n c a e n d o n - c a m p um s o 0 e so r m i x m o d e si f d e s i r e dS. t u d e n tsst u d ya t t h e i r
o w n p a c e ,w i t h s p e c i a l l d y e v e l o p em d a t e r i a l sa n d w i t h s u p p o r at ndfeedbacp k rovided
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C e n t r ef o r E n g l i s hL a n g u a g e a c h i n ga n d R e s e a r c (hN ' C E L T R ) E
T e . x t e r n a ld o c t o r a l
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p r o g r a m m easn d a p p l i c a t i ofno r m sa r e a v a i l a b l e
I n f o r m a t i o na b o u tt h e M a c q u a r i e or by writing to the LinguisticsPostgraduate Office,Macquarie
U n i v e r s i tN (
y ,S W2 1 0 9 ,A u s t r a l i at e l : + 6 1298509243;fax: + 6 1 2 9 8 5 0 9 3 5 2 ;e - m a i l :
i nl g . m q . e d u . a u ) .
in its SocialContext
and N{ercer'sReader provides kev insightsinto contemporarv knon.ledge
of second languagelearning, the exploitation of this knorvledgein classroomaction,
and subsequentassessmentand analvsis.Bv emphasizingthe social context of these
three processes,and the relationship betu-eentirem, thJ book provides a rew.ardirrg
introduction to the interaction betu,een theorv, research and professional practice
u'hich lies at the heart of applied linguistics.' Guv Cook,IJniversitlioJ Readtng,iK

volume links the teaching of English to the development of autonomous
individuals rvho prize debate, negotiation and interaction, and rvho will ultimatelv be
able to build giobal communications of like-minded English speakersaround the
rvorld. Readersu'ill find in this collection of excellent papeis some of the classicmile-

A selection of readers' comments on the series:

three-part series olfers a map to ELT research and practice . . . it represents the best
that ELT, as an Anglo-Saxon institution, has developed over the last thirtl. vears lbr the
teaching of English around the rl-orld . . . Readers will find in this series the Who's Who
guide to this dvnamic and expanding communitv.' Clairc Kramsch,[JniversityoJ CattJornia,

English language instructors seeking to deepen their knor.r,.ledgeand abilitres
lvill find this series forms a coherent basis to develop their understanding of iurrent trends,
sociocultural diversitv, and topical interests in teaching English as a second or foreign
language around the u.orld. All three volumes pror.ide ample flexibilitv for discussion,
interPretation, and adaptation in local settings.' Aljster Cumming,Ontario lrrtirut,
for S:udiesin
Educati on, Un i versitv oJTor onto

series provides a collection of essential readings r,r'hich r,r'ili not only provide the
TEFL/TESOL student and teacher rvith access to the most up,to-date thinking and
approaches to the subject but u'ill gir.e anv person interested in the subject an overvi,ew of

I the phenomenon of the use and usage of English in the modern '"vorid. Perhaps more
I importantly, this series r'r'ill be crucial to those students w.ho do not have available to thern
articles that provide both a w'ide spectrum of information and the necessary analytical tools
to investigate the language further.' Joseph A. Fole1, SoutheastAsia lLinisten of Education

strong representation of the seminal Angio-Australian development of the European
functional tradition in the'studv oflanguage and language education makes this a refreshinglv
bracing series, r.vhich should be u'idelr. used in teacher education for English langua=g.
teaching.'Euan Rejd,lnsttrute IJn)versitt'
oJ Educatton, oJ London
a principled and accessibiemanner, these three volumes bring together major."vritings on
essential topics in the studv of English language teaching. Ther.provide broad coverage of
current thinking and debate on major issues, providing an invaluable resource foi the
contemporarv postgraduate student.' Gu1 Cook,(Jniverst*,oJ Reading
F i r s tp u b l i s h e2d0 0 1
by Routledge
1 1 N e wF e t t e rL a n e ,L o n d o nE C 4 P4 E E

S i m u l t a n e o up
s luyb l i s h ei d
n t h e US A a n dC a n a d a
by Routledge
2 9 W e s t3 5 t h S t r e e tN , e wY o r k ,N Y 1 0 0 0 1

Routledgeis an imprint of the Taylor & FrancisGroup

@ 2 0 0 1 C o m p i l a t i oonr, i g i n aal n de d i t o r i am l a t e r i aM e n i v e r s i tayn d

l a c q u a r iU
T h e0 p e nU n l v e r s i t yi n; d i v i d u aalr t i c l e @
s t h e i ra u t h o r s

L o d g eW
T y p e s eitn P e r p e t u a n d B e l l G o t h l cb y l ( e y s t r o l <Jea, c a r a n d a , olverhampton
P r i n t e da n d b o u n di n G r e a tB r i t a i nb y T J I n t e r n a t i o n aLlt d , P a d s t o wC, o r n w a l l

A l l r i g h t sr e s e r v e dN. o p a r t o f t h i s b o o km a y b e r e p r i n t e d o r r e p r o d u c eodr
u t i l i z e dl n a n yf o r m o r b y a n ye l e c t r o n i m c , e c h a n l c oa rl o t h e rm e a n s /
n o w k n o w no r h e r e a f t eirn v e n t e di n , c l u d i n gp h o t o c o p y i nagn d r e c o r d i n g ,
o r i n a n y i n f o r m a t i o sn t o r a g eo r r e t r i e v asl y s t e mw/ i t h o u tp e r m i s s i o n
i n w r i t i n gf r o mt h e p u b l i s h e r s .

British Library Cataloguing in PublicationData

A c a t a l o g uree c o r df o r t h i sb o o ki s a v a i l a b lfer o mt h e B r i t i s hL i b r a r y

Libraryof Congress Catalogingin PublicationData

English Nr. C a n d l i n
l a n g u a gtee a c h i n ign i t s s o c i acl o n t e x/t e d i t e db y C h r i s t o p h e
a n d N e i lM e r c e r .
p . c m .- ( T e a c h i nE gn g l i s h l a n g u a gweo r l d w i d e )
Includes b i b l i o g r a p h e lf e r e n c ea sn di n d e x .
i cr a
1. English l a n g u a g e - S t uadnydt e a c h i n g - F o r e isgpne a k e r s2.. E n g l i s h
language-Stud a yn dt e a c h i n g - S o c i a sl p e c t s I. . C a n d l i nC
, hristopher.
I I . M e r c e rN, e i i .I I I . S e r i e s
P E 7 I 2 8 . A 2E 4 9 2 0 0 0
428'.0071-dc2l 00-059195

I SBN 0 - 4 1 5 - 2 4 t 2 r - 9 ( h b k )
IS B N 0-415-24122-7 $bk)
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Listof illustrations X

Acknowledgements xii

Christopher N. Candlin and Neil Mercer


I o w i s l a n g u a g el e a r n i n g e x p l a i n e d ?

RosamondMitchell and Florence Myles


Patsy M. Lightbown and Nina Spada


Rod Ellis

Peter Sl<ehan

Leo van Lier

C O N S T R A I N T S A N D R E S O U R C E S I N C L A S S R O O N 4T A L I ( :
I TRT 90

Celia Roberts

Michael P. Breen

S t r a t e g i e sa n d g o a l si n t h e c l a s s r o o mc o n t e x t

Paul l(night

Jack C. Richards

Michael H. Long
T E A C H I N G I \ 1E T H O D O L O G Y 180

David Nunan


. - : , : 'A . S u r e s h C a n a g a r a j a h

J. l(eith Chick

A n a l y s i n gt e a c h i n g a n d l e a r n i n g

Tq,Neil 243
Pauline Gibbons

Anget M.Y. Lin


Assia Slimani

Michael P. Breen

Joan Swann

.l /

IUC 345


1.1 S p o l s l < yg' es n e r am l o d eo l f second l a n g u a glee a r n i n g I3

2.r B a r c h a r t ss h o w i n tgh e l a n g u a glee v e l so f p r e -a n dp o s t - p u b e r t y
l e a r n e rosf En gIi s h 3B
3.r ' M o m e n t so' f a c t i o nr e s e a r c h 5B
3.2 R e l a t i nd y e o r ya n d l a n g u a gpee d a g o g y
g i s c i p l i n a rt h 65
5.1 IRFcontinuum 94
8.1 S i t u a t i o n al al n g u a gtee a c h i n m g aterial 150
8.2 A t y p i c aal u d i o - l i n g udar li l l 151
8.3 C L T m a t e r i a lw s h i c he n c o u r a gger o u p w o rak n dp a r t i c i p a t i o n 156
8.4 A t y p i c a lP r a b h ut a s k t62
8.5 An example o f u n i to b j e c t i v ewsi t h i na t e x t - b a s eadp p r o a c h 164
10.1 N o u np h r a s ea c c e s s iIbi tiy h i e r a r c h y l85
12.I T h et e a c h i n g - l e a r n icnygc l e 202
20.r F i e l d - n o t eosf a n a s s e m b liyn a s c h o oiln s o u t h - e a sEtn g l a n d 329
20.2 Transcription of teacher-student talk 33r
20.3 T r a n s c r i p t i oonf s m a l lg r o u pt a l k : s t a n d a r d layout 332
20.4 T r a n s c r i p t i oonf s m a l lg r o u pt a l l < c: o l u m nl a y o u t 333
20.5 T r a n s c r i p t i oonf g r o u pt a l k :s t a v el a y o u t ??q

20.6 Representation of nonverbal featuresin an oral narrative 336

20.7 Representation of teacher'sgazetowardsfemaleand malestudents
20.8 T r a n s c r i pi tl l u s t r a t i nagl t e r n a t i obne t w e e En n g l i s ha n d M a l t e s e 337
20.9 T r a n s c r i pi tl l u s t r a t i nagl t e r n a t i obne t w e e Sn a n s l < rai tn d E n g l i s h 338
2 0 . 10 T r a n s c r i p t i oonf a c o n v e r s a t i ouns i n gC r e o l ea n d L o n d o nE n g l i s h 339
20 . 1 1 R e p r e s e n t a t ioofnp r o n u n c i a t i ouns i n gp h o n e t iscy m b o l s 339
20.12 I n c i d e n coel ' c o sa n db e c a u sien p r i m a r vs c h o ocl h i l d r e n 'tsa l k 342


I C o m p a r i s oonf l a n g u a glee a r n i n a g t d i f f e r e nat g e s 4t

I Attributesof innovation 62
I S o m et e c h n i q u et hs a t t e a c h e rus s e
I Average s c o r e sa n dp e r c e n t a gi n e c r e a sfeo r e a c hg r o u p 293
2 Effectof topicalisation 296
3 P e r c e n t a goef c l a i m sm a d eb y r e p o r t e rosn e a c hl i n g u i s t ifce a t u r e 299
I Numberandtypeof student-initiated movesin two typesof lesson 340

The editors and publishers r,r'ould like to thank the follou'ing for permission to use
copyright material:

Michael P. Breen and Cambridge Unir,ersitt' Press for social context of language
in Second
learning: a neglected situation' in Studres Acquisition,7, 1985.
Michael P. Bte.n a.rd SEAMEO Regional Language Centre for'Navigating the discourse:
on what is learned in the language classroom' in Proceedings of the 1997 RELC
Anne Burns for'Genre-based approachesto r'r'riting and beginning adult ESL learners',
reprinted from Prospecr Vol. 5, No. 3, Mav 1990 rvith permission from the National
Centre for English LanguageTeachingand Research(NCELTR), Australia. (Macquarie
Universitv). Includes material in Fig. 2 adapted from Learning Stylesin Adult Migrant
EducationbyWilling K., also rvith permission from the National Centre for Engiish
LanguageTeachingand Research(N CELTR), Australia (Macquarie Universitv).
Cumbridge University Pressfor Assia Slimani of classroominteraction' in J.C.
Alderson and A. Beretta (eds) EvaluatingSecond Language Education,1992.
A. Suresh Cangarajaand TESOL for'Critical ethnographv of a Sri Lankan classroom:
ambiguities in student opposition to reproduction through ESOL' in TESOL@Lartetly,
Y o l . 2 1. N o . 4 , ( T E S O L 1 9 9 3 ) .
Press for collusion in apartheid
J. Keith Chick and Cambridge Universitv
e d u c a t i o n ' i n H . c o l e m a n ( e d . ) S o c t e tay n d t h eL a n g u a gcel a s s r o o m , 7 9 9 6 .
Rod Ellis for'second ianguage acquisition research and languagepedagogy' in Sl,4 Research
and LanguageTeachingbv Rod Ellis ( Rod Ellis 1997). Reproduced by permission of
Oxford Universitv Press.
Patsv M. Lightborvn and Nina Spadafor'Factors affecting second language learning' in How
1anguogi,are Learned(Second Edition) bv Patsv M. Lightbou'n and Nina Spada(Patsv M.
Lightbown and Nina Spada 1999.) Reproduced bv permission of Oxford University
'Doing-English-lessons in the reproduction or
Angel M.Y. Lin and TESOL for
transformation of social rvorlds?'in fESOI @Larterly,Yol.33, No. 3, (TESOL 1999).
Michael Long and John Benjamin's Publishing Co. for'Focus on form: a design feature in
languageteaching methodolog ,-' in FotetgnLanguageResearch Perspective.
in a Cross-cultural
Ediiedbv K. de Bot, R.B. Ginsberg and C. Krausch. John Benjamin's Publishing Co.,

Rosamond Mitchell and Florence Mvles for'Second languagelearning: kev concepts and
issues'in Second LearningTheories,7999.
David Nunan andELTJournal for'Teachinggrammar in context' in ELTJournal,Vol. 5 2, N o.
2, 1998. Reproduced bv permission of ELTJournal and Oxford University Press.
jack Richards and Cambridge Universitv Press for methods' in The Language
I . u) Ln' t, th
L ri yn n V n r r i v 199Q.

Celia Roberts for'Language through acquisition or languagesocialisationin and through

discourse'in WorkingPapers 4, ThamesVallev Universitv, I 998.
in AppltedL)nguistics,Vol.
Peter Skehan for'Comprehension and production strategiesin language iearning'in.4
Approachto Language
Cognitive Learntngbv Peter Skehan( Oxford Universitv Press 1998.;
Reproduced bv permission of Oxford Unir-ersitv Press.
Leo r,an Lier foi and resources in classroom talk: issues of equalitv and
svmmetrv' in LearningForetgnand Second Languages. Reprinted bv permission of the
Modern LanguageAssociationof'America.

\\-hile the publishers and editors ha.,-emade everv effort to contact authors and copyright
i-roldersof works reprinted tn EngltshLanguageTbaching in its SocialContext,this has not
lreen possible in everv case.Thev u-ould lr.elcome correspondence from individuals or
.ompanies thev havebeen unable to trace.

\\'e n'ould like to thank the authors u'ho contributed their chapters, as rvell as colleagues
s'ithin and outsideThe Open Universitv and Macquarie Universitv rvho gave advice on the
lontents. Special thanks are due to the follorving people for their assistance in the
production of this book.

Helen Boyce (course manager)

Pam Burns and Libbl'Brill (course secretaries)
Lrz Freeman (Copublishing)
\anette Re-vnolds,FrancesWilson and the staff of the Resource Centre of the National
Centre for English LanguageTeachingand Research, Macquarie Universitv.

Critical readers

ProfessorVijavK. Bhatia (Department of English, Citv Universitr', Hong Kong)

Geoff Thompson (Applied English LanguageStudiesUnit, Liverpool Universitv, UK)
ProfessorLeo van Lier (EducationalLinguistics,Universitv of Monterev, USA).

External assessor

ProfessorRonald Carter (Department of English Studies,Nottingham Universitq UK).

Developmental testers

Ilona Czirakl'(ltalv)
Eladyr Maria Norberto da Silva (Brazil)
Chitrita Mukerjee (Australia)
Dorien Gonzales(UK)
Patricia Williams (Denmark).

r,ve have been able,

We have reproduced all original papers and chapters as faithfuilv as
to produce a coherent and readable
given the iner.itable restrictilns of rp"." and the need
lollection for readers rvorldrvide. Where w-e have had to shorten original
brackets mark
substantially, these chapters are marked as adapted. Ellipses rvithin square
Individual referencing styles have been
text that has been omitted from the original.
r e t a i n e da : i n t h e o r i g i n a l t e x t s .
N. Gandlin


. :..n Macquarie Universitr'-,in Svdnev,Australia, and The Open University, in Milton

' :: Des, England,decided to collaborateon the developmentof neu' curriculum materiais
: study at Master's level, the partnership brought together The Open University's
.:'-rience in open learning in the lield of education,and Macquarie'sexperiencein applied
: .uistics and languageeducation, backedbv its or,vnexisting distancelearning programme.
collection of articlesin this book and its trl-o companion volumes are one result of that
..aboration.While the edited coliections har.ebeen designedasone part of an overall study
: {ramme, complementedb1'other learning and studv materialscomprising study guides
, .i accompanving video and audio recordings, the-vstand alone as extensive vet focused
liections of articles rvhich addressket. contemporarv issuesin English languageteaching
I a p p l i e dl i n g u i s t i c s .
.{ major concern in editing these three volumes has been t}re desire to present English
rrguage teaching (ELT) in a varietv ofspecihc institutional, geographicand cultural contexts.
:{ence, as far as possible acrossthe three r,olumes, we have attempted to highllght debate,
.cussionand illustration ofcurrent issuesfrom different parts ofthe English-speakingand
:rqlish-using world, including those rvhere Englishis not learned asa first language.In doing
.'ris rve recognize that English languageteaching comprises a
global communitv of teachers
.rd learnersin a range ofsocial contexts.
Itis EngltshLanguageTeaching in jts SocialContextrvhich is the title of this second volume
:.rthe series, and it lvill be useful to decide earlv on lvhat lve mean bv this term.We have
. number of interpretations and perspectivesin mind. One that is central is that of the
.tssroomcontextin w'hich interactions betrveen teachers and learners have an effect on the
:,ature and qualitv of languageiearning. No languageteaching and learning takes place
:rowever,in a classroom lvhich is isolated from the rvorld of experiences and personal
..ngagementsand investmentsof learners outside the classroomitself. In that sensethe w.ider
,acialcontextof life outside the classroomhasan important effect on lvhat takesolace in thesc
interactionsbetrveen learners and teachers,and among learners. For manv j""rn"rs, the
rontexts outside the classroom are not onlv r,vherethey make use of the English they have
learned in class,but tiev can aiso constitute a por,verfulincentive (or disincentive) for further
learning. Moreover, it is not onlv the contexts of learning and using English that are
rmportant. We need also to understand the proJessional contextof teachers' practices
themselvesrvitlin this interactive process of classroom teaching-and-learning. Finall1.,w.e
need to take account of the socio-culturalcontextbv rt.hich communicating partners in this

process evoke and create shared knou'ledge and use it for making sensetogether, in a sense
constructing the overarching context for successfullanguageiearning.
No col[ction of papers about E.rglishLanguageTeachingcan hope to be comprehensive.
The rvorld ofELT in its diversitv,oflearners, teachers,ofschools and institutions, cultures,
countries,contents,and pedagogiescannotbe capturedevenin a seriesof three books'What
and fill
a structured coilection oi r.t.".tJa papers like this can do is to map out the territory,
in enough of the topographical f""i..i", so that the beginning reader can obtain an overall
i-pr.rri"io., of it, .urt{tiphr,, r,vhilethe experienced reader can bring her or his own
of ttauelii.r! und-rn"p-.nuking to fill in the details of those territories of which
"*p..i..r." is
thev have special .*'u...r"., and knorvledge. We need to be cautious, how'ever' No map
.r".,trul. Th. first maps lvere products of the cartographers of Europe, so their world was a
in their ou.n Sino-centric lval', those devisedbv the Chinese were just
Euro-centric o.r",
as biased. Readershave been alerted, therefore, to a natural tendencv tow-ardsa particular
projection. Our ELT map in this book of{'ersa social and socio-cultural perspective
and it would
iu.rgrrug"learning. At the same time, maps have to be true to their territories,
U" JU.,i.a to igno"rea psvchological perspective on languagelearning, one which highlighted
the cognitiv{ro."rr., of the individual learner, engagingwith the intricacies of a new
comminicatile code. Maps are not onlv to be follolved, horvever.Thev have ahvays
asincentives for further -o.. relined map-making. In the sameway, teachers do not just
follow a set ofpresented instructions, thev activelv create and chart their own Progress
through the teriitories of learning in their orvn ciassrooms'Accordinglv, it isimportant that
,,rch Jfo.rrr"d collection asthis gii-esa major placeto classroom-basedresearch,in particular,
researchw-hichexamines the processesof teaching-and-learning,using that evidence which
is most to hand in classrooms,namelv the productive talk of teachersand learners.
What a collection of papers needsto have,is an argument, one'i""'hichcarries the reader
towards engagementu,ith particular issuesand questions,offering through its structure
that amount Jf guidunce r-r"."..rtt'. Ultimatelv, though, r,vhether we have gauged the right
degree of that giidu.r.. required, or simplv led readers bv the nose, only vou can say'What
orrJh"u. dorr. a guiding itructure is to take three main perspectives on English language
teaching: an explanatio.t of ,orr-r.hvpothesesabout language learning and its Processes;an
interprJtatio.r ofl"...r"rr' and teachers' strategiesand goalsin the classroom context, their
prr.ptr.. and their beliefs; and, finallr', a description and analvsis.ofteachers' and
t"huuiotr., and practices, rvho thev are, rvhat thev do, what thev think about language
learning and rvhat their attitudes are'

How is language learning explained?

The argument begins rvith a focus on the explanationoJ languagelearning with a paper by
Rosamind Mitch;ll and Florence Mvles. The authors outline a model of second language
learning and identifv its kev factors.Three kev questions underpin all these factors:What is
the natirre of language?What is the nature of the language learning process?What are
the characterlsticsof the second ianguagelearner? In addressingthese questions the paper
identifies the complementaritv of natureand nurture in languageiearning, and relates what
research has to say about language learning rvith u.hat r,veknolv about learning more
generallv.At the sametime, the paper highlights one of the abidlng questions about
Ind leaining, the tension betrveen svstematjcitf and creativityin learners' performance.
Languagelearning is clearl,vnot just about processes.It involveslearners. So, askingquestions
riho theselearners are and rvhat learner characteristics and factors affect language

..-arning,and in which rvays,is a centrai question for teachers of language.Patsv Lightbor,vn

lnd Nina Spada take up this necessarvdualism in their account of the cognitive and
'rehavioural 'good
characteristicsof rvhat some researchershavereferred to asthe language
rearner'. As we u.ill see later in the argument of this book, there has to be a third aspect to
:nv such account, namelv the influence of the social conditions of language learning on the
:l-fectiveness of languagelearning.Manl learnersdon't learn languagesin classrooms.Ther'
iearn them more or lessr,vellor badlr',on the street, in the communitv, and in the u'orkplace
Certainly,Lightborvn'sand Spada'sterritorv abutsthat of Mitchell and Mvles. Factorssuch
r, -otiuution-, aptitude, p.rro.rulitu, intelligence, learner preferencesand learner beliefs, rvill
:e high on any teacher's list, but so rvili factors of age, social background, gender and
d u c a t i o n aal t t a i n m e n t .
Researchingsecondlanguagelearning, and exploring the relationship between research-
rnq and teaching is a kev element in lvhat some have referred to as the teacher as'reflective'
practitioner. Rod Ellis' paper on research and pedagogv in the context of second language
:cquisition squarelv addressesthis relationship. Questions of decision-driven research
..manatingfrom practical classroom problems, or knowledge-driven researchstarting from
theoretical hypotleses, are but trvo sides of the same coin. At the heart are the practices of
rhe classroom, or encounters rvith the target languagein other contexts. That these worlds
:,iteaching and research have often been at odds is an issuefor this paper, and for this book
as a r,vholeto explore.What Ellis identifies, how-ever,is the importance of mapping the
rultures ofteaching and researchingand achievingat Ieastmutual understanding,ifnot active
collaboration.Whatis clear after reading Ellis is that it isn't going to be enough for teachers
r:o u.rite be dragons' and steer the teaching ship alvav from the rockv coastline of
re search. One useful and productive ground for such collaboration is that of researching
.earners'styles and strategiesin languagelearning, looking at what learners do asaspectsof their
personality, or in response to problems and tasks that teaching, or just life itself, confronts
them. Peter Skehan'spaper has this dual focus and he locates his discussionin the kev area
of learners' comprehensionof foreign languagetexts, u-ritten or spoken, examining the
relationship between input to the learner, lr'hat the learner confronts, and u,'hatthe learner
produceshlrself, the ouiput oflearning. Important for Skehan,and for our general argument
in this book, are the \4-aysin which learners neBotjatemeaning,guided bv teachers, in their
road towards understanding the foreign language.
If negotiation of meaning smacksof the marketplace, then perhapsthat is no bad image
ior the exchange of language goods rvhich characterizesboth classrooms and social
interactions more generallv. Estimating the values to be placed on these goods is, after all,
u'hat a good deal of teaching (and learning) is all about. Leo van Lier's, Celia Roberts'
and Michael Breen'spapers are all sited in the marketplace of learning and teaching.It is time,
then, to begin to look at the contexts oJlearning.Nou-a nelv set of questions arise. How
learners interact rvith eachother and other speakers,lvhat do thev do r,vhenthey are learning
a language,what effect their attitudes, beliefs and feelings have on languagelearning, what
kinds of personalinvestment thev are prepared to make, holv far thev can draw on the support
ofothers, what effects teaching has on learning, and to rvhat extent the social conditions and
priorities of the social rvorld outside the classroom, and the learners' piaces in that world,
affect what learners do in classroomsand hou' effectivelv thev can learn'
Addressing these questions suggestsa need for some redrauing of the dimensions of the
second language learning map. In fact, as u'e rvill see in the papers rvhich follor,v in the
collection, such questionsmake us redrau'our projection in a number of important ways:
to take account of the Iearning of strategic competence not merelv of languagecomPetence;
of the appraisalof learning sites,contexts and modes askev variabiesin languageacquisition;

of the variably positive and negative effects of learners' social and personal commitment to
Ianguagelearning; of the need to take into account the multiple identities of learners, affected
as they are by issuesofgender, class,race and po!\€r; and, especially,ofthe need to engage .,il1
in micro-exploration of the interactions of learners rvitl learners and learners with teachers, ili1
or other target languagespeakers.
In his paper, Leo van Lier drau.s on exactlv this shift of perspective towards the social
contextualisation and construction ofsecond languagelearning. He also takesup in practice
many of the issuesraised earlier in the Ellis paper, particuiarlv his account of interpretative
research.What he adds,however, in his account of the possiblett.pes of interaction and types
of discourse to be found in the second languageclassroom, is the importance of the effect
ofpower and control on rvhat kinds oftalk are encouraged, discouragedor even forbidden.
Such issuesare also central to Celia Roberts' paper w'ith its critical evaluation of more
traditional and cognitive approaches rvhich see second language learning as essentially a
matter of personal endeavour and accomplishment. Her focus on learner identities and the
effects of learning contexts on languagelearning r'r'ithin an overall sociolinguistic and social
constructionist model, links learning to living in an original way, and, in so doing, addresses
some of the questions w.eidentified earlier as important to the argument of this collection
of papers.It is important to note, though, that this shift of emphasisis not one u,hich abandons
the necessaryinclusion of the personal and cognitive development of the learner's language
learning capacity.Thepoint is to forge a connection betrveen both paradigms.This is in large
measure achievedin Michael Breen's paper on the social context of languagelearning. In his
anthropological metaphor ofthe classroom as coralgarden,teacher-researchersare directed
at the importance of the multiple discoursesof the classroom, where w.hatis said and how
it is expressed among the participants of this cuitural rvorld takes on a key significancefor
the explanation of the processesof languagelearning, and in particular for our understanding
of the essentialdifferences among languagelearners. His defining characteristicsof the
classroom as a specialsocio-cultural r.vorld,together r,vithhis emphasison the analysisof the
discoursesof teaching and learning, offer the teacher-researchera means by which he or she
can stand outside the realitl', much like a cartographer, and chart more dispassionatelythis
now newly-imagined and newlv-perspectivized setting.

Strategies and goals in the classroom context

As active participants in teaching and learnin$, teachers and learners do not simply
Possessand display inherent or sociallv acquired characteristicsin some vacuum; like the
inhabitants of Malinow'ki's coralgarden(adopted and adapted bv Breen), they draw on them
to Pursue their orn-nstrategic goals.Thus, in order to advance the argument of this active
participation, all the papers in this second major section of the book target the realization
of t}ese strategic goals in classroom action, and the unique role played bv teachers in the
facilitation and structuring of that action. The way in rvhich teachers carry out this charac-
teristic work hastraditionalh' been captured bv the metaphors of methodan'dmethodology.We
refer to them as metaphors, in that thev stand for particular, ideologically invested systemsof
belief, about language,about learning, and about teaching.Like all metaphors they are to be
approached r,varily and treated rvith caution. Lakoff and Johnson's critical account of the
rve live by'gives a senseof their porverful inf'luence.We make no apology for
being critical in this book of such languagelearning and languageteaching metaphors. In our
experience, and tlat of the authors of some of the papers in this section, methodoloqies
are frequentlv theorized rvithout a close grounding in teaching experience, and mau be

.:rsensitiveto particular local and cultural conditions. Methods, on the other hand, mav shift
.,ildlv from one theoretical position about languageand learning to another.Whether they
.:e form-focused,function-focused,or learning-focused,methodologiesand methods often
i-rve to concealthe rich varietv of classroomlanguagelearning and teachingr'r.orkbv offering
.:n-rplelabelsfor what are ahvavscomplex and contingentProcesses.
It is important, therefore, to stand back and take a conceptual and historical perspective
:: n'e lvant to understand horv such methods and methodologies came to be popular and
.,,r u'idel)'adopted. Such a perspective is provided bv Paul Knight's paper, surveving
:cvelopmentsin ELT methodologv and illustrating some of their characteristicfeatures-
From this paper \rrecome to seethat despite their individualizing labels, manv methods and
nethodologies sharefeaturesin common, that thev are rarelv except in some extreme cases
rursued in some'pure' form, and that, in the end, thev remain profoundlv unexplanatorv
,i some of the ket-factors affecting languagelearning, both cognitive and social, that we have
lentified earlier. It is from this starting point that Jack Richards' paper begins. Questioning
:he dominance of methods and methodologies,Richards'perspectiveis that we should be
.rss concerned n-ith stipulating u-hat methods to follo*' and much more concerned with
,liscoveringwhat effective teachersactuallv do. Resistingthe deproJesstonalizlng effect of some
.lar.ishadherenceto methods frees us and teachersmore generallv to examine what the
cractices of reflective and effective languageteaching might be.What these practices are is
a matter of teachers'strategic choices in relation to some particular content, and taken
together with teachers' beliefs and theories about teaching and learning, these constitute a
rationale for teaching.
The three papers that follow', bv Michael Long, David Nunan, andAnne Burns illustrate
rhesepracticesin different contexts and rvith different subject-matter,and involve distinctive
{enres and modes of communication. Implicitlr' (or explicitlv in the caseof Michael Long)
rhev all resist the concept of method, and focus instead on hor,v teachers' varied and
.:ontingent procedures and productsof languagelearning
are the means bv u.hich the processes
are made to interact. Long's paper has as its central tenet the important distinction to be
drawn betrveen a focus onJorm (i.e. the development of arvarenessbv the learner of the
sr-stematicnature of language) and a focus onJorms (that is, the teaching of isolated and
unconnected sentence structures). What is important for the reader of Long's paper is his
reliance for his argument on experimentallv obtained evidence about learner behaviour.To
return, if onll' briefly, to our map-making metaphor, Long displavsthe indispensablevalue
of grounding conclusions about the shape of the second languagelearning territory in
carefully observed and recorded data from learner performance.
The issue of form and forms naturallv evokes a central area of content in language
teaching and learning, the approach that teacherstake to the teaching of grammar, itself the
topic of David Nunan's paper.With grammar asits focus, lvhat is notable in Nunan's argument
is how the lvav w-edefine grammar is contingent on ho'iv lve go about teaching it to learners.
Many might not easilv associatethe formal character of grammar u'ith an interactive and
participatory, task-basedapproach to pedagogv,so strong has been the focus in ELT on the
didactic instruction of grammatical forms.Yet this paper makes such a connection, and in so
doing redefinesgrammar lessassome asocialand technicist form than asa functional resource
for making meaning, a meansbv rvhich speakersand uriters can get things done. How writers
get things done is the topic of Anne Burns'paPel; focusing in particular, though, on how
teachers can assistlearners to get things done in *'riting. Drawing on work in systemic
functional grammar and the concept of genre, she reports on a national project conducted
by the National Centre for English LanguageTeachingand Research(NCELfR) at Macquarie
University, Svdnev,involving teachers in studving hor,va genre-basedapproach to w'riting

could be used bv adult secondlanguagelearners at the beginning stagesoflearning a second

language.Of particular interest in the paper is her exposition of what she and her colleagues
refer to as the'teaching-learningcvcle'.
We have emphasizedthe importance to our understanding of second languagelearning
of exploring the socio-culturalcontexts of learning inside and outside the ciassroom.This
hasbeen and is a core theme of manv papersin this book. There has,however,been a tacit
assumption, though perhaps not so much in the paper bl Roberts earlier, that such contexts
learners.That this mav not be so, and often
called up differentiated, but essentiallt cooperatirz
i.r not so, is the theme of the two final papers in this second section of the book, those by
Suresh Canagarajahand Keith Chick. Both papers focus on the degree to which external
socio-culturalfactors,and learners'self-perceptionsoftheir identitiesaslearnersofEnglish,
affect what thev do in class, and rvhat they are preparedto do in class, and thus ultimately
impinge on their second ianguagelearning performance. In particular, the papers identify'
and teachers' collusiontofrustrate the successfulimplementation of particular methodologies
consideredas imported and as culturallv alien. Such issueshave recently taken on consid-
erable importance in discussionsof the cultural appropriatenessof some English language
teaching. Both these papers have another significance,hor,vever,one r.r'hichrelates to Ellis'
earlier accounts ofresearching ianguagelearning.The papers are valuable not only for their
innovative re-examination of the goals and practices of languageteaching, but also for their
clear and detailed accounting of a critical ethnographic research methodology intended to
be revelatorv not onlv of the goings-on of classroomsbut more deeplv explanatory of the
wav in which t}e learning and teaching of English in particular is deeply embedded in the
poiiti.ul, social and educational fabric of post-colonial societies. Once again they reinforce
our vierv that the beliefs and ideologies of teachers about all aspectsof their subject-matter
and their practice have a profound effect on the planning and the moment-by-moment
decisions thev take in class.Torefer to these latter as intuitive, or personal, downplays both
their effect and our capacityto explore their underpinnings.Thattheseare deepiy engendered
by the social contexualization of learning and teaching, and the educational, social and
political contexts ofclassroom practice can, after reading these latter papers,hardly be in

Analysing teaching and learning

The importance of the anallsis of the interactions among learners and betlveen learners
and teachers to an understanding of the processesof ianguagelearning has been a central
part of the argument of this book. Exploring these relationships hasbeen both the province
ofresearchers as w'ell as ofteachers, and severalpapers in this collection have argued for
a closer link between them, given the tendencv for both'cultures' to be separate.Part of
this distancing hasbeen due to the dif{icultv of making the results of researchnecessarilyand
directlv applicable to changesin classroom practice, or to the design and delivery of inno-
vative teaching and learning materials. Nonetheless,there are studiesof classroombehaviour
w.hich can help teachers conceptualize those factors lvhich influence life in classrooms,
directed at exploring the dual nature ofclassroom lessons,aspedagogic and associal events.
The paper by Michael Breen, cited above, emphasizesthis social and interactional nature of
Influential in this context is the u'ork of the Russian sociocultural psvchologist Lev
Vygotsk,v.Central toVvgotskv's theories about learning is the piace accorded to languageas

: onl\- a medium for exchanging and constructing information but also as a tool for
' ..rking. Languageis seenbvVvgotskv both as a cultural and a cognitivetool, heiping us to
:.:nize our thoughts but also used for reasoning, planning and revierving. Of greatest
...:ihcance for the argument and the map of this book, then, isVygotskv'sinsistencethat
,::ninq is interactive and social. Such a position resonatesu.ell lr'ith the earlier papers in
-. .. eollection, notablv those br.r,an Lier and Breen, especiallvr'vith their highlighting of the
::.rortance of studving teacher and learner discourses.Neil Mercer's paper provides an
r.rmple of an in-depth studv of these discoursesof classroomlife, as the data from u.dich
:'.::.rences mav be dralvn about the processesof languagelearning.Mercer's socio-cultural
.: nroach to the analvsisof classroom behaviour sits u'ell r'r-ithearlier papers in Part II of this
: ,,,k, and pavesthe u'av for a detailed discursive and linguistic analvsisof such classroom
:.:traction provided bv Pauline Gibbons' exhaustive example in her paper. She draws on
-:llidavan systemicfunctional grammaticalanalvsisto provide her description,incidentally
, -:;qesting a link betr,veenthe u'ork of Michael Hailidav and that of LevVygotskv, one which
...^t oth"". contemporarv researchersof classroominteraction have also mad". Gibbons'
- rper is also noter,vorthvfor her careful anaivsisof the immediate contexts of that meaning
:.-.lotiation u'hich w-ehave earlier identified as central to languagelearning.
It may be useful to recall here our comment at the outset of this Introduction that the
. rpers in this collection are all in different \\'avsintimateiv concerned w'ith the definition of
.::itext,in its various interpretations.The relationshipbetween languageand context is neither
rlrect nor unitarv. We can see in the papers bv Gibbons and Mercer two possible
.rterpretationsof this relationship.On the one hand, context is a featureof texts, somethinq
.nduring that belongs to the text-as-entitv that linguists seek to describe. In this sense,
:crhaps that found more in Pauline Gibbons' paper, context mav be the texts that learners
:inclteachersproduce, or the ph-vsicalsettings rvithin r,vhichtheir texts are produced. On the
,,therhand, perhapsmore along the lines suggestedbv Mercer, context is dvnamic, a product
,f people's thinking, more the configuration of information that people use for making sense
,ilanguage in particular situations.In this sense,conrextis more of a mental rather than a
ohvsicai phenomenon, something dvnamic and momentarv, but dependent for its creation
jn the classroom on the careful constructing bv the teacher of a continuity and a community
, l s h a r e du n d e r s t a n d i n gu i t h l e a r n e r s .
Such aVvgotskian vierv of context placesa premium on the exploration of the emotional
and affective engagement of learners in the acts and processesof learning. Such an
engagementis not explicable, hor,vever,onlv from an analvsisin terms of the activities of the
classroom.As in earlier papersin this collection, rvider socialfactors play a role. In her paper,
.\ngel Lin's experienceasa teacher-researcher into secondlanguagelearning in Hong Kong
is linked to the work of the French sociologist Bourdieu in an attempt to explain the nature
of these factors. Are classroomsreplicative of learners' social worlds or do thev have the
power to challenge and transform them? In reading horv Lin addressesthis question there is
a clear resonancervith the papers bv Canagarajahand Chick in the secondpart ofthis book.
One kev exampie of a site for such a transformation is that of the cultural perspectives and
ideologies present in tvpical textbooks and the degree to rvhich classroompracticesmaintain
a conformist, or can exercise a challenging stancein relation to them.
The papersbv Mercer, Gibbonsand Lin all presentanalvsesof the interactiveprocesses
ofteaching and learning. Although rather different, the research described in each ofthem
encourages the vieu' that the qualitv of the interaction betlveen teachers and learners in
the languageclassroom, and betlveen learners if thev rvork together, is a strong determining
factor on rn'hat,and horv much, is learned and understood bv learners.The issue of hou'
classroominteraction can be related to assessmentof the outcomes of student learning is the

key theme in the paper bv Assia Slimani r,r.hichfollorvs. From a teacher-researcher

perspective, w'hat is significant about her paper is the rvav in tvhich she matches learners'
olvn statements about rvhat they believed thev had learned, rvith the evidence offered by
analysesof the recorded talk of the ]essonsconcerned. This provided Slimani rvith a means
of evaluatingwhat themes, topics and learning items suggestedb-vlearners had actually
figured in their classroom interactions. Closelv connected rvith this comparative mode of
aialysis is Michael Breen's secondpaper in this ;ollection rr-hereh. .o.r.".rtrutes on w-hathe
refers to asthe different discoursesofthe classroomthat learnersneed to'navigate'. Again,
our cartographic metaphor offers perhapssome explanatorr value. For Breen, the classroom
is full of distinctive discourses,in part pedagogicallvoriented, in part socialiy,in part
individually.These discoursesinvoke a range of different meanings and contexts. Learners
are faced with the considerablechallengeof finding their rvaysthrough this obscured terrain,
drawing on their natural language instincts and analytical capacit-vto make sense of a
semantically and pragmaticallv complex environment.
Mapping the territory of second languagelearning and teaching has been the guiding
metaphor for this collection of papers.The cartographv of this territorv may be left as the
province ofresearchers,or it mav be also colonizedbv reflectiveteacherseagerto explore
and understand more of second language learning in action in their o*.i
Indispensableto such a project, horvever,is the capacitv to describe classroom interaction.
This is the theme of the final paper in the collection, by Joan Swann, in which she sets
out some procedures that English languageteachers can usefullv follow if they wish to
describe,interpret and explain the interactiveprocessesof their own classroomsor those of
colleagues.We think that Swann's paper is an admirable wav of closing a theoretical and a
practical collection of papers.

What are the general principles that n'e mav derive at the end of this particular journey? From
the arguments in the papers here, rve u'ould like to identifv the follon'ing:

o ,\ need to focus on the distinct roles, activitiesand purposesfor teachersand learners

that are constructed through classroom practice;
o ,\ need to recognize language learners as individuals, working together in the
classroom,but lvhose learning is shapedbv the context of their wider experience of
living and learning outside the classroom;
' The requirement on teachersto take an active,guiding role in'scaffolding' the learning
of their students, remembering that this is not to dor,vngradein any lvav the need for
learners to become actively and increasingivengagedin the processesof classroom
languagelearning and their direction;
' An appreciation that the patterns ofinteraction between learners and teachers,and the
use ofcertain procedures bv teachers, can have both positive and negative effects on

How is language
i cte r 1





H I S C H A P T E R P R O V I D E S A N O V E R V I E W o f k e v c o n c e o t sa n d i s s u e s
i n o u r d i s c u s s i o no
s f i n d i r i d u a l p e r s p e c t i r e so n s e c o n dl u n g r u g . l e a r n i n g W
. e olfer
:-.:roductorvdefinitions of a range of kev terms, and trv to equip the reader u'ith the
:r'--ansto compare the goals and claims of particular theories '"vith one another. \\re also
-.mmarize key issues,and indicate w'herethev rvill be explored in more detail later.
The main themes to be dealt lvith in follouing sections are:

1 What makesfor a'good' explanationor theorv

2 Views on the nature of language
3 Views of the languagelearning process
,f Views of the ianguagelearner
5 Links betrveen languagelearning theorv and social practice.

First, however, \\.'emust offer a preliminarv definition of our most basic concept,
languagelearning'. We de6ne this broadlv to include the learning of any language to any
1evel,provided onlv that the learning of the'second' languagetakesplace sometime later than
the acquisition of the first language. (Simultaneous infant bilingualism is a specialist topic,
u'ith its ow-n literature. See for example relevant sections in Hamers and Blanc 1989;
R o m a i n e1 9 9 5 . )
For us, therefore, ianguages'are anv languagesother than the learner's'native
language'or tongue'. Thev encompassboth languagesof r,vidercommunication
encountered within the local region or communit)' (..g. at the u.orkplace, or in the media),
and truly foreign languages,rvhichhave no immediatelv local usesor speakers.Thevmay
indeed be the second languagethe learner is rvorking rvith, in a literal sense,or they may be
their third, fourth, fifth language . . . We believe it is sensibleto include'foreign' languages
under our more general term of languages,becauselve believe that the underlving
learning processesare essentiallvthe same for more local and for more remote target
languages,despite differing learning purposes and circumstances.
We are also interested in all kinds of learning, rvhether formal, planned and systematic
(as in classroom-basedlearning), or informal and unstructured (as r'vhena nelv language

i s ' p i c k e du p ' the communitv). Some second ianguageresearchershave proposed a

brmal, conscious learning and informal, unconscio-us

proposed here, and unless speciallv indicated rve rvill be using both terms
broad .,r'-av

What makes for a good theory?

Secondlanguagelearning is an immenselv complex phenomenon. Millions of human beings

have experience of second languagelearning, and mav have a good practical understanding
of the activities w-hich helped them to iearn (or perhaps blocked them from learning). But
tiis practical experience, and the common-senseknou-ledger'r'hichit leadsto, are clearlv not
enough to help us understand fullv hor,vthe processhappens.Weknow-,for a start, that people
cannot reliablv describe the languagerules u-hich thev ha'l'esomehorv internalized, nor the
inner mechanismslvhich process, store and retrieve many aspectsof that new language.
We need to understand second lanquagelearning better than we do, for two basic

1 Improved knorvledge in this particular domain is interesting in itself, and can also
contribute to more general understanding about the nature of language,of human learning,
and of intercultural communication, and thus about the human mind itself, as well as how
all these are interrelated and affect each other.

2 The know.ledge will be useful. If w-ebecome better at explaining the learning process,
and are better able to account for both successand failure in L2 learning, there will be a pay-
off for millions of teachers, and tens of millions of students and other learners, r,vho are
struggling r,viththe task.

We can onlv pursue a better understanding of L2 learning in an organized and productive

wav if our efforts are guided bv some form of theorv. For our purposes, a theoryis a more or
less abstract set of claims about the units that are significant within the phenomenon under
stud1.,the relationships that exist betr.veenthem, and the processesthat bring about change.
Thus a theorv aims not just at description, but at explanation.Jheories may be embryonic
and iestricted in scope,b?rnore elaborate,explicit and comprehensive.(A theory of L2
learning mav deal onlv r,vith a particular stage or phase o[ learning, or with the learning of
some particular sub-aspectof language; or it mav propose learning mechanisms u'hich are
much more general in scope.)Worthrvhile theories are collaborative affairs, which evolve
through a processof systematic enquiry,in lvhich the ciaims of the theorv are assessedagainst
some kind of evidence or data. This mav take place through a process of hypothesis testing
through formal experiment, or through more ecological procedures, r,vherenaturally
occurring data is analysedand interpreted. (See Brumfit and Mitchell 1990 for fuller
discussionand exemplification of methods.) Finallv, the process of theory building is a
reflexive one; nelv deveiopments in t}re theorv lead to the need to collect nerv information
and explore different phenomena and different patterns in tIe potentiallv infinite w'orld of
and data. Puzzling'facts', and patterns rvhich fail to fit in, lead to new theoretical

To make these ideas more concrete, an example of a particuiar theorl' or
represents a model of second language learning', as the propose-TffifiE3
it (Spolskv 1989, p. 14).The model encapsulates this researcher'stheoreticalviews on the
overall relationship betr,veencontextual factors, individual learner differences, learning
opportunities, and learning outcomes. It is thus an ambitious model, in the breadth of
phenomena it is trving to explain. The rectangular boxes shou' the factors (or variables)
lvhich the researcherbelieves are most significant for learning, i .e. r""-herevariation can lead
to differencesin successor failure.The arrolvs connecting the various boxes shor,l'directions
ofinfluence.The contents ofthe r.ariousboxes are defined at great length, as consistingof
c l u s t e r so f i n t e r a c t i n g ' C o n d i t i o n s ' ( 7 4 i n a l l : 1 9 8 9 , p p . 1 6 - 2 5 ) , I v h i c h m a k e l a n g u a g e


which appear in the


whichjoins with other personal

characteristicssuch as

all of whichexplainthe usethe

learnermakesof theavailable

Learningopportunities(formalor informal)

the interplay

Linguisticand non-linguistic
outcomesfor the learner

Figure 1.1 Spolsky'sgeneral model of secondlanguageiearning

Source:Spolskv1989: 28

learning successmore or lesslikelv.Thesesummarize the results of a great varietv of empirical

languagelearning research, as Spolskv interprets them.
How would we begin to'evaluate'this or anv other model, or even more modestly,to
decide that this rvasa vier,vof the languagelearning processrvith which rve felt comfortable
and within which w'e wanted to r'r''ork? This u-ould depend partlv on broader philosophical
positions: e.g. are we satisfiedrvith an account of human learning which seesindividual
differences as both relativelv fixed, and also highlv influential for learning? It would also
depend on the particular focus of our o\r-n interests, w'ithin second languagelearning; this
particular model seemswell adapted for the studv of the individual learner, but hasrelatively
little to sa1'about the social relationships in rvhich thel'engage, for example.
But whatever the particular focus of a given theory, w'e would expect to find the

I clear and explicit statements of the ground the theorv is supposed to cover, and the
claims which it is making;
2 systematic procedures for confirming/disconfirming the theorl', through data
gatheringand interpretationI
3 not onlv descriptions of L2 phenomena, but attempts to explain whv thev are so, and
to propose mechanismsfor change;
+ last but not least, engagementrvith other theories in the field, and serious attempts to
account for at least some of the phenomena rvhich are ground' in ongoing
public discussion (Long 1990a). The remaining sections of this chapter offer a
preliminarv overvierv of numbers of these.

Views on the nature of language

Levelsof language
Linguists have traditionally vielved language as a complex communication svstem, which
must be analysedon a number of levels: phonology,,/ntax, morphology,semanticsand 1exis,
pragmatics, discourse.The,v havediffered about the degree of separateness/integrationof these
levels;e.g.while Chomskv argued at one time that'grammar is autonomous and independent
of meaning' (1951,p.17),another tradition initiated by the British linguist Firth claimsthat
is no boundary between lexis and grammar: lexis and grammar are interdependent'
(Stubbs 1996, p. 36). In examining different perspectiveson secondlanguagelearning, we
will first of all be looking at the levels of languageu.hich thev attempt to take into account,
and the relative degree of prioritv they attribute to the different levels. (Does language
Iearning start n ith words, or w-ithdiscourse?)Wewill alsoexamine the degree of integration/
separationthat the-vassume,acrossthe various levels.We will {ind that the control of syntax
is commonly seen as somehow'central' to languagelearning, and that most general SLL
theories try to account for development in this area. Other levels of languagereceive much
more variable attention, and some areasare commonly treated in a semi-autonomous way,
as specialist fields; this is often true for Sll-oriented studies of pragmatics and of lexical
development (seee.g. Kasper 1995 on pragmatics;Meara1996a, 1995b on vocabulary).

Competenceand perJormance

Throughout the trventieth century, linguists have also disagreed in other lvays over their
main focus of interest and of studr'.Should this be the collection and anah'sisof actual attested
samplesof languagein use, for example bv recording and analvsingpeople's speech?Or

ild it be to theorize underlving principles and rules which govern languagebehaviour,

.:. potentiallv infinite varietv?The linguist Noam Chomskv has famouslv argued that it is
r lLrsinessof theoretical linguistics to studv and model underlving language competence,
',:rer than the perJormance data of actual utterances rvhich people have produced (Chomskv
--oj i. By competence,Chomsky is referring to the abstractand hidden representationof
.:.juage rnorvieogeheror6!rceouinexis. y--
-- : . r u a q el e a r n l n qr e s e a r c n .
HJru.u.., foilinguists committed to this dualist position, there are difficulties in studying
npetence. Languageperformance data are believed to be an imperfect reflection of
rnpetence,partly'becauseof the processingcomplicationsrvhich are involved in speaking
: 'rther forms of languageproduction, and rvhich lead to errors and slips.More importanth',
' , believed that, in principle, the infrnite creativitv of the underlying svstem can never
, , : q u a t e l v b e r e f l e c t e d i n a f i n i t e d a t a s a m p l e( s e e e . g . C h o m s k y 1 9 6 5 , p . 1 8 ) . S t r i c t l v
. - =aking,many students of languagecompetence believe it can be accessedonly indirectlv,
,. i under controlled conditions, e.g. through Brammaticahty ludgementtests(roughly, when
:,rple are offered sample sentences, rvhich are in (dis)agreement with the rules proposed
: the underlving competence, and invited to savrvhether thev think they are grammatical
. r.rot:Sorace1996).
This split betr€en competence and performance hasnever been acceptedby all linguists,
'. \\.ever,with linguists in the British t of Flrth and Halliday arguing for radically
istincticin betn nce cloes not
In a recent review ofthis tradition, Stubbs quotes Firth as describing suc
a quiTeunnecessari-nuisance'(Firth1957, p. 2n, quoted in Stubbs 1996,p.44). In the
r-thianview the on istsis to studv e in use,and there is no oppo-
as svstem,and obserr-edinstancesof lanluage our; the onli
iterenceis one ol l rperspective.
Of course, the abstract languagesvstem cannot be directly off smail samples
: actual text, anY more than the underlving climate of some geographical region of the
'.orld can be modelled from todav's r"''eather(a metaphor of Halliday's: Stubbs 1996, pp.
-:--5).The arrival of corpushnguisrics,in u'hich verv large corpora comprising millions
i rvords of running text can be stored electronicalh' and analvsedr,vitha growing range of
,,rtirvaretools, hasrevitalizedthe u.riting of grammars' (Aarts 1991,'), ol
:he integrated kind favoured bv Firthian linguistics.'Work u'ith corpora provides new'wavs
,i considering the relation betlveen data and theorrv,bv show'inghou' theorv can be grounded
.n publicly accessiblecorpus data' (Stubbs 1996, p +6) For example, the English corpus-
rased work of the COBUILD team directed bv John Sinclair has claimed to reveal
unsuspectedpatterns of language' (Sinclair 1991, p. xvii), offering new insights into the
:nterconnectednessof lexis and grammar.
In making senseof contemporarv perspectives on SLL, then, we will also need to take
account of the extent to u'hich a competence/performance distinction is assumed.Thiswili
have significant consequencesfor the research methodologies associatedwith various
positions, e.g. the extent to u'hich these pav attention to naturalistic corpora of learner
languagesamples,or rely on more controlled and focused - but more indirect - testing of
learners'underlying knorvledge. For obvious reasons,theorists' view-son the relationship
between competence and performance are also closeiv linked to their vierv of the language
ti.e. speakingof rv.ritjnga language)cancontribute to languarelearnint (i.e. developing
l r l e x i c a lc o m p e t e n c ei n t h e l a n g u a g e ) .
q r a m m a t i c ao

The language learning process

l{ature and nurture

Discussions about processesof second language learning have ah,vavsbeen coloured

by debateson fundamental issuesin human learning more generallrr.One of these is th.
nature-nurturedebate. Hor,r'much of human learning derives from innate predispositions.
i.e. some form of genetic pre-programming, and how' much of it derives from social and
cultural experiences rvhich influence us as we grorv up? In the tlventieth centurv. the best-
knolvn controversv on this issue as lar as first language learning \\'as concerned involved
the behaviourist psvchologist B. F. Skinner and the linguist Noam Chomsky. Skinner
attempted to argue that languagein all its essentialscouid be and r,r'astaught to the young
chiid b_vthe same mechanisms rvhich he believed accounted for other types of learning.
(ln Skinner's case,the mechanisms rvere those envisagedbv general behaviourist learning
theorv - essentially,copying and memorizing behaviours encountered in the surrounding
environment. From this point of vien', language could be learned primarily by imitating
Chomsk-y,on the other hand, has argued consistentlv for the viern'that human language
is too complex to be learned, in its entiretl', from the performance data actually availableto
the child; \ ,e must therefore have some innate predisposition to expect natural languagesto
be organized in particular rvavsand not others. For example, all natural languageshaveword
classessuch as Noun andVerb, and grammar rules w.hich applv to these word classes.It is
this type of information r,vhichChomskv doubts children could discover from scratch, in the
speech they hear around them. Instead, he argues that there must be some innate core of
abstract knon'ledge about language form, rvhich pre-specifies a framework for all natural
human languages.Thiscore of know'ledge is currentlv knor,vnas UniversalGrammar.
For our purposes, it is enough to note that child languagespecialistsnow generally
accept the basic notion ofan innate predisposition to language,though this cannot account
for all aspectsof languagedevelopment, rvhich results from an interaction between innate
and environmental factors. That is, complementarv mechanisms, including active
involvement in languageuse, are equallv essentialfor the development of communicative
competence(seee.g. Foster 1990).
How. does the nature-nurture debate impact on theories of second languagelearning?
If humans are endorved w-ith an innate predisposition for language, then perhaps they
should be able to learn as manv languagesas thev need or want to, provided (important
provisos!) that the time, circumstances, and motivation are available.On the other hand,
the environmental circumst
u'here infants are reared in multili I surroundingq. Should rve be aiming to
stances earnins as far as possffi
rnt , but one which dow'nplayedsome very real socia
and psychological obstacles.In the last trt'ent-vvearsthere hasbeen a closer and more critical
examination of environmental factors rvhich seem to influence L2 learning; some of these
are detailed brieflv under'The relationshipbetlveen secondlanguageuse and secondlanguage
learning', on page 2 1 .


A further issueof controversy for students of the human brain hasbeen the extent to which
the brain should be view'ed as modularor unitary.That is, should \\'e seethe brain as a single,
flexible organism, lr'ith one general set of procedures for learning and storing different kinds
S E C O N D L A N G U A G E L E A R N I N G : C O N C E P T SA N D I S S U E S } 7

of knowledge and skills? Or, is it more helpfuilv understood as a bundle of modules,w-ith

distinctivemechanismsrelevant to different tvpes of knorvledge(e.g.Fodor 1983)?
The modular vierv hasconsistentlvfound support from rvithin linguistics,most famously
in the further debatebetu'een Chomskv and the chlld deo-elopmentpsi.chologist,JeanPiagei.
This debateis reported in Piatelli-Palmarini( 1980), and hasbeen re-examinedmany times;
a helpful recent summary is offered bv Johnson(1996, pp. 5-30). Briefl1.,Piagetarguedthat
languagewas simpll'one manifestation of the more general skill of svmbolic representation,
acquired as a stagein general cognitive development; no speciai mechanism was therefore
required to account for hrst languageacquisition. Chomskl"s general vierv is that not onh'
rs languagetoo complex to be iearned from environmentai exposure (his criticism of
Skinner), it is also too distinctive in its structure to be learnable bv general cognitive means.
Universal Grammar is thus endorved rvith its olvn distinctive mechanismsfor learning.
There are manv linguiststoday u-ho support the concept of a distinctive languagemodule
in the mind.There are also those n-ho argue that languagecompetence itself is modular, with
different aspectsof languageknow'ledge being stored and accessedin distinctive wavs.
However,there is no generalagreementon the number and nature of suchmodules, nor on
how thel'relate to other aspectsof cognition.

.Vodularity and secondlanguage learning

The possible role of an innate, specialist languagemodule in second Ianguagelearning has

been much discussedin recent years.If suchinnate mechanismsindeed exist, there are four
logical possibilities:

1 that the-vcontinue to operate during second languagelearning, and make kev aspects
of second languagelearning possible, in the same rvav that thev make {irst language
l e a r n i n gp o s s i b l e ;
2 that after the acquisition of the first language in earlv childhood, these mechanisms
ceaseto be operable,and secondlanguagesmust be learned bv other means;
3 that the mechanisms themselves are no longer operable, but that the first language
provides a model of a natural language and how' it rvorks, rvhich can be
in 11*
some way when learning a second ianguage;
that distinctive learning mechanisms for languageremain available,but onlv in part,
and must be supplemented bv other means.
The first position rvaspopularized in the second languagelearning Iield bv Stephen Krashen
in the 1970s,in a basicform.While Krashen'stheoreticalviervshavebeen criticized, this has
by no means led to the disappearanceof modular proposalsto account for SLL. Instead, this
particular perspective has been rer-italized bv the continuing development of Chomsky's
Universal Grammar proposals (Cook and Neu.son 1996).
On the other hand, thinking about those general learning mechanisms which may
be operating at least for adult learners ofsecond languageshas also developed further, since
e.g. the original proposalsof Mclaughlin (1987, pp. 133-53). Most obviously,the work of
the cognitive psychologistJ. R. Anderson on human learning, from an information processing
perspective, has been applied to various aspectsof second language learning b,v different
researchers(Johnson1995; O'Mallev and Chamot 1990;Toweliand Hawkins 19945.

Systematicity and variability in L2 learning

When the utterances produced bv L2 learners are examined and compared with target
languagenorms, thev are often condemned as full of errors or mistakes.Traditionally,
languageteachershave often vier,vedthese errors as the result of carelessness or lack of
concentration on the part of learners. If onlv learners w.ould trv harder, surelv their
productions could accuratelvreflect theTL rules u'hich thel-had been taught! In tlre mid-
twentieth centur\, under the influence of behaviourist learning theorl', were often
'bad ".io.,
vierved as the result of habits', rvhich could be eradicated if onl-vlearners did enough
rote learning and pattern drilling using target languagemodels.
One of the big lessonsu.hich has been learned from the researchof recent decadesis
that though learners' L2 utterancesmav be deviant bv comparison w.ith target language
norms , they are bv no meanslacking in svstem . Errors and mis akesare patterned, and though
some e. this is bv no meanstrue of
all of the l- of them. Instead, there is a good deaTiT-ev-idencethat
lefrners r'vork their r'vavthrough a number of developmental stages,from very primitive and
deviantversionsof the L2, to progressivelvmore elaborateand target-likeversions.Just like
fullv prolicient users of a language,their ianguageproductions can be described by a set of
underlving rules; these interim rules have their orvn integrity and are notjust inadequatelv
applied versionsof theTL rules.
A clear example, rvhich has been studied for a range of target languages,has to do with
the formation of negative sentences.It has commonit been found that learners start off br
tacking a negative particle of some kind on to the end of an utterance (no you are playing
here); next, thev learn to insert a basic negative particle into the verb phrase (Mariana
not comingtoday); and finalir', thet' learn to manipulate modifications to auxiliaries and
other details of negation morphologr., in line with the full TL rules for negation (l can't plar
that one)(examplesfrom Ellis 1994, p. 100) .This kind of datahascommonly been interpreted
to show'that, at leastas far as kev parts of the L2 grammar are concerned, learners'devel-
opment follorvs a common route,even if the rate at which learners actually travel along this
common route mav be verv different.
TLis systematicitv in the ianguageproduced bv L2 learners is of course paralleled in the
early stagesthrough which first languageiearners also passin a highlv regular manner.Towell
and Hawkins identifv it as one of the key features rvhich L2 learning theories are required
t o e x p l a i n( 1 9 9 4 , p . 5 ) .
H o r t ' e v e r ,l e a r n e r l a n g u a g e( o r i n t e r l a n g u a g e
a ,s i t i s c o m m o n l v c a l l e d l i s n o t o n l r '
chafEacterized bv sr stematicit\'.Learner Ianguagesystemsare presumabll'- indeed, hopefullr'
- un-Sfa5leand rn course-dfdrangd; certainl-v,thev are characterized also by'high degrees of
variability(Torvelland Hau-kins 1994,p.5). Most obviousll',Iearners'utterances seem to var\
from moment to moment, in the types of rvhich are made, and learners,."* li"bl.
to su,'itchbetu'een a range of correct and incorrect forms over lengthy periods of time. .\
well-knon'n example offered bv Ellis invoivesa child learner of Englishas L2 who seemed
to produce the utteranc es no look mv'card, don't lookmy cardinterchangeablvover an extended
period (1985). M-vleset al. (.1998)have produced similar data from a classroomlearner's
French as L2 , who l-ariablv produced forms such as non animal,je n'ai pas de animal rvithin
the same 20 minutes or so (to savthat he did not have a pet; the correctTL form should be
1en'ai pasd' animal). Here, in contrast to the underlving svstematicity earlier claimed for the
development of rules of negation, we see performance varying quite substantialll from
moment to moment.
Like svste-miIii-it1', r,ariabilitv is alsofound in child languagedevelopment. However, the
variability found among L2 learners is undoubtedh' more 'extreme' than that found lbr

children; again,variabilitv is describedbvTolvell et al. (19961asa central feature of learner

interlanguage r,vhichL2 theories u-ill har-eto explain.

Creativity and routines in L2 learning

In the last section, we referred to evidence r,vhichshor,vsthat learners'interlanguage

productions can be described as svstematic, at least in part. This svstematicitv ls linked
I r'_--- 11-:
their rule slstem cangenerateu u giue.rcontext,*.hiE-tlElEl?ier
: ,:
n a sn e v e r n e a r oD e l o r e .
klowledge to creative use, even at the verl' earliest stagesof L2 learning. It becomes most
obvious that this is happening, r'r'henlearners produce utterances like the highly deviant non
animal (no animal = haven't got anv pet'), w.hich r'vecited before. This is not an utterance
n'hich anv native speakerof French rvould produce (other than, perhaps,a very young child)
the most likelv rvavthat the learnerhasproducedit i, rhio"gh:;ottt"*;;
primitiveinterlanguage ";?;i,
rule for negation,in combinationr,r,ith,"-? u.'ri. ,..i"u"r".,
But how did this same learner manageto produce the near-target n'ai pasde animai,
s ith its negative particles correctlv inserted w'ithin the verb phrase,and corresponding
almost-periect modification to tle morphologv of the .ro.r.rphrur", rvithin a fer,, minutes oi
the other form? For us, the most likelv expianation is that at this point he w-asreproduci
an utterance u,hich he has indeed heard before (and blv rehearsedlu . h i c h h a sb e e n tl
memorized as an unanalysedr,vhole.a formula #tFril.--\ n-s
D 4T-l<-,r
Work in corpus hnguistics has led us to theh -+eee#ntat formulas ancl/
U!Sb'native speakers;when we talk,
our everydavL1 utterancesare a complex mix of ..""tiiiliild-frE6b.iiation
1991).In L1 acquisiti children
hasbeen commonlv obserr.ed.For L1 learners,the contribution of chunk, ,..-rli-it"d bu
processingconstraints; for older L2 learners, however, memorization of lengthl', unanalysed
languageroutines is much more possible. (Think of those opera singers who successiully
memorize and deliver entire parts, in languagesthev do not otheru.isecontroll)
Analvsis of L2 data produced bv classroom learners in particuiar, seems to shou,
extensive and svstematic use of chunks to fulfil communicative needs in the early staqes
r, l
tMl'les et al. 19981.Studiesof informal learners also provide some evidenceof chunk uie.
This phenomenon has attracted relativeh- little attention in recent times, compared with
that given to learner creativitr-and svstematicitv(\ ,/einert1995). How.ever,rve believeit is
common enough in L2 spontaneousproduction (and not onh'in the opera house),to need
s o m e m o r e s u s t a i n e da t t e n t i o nf r o m L 2 l e a r n i n gt h e o r r . .

In complete successan d Jo s sili z ati on

Young children learning their first language embark on the enterprise in rvidelv varving
situations around the lvorld, sometimes in conditions of extreme poverty and deprivation,
n'hether physical or social.Yet vrith remarkable uniformit.,', at the end of fir,e v.ur. or ro,
thev have achieveda very substantialmeasure of success.Teachersand studentsknow to
their cost that this is bv no means the caselvith second languages,embarked on after these
critical earlv vears. Feir';if anr',aclult learners ever come toll".ra indistinguishably with the

community of target language'nativespeakers';most remain noticeably deviant in therr

pronunciation, and manv continue to make grammar mistakesand to searchfor lvords, even
r.vhenrvell motivated to learn, after r.earsof studr',residence and,/or w'ork in contact r'vith
the target ianguage.
Second languagelearning, then, is tvpified bv tncompletesuccess; the claimed svstematic
evolution of our underlVing interlanguage rules tor,vardsthe target languagesystem seems
doomed, most often, never to integrate completelv lvith its goal. Indeed, w-hilesome learners
go on learning, others seem to ceaseto make anv visible progress, no matter how mant.
iu.rg.rug".l"rrl thev attend, or how activelv thev continu. io ,ri" their second languagefor
communicative purposes.The termylossi]izationiscommonlv used to describe this phenom-
enon, lvhen a learner'sL2 s-vstemseemsto or become stuck, at some more or less
deviant stage.
Thesephenomena of incomplete successand fossilizationare also significant'facts' about
the process of L2 learning, r,r'hichan\. serious theorv must eventuall,vexplain. As we will
see,explanations of two basictvpes havein fact been offered.The 6rst group of explanations
the language-specificlearning mechanisms availableto the young child
are psycholtnguistic:
simpl,v ceaseto rvork for older learners, at least partll', and no amount of study and effort
can recreatethem.The secondgroup of explanationsaresociolinguisrr'c: older L2 learnersdo
not have the social opportunities, or the motivation, to identifv completely rvith the native
speaker communitv, but mav instead value their distinctive identity as learners or as

Cross-linguistic infuences in L2 learning

Evervdav observation tells us that learners' performance in a second languageis influenced

by the Ianguage,or languages,that thev alreadvknou,.Thisis routinelv obvious from learners'
accent', i.e. pronunciation u'hich bears traces ofthe phonology oftheir first
Ianguage.It is also obr.iousu.hen learnersmake certain characteristicmistakes,e.g. when a
native speakerof Engiish savssomething in French like 7esu;sdouze,an utterance parallel tc
the English'l am trvelve'. (The correct French expressionrvould ofcourse be j'ai douzean'
- I have trvelve vears.)
This kind of phenomenon in learner productions is often called b1' the term lanBuage
re*LButhorv important is the phenomenon, and what exacth'is be-inflr1n-rffil7Siond
languageresearchershave been through several of the pendulum' on this question.
asGass+ulsj t (.1996). Behaviourist theorists vierved language transfer asan important source
of error and interference in L2 learning, becauseL1 so tenaciousand deeplr
Lt i., Ll
-Gemln-g",aowever, becauseof their
preoccupation rvith identifving creative processesat r.l'ork
in L2 development; thev pointed out that manv L2 errors could not be traced to L-linflucnle,
and *'ere primarilv .o
this creative front.
Theorists todar, as rve shall see,lvould generallv accept once more that cross-linguistic
influences play an important role in L2 learning.,rve u'ill still find rvidely differing
views on the extent and nature of these influences. Some researchershave in fact claimed
that learners r,r.ith different L1s progress at somervhat different rates, and even follou'
different acquisitionalroutes, at leastin some areasof the target grammar (e.g. Keller-Cohen
1979,Zobl 1982, quoted in Gass 1996, pp. 322-3).

The relationship between secondlanguage use and secondlanguage learning

In an earlier section rve considered the distinction betn-een language competence and
perJormance, which manv linguists have found useful. Here, lve look more closely at the
concePtof performance, and in particular, look at the possiblerelationshipbetr,veenusing
{i.e. performing in) an L2, and learning (i.e. developing one's competence in) that same
We should note first of all, of course,that 'performing' in a languagenot onlv involves
speakingit. Making senseof the languagedata that lve hear around us is an equallv essential
aspectof performance. Indeed, it is basiccommon ground among all theorists of language
learning, of lvhater.erdescription, that it is necessar,\'tointerpret and to processincoming
ianguagedata in some form, for normal languageder,elopment to take place.There is thus
.i consensusthat languageinpur of some kind is essentialfor normal languagelearning. In fact,
during the late 1970s and earlr' 1980s, the vier,r'r,vasargued bv Stephen Krashen and others
rhat input (at the right level of difficultr'; rvasall that u.asnecessaryfor L2 acquisition to take
p l a c e ( K r a s h e n 1 9 8 2 , 1 9 S 5 ) . T h i sp o s i t i o n h a s b e e n r - i e u ' e db r l - o r " r e c e n t t h e o r i s t s a s
rnadequate,but a modified and refined version hasbeen der.eloped.
Krashen u'as unusual in not seeingany central role for languageproduction in his theorv
, ir )second
E L U r r u rlanguage acquisition.
drrtudtc d L q u r s r L r u t t . lMost other
vlusL u u l e r theoretical
L r l c o r c L l c a l vieu'points
\ t e \ \ ' P o l n t s support
s u p p o r t in
l n ssome
o m e form
:he common-senser-iervthat speakinga languageis helpful for iearning it, though they offer
, u-ide varietv of explanations as to x'hv this should be the case.For example, behaviourist
rarning theorv sarv lar (oral) practice ashelpful in forming correct language'habits'.
ls vlew nas ar ln recen
ifl-bEhaviouri st thinki n r'.
owever, various contemporarv theorists still lav stress on the 'practice' function of
rnguageproduction, especiallvin building up fluencv and control of an emergent L2 system.
lor example,information processingtheorists commonlv argue that languagecompetence
'.,nsistsof both a knowledgecomponent ('knou'ing that') and a sfri11 component ('knowing
..'rr\'').While they mav accept a r.arietv of possibie sources for the first component,
:.-searchersin this perspectiveagree in seeinga vital role forL2 use/L2 performance in
:,'velopingthe secondskill component.
An even more stronglv contrasting vieu'to Krashen'sis the so-called comprehensible output
.i pothesis,arguedfor bv Merrill Srvainand colleagues(e.g.Su'ain 1985; Srvainand Lapkin
c95). Sw-ainpoints out that much incoming L2 input is comprehensible,w.ithout anv need
,r a full grammatical analvsis.If u'e don't need to pav attention to the grammar, in order to
.:rderstandthe message,w'hv should u'e be compelled to learn it? On the other hand, r,vhen
'.e try to savsomething in our chosen second language,\\-eare forced to
make grammatical
:roicesand hvpotheses,in order to put our utterances together. The act of speakingforces
.) to try our ideas about horv the target grammar actuallv ."r.orks,and of course gives us the
rance of getting some feedback from interlocutors lr-ho mar-fail to understand our efforts.
So fai in this section, n-e have seen that theorists .u.r hold different vieu.s on the
.'ntribution both of language input and language output to language learning. However,
.nother w'av of distinguishing among current theories of L2 learning from a'performance'
!.rsPectivehas to do u'ith their view'of L2 tnteraction- u'hen the speaking and listening
i n'hich the learner is engagedare vieu'ed asan integral and mutuallv influential r.vhole,e.g.
' everyday conversation. T*-o major perspectives on interaction are apparent, one
. r'cholinguistig,jngjgcrolinguistic.
Fro _-+--=4t
oint of vieu.',L2 interaction is mainlv interesting because of
r. I
, - o p p o r r u n i t i e si t o I T F F S T S i n di di ru a l L 2 l e a r n e r st o f i n e - t u n er h e Ianguageinput ther are

receiving.This ensuresthat the input is rvell adapted to their orvn internal needs (i . e. to the
present state of development of their L2 knorvledge).What this means is that learners
need the chanceto talk rvith native speakersin a fairlv open-ended way, to ask questions,and
to clarifv meanings rvhen thev do not immediatelv understand. Under these conditions, it
is believed that the utterances that result rvill be at the right level of difficult-v to promote
learning;in Krashen'sterms, thev r'r'illprovide true'comprehensibleinput'. Conversational I

,:,fthe Krashen-influencedresearchers.
Interaction is also interesting to iinguistic theorists, becauseofrecent controversiesover
rvhc-therthe provision of negativeevtdence is necessarvor helpful for L2 development _4'
evidence' is meant some kind of input rvhich iets the learner know that a particular
t o t a r g e tl a n g u a g en o r m s . l n L l l n l e r a c t l o nt n l s m l g n l t a K e
: . . r n ll s n o ra c c e p t a D laec c o r c l l n g
a more informal rePhrasing of
: learner's L2 utterance, offered bv a native-speakingconversationalpartner.
Whv is there a controversv about negative evidence in L2 Iearning?The problem is that
:,,rrection often seemsineffective and not onlv becauseL2 learners are laz,v.I!:eglg!-lthgt
^.arners often cannot benefit from correction, but continue to make the shme mistakes
:lrl\\'ever mucn lee is otlered. For some current rsts,any na
one' irrelevant.
::--lrthesew'ill be useful +
onlv u-henthev relate to'hot spots' currentlv being restructured in
: : r ql e a r n e r ' se m e r g i n gL 2 s v s t e m .
iervs haveone thing in common, holvever; they view
--n.learner asoperatiQand der.elopinga relativelv autonomous L2 system,angjgs intelgction
r. a \vay of feeding that s,ystemlvith more or less fine-tuned input data. whether positive_or
. Sociolinouistic view's teractton are verv dl
)rocess i]-r-iewed as essentiallvsocial: both the identitv- . of
: the learner
. are collaboiativelvt6nstmcted a trucTedin thc courseof interaction.
S6metheoriiiiiTGE7Foad vieu'of the secondlanguagelearningprocessasanjpllgnti:gshp
into a range of new' d,t.."t." pt..,l."t ; others are more concerned with
analvsingthe det1ililinteraction betvr.eenmore expert and lessexpgrt speakels,to determine
how the learner is scffilded into using {and presumabh learning)neu L2 forms.

Views of the language learner

Who is the second language learner, and horv are thev introduced to us, in current SLL
research?'second language'research generallv deals ll'ith learners lvho embark on the
learning ofan additional language,at least some vears after they havestarted to acquire their
first language.Thislearning may take place formallv and svstematicallJ',
in a classroomsetting;
or it may take place through informal social contact, through work, through migration, or
other social forces r,vhichbring speakersof different languagesinto contact, and make
c o m m u n i c a t i o na n e c e s s i t r ' .
So, second languagelearners mav be children, or thev mav be adults; thev may be
learning the target languageformally in school or college, or'picking it up' in the play-
ground or the w'orkplace.Thev may be learning a highlv localized language,which will help
them to become insiders in a local speechcommunitv; or the target languagemay be a
languageof wider communication relevant to their region, u'hich gives accessto economic
development and public life.
S E C O N D L A N G U A G E L E A R N I N G : C O N C E P T SA N D I S S U E S 2 3

Indeed, in the late trventieth centurv, the target languageis highl-vlikelv to be English;
.r recent estimate suggeststhat r.vhilearound 300 million people speak English as their first
ianguage,another 700 million or so are using it as a second language,or learning to do so
Crystal 1987,p.358). Certainlv it is true that much researchon secondlanguagelearning,
rvhether rvith children or adults, is concerned r'vith the learning of English, or w-ith a verv
.mall number of other languages,mostlv Europeanones (French, German, Spanish).There
are manv multilingual communities todav (e.g. tow'nshipsaround manv fast-growing cities)
n-here L2 learning involves a much wider range of ianguages.Holvever, these have been
comparativelv little studied.

The learner as language processor

It is possible to distinguish three main points of vierv, or sets of priorities, among SLL
researchersas far as the learner is concerned. Linguists a15ljsysbolinguists have typically
to the individual learner,for processing,le e. As
tir as languagelea.r-ring h"
developmental route along rvhich learners travel. Researchersfor w'hom this is the prime
qoal are less concerned rvith the speed or rate of development, or indeed with the degree
of ultimate L2 success.Thusthev tend to minimize or disregard social and contextual
differencesamong learners; their aim is to
t o a l l n o r m a l h u m a nb e i n g s .
As we shall see, hou'ever, there is some controversv among researchers in this
psvcholinguistictradition on the question of age.Do child und udrfL2 learners learn in
essentiallysimilar rvavs?Or, is there a criricalare w-hichdivides l'ounger and older learners.
u *o-.nt *hen earlv lear.ring.rG.tilirr*iFop}rr.and are replacedoi at leastsuoolemented
bv other compensatorv wavs of learning?The balance of evidence has been interpreted br
ch a cut-off point, and many other researchers
'vounger -
agree with some version of a r-ieu' that better in the long run' (Singleton 1995,
p. 3). However, explanationsof whv this should be are still provisional.

Dffirences between individual learners

Real-life observation quicklv tells us, how-ever,that er,enif L2 learners can be sho',vnto be
following a common ievelopmental route, thev differ greatlv in the degree of ultimate
successwhich the-v achieve. Sociai psvchologists have argued consistentlv that these
differences in learning outcomes must be due to individual diferencesbetween learners, and
many proposalshavebeen made concerning the characteristicslvhich supposedlvcausethese
In a recent two-part revie*' (199), 1993), Gardner and MaclntFe divide what they see
most significant influence on L2 learning success.For fuller treatment of this social
psychological perspective on learner difference, lve would refer the reader to sources such
a s G a r d n e r ( 1 9 8 5 ) , S k e h a n( 1 9 8 9 ) , a n d E l l i s ( 1 9 9 + , p p . + 6 7 - 5 6 0 ) .


lntelligence:Not verv surprisinglv perhaps, there is clear evidence that L2 students lvho are
.bfi;;;G" o., fo.*ul *".r,i.., of i.ttelligence and/or general academicattainment tend
to do well in L2 learning, at leastin formal classroomsettings.
' r , .aButude:
Language L
Is there realh' such a thing asa'gift' for languagelearning, distinct from
general intelligence, as folk rvisdom often holds?The most famous formal test of language
iptitude was designedin the 1950s,bv Carroll and Sapon(1959, in Gardner and Maclnt,vre
l-992,p.214). This'Modern LanguageAptitudeTest' assesses a number of subskillsbelieved
to be predictive of L2 learning success: (a) phonetic coding abilitv, (b) grammatical sensitivitr,
(c) memorv abilities,and (d) inductive languagelearning abilitv. general,iearners' scores
on this and other similar tests do indeed r,vith . . . achievement in a second
language'(Gardner and Maclntvre 1992, p. 215), and in a range of contexts measuresof
aptitude have been show'nto be one of the strongest availabiepredictors of success(Harler
and Hart 1997).
Do more successfullanguagelearners set about the task in
Languagelearning strcteflies:
,orn" ditii.tna;fr-Dffiev t-"" .p".iul repertoireof wavsof
har,cat their disposal
learning, or strat"gtei?[f this ulere true, could these even be taught to other, hitherto less
successfullearners? Much research has been done to describe and categorize the strategies
used by learners at different levels, and to link strategv use to iearning outcomes; it is clear
that more proficient learners do indeed emplov strategiesthat are different from those used
bv the lessproficient (Oxford and Crookall 1989, quoted in Gardner and Maclntvre 1992,
p.217).Whether the strategiescausethe learning, or the learning itself enablesdifferent
strategiesto be used, has not been fullv clarified, horvever.


LanguageaI!l!!&!;ocial psvchologistshaveiong been interested in the idea that the attitudes

of ti. i"G?I*rds tire target language,itJspeakers, and the learning context, may all
plav some part in explaining successor lack of it. Researchon L2 languageattitudes has
largely been conducted lvithin the framervork of broader research on motivation, of which
attitudes form one part.
Motivatjon:For Gardner and Maclnt,vre, the motivated individual one who lvants to
achieve particular goal, devotes considerable effort to achieve this goal, and experiences
satisfactionin the activitiesassociatedw'ith achieving this goal' (1993, p. 2). So, motivation
is a complex construct, defined b-vthree main components: to achieve a goal,
Cafiffin.ill..g.,.r have carried out a long programme of rvork on motivation rvith Engllsh
Canadianschool students learning French as a second language,and have developed a range
of formal instruments to measure motivation. Over the vears consistent relationships have
been demonstrated betw.eenlanguageattitudes, motivation, and L2 achievement; Gardner
acceptsthat these relationships are complex, holvever, as the factors interact, and influence
eachother ( 1985, cited in Gardner and Maclntvre 1993, p. 2).
Lanquaee anxietv:Thefinal learner characteristiclvhich Gardner and Maclntyre consider
, <-',--l_---1- r r .. r. .-r r
has clearlv been shoun to have a relationship rvith learning successis languageanxiety (and
its obverse, .:] . For these authors, languageanxietv seen as a stable Person-
alitv trait re6rring to the propensitv for an individual to react in a nervous manner lvhen
speaking. . . in the secondlanguage'(1993,p. 5).ltis tvpifiedbv self-belittling,feelingsof
apprehension,and even bodilv responsessuch as a faster heartbeatlThe anxious learner ts
S E C O N D L A N G U A G E L E A R N I N G : C O N C E P T SA N D I S S U E S 2 5

also less w'illing to speak in class,or to engagetarget ianguagespeakersin informal inter-

action. Gardner and Maclntvre cite manv studies rvhich suggestthat languageanxietv has a
negativerelationship'ivith learning success,and some others lvhich suggestthe opposite, for
learner self-confidence.

The learner as social being

The tw.o perspectives on the learner rvhich rve have highlighted so far have concentrated
first, on universal characteristics,and second, on individual characteristics.But it is also
possibleto vier'vthe L2 learner as essentiallva socialbeing, and such an interest rvill lead to
concern u'ith learners' relationship u-ith the social context, and the structuring of the
learning opportunities r,r,hichit makes available.The learning process itself mav be vieu'ed
as essentiallvsocial, and inextricablr- entangiedin L2 use and L2 interaction. Trvo major
differences appear, u'hich distinguish this vie'nr-of the learner from the last (for the social
psychological vier,vof the learner rvhich rve have just dipped into is also clearly concerned
with the individual learners' relationship r,r.iththe milieu' in rvhich learning
is taking place).
First, interest in the learner as a social being leads to concern r,vith a range of sociaily
constructed elements in the learner's identitv, and their relationship *'ith learning so c1asr,
ethnicitlt,andgenderrnaketheir appearanceaspotentiallv significantfor L2 learning research.
Second,the relationshipbetu'eenthe individual learner and the socialcontext of learning is
view.edas dynamlc,reflexive and constantlv changing.The'individual differences' tradition
sau'that relationship as being governed br a bundle oflearner traits or characteristics(such
as aptitude, anxiety, etc.), ll.hich rvere relativelv fixed and slou'to change.More sociallv
oriented researchersview motivation, learner anxietr, etc. asbeing constan-tlvreconstructed
through ongoing L2 experience and L2 interaction.

Links with social practice

oesit haveanl' immediate practical applications

the rea , rnost obr-iousll in the L2 classroom?In our field, theoristshavebeen and
remain divided on this point. Beretta and his colieagueshaveargued for'pure' theorv-building
i n S L L , u n c l u t t e r e d b v r e q u i r e m e n t sf o r p r a c t i c a l a p p l i c a t i o n( 1 9 9 3 ) . V a n L i e r ( 1 9 9 + ) ,
Rampton (1995b) and others have argued for a sociallv engaged perspective, where
theoretical development is rooted in, and responsive to, social practice, and language
education in particular.Yetothers haveargued that L2 teaching in particular should be guided
systematicallvbv SLL researchfindings (e.g.Krashen 1985).
This tension has partlv been addressedbv the emergence of instructed language
learning' as a distinct sub-areaofresearch (seerecent reviervsbv Ellis 1994, pp. 561 563;
Spada1997).We think that languageteachers, rvho w-ill form an important segment of our
readership, will themselvesn'ant to take stock of the relations between the theories w'e
survey, and their or,vnbeliefs and experiences in the classroom.Thev r,vill, in other lvords,
want to make somejudgement on the'usefulness'of theorisingin making senseof their orvn
experience and their practice, w'hile not necessarilvchanging it.

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comprehensible output in its , Gass, S.M . and Madden,C. G. (eds), lnput
in secondlanguageacquisition. NIA:
Rorvlev, Newburt'House, 235-53.
Swain, M. and Lapkin, S. (1995)'Problems in output and the cognitive processesthev
generate:a steptorvardssecondlanguagelearning', ,lppliedLinguistics16,371-91.
R. and Harvkins, R. (1994) Approaches
Tor,ve1l, languageacqujsition.Clevedon: N'lulti-
to second
lingual Matters.
Tou,ell,R., Hu*, R. and Bazergui,N. (1995)'The der.elopmentof fluencv in advanced
learnersof French', AppltedLinguistics I 7, 84 1 15.
Van Lier, L. (199+) and hope, pursuing understandingin different rvdys', Applted
15, 32846.
Weinert, R. (1995) role of formulaic languagein secondlanguageacquisition:a revier'r'',
AppliedLinguistics 15, 180-205.
'Converging 'acquisition-learning'distinction', Applied
ZobI, H. (1995) evidence for the
L i n g u i s t i c1s6 , 3 5 - 5 6 .
Chapter 2

PatsyM. Lightbown



LL NORMAL CHILDREN, GMN a n o r m a l u p b r i n g i n ga, r e s u c c e s s f ui nl t h e

acquisition of their first language.ThirJg419l$1]!b-9!rl-9lpg{ience of second lalguage
learners, u'-hoses,uccess_varies greatlv.
nf u",nof .rJU"ti.r." ilutlEu-:*-. have certain characteristicswhich lead to more or less
successlul language learning. Such beliefs are usua-llr'-b3se-d-oq'@@Elgrl&;A}
lve have known. For example, manv teachers
,^i\ owAexpc;leru;€-or that of indil.idual people
$.' ur" .o.rvi.r..d that extror,e,rtcd]c-af.rgls wfio interact rt-i[hout inhibition in their second
langgaggaqd-_fiqd manv opportunities to praciiselinguage iki'lls-w;ill6e tlti -ort successful
to be
_ l"ui".i.. In additioq 1o"lito'characteristics, other fictors generally considered
,,9 ..l"uu.rt,o tung.rug. i""."i"g are intelligence,-aptitude, motivation attitudes' Another
v at learning begins.
important factor is the age yhigh
In this chapter, rve u.ill seer,r'[e,tllre-t evidence is su,pported bl research findings.
To what extent can lve predict differences in the successof second language acquisition in
trvo individuals if ne have information about theirperson{lqq, their general and specific
intellectual abilities, their motivation, or their age?-


Characterjstics oJ the language \earner'

It seems that some people har,e a much easier time of learning than others. Rate of
development variesr,videlvamong first languagelearners. Some children can string together
five-, six-, and seven-rvordsentencesat an agervhen other children are just beginning to label
items in their immediate environment. Nevertheless, all normal children eventually master
their first language.
In second languagelearning, it has been observed countlesstimes that, in the same
classroom setting, some students progress rapidlv through the initial stagesof learning a
new languageu-hile others struggle along making verv slou. progress. Some learners never
achieve native-likecommand of a second language.Are there personal ch?Iacteristics that
make one learner more successfulthan another, and if so, u-hat are they?
The is a iist of some of the characteristics commoniy thought to contribute
to successfullanguagelearning. In your experience - as a second languagelearner and as a

teacher - which characteristicsseem to vou most likelv to be associatedw'ith successin

'econd languageacquisition in the classroom?Which ones r,vouldvou be less inclined to
r \ p e c t i n a s u c c e s s f ul el a r n e r i
In eachcaserate the characteristicasfollolvs:

1= Verv important
I = Quite important
3= Important
{ = Not verv important
5= Not at all important

\ good languagelearner:

a is a willing and accurate guesser 1 2 i3 + 5
b tries to get a messageacrosseven if
specihc languageknor,vledgeis lacking I2 3 + 5

C is willing to make mistakes t2 3 + 5

d constantly looks for patterns in the language 1 ,',) 3 + 5

e practises as often as possible T2 3 + 5

f analvseshis or her ou'n speech and the

speechof others 2 3 + 5

attends to whether his or her performance
meets the standardshe or she has learned l) + 5

h enjoys grammar exercises l1 + 5

i begins learning in childhood l1 + 5

j has an above-averageIQ + q

k has good academic skills l1 + q

I has a good self-imageand lots of confidence 23 + 5

listedabovecanbe classihed
All of the characteristics i",l@;[I 1;iqsigg!ll3ji9f ,€' v
aptitude,personalitr'. andlearne-r3.*flSgr. Houerer,manr o[the charac(
Gristts .ur-o,-U. ..siFA;;Gi.el. to ile categor\'.For example,the characteristic'i)-
willing to makemistakes'canbe consiieredu p.r.oiulitv and/or a motivationalfactorif the
Iearneris w'iliingto makemistakesin order to get the messaqe across.
3 0 P A T S Y M . L I G H T B O W NA N D N I N A S P A D A

r' ' "rl

Research on learner characteristics Pr,it{'tt" - "' i , :'t

Perhapsthe best rvav to begin our discussionis to describe \gwlqse-4qctt ql th" influence of
learner characteristicson secondlanguagelearninghasbeen carried out.When researchers
are interested in findlng out u-hether an individual factor suchas motlvation affects second
languagelearning, thev usuallv seiect a group of learners and give thgm a questionnaire to
,rr"".rri" qh"_typg-4!-d--dggrg.e of their motivatt-qn.The learners utJth".t given iieit to m-eaiure
._, - second language pro{iciencr-.Thetest and the questionnaireare both scored and the
' ' " - - ' - . ' - ' nerforms
r-'^ a correlationon the two measures,to see lr'hether learners w'ith high
scores on the f-fi.i.rr." teif are also more likelv to have high scores on the motivation
questionnaire. If this is the case,the researcher concludes that high levels of motivation are
correlated rvith successin languagelearning. A similar procedure can be used to assessthe
relationship betr,veenintelligence and secondlanguageacquisitionthrough the use of IQ tests.
Although this procedure seems straightforu.ard, there are several dilliculties with it.
\\ -=*-.-The first pr6blem is that it is no-tpossiblelo directlr, observe and-ineasurequaTitiessuChis
motir,,ation, extroversion, or even intelligence.Th"re u." lgtt I.b.]! for an en[ire range oT
Further*o.", becausech.Ft..Gilis such as these are not
independent, it r,vill come asno surprise that different researchers have often used the same
labels to,-describedifferent sets of behavioural traits.
For example, in motir?tion questionnaires,learners are often asked whether thev
willingly seek out opportunities to use their second languagewith native speakersand if so,
how often thev do this. The assumption behind such a question is that learners who report
that they often seek out opportunities to interact rvith speakers of the second language
are highiy motivated to learn. Although this assumption seemsreasonable,it is problematic
' '
becauseif a learner respondsbv saving ves to this question, lve mav assumethat the learner
has more opportunities for languagepractice in informal contexts. Becauseit is usuallv
impossible to separatethese trvo factors (i.e. r,villingnessto interact and opportunities to
lnteracr,),some researchershavebeen criticized for concluding that it is the motivation rather
than the opportunitv lvhich makes the greater contribution to success.
Another factor u.hich makesit difficult to reach conclusionsabout relationshipsbetween
individual learner characteristicsand second languageiearning is -ho-r1 langyageproficiencv
ttdt[*-O andiug4!_q{ed.Toillustrate this point ]e1,r, ."f.r once aguinto'motivation'-. ln the
r,vitha higher level of
fr".o"d languagelearning literature, some studies report that learners
learners than those lvith lolver motivation, while
/imotivation are more successfullanguage
j,othe. studiesreport that highlv motivated learners do not perform anr,better on a proficiencv
litest than learnersrvith much lessmotivation to learn the secondlanguage.One explanation
\ '". rvhich hasbeen offered for these conflicting findings is that tLe iqq€Uegqproficiency't_ests used
. i. di&rent studiesdo not measurethe sameklnd of k"rou-ledge.Thati., ;.t itriot-il lu.tgn"g"
vrhen the proficiency
flearning setfings, highly motivated learners mar'be-iiiofe successful
1/, / t"rtr measureoral communication skills. In other studies, hou-et'er, highly motivated learners
d/ qf
[ -." not be more successful because the tests.are primarilr. 5gg4!qrg! -r4etalinguistic
Results such as these implv that motivation to learn a second languagemay be
mor€T€Ete4to pAI !,rqUL4_{ .qspegt! o f I anguaqe p r o fi ci en cv than to o ther s.
Finally, there is the problem of interpreting the correlation of tw'o factors as being
due 1-o_a qaqfa_l_relationshipbetweenthem.That is, the fact that two thig. tqld to occur
t"gSthg4o_es not necessarilvmean that one causedthe other.While it ma,vbe that that one
" factor influengest-he.1h% ii;;;ro b. tir" casethat both ar6influenced by something else
entirelv. Researchon motivation is perhaps the best context in w'hich to illustrate this.
Learners lvho are successfulmav indeed be hiqhlv motivated. But can vl'econclude that they

b;Sanfe r!99_"1{gl bJ!au1e_o{ their motivation? It is aiso plausible that _earl,vlqqlgss

heightenedtheir motivation or that both successand motivation are due to their special
aputude f&-langu"g-elA-."-g or the-Favouri6le context in whlchThev aaete-arrrrrg.--

- ---:.-\

The term'intelligence' hastraditionallv been used to refer to performance on certain kinds

of tests.Thesetestsare often associalqd-uitLsucqessi.n-school, and a link betueen intelligence
and secondlanguagelearning has sometimesbeen reported. Over the vears,manv studies
different methods of assessing
using a varietv of intelljgglC_e(1q,-)_tes19-.gnd languagelearning
have found that Ie scores \\'ere a good means of predicting holv successful a learner r,vould
_- " . ) ,'-
s-!-LA!glJ '"I ,lj
be. Some recent studies have shorvn that these measures of intelligence-:11-q)ifu1-rrr-qJ.e ou'l
related to certain kinds of secoqd langy4g-e-abilities than to others. For example, in a study
r,vithFrench immersionstuJents in Canada,it rvasfound that, w'hile intelligence w'asrelated
to the development of French second language reading, grammar, and vocabulary, it w'as
unrelated to oral productive skills (Genesee 1976). Similar findingshavebeen reported in
other studies.What this suggestsis that, rvhile intelligence, especiallvasmeasured by verbal
re tests, may be a strong factor rvhen it comes tq le4rqing u'h!g,hiayglygSlanguageanalysis
and rule learning, intelligence mav plar, a less important role in classroomsr,vherethe
in<frftffihfo cuses-m-ore on communi cati on 3-q{ -interaction .
It is important to keep in mind that'i4-1-el]g-gncs that individuals have
many kinds of abilities and strengths, not all of r'vhichare m€asured bv traditiona! lq 1e1ts.
In our experience, man students w'hose academic performance has been u'eak have
experiencedconsiderablesuccessin secondlanguagelearning.

Tliete evidence in the research literature that,some indir.iduals har.'ean exceptional
for languageiearning.Lorraine Obler ( 1989) reports that a man, w-homshe calls
Cj, has suc-ha specializedabilitv. CJ is a native speakerof English rvho grerv up in an English
home. His first true experience u.ith a second languagecame at the age of 15 when he began
learning French in school. CJ also studied German, Spanish,and Latin w'hilein high school.
At age 20, he made a brief visit to Germanv. CJ reported that just hearing German spoken
for a short time rvasenough for him to'recover' the German he had learned in school. Later,
CJ worked in Morocco u.-herehe reported learning Moroccan Arabic through both formal
instruction and informal immersion. He also spent some time in Spain and Itall', where he
.r-, r--i -
apparentlv'picked up'loth Spanishand Italian in a'matter of w'eeks'.A remarkable talent
indeej-l a
factor hasbeen
ol_ggrl4ggrickllis the distinguishing feature of aptitude.The'aptitude'
inveitigated most indnsive]i bv reseaich-eis'interested in developing tests rn'hichcan be used
to predict whether individuals rvill be efficient learners of a foreign languagein a classroom
setting.The most widelv used aptitude tests are the Modern LanguageAptitudeTest (ML4T)
and the Pimsleur LanguageAptitude Battery 1er-ae).Boih tesislrelasedonih" rriew that
aptitude is composed of different t-vpesof abilities:

(1) the ability to identifv and memorize new sougds;

ir.l the abilitvtoi[J"lra;a-tnaE.,ctio., ofpqtic"iarlp;dr-Ln--s-,en!e-n-qqq;
iules from lgnSrage
(3) the abilitvto figuls ollt-g,ummatTCii samPles;and
6l memorv for neu' rnords.

While earlier researchrer-ealeda substantialrelationship betlveen performance on the uLRt

or pLABand performance in foreign languagelearning, these studies'"v'ere conducted at a time
*h..r ,..o.ri languageteaching was based on Brammartranslatton-^or audiolingual methods- -
\t: With the a more bommunicafive appi'oJ.chtb teaching, manY teachers and
researchersiirye to see aptitude as irrelevant to-the Proce-s:of languagl acquisition.
Unfortunatelv, [hi, meansthat relativelr. little ,esearchhas actui]lv explored u'hether having
a skill such as the to identifv and memorize neu' sounds' is advantageouswhen
' explanations.
Succesri-,rllu.rgtrug. learners mav not be strong in all of the goqp-olents o[ aPtitu-de.
Some individuals mar, have strong memories bul onll' average abilities in the other
components of aptitude. Ideallv, one could determine learners' profiles of strengthsand
weaknessesand use this information to place students in appropriate teaching programs. An
example of how this can be done is describedblMaiorieWes.Ell2ql;' In a Canadian
lurrgrrug"program for adult iearners of French_, it4lents-were-placed*in-a.n instructionai
p.rt.u-;ni.n was cdmpatible with tfieir aptitude profile and information about their
i.ut"i"g experiences. Students who u,.er-e [gh on an3-[9c abilitg but a'"'erageo1-T-Tot),
,' l*.." uitgn.d to teachiig ihut fogg..J t"g-.t"l.t.tl5{;quctures,_while
u"rtn'u. rkill. ;te p,! class *-here th. 19..h5;;-_
iir, ..r.rrr,;ii.'biit average &r
,organized iro*.d theTunctional use of the second language in specific situations. Wesche
. reiorted a high level of student and teacher satisfactionwhen stutrents\\,'erematched with
compatible teaching environments. In addition, some evidence indicated that matched
students were able tt attain significantlv higher levels of achievement than those who were
While feu' second language teaching contexts are able to offer such choices to their
students,teachers..rav{i.rdihut knorving the aptitude pro{rle of their students will help them
in selecting appropriate classroom actir,itiesfor particular grouPs of students. Or, if they do
not have snch information, the-v mav u'ish to ensure that their teaching activities are
suf{icientlv varied to accommodate learners rvith different aPtitude profiles.

', "bersonality

,*b.. of personalitv characteristicshavebeen proposed aslikely to affect secondlanguage

learning, but it hus nof been e1s1:tg dem.o-qstJate As with
lheir-e-ffectsin empiricq! stqdies_.
other research investigatingthe effects of individual characteristicson second language
learning, different studiesmeasuring a similar personalitv trait produce different results. For
it is oftelr.argued-that-an-exlrgr.ertedperson is well suited to languagelearnilg
Howelrer, ....ur.h does not ahvavs support this conclusion. Although some studies have
found that successin languagelearning is correlated u'ith learners' scoreson characteristics
often associatedw.ith extroversion such as assertivenessand adventurousness,others have
found that man,vqqgge!!!{ lg"grragSlearners do not get high scores on measuresof extro-
Another aspectof personalitr'rvhich hasbeen studied is inhibition. It hasbeen suggested
that inhibition discouragesrisk-takinq u hiih is necessarvfor progress in languagelearning.
This is often consid.rJ to be a particular problem for adolescents,w'ho are more self:
consciousthan vounger learners.In a seriesoi studies,Alexander Guiora and his colleagues
found support for the elaim that-inhjbition is a negative_forc"_,! for sercondl1gulgg=
p.onr.r.iution performance. One studr. inr.olr-edan analvsisof the effects of small dosesof
alcohol on pronunciation (Guiora er al. 1971i.Thev found that subjectswho received small

p4-p1q4u4ql4qo! te$Lth3l those u'ho dr-d-aqld11nk4y3lcohol.

dorer.slqlqq\ll did_better
While results rrl.h-ir these are interesting, as u'ell as amusing, the',' are not completeTv
conl.incing, sincethe experiments are far removed from the realitv of the ciassroomsituation.
Furthermore, thev mav have more to do r.vithperformance than u'ith learning.We mav also
note, in passing,that lvhen larger dosesof alcohol rvere administered, pronunciation rapidlv
deteriorated !
Severalother personalitv characteristicssuch as self-esteem,empath,v,domi444q9,,
talkatir,-eness-, .L.po.rsivenesshar.e.alsob.."1tt-,di.d.'Fioro-.u.r, in general, the available
T-esearchdoes not shorv a clearlv defined relationship betu'een personalitv and second
Ianguageacquisition. And, as indicated earlier, the major at{fi.q&1:".investigating Person-
alitv characteristicsis that of identification and measurement.Another explanation rvhich has
been offered for the mixed 6-d;gr*r.lito' ri"di"t ts that personalitv variables may
be a major factor onh. in the acquisition of conversational skills, not in the lcqgisitign-of
io-fi" fi.t fhit comparison, ur" -ud" betrveen stu_drg;that 1neap1r19-cp4q4qqqlqA-ti,v€-?brli!y-
and studies that measure grammatical accuracv or metalinguistic knolvledge. Personality
variabl€3-ie?im[o t'e cohiiStent'h reld,tedio the former, but not to thei]atterr
Despite the contradictorv results and the problems involved in carrving out research in
the area of personalitv characteristics,manv researchersbelieve that personalitv will be
shown to have an important influence on successin languagelearning.This relationship is a
complex one, holvever, in that it is probablv not personalitv alone, but the lvav in lvhich it
combines with other factors, that contributes to second languagelearning.
Motivation ond ottitid",

fh"r. hu, been a great deal of research on the role, of attitudes and motivation in second
language learning.lhe overall findings r!'1:1he, pos,itire attjlude-san{ mqtra-t-iqLarc,rela[ed-
to succeqs_insecond languagelearning?Glrdner 1985.;'.. Unfortunatelv, the research cannot
indicate precisely hor motivation is relaied to learningiAs indicated above,we do not know- .f-
ol successful]gitlil-gj!.,
whether it is the motivation ihat produces succ_essful_learning _ _r,
enhancesmotivation o;itRahtsolli=ar"c",ffited br other factors. As not6dE)'P.i&31;8"""2
(i9q, tIe questffiEl-are iearnersmore highl)'motivatedbecausethey are successful, /n,
arethev successful becausethev arehighlvmotivated? l
-Motiaafiirninsecondlanguage rvhichcanbe defined {
lEaintng-isa-compiexp.henomenon -\
/ ) ).r
in terms of t.r",.o factors: learners' communicative needsand their attitudestowards the second
- - : a : : b : - - ; - : -communit\.lfm.d
^Ianquase -.:- -,
*ng-" of* ,to.iul
.' , - r o, :- ' ," --i'i-
situiuonso. io-frlEl profe5ionalambitions.fier .il-LpSfSSit.,h"
e secondla and oti roficiency in it. Likewise, if

il -, r'
E tr

Kir S;oi.n tfi'tf-ttdre tvpes of motivation are related to successin second language learning.
On the other hand, lve should keep in mind that an individual's identity is closely linked
with the wav he or she follou's that u'hen spsaking a n9Ll4g998r glgrydgPtiqg ):
s9rye-9llh-9jde$rlyrnarkers olnother cukg:1g.":p. Depending on the learner's attitudes,
liarning a second language."tr-b. i source of_eniiZFment or a sourceof resentment. If the
speaker-s onli-rearo-n-for-l.utning the second language it internal
"lt.Irql3t_essure, a"
m o ti vati on 4qay-b-em-iuim-al-aqd.g e;e r al attitu d es t onla. di 1 u. ffi -.1'Tii ;-g"tfi . .

One factor rvhich often affects motivatio,n is th-esocial d):IlaEriq gr,pp,!:ef re-lationship
f pe_tryee-46e-lafrgUug"s.That is, members of a minoritv group learning the language of a
and motivation from those o[ majority group
if majorit_vgroup ma-vhave different attitudes
ii*e.nb.ts learning a minoritv language.Even though it is impossibleto predict the exact
of such societal factors on second languagelearning, the fact that ianguagesexist in
social contexts cannot be overlooked lvhen u'e seekto understand the variablesw'hich affect
successin learning. Children as r'vell as adults are sensitive to social dvnamics and power

. l 4 o t i v a t i o nt n t i" ,toru*.tirirroo

In a teacher's mind, motivated students are usuallv those-w_!9 participate actively in

, class,expressinterest in ihe subject-matter,and study a great deal.Gachert .utt .util)'..iog-
7t'+?t nize characteristicssuch as these.The,valso_havemore_opportunity to influ:"gg_lhry -_
qlraractslistics than students'reasons for studvinglhe r".orrd language or tneiiattit,rd".
toward the linguage and its speakers.If r'vecan_makeour classroomsplaces where students
enjov coming b".urlr. the content is interesting and relevant to their age and ievel of abiliq',
ovliere the learning goals are challen$ing yet manageableand clear, and where the atmoslher_e
I' : :
is supportir.e and irijn-thieatening, \ve can make a positive contribution to students'
motivation to learn.
;lo, Although little research has been done to investig,atg_h_ow- pedagogJ' interacts with
- frlotir arion in .".ond languageclassrooms,considerable.r ork hasbeen donelLthi.qlhg ficl{
of educatio-nalps,l-chologv. In a revierv of some of this rvofk, Graham_Crgokesand Richard-
Gchmiatl 991)fioint to several areasrvhere educational research has reported increased
levels oTmotivation for students in relation to pedagogicalpractices. Included among these

:, At the opening stagesqf lessons(and w'ithin transitions), it

lLotjvating studentsinto the.lesson
hasbeen observedthat remarks teachersmaFe a6out forthcoming actirities can lead to higher
levelsofinterest on the part ofthe students.

and materialsStudentsare reassuredbv the existenceofclassroom

Varyingthe activities,tasks,
routines rvhich thev can depend on. Hou,ever, lessonsrvhich alwavs consist of the same
routines, patterns, and formats have been shou'n to lead to a attention and an
increase in boredom.Varying the activities, tasks, and materials can help to avoid this and
increasestudents'interest levels.

IJsingco-operative rat.herthan competitivegoals Co-operative learning activities are those in

which ituiletrts must rvork together in order to complete a task or solve a problem. These
techniques have been found to increase the self-confrdenceof students, including weaker
o n e r , b " . u r r r ee v e r l p a r t i c i p a n t i na c o - o p e r a t i v et a s kh a sa n i - p o t t a n t r o i e t o p l a r .K n o w i n g
that their team-mates are counting on them can increasestudents' motivation.
!,. Clearlv,cultural u.d 1S diff.tglces u'ill deterrninethf molt appropriate*'uy fot teachers
to moiivatertudentr.G soileiLssrooms, studentsmav thrive on competitivelnteraction,
rvliilain o1hei5,do-irperativeactivitiesu-ill be more successful.

Learner preferences

tearnershard clbar preferences for hou- thev go about learning new material. The term
Iearning,sl/ei .!a1begn used to describe an indjvidual's natural, habituai, andpreferred way
of absorbing, p{ocessing, and retaining nerv information and skills (Reid 1995). We have ail
heardpeople savthat thev cannotlearn somethi_ng until thev haveseenit. Suchlearners
',ould lall into tlle group culledfi"*l-f*tn.rr)dth.r. p"opl". u'ho ma1'b"cull"dfiilJ- u'"

il};)r, seemro n.".do.rl, to h"Fro*.t6ilg-o=ile or tu'ice beforether knou'it, Fo, oth.r,

,,.h-oute..f.rred to is.anqedto add aphy.sical aclionto the lrl
"r$"q99a{j:.ld.there lf alniqg-qt1'lgs, research
lear!ingprggess. In conEasilotheseperceptuallr,bqsed considerable
hur io.,-,r"d on a cognitive learning str-ie distinction betrveenjeld. t4dgpgnlen_iagAJi,eld ' r-
i; al:r '

Jependent learners.This refers to rvhether an individuai tends to separatedetails from the \

qeneralbackground or to seethings more holisticallv..{.noth,ercateqorv of learning st1les is
- t)'rF t c ; .'';'
basedon the irr-divjdqal'steppelament orf,er-s-on4litr.
While recent vears have seen the development of manv learning stvle assessmenl
little research has examined the interaction,lbetlyegq dlfle1gnt learning ' : J
instruments, r,erv-i.t
stvlesand su.c6-ss secondlanguJgeacquiJit'ibn.At present, the onlv learning stvle that has
been extensirelv inr-esli$ut-edftih.i"ld independence/ dependencedistinction.The results
from this research have shou-n that while field indeperrdence_isrelated to some degree to
performance on certain.kj4dlgf tasks,it is not a good predictor of performance on others,
Although theie li'a need-Ior'*considerablr, more research on learning stvles, when
rvhich u'e
a preference for seeing something w'ritten gr for memorizilg qaterfa.f
should be learned in a lessformal wa\i, \\-e should not assume.that their w-avs
of uorking are \\-rong. Instead, tt::\g49:lcourage them to q$-elhrqqXnsavailableto-them
as thel'rvork to learn another language,At a minimum, research on lqhrning stvles should
make us sceptical of claims that a particular teaching method or textbook w'ill suit the needs
of all learners.

Learner beliefs

Second language learners are not alu-al'sconscious of their individual learning str-les,
about I
how tAeir instruction s,houlille delivered.Thesebeliefs are usuallvbat:d_ql pfgfifsqs learning I

--- _- -.;- _
assuinid-o_nG€It or u.rong) that a particul_11,,rp. of instruction is the
,4a-- . t_1T-
df@iqFEsenffthe )!

bEst u'av for them to Iearn.This is inoiher area u-here little rvork has been done. How'ever,
the auuiiableresearih inilicates that learner beliefs can be strong mediating factors in their
experience in the classroom.For example, in a survev of international students learning
e sl in a highlv communicative program at an English-speakinguniversit,v,Carlos Yorio
- ":1 - -
1t9Se; found high ler-elsof dissatisfactionamong the students.The tvpe of communicative
instruction th-evTeieiveJfocused on meaning and spontaneouscommunication
in group-lr.ork interaction. In their responsesto a questlonnaire,the majoritv of students
expressedconcernsabout ser.eralaspectsof their instruction, most notabiiJhe ableqcggf
attention tg lan_g_uagelorm,-co1r_qS11f9{C9d!q._L,Ql_!94gtret cs11_t1ed inqtrq.ction. Althougn
fhis studv did not directlv examine learners' progress in relation to their opinions about the
instruction thev received, severalof them u-ere convinced that their progress u.asnegativel,v
affected bv an instructional approach rvhich r'r'asnot consistent w'ith their beliefs about the
best w-aysfor them to learn.
Learners' preferencesfor learning, u'hether due to their learning st1'leor to their beliefs
about how-languagesare learned, rvill influence the kinds ofstrategies thev choose in order

to learn neu, material.Teachers can use this information to help Iearners expand
strategies and thus develop greater flexibilitv in their \\'av L:
repertoire of learning
approaching languagelcarning'

a cqui s ition-",.
,.-'A g e of
We nou'turn to a learner characteristic of a different type: age.This characteristic is easier
to define and measure than personalitr',aptitude, or motivation. Nevertheless,the rela-
tionship betw.eena learner's age and his or her potential for successin second language
acquisition is the subject of much liveh' debate.
It hasbeen u'idelv observed that children from rry11gg1_1!11_llleseventuallv speakthe
languageof their .r"* .o--trnit) ;th nati'"-lik" flE...:,-ir.,i ilrii. p4...,t, .arely achieve
such high levels of masten' of the spoken language.To be sure, there are caseswhere adult
second languagelearners have distinguished themselvesbv their exceptional performance.
For example, one often seesreference to Joseph Conrad, a native speakerof Polish who
became a major writer in the English language.Many'adult secondlanguagelearners become
capable of communicating ver-v successfullyin the language but, for most, differences of
accent, word choice, or grammatical features distinguish them from native speakers and
from secondlanguagespeakerswho beganlearning the languagewhile they were very young.
r1 One explanation for this difference is thalas in first langu4ggagqui-sltion, $ery,19 a_g11ical
'l tlat there is
pe.iod for secondlanguageacquisition.TheiCriticalPeriod Hrpothesis gtLggests
' r,m*-fmui"*iaeGiopti-"ni *'h.n thebraii-islre@oGdfo-sileeE<inlunguug" learning.
O.:{:tlggt changes in the brain,it is argued_,a{ee!Jh-e-qtqre of language*4-cq-r11s-i1ion.
ilhi-.ho...r., aftertheendof the..iti"ul p.ilod -uy
n."oiding 6-this,01"frlu.rg,rug.l-"*"-r.,g
not be based on the innate biological structures believed to contribute to first language
acquisition or second languageacquisition in earlv childhood. Rather, older-learners depend
orr'-o." general learning"abiities- the ,u..r. o.r., thev might use to l"u.r, oth"r-kin-dsofilllls
orhTo.-"tlon.Itli arguetl-thatthese general learning abilities are not as successfulfor
languagelearning u, th. iroa" spec1fic,in*teapa.iti"s-v'ii"har-" *uir.-Fl. tq th" y"r4;qhfa
Ir-ii most olten Jlalmed that the"crig!fuj.tqdejdbj9ls9ub9lg_e!, -LLt rgmg
researcherssuggestit could be even earlier.
lo .o-p... JhiTdt".r and adults as second languagelearners. In
addition to the possibie biological differences suggestedbv the Critical Period Hypothesis,
the conditions for languagelearning are often verv different.Younger learners in informal
languagelearning environments usuallv havemore time to devote to learning language.They
often have more opportunities to hear and use the language-in where they do
not experiense strong=ple!r,rt"=lo_:p:"k fluentll' an{ frgm
-4-qqq,ratg\' fhe very beginning.
FurthFimor.,1h"";l-mpgftc! effo.ti often praisedor, ut l.url, u...1rt.d. On the
other hand, oldei learner-s-?-re,often-in s-itqqtig$-,ryhich demand-mu-Chm6re complex
languageand theGipression of much mo-r9ggUr-p-!!,c=4-tgd ideas.Adults are often embarrassed
Uy lack of the and thet' may d;velo-p r"ir. oT l.tadEQuacy after
,mast.Ll "f llguag_e " ts
expericnces oTfrustration in trfin-g to sal' exactly rvhaffiey mean.
The Critical Period Hvpothesishasbeen challengedin recent rvearsfrom severaldifferent
points of vierv. Some studies of the second languagedevelopment of older and younger
learners w.ho are learning in similar circumstanceshaveshown that, at leastin the early stages
of secondlanguagedevelopment, older learners are more ef{icient than vounger learners.
In educationalresearch,it has been ."poit.d ihat leaineis" Iearning a second
languageat the primarv school level did not fare better in the long run than those who began
in early adolescence.Furthermore, there are countless anecdotesabout older learners

(adolescentsand adults) rvho have reachedhigh leveisofproficiencv in a secondlanguage.

Does this mean that there is no critical period for secondlanguageacquisition?


Most studiesof the relationship betu'een ageof acquisitionand secondlanguagedevelopment

6tr fc.i;id on learners' phonologicai (pronunciation) achievement. Irrgeneral, these
stridieshate concl-udE-d
that olileileJ"e.silmosfiner.itabh'have a noticeable'foreisn accent'.
dependenton ageof acquisitionasphonologicaldevelopment?Whatabout morphology (for
example, grammatical morphemes n'hich mark such things asr.erb tense or the number and
ggDder=olqof4tlOne studv that attempted to ansu-erthese questions'!vasdone bv Mark
r 1980r.\

Mastervof the spokenlanguage

Mark Patkorvskistudied the effect of age on the acquisition of features of a second language
other than accent. He hvpothesized that, e1eq1i_4g_c.ggt 11qr.qignored, oniv those w'ho had
begun learning their second languagebefore the age of 15 could ever achieve full, native-
liki masten oithut linguage.Pitloii striexamin"d t-fi..pok"n Englilh of"5?l-rig"hlt educated
immigranTsio the UniGd Stut.r.Thev had started to learn fnglish at variouiages, but all
had lived in the United Statesfor more than fir'e vears.The spoken English of 15 native-born
American English speakersfrom a similarlv high level of education served asa sort of baseline
of rvhat the secondlanguagelearners might be tn'ing to attain asthe target language.Inclusion
of the-native speakersalso provided evidence concerning the validity of the research
A lengthv intervierv rvith each ofthe subjectsin the studv rvas tape recorded. Because
Patkou'ski r.vantedto remove the possibilitv that the results w'ould be affected by accent,
he did not ask the ratJis to judge the tape-recorded intervie*'s themseh,es.I.rsteud,he
transcribed five-minute sampies from the interviervs. These samples (from rvhich anv
identifving or rer.ealing information about immigration historv had been removed) were
rated by trained native-speakerjudges. The judges rvere asked to place each speaker on a
rating scalefrom 0, representing no knorvledge ofthe language,to 5, representing a level of
English expected from an educated native speaker.
The main question in Patkon'skiA-reqearchrvas: there be a difference between
l944nersu"ho began to iearn English h_Sl. tt
t!gi{ How-ever, in the light of some of the issuesdiscussed above,he also compared learners
on the basisof other characteristicsand experiencesrvhich some people have suggested
might be as good as age in predicting or explaining a learner's eventual successin mastering
a second language. For example, he looked at the relationship betr,veeneventual mastery
and the total amount of time ajppakqr had_bgq.UL!tr_.-_United Statesas rvell as the amount o
of formal ESL instruction each speakerhad had. 6
The findings r,verequite dramatic.Thirtr'-tuoggo{J3lubjects who had begun learning
Englishbefore the age of 15 scored at the 4* or the 5 level.The homogeneitv of t}e pre- u,/ Ar-^t
pubertv iearners seemedto suggestthat, for this grorrp, trr-&.rr in learning a secondlanguage
was almost inevitable (see Figure 2. 1). On the other hand, there *'as much more variety in
the levels achieved bv the post-pubertv group. The m{o{11 o{ t!e- pOt-tpg_b-grtylearners
centred around the 3 f level, but there rvasa rvide distribution oflevels achieved.Thisvariety
made the performance of thir group look il"."-f,f." tfr" -rl Jp.rf..-u.,.. range one *otli
expect if one u.ere measuring successin learning almost anv kind of skill or knou'ledge.


Q .^ ,,u
9) ,ll|ll



Q .^


levelsof pre- andpost-pubertvlearnersof English

Figure2.1 Bar chartsshou:ingthe language

Patkow'ski's{irst question,'Will there be a difference betrveen learners who began to

Iearn Englishbefore pubertv and those rvho beganlearning Englishlater?', was ansu'eredw'ith
a very resounding When he examined the othg1'faqgptl rvhich might be thought to
affect successin second language acquisition, thelicturerl-as much less clear.There was,
naturally, some relationship betlveen these other factors and learning success.However, it
often turned out that age was so closeiv related to the other factors that it rvas not really
possible to separatethem completelv. For example, length of residence in the United States
sometimes seemed to be a fairlv good predictor. Holvever, r,vhileit was true that a person
*'ho had lived in the countrv for 15 vears might speakbetter than one who had been there
for onlv 10 vears, it rvas often the casethat the one lr-ith longer residence had also arrived
at an earlier age. Horvever, a person rvho had arrived in the United Statesat the age of 18
and had lived there for 20 vears did not score significantlv better than someone w'ho had
arrived at the age of 18 but had onlv iived there for 10 vears.Similarly,amoun! o{iry[9c-ti9$r
when,_se_paratgd prgdict successto the extent that age of immig-ratio_1did
Thus, Patkorvskifound that age of acquisition is a terv important factor in setting limits
on the development of native-like masterv of a secondlanguageand that this limitation does
-,-not apph'onh'to
tt .
accent.Theseresultlqave addedsupport to the Cliqcal Period Hypothesis
second languageacquisition.

Experience and research have shou'n that natir-e-likemasterv of the spoken languageis
difficult to attain bv older learners. Surprisinglr, even the abilitv to distinguish between

qrammatical and ungrammatical sentencesin a secondlanguageappearsto be affectedby the

agefactor, as rve rvill seein the next studl'bv Johnsonand Newport.

l n t u i t i o n so f g r a m m a t i c a l i t l

Jacq\te-EtrqlOliagqryunrd X"*aof .onducted a studv of 45 Chinese and Korean speakers

w:hohad begun to learn English at different ages.All subjectsr,r.erestudents or facultv at an
.\merican universitv and all had been in the United Statesfor at leastthree vears.Thestudv
alsoincluded 23 native speakersof Engiish(Johnsonand Ne."vport 1989).
The participants in the studv rvere given a judgement of grammaticalitv task u.hich
tested 12 rul_gq_qf E1g]ish morphol-gg"tand svntax.Thev heard sentenceson a tape and
had to indicate rvhether or not each sentence\\'as correct. Half of the sentencesrvere
grammatical, half N'ere not.
When thev scored the tests,Johnsonand Neu-portlound that ageof arrival in the United
Stateswas a significant predictor ofluccess o" ih. test. When thei:group"d the Ieainers in
the same\\-ayas Patko..-ski,comparing those u'ho began their intensive exposure to English
between the agesof 3 and 15 rvith those n-ho arrived in the United Statesbetween the ages
of 17 and 39, once again thev found that there w'as_a.strong rylationship bqtwee-nan early
start to lang,uag-e lea-rning and better performance in the.second language..Johnson and
Newport.rot"d ihut-for those u-ho began before ihe uge of 1'5,and especiallvbefore the agc
of 10, there were ferv individual differencesin secondlanguageabilitv.Those rvho beganlater
did not have native-like language abilities and rvere more likeh' to differ greatlv from one
another in ultimate attainment.
This studr', then, further supports the hvpothesis that there is a critical period for
attaining full native-like maEterv of a second language.Nevertheless, there i,ss-o,!ne research
which ltgggstslb?t older learners mav have
--'-- .. at least in ttr" Jffifr"s olseconT
-''1-'7-"''^ -o'
,i L yourgu really better?
ln 1978, QEtherile Sn-or.v and-MarianlloefnageLHohlegublished an article based on a
research project thev had carried out in Holland. Thev had studied the progress of a group
of English speakerswho rvere learning Dutch asa secondlanguage. What madl their research
especialivvaluable r,vasthat the learners thev rvere included children as voung as
three vearsold asrl,ell asolder children, adolescents,and adults.Furtlermore, a large number
of taskswas used, to measure different tvpes of languageuse and languageknowledge.
Pronunciationr'vastested bv having learners pronounce 80 Dutchl,vords twice: the first
time immediately after hearing a native speakersavthe rvord; the secondtime, a fer,vminutes
later, thev w'ere askedto savthe u.ord represented in a picture, lvithout a model to imitate.
Tape recordings of the iearners lvere rated bv a native speakerof Dutch on a six-point scale.
ln an ouditorSdiscrimination test, learners salv pictures of four objects. In each group
of four there $'ere two rvhosenamesformed a minimal pair, that is, alike except for one sound
(an example in Englishrvould b9'shp' and'sheep'). Learnersheard one of the rvords and
were askedto indicate r.'-hichpicture *as namedbv the word thev heard.
Morphologs,was tested using a procedure like the'rvug test', r'vhich required learners
to complete sentencesbv adding the correct grammatical markers to w'ords which
were supplied by the researchers.Again, to take an example from English, Iearners rn'ere
askedto complete sentencessuch as'Here is one bor'.Nolv there are two of them.There are

Ihe sentencerepetition task required learners to repeat 37 sentencesofincreasing
and grammatical comPlexitv'
English to
\o, ,"nrrn1- translation,i"u..t.., u'ere given 60 sentencesto translate from
into the correct
Dutch. A point lvasgir.enfor eachgrammaticai structure rvhich lr-asrendered
Dutch equivalent.
ejudgemenncsfr,learners \vere to judge lvhich of trvo sentenceswas better.
In the sentenc
The same content \\'as exPressedin both sentences,but one sentence l\''asgrammatically
correct r,r'hilethe other containederrors.
ln the peabodyPicturelbcabulary 7Zsr,learners sarvfour pictures and heard one isolated
'"vord spoken bv the tester'
r,vord.Their task rvas to indicate r'vhichpicture matched the
For the storycomprehension task,learnersheard a storv in Dutch and r'verethen askedto
retell the story in Englishor Dutch (accordingto their preference).
Finallv,rh'estorytJlltnrrasftrequired learners to tell a ston'in Dutch, using a set of pictures
thev were given. Rate oi d.liu"- of speech mattered more than the expression of
or formal accurac\'.
The learners rvere divided into severalage groups, but for our discussionwe will divide
them into just three groups: children (aged31o 1O), adolescents( 12 to 15 vears),_and
( 1B to 60 vears).The chilire.r and adoleicents ail attended Dutch schools. Some of the adults
spoke English
,uo.k.d ln Dutch lvork environments, but most of their Dutch colleagues
well. Other adults were Parents u'ho did not u'ork outside their homes and thus
somewhat less contact rvith Dutch than most of the other subjects.
The learners lvere tested three times, at four- to five-month intervals' They u'ere first
tested within six months of their arrival in Holland and rvithin six weeks of their
school or work in a Dutch-lanquaqe environment.


Comparing chjld, adolescent,and adult language leatners

Which group do vou think did best on the {irst test (that is, u'ho learned fastest)?Whichgroup
do -uo,,ihi.rk rvasbest bv the end of the vear?Do vou think some grouPs would do better on
."ri"i., tasksthan others?For example, rvho do vou think would do best on the pronunciation
tasks,and lvho lvould do best on the tasksrequiring more metalinguistic awareness?Compare
vour predictions u,ith the results for the different tasksu'hich are presented inTable 2. 1 . An
indi.u,". that the group was the best on the test at the beginning of the vear (an indication
of the rate of learning), r'Y'indicates the group that did best at the end of the year (an
indication of eventual attainment) '
In the Snorvand Hoefnagel-Hohle studr',the adolescents',verebv far the most successful
learners.They \\'ere aheadoflvervone on all but one of the tests (pronunciation) on the {irst
test session.That is, rvithin the Iirst ferv months the adolescentshad already made the most
progress in learning Dutch. As the table indicates, it rvasthe adults who were better than
and adoleicents on pronunciation in the first test session.Surprisingly, it was also
the adults, not the children , ll'hose scoresn'ere secondbest on the other tests at the first test
session.In other rvords, adolescentsand adults learned faster than children in the first fern'
months of exposure to Dutch.
Bv the of the vear, the children u'ere catchinS rPl o. had surpassed,the adults on
"r,d of
,".ulmeasures.Nerertheless,it rvas the adolescentsw-horetained the highest levels
performance overall.

Table2.1 Comparisonof languagelearningat differentages

child Adolescent Adult

Pronunciation Y
Auditory discrimination XY
Morphologv XY
Sentence repetition XY
Sentence translation XY
Sentence judgement XY
Peabody picture vocabularv test XY
Storv comprehension Y X
Storvtelling T X

* These tests are too difficult for child learners

no critical Deriod for lan
l-Hohle concl heir results orovide evidence that there is
can De lnterDreted ln some i)
other rvavsas well:

1 Some of the tasks (for example, sentencejudgement or translation) u'ere too hard for
young learners. Even in their native language,these tasks u-ould have been unfamiliar and
difficult. In fact, young Dutch native speakersto u.hom the second languagelearners rvere
compared also had trouble rvith these tasks.

2 Aclubr and-adolgsggr,tsruaulearn-farterin the e:q\'stges qf second lang9ag9-der.etop-"nf

(especiallv if thev are learning a language r'r'hichis similar to their first languageLlgllg I
children eveqtuallv catch-u,p 1n4_etqg surpass-lhsm,rf their exp-q-s-ufg to_theJa4girgg" 1*"t
pft th")'ir" ,t..o,r.,dedbv the-]grtguage a"lry'U"sii
" 14r-.-nte$1^,][gf" "" " \
3 Adults and adolesc-entscan make considerable and rapid progress tow'ards mastery of a I
se"ond 1i-.r$ia!e 1n contexts rvhere thev can make use of the language on a dailv basis in
social, p".iggl-plgfessional, or academicinteraction.

At what age should secondlanguage instruction begin?':

Even people r,vhoknou'nothing about the critical period researchare certain that, in school
programs for second or foreign languageteaching, is better'. Horvever, both
experience and researchshorv that older learners can attain high, ifnot'native', levels of
proficiency in their secondlanguage.Furthermore, it is essentialto think carefully'about the
goals of an instructional program and the context in r'vhich it occurs before we jump to
conclusions about the necessitv- or even the desirabilitv - ofthe earliest possible start.
The role of the critical period in second languageacquisition is still much debated.
For ever-v researcher vrho holds that there are maturational constraints on language
acquisition, there is another rvho considers that the 1ge factor cannot be sepal?ted from
factors such as motivation, social identitr', and the conditions for learning, T!*e:y argug -
that oldei lear'riers mav r'r,'ellipeak u'ith an accenl'" th"t' want to continue being
identified u'ith their first language cultural group, and adu!!qlel9!I€S!qgeTs 11tLe_sylme
quantity and qualitt' of languageinput that children receir.-ein_plavsettings.
Manv people conclude on the basis oisrudi-s such as those br'Pl4o*tki or Neu'port
and Johnsonthat it is better to begin secondlan;uag.-in.truction a/earlv as possible.Yetit
--:-:-- :-:.\: : ::^tst studies.Thet'deal u'ith the highest
is ven'important tc,L.earlr' nr:. 1
. , - - . . : : - = - . ' . . , a r . r h i c h 4 s e c o n { l a n g u a g e s p e a k e ri s
p o s s i b l el e r e l o i s . . , - , n c, . t : ^ _ . - : . 1. <
i n d i s t i n g u i s h a b ll.r . ' n r . . . . =-.: b..: .-:-. ':r.r .rnlti, e-likemaiten' of the second
language - ' _ "a- :g,--,alt",r al, ... "r,: ,r:-.3:.-
' * " s " _ * sis' "not ':.:r:;l. "- in-il'fcan
-''fr'h"n the oF;ectiveof =econd lanluagrT-.arnin;i. nati\e-likemastervof the target
language,it is usualll desirableior th. lcarncr Io L,ccumpletelv surroundedbv the language
asearly aspossible.Hos'ever.earh rntensi\ r c\posurc to the secondlanguagemay entail the
Iossor incomplete development oi the child's nrst lanquaqe.
When the goal is basic communicative abilitv tor all studentsin a school setting, and
w-henit is assumedthatlhe child's nati\e languaqcu'lll remain the primarv language,it
may be more efficient to begin second or,ioretgnlanguageteaching later. When learners
receive only a few hours of instruction per l'eek, learners u'ho start later (for example, at
age 10, 1 1 , or 12) often catch up w'ith those u'ho began earlier.We have often seen second
or foreign languageprograms which begin u'ith ver\-\'oung iearners but offer onlv minimal
contact r,vith the language. Even rvhen students do make progress in these early-start
programs, thev sometimeslind themselvesplacedin secondarvschool classeswith students
rvho have had no previous instruction. After vears ofclasses, learners feel frustrated by the
lack of progress, and their motivation to continue mav be diminished. School programs
should be basedon realistic estimatesof how long it takesto learn a secondlanguage.One or
f; t*o hours a rveek will not produce verv advancedsecoqd languageqpeakers,no maiter how
I I L_.

\ young tlierir'lnere u:hen thev began.

Summary )

The learner's ageis one of the characteristicswhich determine the w-ayin which an individual
approachessecond language learning. But the opportunities for learninS (both inside and
outside the classroom), the motivation to learn, and individual differences in aptitude for
Ianguagelearning are alsoimportant determining factors in both rate of learning and eventual
successin learning.
In this chapter, rve have looked at the rvavsin which intelligence, aptitude, personality
l, and motivational characteristics,learngr preferences, and age have been found to influence
second ianguage _!93141,tg,%have leained that the stud)- .!l!!itt1"al learner variables is
t, , \,
I+. not eniire\:i^iirf".tofrThis is partlybecause
, not easvandthe$herelri&cc{t:qlearc}rare
, of lhe*Jackof clear definitions and methods for the individuai characteristics.It is also due
! ,to the fact thafLhggg-learner-gharacteristicsare,no,t-independentof one another: learner -
i So far, researchersknou'very little about the nature of
,-- rariables interact in complex \\-at's-.
/ i.rt"r".Tio.rr.Th,rr, it remains difficult to make precise predictions about how
A . th-ese compG*
a particular individual's characteristics influence his or her successas a languagelearner.
l :y"
i' \ii Nonetheless,in a classroom,a sensitiveteacher,u'ho takeslearners'indiv_idual personalities ,
and learning stvles iirto account, can create a learning environment in *'hich virtually all
learners can be successftilin lbarning a s-econdlanguage.

t2_ ,


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Snow,C. andHoefnagel-Hohle, M. (1978)'Thecriticalperiodfor languageacquisition:evidence
from secondlanguagelearning',ChildDevelopment 49 / 4: 1 11+-28.
Wesche, M . B . ( 1 9 8 1 ) ' L a n g u a g ea p t i t u d e m e a s u r e i
s n streamingm , a t c h i n gs t u d e n t sw i t h
methods,and diagnosisof learningproblems', in Diller, K. (ed.) lndividualD{fercnces and
(Jniversals in Language Learning Aptitude.Roulev, N{ass. : NewburYHouse.pp. 1 19-39.
Yorio, C. (1986)'Consumerism in secondlanguagelearningand teaching',CanadianModern
Language Review 42 / 3: 668 81 .
Chapter 3





lists and expiicit srammar rules. The audiolinquist one

dreu' on behaviourist

Starting from the 1960s, two approachesto addressingthis lacuna have been evident.
The {irst, a continuation of the approach adopted in earlier research, consistsof attempts to
i n v e s t i q a t et h e r e l a t i v ee f f e c t i v e n e sosf d i f f e r e n t u a v s o f t e a c h i n gl a n g u a g ei n t e r m s o f t h e
products of lea.rniqg.Experimental studiesbv SchererandWertheimer (1964) and Smith
(1970), for exarygle_,_lemp4rgdlhe_,1_.gf1q13s.o"tcomes of the grammar-translationand
a u d i o l i n g u a -"doar.
l e t h o d s .ffl"
m T h e r*ft., h o v r e r e r ). r*t.
r e s u l t s .d'ay:"rr e r e i";"".f,*ii".
i n c o n c l u s i r eThe
T. h e studierlfliTE*.,,o
'---.=-7 -]---:-- \.
demonstrate the superioritv of one mettr6d over the other
lh-e second appro_achinvolved the empirical stud)' of hou' learner: acquired an_L2.In
f i r s t p l a c e ot h i s t o o k t h e f o r m o f s t u d i e suor f lr Lea ra rr rnt r e rJ s w' JJ . r r s r s\1L .eX .. g UD
J \ vs k o v a\1/ 9
v@ \ ) /6
, , 9 ;4
ar tnu d LcOaJ Cs e
t I
s t u d i e so J i n d i v i d u a ll e a r n e r sl e a r n i n ga s e c o n d l a n g u a g n e o t i n t h e c l a s s r o o mb u t t h r o - u s h
expii'iii6lo-Tt-ft n-aturalsettings1e.g.Karqm 1968).Thesestudiesi"uglfed&I-! ol!.rgggh

Wto which teaqherscould easilvrelate it onlv becausethe constructs on'which thevraie-rclased

- errors and individual learners- \\,ereonesw.ith r,r,hichthev r,verefamiliat.Also, these
sludies proved lq-gls fey@g than the global method comparisons,ploviding clear

evidence that L2 learners, like children acquiring their lirst language(L1), accumulated
Thus,{lrereas global method studiessoon fell out of fashion,istudies of L2 learningtook
Much of this earlv rvork in SLA u'as pedagogicallvmotivated.That is, researchers
c o n d u c t e ds t u d i e so f L 2 l e a. r n i ni . gn i t h t h e e r p| r e_s si n t e n t i o n o f a d d r e s s i n g
_ ..-......_-_-,---!__b__....-:_:>

\ianv of these researchers*'ere, in fact, originallr'teachersthemselves.2Thepapers they

r r. t I
rvrote and published about their researchtvpicall)' concluded u'ith a secjion in w'hi"h th"
applic4iopaldimpligggqns for ianguagepedagogr-u'erespeiled out.The studies of learner
t rrors,?or herl' attitudeio erro.i, r.[x
"*u-p - - rrr i l:i i ..
t - r F O f S h o u l db e c o r r e c t e da n d n o \ l - l e a r n e p
r r o g r e s s
c o u l o D ee v a l u a t e oI. n e C a s eS t u d l e so f
i",lit; chers should desist
from trying to directlv in the processof L2 acquisition and, instead, develop
approachesthat rvould aliorv learners to learn'naturallr'' (Ne*'mark 1955 and Dulav and Burt
SLA has grown exponentiall'n'since its beginning in the 1960s. One of the outcomes of
its growth
ItS dt\ersrncatron ls tnat
and dirersiAcation
u.,-d ihat mucn oI tne researcn ls no longer olrecflv concerne( V-

@. According to a theorv advancedbl' Chomsk

Iearn their mother tongue because
r task rs to est orv the abstract principles that
tonstitute ttusln6wlilige are minifest in the particular grammar thev are learning. One of
the main goals of UG based SLA is to investigatervhether and hou' these principles operate
inf) .
l6"oryJfuFTh* to th. pru.ti..l p.obl r_.
Other sub-fields of SL-{ hlre continued the tradition of strong links with language
pedagogv.Tivoin particular stand out.The flrst is the studv ofthe role ofinput and interaction
iql-iucquisitio.t ie.g. Lone 198r .',d P
rr tunitieQ-hian l
and usfE-e L2. The-theorieslnd findings 'ihi. to
ciJssr-oo-mieieirch, as,for example, in studiesu'hich haveinvestigatedthe kinds of input and
interaction afforded b;'different l'pes_ollanguage ta_sks(see Crookes and Gass 1993) and
b-vdifferent modes of .lurrro* pnEiclpition (eg Pica and Doughtv 1985).The second*2
sub held ot SLA u'ith clear links to lanquagepedaqoq! rs the studv ot tglrn:lesu:ed]nstlyj- I
tion. SLA researchershave investigated l.hether teaching learners particular grammatical ]
ffi.,,r.", actuallv results in theirieing learnt (e.g. Spad"aand Lighibou,n 199"3)and, also, I
what metlodological options for teaching grammatical structures are most effective (e.g. \
VanPattenand Cadierno 1993). )
Hou'ever, irrespective of *'hether SLA addressesissuesof likelv t"i".gttglolg4gbSlt,
there is the problem o-TT-dp-Eet$e€nSLA- - - = . - ; i and langua
not so much a ouestlon ol \\'hat lssues )L.\ addresseE.

k n o w l 1 d g 9 . t h , i s r e f l e c i e di n t h e f a c t t h a t S L . \ i s . b r a n d l u . g e .G e p i e s e r v eo f u n i r e r s i t l -
basedresearchers,rvhoseprimarv allegianceis to the conduct of n-ell-designedstudiesand
theorv development in their lield.This is astrue of t}ose researchersrvho are concerned'r'vith
areasof potential relevance to languagepedagogr'(e.g. igpgLlntglagllgn qn-dt\"_11g._-,'.hf
form-focusgd instructiolr) as it is of researcherslvho see SLA as a means of contributing to
other disciplines such as linguistics or cognitive psvchologv.In contrast, Ianguagepedag,ogy
is concerned with plggqg?i.lqqftlqlge. Textbook u.riters drarv on their experience of the
kinds of activities that rvork in classrooms and, of course, on their familiaritv t'ith other
published materials. Teachersdrau' on their hands-on knou'ledge to perform the myriad of
tasks that comprise teaching.
Given that a gap exists betrveen SLA and languagepedagogv and assumingthat SLA is,
at least, of some potential relevance,the question arisesas to horv the gap can be bridged.

Mv perspectiveis that of the.outsider;iqid".i fo. ._of


Technical and practical knowledge

V t,
it exists in a declarative form that has been ecrU thesereasonsi ilxamined
u@ t l l l . l

l . # , .

deeplyaboutthe objectof g"q"iry o. b)'i"u. nglt empiifcilli:The latter i"g]y:-$e

G-t of orocedures desi to ensure the validitv and reliabilitv of the
r. i-----^^--:---llE?lft--.t-^^.^-t:^-r
ments that earl DcaDDlled to manv oartlcular cases.f or lnrs reason. lt cannot easrlv De aDDlg,o
neededto dealu'ith pry!]"-r ur tg.L rg9y.
I ln cla\'-to-cla)tr\.'tg.
o'er the vears,SQlHerspro'ided a substantiai
people learn a second language.This is reflected in the evFg?oTinfset of tec6nJcalterms
usedlo laliel this knowledge: overgeneralizationand transfer errors, order and sequenceof
acquisition,foreigner talk, input and intake, noticing, learning and communication strategies,
the teachability hypothesis (seethgglgssarv in Ellis I 994 t.This technical knowled€e and the
terms bel it constitute the's( irefullv suardedb,r'practitioners oI SLA.
In contrast.oracticallnorr 'ledge is,.implicit and intuitive.IMe are generally ng! awale of
what u'e o.u.ti.r**horr-. For e x a m o l e .I k n o u h o u t o t i e m v s h o e l a c e sb u t I h a v el i t t l e
u*ffin.". aT-oillF$Gn6ce of actions I must perform to do this and could certainly not
describe them verv w'ell. In colllqst t-ateeh[ica] knou-ie-dge,pqgf*icalknon led]gbgcquired
al experiehg: in the context of performing actionsEE;-n:;f
iI are only Poorlv unders i?nilarl\apractical knolrledgeis Fulh e ible only in
PI a

q!-anagqof practical knowledge is that it is groceduralized and t}us can be drawn on rapidly

and eihcrentlv to handle partlcular cases.

PractisinqoroGsslonalsr lalr vers. doctors. and teacherst are orimarilv concerned with
how medical practitioners operate :

1 One w-hosework requires practical application to concrete casessimply cannot

f maintain the same flrame of mind as the scholar or scientist: he cannot suspendaction
i ln th" absenceof incontrovertible evidence or be skeptical of himseif, his experience,
: his work and its fruit. In emergencies he cannot rvait for discoveries of the future.
\ Dealing rvith individoul ..r"r,-h" cannot relv solely on probabilities or on general
, concepts or principles: he must also relv on his ou'n senses.By the nature of his work
j the clinician must assumeresponsibilitr' for practical action, and in so doing he must
rely on his concrete, clinical experience.

Teachers,facedu'ith the need to make countlessdecisionsto accomplisha lesson,must also


necessarilvrelv primarilv on the practical knou.ledge thev have acquired through teaching
or, perhaps, through their experiences of having been taught. Ho-uvever, it may b_eposs-i-bJe
for other practitioners of languagepedlgog,v(e.g.svllabusdesigners,test constructors,and
mareilalsn riters t to attempt some integrationof tec.hnicaland practicalkrlqgledge, astheir
actir itjes are more amenable_ to ca.relulplanning and de]ibelglsllecrqlsn:n0aking.
The crucial issue is the nature of the relationship betu'een technical and practical
knowledge.To rvhat extent and in r,vhatwavs can the technical knolvledge derived from deep
reflection and research influence actual practice? Holv can technical know-ledgebe utilized
in the creation of the kind of practical knou.ledge u'ith u-hich teachersmust necessarilv
u'ork? Weiss ( 1977) provides a \\.avof addressingthese questions.He describesthree models
ofresearch use.

modelAccordingto this model,tesea.chis aimedat i

--- or a reviqgs
of L2 acqrtisition
- ---------;- the.startingpointfol research
is not a theor,y*
oieiE]lresearch but rather somepracticalissueof direct concernto teachers.There is a
con C DOCI\ appearsto ht rnto th-ismodel. Horveler, for this
researchto be trulv decision-drivenit needsto be formulatedin a mannqrthat leachcrr--wjlL
C;aily understani.This is often not their articles
for publl-ati6fr'Tn journals and books that rvili be read bv other researchers even if they
addressissuesofdirect concern to teachers.In fact. then, much ofthe SLA researchthat
apparentlvbelongsto the decision-driven model is more trulv representativeofWeiss' second
model the know'ledge-drivenmodel.

. Knowledge driven model Knorv chi -to contribute to a specific

cnSdiDIInE.lts prlmar
y I is to advancethe knou'led baseof the disciolinebrt6i-struct
'- . r.--:---i
and testtnge4Phctt th o g i . A s * e h a ' e s e e n ,o n e
wav of characterizing the development of SLA as a field of study is in terms of a gradual
movement torvardsknow'ledge-drivenresearch.Much of the earlier researct-r rval descriptive
in nature (e.g. the studies of l"u..r.. errors and t6? cile;t,rd*, .f- *d"nd""l 1."rn1;t,
motivated quite explicitlv bv a desire to inform pedagogv and published in a form that was
relativelv accessibleto teachers.Later research,although certainlv not all, hasbeen designed
to test specific SLA theories, has been incr_eg1ngry_gr(lerimentalrnnaru-e;nfrhafbe-en-
written ;bout \\.ith;il; rese;r.h.rr * tlr. i"t""a.a audience. Researchersmav feel theii
r t often see little need to consider its
applications directlr'.

lnteractjvemodel Here tec-hnr:gllne\\ ledge and practical knon'ledge are inte_r-L+tgd in the
perfor-unce of some proft . The ',vav in which this is achieved is highly
complex. Weiss(1977 : 87-8) comments:

the process is not of linear order from research to decision but a disorderly r"l---l
of i.rt"..orr.rections and back-and-forthnessthat defies neat diagrams.All kinds of
people involved in an issue area pool their talents, beliefs, and understandings in a n r
effort to make senseof a problem.

Not surprisinglv,then, the interactive model is problematic. As Eraut (1994) points out
there_4re.variousfactors that constrain the professional's ability_llqnlqke_u;e_ofthe knorvledge
qgetr$blo"gh. g. Fervresourcesare available
for effectingin interaction. Funding for research, for example, is tvpicallv au'arded to

universit_v-basedresearchers concerned u'ith knou'ledge-creation rather than to teams oi

researchersand teachers concerned rvith solving practical teaching problems through a
pooling of expertise.Teachers rarelv havethe time to familiarizethemselvesrvith publishec
research. Also, the verv nature of technical and practical knorvledge makes it difficult tc
inter-relate.Considerableeffort and probablv prolonged interactionare neededto combin.
the analvtical skills of the researcher u'ith the holistic and highlv contextualized skills of the
Similar problems exist regarding the utilization of practical knowledge in the creation ot
technicalknou'ledge.P.1gl$]-\Irow is Iarselr tacit and difficult to codify.Conse
quently, its rel i l v a s s e s s eGd i.r e nt h e r e q
u i r e m e nt h
t at
technical knou.ledge is demog.strabll'reliabie and valid, researchers generall@,refer-
knor,t'ledgeSHou'eler,\ Eraut ((1994)
ence to practical knox-iedqeSHou.ever,-4s 1994) notes, researchers'own o\\'n practical
- - - 1

Fiperiences mar ot'Lenlnlluencetherr \\'ork rn subtleand unstatedil-vs.To a certain extent

ihen. the interactionmodel mar woil-ili6lltilK
ow'ledge helps us to understand whr
SLA, as it has evolved since its inception, cannot automaticalh'be assumedto be of use
in Ianguagepedagogv and, particularlv, to classroom teachers.The gap between SLA and
language pedagogv is a product of both the tvpes of knon'ledge these trvo fields tvpicallv
emplov and the lack of opportunitr- to bridge the gap.

The SLA researchers' perspective

The nature of the relationship betw'een SLA and language pedagogv has attracted the
attention ofa number ofresearchers over the vears.A useful starting point in our exploration
ofhow SLA might inform pedagogv is to take a look at rvhat these SLA researchershavehad
to sav.
The application of SLA can take place in tw-o rather different r,r.ays. As Corder (1977)
has pointed out, the starting point can be the researchitself w.ith the applied linguist cast in
the role ofinnovator or initiator, advancingpedagogicalproposalson the basisofhis/her
knor,r.ledgeof SLA. This corresponds to Weiss'sknon'ledge driven model of research use.
Alternatively, the starting point can be unsolved practical problems in languagepedagogy,
in rvhich case the SLA researcher takes on the role of a consultant n'ho is approached b-v
practitioners for possiblesolutions.This correspondsto Weiss'sdecision-drivenmodel of
research use.We find both tvpes of application discussedin the literature but it is probabl,v
the first that is paramount, reflecting, perhaps,the dominance of the researcher'sperspective
over that ofthe teacher's.
In general, SLA researchers a strong interest in pedagogyhavebeen cautious about
applying SLA. Earlv articles bvThrone et a|. (1976) and Hatch (1978) emphasizedthe need
to be careful. Hatch lamented that researchers have often been over-ready to make
applicationsto pedagogv,pointing out'. . our field must be knorvn for the incredible leaps
of logic w.e make in applving our researchfindings to classroom teaching'.Tarone et al.
(1976) advanceda number of reasonsu'hv SLA could not serve as an adequatebasisfor
advisingteachers.Among other points, thei' argued that the researchto date was too limited
in scope, that the methodologl'for collecting and anal-vsingdata was unproven and that too
few studies had been replicated.Thev also noted that the practices ofresearch and teaching
were verv different in nature. Whereas researchers adoplg-d-aslow, bit-by-bit app1q4ch,
teachershad immediate needsto ,rt
difference in terms of the distinction betu'een technical and practical kno'ivledge.

The concernsvoiced bvTarone et aL.(1976) and Hatch (1978) are verv real ones.They
reflect the understandable reticence of researchersto plunge in before thev are certain of
their results.This uncertaintl'about the quality of the researchbein ced mav havebeen
one of the reasons r.vh"-
some researcherss adding sectionson the applications of their
..r""..fio-tf,Eil-published aiti.lof m.etrorp".t, horr;er;ei,
I amnot sosurethatresearchers
need to be so cauuous.As Corder ( 1980) noted, teacherscannot '"vaituntil researchersare
r - ! . \ . - .

completelysatisfiedthat their resultsare robust u"Tg.""-=lilBl.. Sh;ila t...h"iliotE"

:;ii:!:r|" -
per-itted to basetheir pedagogicalde<rs-ffiiG ontnemft inlormation arailableeven if this
is still inadequatein the el'es of researchers?More importanth', the applv-w.ith-caution
approach makes certain assumptions about the relationship betlveen research,/theorv and
practice which are themselveschallengeable.It appearsto vieu-the practitioner asa consumer
of rqe_gg.h.FryT r"gb u .t3llTj.99rse, it is essentialto make sure tbal the product being
marketed is a sound o,r". BG * i* itill ,.. ffi-elffi;;tEerpos,ltutt ]t;"*';Tti. relations1rifi-
| +--'--l-r---
ano practicesis not acceptableto manv educators and mav not serve asthe
rifiTTTppropr i atg modgjg itlgusling L,9I_!! 4 S"" aid teachilLg
t. t-heinstrumentalview of SLA im!"hcit in the earlyarticlesbv
Throneetal. (1976) andHatch(1978).One is that SLAshouldnot somuchbe usedto tell
practitioners u'hat to do, as to mform their under
so tnat will knorv better rvhat it is possibleto achievein a ciassroom.This is the position
adopteil b1-Lightbown i1t85;. Shearguesdut SlA htrsnorthingt{"ll teachersabout w'hat
to reacn Dur serves as fguide about hou' to teach. Lightbolvn recognizes that teachers lvill
l l

w.hich do not but she sussests amrharttr \\'lth the results 11ea1chrvill help
teacher im ate r.,ptheii..rinFFoili ghtbor,r'n,tIS ies not in identiflinq
lnnovattve tecnn or ne\\' teacrunqaDDroacnes Dut rat ins expectanc-iElendin
Iending support to particular a ches, su-chas tanguage From
( t b t d . : 1 8 2 c) o m m e n t s :

Second-language acquisitionresearchdoesnot teli teacherswhat to teach, and lvhat it

saysabout howto teach thev have alreadr' figured out.

If this is all SLA can do for teachers, one might rvell ask w'hether it is w-orth their rvhi le
making the effort to become familiar rvith it.
Not all researchers/theorists have felt the need to plav dor.vnthe contribution that SLA
can make to languagepedagogr'.Sorne have looked for navs of bridging the gap between
researchand classroompractice. One u'ar'|s to construct a theon'of L2 acquisitionthat is
compatible n'ith the ar ailable researth-Efr-n hiiilIio-C tuned]oThej-neeAsoftr-actreiiTh-it-
ls w the ..s"u..hG"lT *tut
should be used to addresspedagogical issudsbut rather the tteorr-ilerirgqd-lrenlTEeresdtrch.
LeS4 tt-ltK3qJ! d I l,tl l3llgd t for-!a-.lh odoJogy i n, gener aI'
(Krashen1983:261)andthus " "€
basisfor evaluatingnervpedagogicalideas.@he131g"b that the theptlnquglbsglheo5
o f L l a c s l l l s l t l q n a s o p p o s e d t o a l r n g u r s t r ct h e o r ! o r a t h e o r v o l g e n e r a l l e a r n l n g . l n o e e o ,
he claims thatGacher\have grolvn suspiciousqf
es to solve dTlle
becau he failure of linsuistic
believesthat SLA theory, because
lf:f9q51Fl"-ance Krashen
rather than on armchair speculation.
5 0 R O D:

- \ l u c h r i l i : : . : - . : ' . . : - r - r . n e d u . o r k h a s b e e n c o n c e r n e du ' i t h t h e a p p l i c a t i o n so f h i s
o*-n forcetuli., pr,-,n-,,,rejiheort ti.e. the Monitor Model and, more recentl,v,the Input
Hr-pothesisr. asin KrashenandTerrell ( 1983). It should be noted, horvever,that contrary to
some cntrcrsn'rsle.e ll.-d at him (seeWiddorvson 1990: 34) Kr{'hgLIg! ng"t5:ougbl t9
preclude teachers erploring pra_gmatic optionsterived from ideT 9]rtrid" httjleoretical
trame\,vo rvork.aSE (rashe}l{g}lg! js{rlis -
theorr. A I s o ., he
t h e o r \ ' . Also, h ee eelplicitlv
n xxD
plllicct iut-vl- rir:.e-r-ceocgonqr znei sztten- sa t ht eaatct e
n earcsh\ \e' l rl lsa@
n ossannoduiln
q tDuriltni o
gnl csl e a sa n o l n t u l u o n s
T:og"i15 €
basedon their owi-practiFalTiperrglgllo dffi" -al""g. As Krashenr l98 l: 261I says

There tions of theon-based as opposed to research-base_d applica-

d on it cannot be
dismissedTipointing out the limitations of specific research studies.A theory is general in
nafuie and, thus, ullggpolgls derjl'g-dfrom it are potentially yalid iq a hing
gqntlxls. In contrasqiqdifl_dual researihsPd necessaril)'loSglgd qip::fc contexts,
makinq it difficult-- to advance salsof g.n.4uFF1i.f,5i.]Iv. Also,"rul: basedon a
tlggy-ar" Ii\g!_94orscss a -ca-heryrlgq
bckqg rn 1le_geceTreal
applicationof inqgd3al
studies. One of the attractions
studies. attractions of Krashen's
Krashen's theorv theorv is thatt it off"r, tei?EEilTn6ueraiihins
oiters teacherran overarching
r.ien'of u'hat and how-tqieach.
Hou'ever, there are obvious dangersoftheorv-based applications.As Beretta ( 199 1) and
L o ncpI r l 9 9 l r h a r e o o i n t e do u t . S L A t h e o r i e sd o n o t t e n d t o e o a \ \ ' a \ 'e. v e n n h e n t h e v a r e i n
opposition to each other In a thoughtful discussion of u'h)' this is so, Schumann
l (1993) points out that it is extremelv dif6cult to falsify a theorr'. One reason is that whefe.*as
U hvoothesesare tvpicallv testedin isolationthev exist in'a netlvork of auxiliarv assumptions'
(ibid.:259) with the result that even if a particular hvpothesisis not supported ilclnnot be
iismissed b"."r.r..i-t-L-irnp m lies. Thus. theorists
usually eip-eii eni e lliil- affi Affi ,r*.t*t * *i.* counte;;;aG; s:
- " "
I they simplv adjustan underlvingassumptionor reconceivethe constructon which the
---==-- ------T---
ffiothesis is based. Krash?n has pror-en adept a@ despite
concerted criticism from prominent researchersand applied linguists. But if theories cannot
be falsifiedand, therefore, are able to survir.emore or iessindefinitelv hoq then, can teachers
evaluatethe legitimacv of proposalsbasedon them? In the caseof Krashen, for example, how
can teachers evaluate his principal propo_s_al, namelv that teachers-should_!e primarily
concerned u'ith providingl plentiful comprehensibleinpub so that acquisition (i.e.
-|*.*_ - r r | -r--i- ------T-l---------==;-i
languagelearnlng)can taKe+Bq3j ln snort. aDDllcatlons Dasedon an )LA tneorv
are riskt- -becausether haveto be taken on taith.Thismight not mJtteisb-hucfiTThe-orvwerc
d used to advancesuggestionsfor teachers to test out in their own practice but, more often
than not. theorr'-derir-edapplicationsare vestedu-ith an authoritv that r.r'orksaqainstsuch
p{ugggi. experimentation. For example, Krashen's claim that learningliG. the conscious
study of linguistic forms) has a relativelv minor role to piav in L2 acquisition w'orks against
teachers'investigating, in the context of their olvn teachin$, how'form-focused instruction
can complement and perhapsenhanceacquisition.
There isjr more serious o-b+ettp4-to Krashen's p]_qlgsalt ojrld guide
lanquage pedagogr'- one that has alreadY h""''-hinted at in the discussionof technical
know4edgeand practicalknor'vledgeS+-es9!gd, such as Krashen's,are tvpically the
of t]le contemplativeapproachto enquirvthat characterizes
much modernscierr-
tific thinkirrg(seeLantolf 1995).S".h ,h"orl.r hut. b.
'technical lpglutf"g
and svstematicall-v testinqhvpotheses
basedon them.The resultis knou'ledge'.
Ho*"u.t, s not readily
accessiblet.@1o-duy*o.k, t<ilGffi;a.". asgoodajob
-_.--'_.'-. "l$oiF

as any to make it so. For a theory-Lo-bfe! rlgximum use to teachers it has to take t}e form 7
' y a theorv of action.Thi, i, poinithut ro'lllGiiE;upl"te. rn this chapter. t
- o t h e r u a v o t b r i d g i n g t h e g a p "b e t u e e n S L . \ a n d l a n g u a g e p e d a g o g v i s t h r o u g h u h a t
,\ - - f f i*J
i,h, lru'(
loh" J;h;i.; &u*'Jui'"nulog'blt*-e"n 't*
', *
9ngin."llrl;;d lgslring.Heargues r*
tnut n..EiiFifi""ring hassuccesslullv
itsou'n .'o
problem spaceasindependent from that of supporting disciplines, such asphvsics,language t <<,Jr.e,'o-t,
teaching has not I'et done r". ge ),*u-1 ,-t .i-J..,
developed through experimentation in the classroom itself. Johnston distinguish{s pure L
- : : - ./
r e s e a r c h( r . e . t h e r e s e a r c hc a r r i e d o u t b v S L A r e s e a r c h e r s d : c ha s h i m s e l f ; u n - d . l u r . . o o -
research.He recognizesthat prr." ..r.ur.h can onlv provide guidelines and suggestiorrr, .' ; -
r'vhichhar,eto be put to the test. For Johnston, then, the gap betr.veenSLA and language F- LzU-<-
'1 e
pedagogvneedsto be fiiled bv conducting experimental studiesin actualclassrooms.He is ; ,.
optimistic that such researchw'ill ensure that'the languageteaching of 10 to 15 vears hence y,o--.*tc"r
rvill be rather different from the hit and miss methods of todav' (ibid. : 3 8). C; b t',J-4f,
There is gio$cai objection 1p Johnston's position. If ${1n_d of classroom research
+ t& .
Johnston has iti-iid-iiiontrolled exp..i-."tution (rvhJe tfrereatiiieiafthe classroijin 6aue )^-r*^rl
o bbe t o ccontrol
m a n i p u l a t e d1o
e manipulated o n t l o l tor u n . t a n t e d -variables
f o r unrvanted t a r i i b l e s that
t h a t mav
m a r intluence
i n f - l u e n c ethe
the e ffiectd-,0* p
"I ;, ' [*
a given treatment), there mav not, in fact, be anv difference betrve:1jg11g15!clgggot" "'1
,.i"q..h. In this..rp Jcb
"d |t
[r"ur.h on classroog*i.?irunt-To derelop th" t..hiologr of t"u.hinftn-ili"n.rton
-u,FguEr ,"-,-, ;"*
n a t l S required.
e c e s s a r rvt l s t n e l a t t e t tth;ns r e q u l r e d .lbr assr\:right
lora t D I d . 'l.v l ) a r q u e s 'un
w r l g n t (tina.TgZi an_ _
lJ, ' ",*-*
.. *l.a-'
ng oT-theL2 clasM-mg-trt-Eest proceed . . , lrom its inr estigationa$a culture
. : -........-.-.......-
ln lts o\\ n rlqnt . no\\'ever, ed experimentation mav not be the best u'ar --
1 ) __rl ^ r'u r€
reseaich on Classrooms. V ..-l | /- lt" J \/'
The casefor basing pedagogical decisionson L2 classroor4-r"r#.iluS.SiFur-r..a
by a number of other researchersand languageeducatorl:larris$983: 238), for example, :'- li'r:

ha*stvpically ods
in Masters prograffiei*TeSOl in the United Statesand Canada.Onlr' l8ozoincluded
reference to classroom-centredresearch (CCR). Long(ibid.: 284) suggeststhat this may
reflect the practical orlentatlon
e Dractlcal orientation oI methods cours
of metnoos courses butt he argues that classroom-centred
'eminentlv 'concerned
research is practical' becauseit is lvith u.hat actualh' qoes on in the
classrooms,ur opposed-toovhatissupposedto go o"@olcou.qelf
t h e r e s e a r c h e r a c c e D t st h e r e a l r t l e so l c l a s s r o o m b e h a v l o u r a n d m a k e s n o a t t e m p t t o m a n r p u -
lut. lt foi."r"-.;;hTr4llr.r d research
shouldbe included in methods courses:it hasalreadvproduced some practicalinformation;
teachers can use the research toois that har.ebeen emploved to investigate their own
classrooms;classroom-centredresearchu'ill help teachersbecome sceptical -*i
about relying
-^ Ar"
o n s i n g l e i e a c h - i r gm e t h o d s . I n a s u b i e q u e n t p a p e r . - t o n g ( 1 9 9 0 ) a r g u e st h e n e e d f o r a
-"--_-....t---41.. -
/ I Ir lr. | | , l- | . | -l
common Dooy or r<nolr,'ledfue wliich can be transmitted to teachers in rnuch the same way as
u c; t" A;.t"".J6t"gg.rtr itrui
althougfL2 classroom research is Imited in arumber of respectsit constitutes'agrou-irg
hard evidencen'hich is bettFi tEanThe preludicesand suppositions u.hich he believes
characterizemost pedagogicaldecision-making. Like Johnston,then, Lglg
room research as the means bv rvhich researchers can most effectively influence language
There are seriousreasonsfor disputingthe optimism that both Johnston,Long, and
others shareregarding the effect such researchr,villhave on languagepedagogv.As Stenhouse

(1979:71-7)hasso amusinglvdemonstratedin his fictionai account of how a teacher grapples

with the attempt to applv the results of research concerning strategies for teaching about
race relationr, .l'4rr.oor,. researchis un_likelvto produce.cle,aranswersto teachers' questions

" "*"p"@.Sitttho"s"
tmore formallv else',vhere:

f,h. crucial point is that the proposal (from research) is not to be regarded as an
,' ,rnqrr"li6ed recommendation but rather asa provisional specificationclaiming nornore
than to be u,orth putting to the test ofpractice. Such proposals claim to be intelligent
rather than correct.

In other r,vords,classroomrese"t"h although p_otentiallvcloser to the realities teachers_have

I r a p p l e w-ith
to grapple n a n non-classroof-resealgb,
! \ ' l t n tthan non-classroolIl Iescdl(I\ r s 5 t r I r .9*orq!i@
rs.Jlill rcrrruj!rr_w_llll!!!!!l!$!rl\'-!r\ gap
ffirro*-ed idcannotbe 6lledb1glrssroom
--- q!tq!!+s.
r,r,hatvariourF....".chers have had to say regarding the
application of research/theorv to languagepedagogv.The vier,vof change implicitin all of
the positions r,r.ehave examined is a top-down one. Appiied linguists draw on information
from SLA to initiate tentativelv or conlidentlv - various pedagogicproposals.Theproposals
mav be based on pure research, on a theorv of L2 acquisition, or on classroom-centred
,.re"r.h but in each casethe presumed originator of the proposal is the SLA researcher/
theorist. It is time now. to brieflv consider an alternative wav in rvhich SLA can be used to
inform languagepedagogr'.
Wb." thr helPing
teachers solr,ethe p;t.J;;Et"qlth.i have identifi"d.@touch
be for@p.mi-ifi"iSlA itself but rather the questions
that teachers have askedher in the privacv of their classroomsand in the more public
domain of professional meetings' (ibid. : 50) . Pica offers a list of ten guestions dealing with
such matteis asthe relative impqlgnggpleslqpr.+ension --:.-rs---
and production, the role of explicit
- ----: ' .l
g1ggrmqrUltruction, and the u ." l'lca Provldesanswersto tnese
q".rtlo"i b"sed on her understanding ofthe SLA research literature.
The obvious advantage of such an approach to applving SLA is that the information
provided is more likelv to be heeded bv teachers becauseit addressesissuesthev have
identified as important. Bahns(1990: 115) goes so far as to claim:

field of practice
1 -Tl. iniriative for applving research results of anv kind to anv
rvhatsoeverghould come from the practitioners themselves.
\_ _-
Such a statement ignores, holvever, some obvious limitations in this insider approaJ:
Teacherscan onlv ask questions based on their olr'n experience. They cannot ask questi,:,:
aboutissues dictum n ere to be religiouslvadhered: :
thevhare no knou ledgeof. If Bahns's
<1 manvol the derelopmentsin language
p[dagog)ouerthelaiinrein*FfrFould plobar .
, . , _ = _ _ _ _ _ _ l n - _

C *uy to organize a svllabus- in terms of structures, notions, or tasks?'becausethey l'ou- -
not haveknolvn what'notions' or (in its technical sense)lvere.These conceptsha'..
been derived from the w.ork of linguistsor applied linguists,but havenot arisenspontaneou:,
through the practice of teaching.Thus, although much can be said in favour of an insic-
approach, there is also a casefor the outsider application ofSLA

A number of more recent discussionsof the relationshipbetlr-eenSLA and language

pedagogvhavegrappledrvith this issue.Gass(.1995:16), for example,suggeststhat one vl.ay
round the insider,/outsiderproblem is for researchersand teachersto lvork'in tandem to
determine holr' SLA findings can be evaluated and be made applicable to a classroom
situation,and to determine r,vhichSLA findingsto use'.The kind of collaborativeendeavour
Gasshasin mind is one rvhere researchersand teachersseekto understand each other's goais
and needsand she suggestsa number of areasr,r-herethe concerns of the t"r'o groups coirrcide
(e.g.the issueof correction). Hou-ever,true collaborationinvolvesnot just agreementabout
u'hat to investigatebut also how. Gasspartlv addressesthis bv quoting from Schachter( 1993:

We need to createa mindset in u'hich both teachersand researchersvieu' classrooms

aslaboratories u'here theorv and practice can interact to make bot} better practice and
better theorv.

The problem here is that r.vhereasresearchersmav feel comfortable in vier,vingclassrooms

u..luiorgtori"r. t"u.h.., Schachterseemsto do
tlallgseayghelr engagein theor)'and teadhErsinFiaEice. SLA and languagepedagogy are /
- 1-
, {

reiearchers and teachers can effectivelv collaborate is complex. It is one that has been I
researchershave paid scant attention to this literature.
this inifa-I eTploration of u-hat it means to applv SLA researchit is clear that
there is no easv ans\\:er.For some, the immaturitv of SLA as a field of enquirr- precludes
applications.For others, SLA can onh'hope to shapeteachers'expectationsofu'hat is possible
in the classroom.Others havedeveiopedspecificproposalson the basisof generaltheories
of L2 acquisition. Others have suggestedthat the gap betrveen SLA and teaching can be filled ,
by conducting research in and on L2 classrooms.Finallv, some researchershave argued for
an approach u'here thev act asconsultants addressingissuesraised bv teachers or where thev
participate in coilaborativeresearchwith teacher.. Ar ',,r-.haveseen,eachof these approaches
has something in its favour but none of them is entirelv successfulin closing the gap between
SLA researchand languagepedagogv.In the next section rve consider the iiews of a number
ofeducators on how'researchcan be made relevantto teachers.

Educational perspectives

Earlier we noted that the once close connection rvhich SLA researchersinitiallv envisaged
between SLA and languagepedagogvhasnot continued.Tounderstandthe gulf that-frequentlv
divides the theorv a@ onlqqrp-haryl, and the th-eor)'andpr&Iic--f.
n'e need to examine thegurding principies and assumptionsof each.We
teaching on the oth-e-r,
need to conslder the culture ol research and the culture ol teacfung.
Let us begin with research. It is customarv to distinguish tr,vo broad traditions in empirical
enquirv - the confirmatorvand the interpretatiue.The co.,ffiilii6il' t*iliiiA li interven'-
..-.! .L
tio'nisL'lt is )' designedexperiments,suchasthe agriculturalexperiments
of R. A. Fischer
(1935) in the United Stjrtes,rvhichlr.eiE
ti6atment produced the best crop rields.Th" _t1gd_$on
and a control group) and the careful controlofextraLeous variables(i.e. those variablesthat

might L I U U r 4 l variable
t o9 . confound the studv of the particular ralr4urL Thg,ialqggstative
ion ) '.Thgi
under investigation

tradition is ryflgggg{inWeber's((1961)
1-961 faqious&){initionof sociologv:'Sociology ' ' ' is a
l.ilative ,,.'d"."tun6oT rocialaction.'It is maniGstin
ttrli.. tEtt seekto developan u-iiltlFiS socialrules thEt-
"ffiffintionitt - . 1

t the socral actors tnvolvec In tne

""d"Ji.oput@i[emeani n Ller ;F."t. .nuto.r ."t"ttch
actir itrtlhimFdlr "I"*-cottFi
seet#au seTlinGip reTatir-"r"6[h Ioo ks for
Bot e have alreadvnoted, SLA began with
collecting samples of spoke., Ianguagebv observing the learners in naturallv
These .ure ,trrdie, investigated naturalistic learning by examining the
"rr,riro.#".rts.! t[e-p1ote."i ind tli*
b1 l"art'ets,
;d;ffiJi;lloi. ufi".t.d theirp.ogiess.Oneof theoutco6esoffiitradition of research
ffitf,waS descnptir.e lnformition about the order in r,vhichlearners acquired different
mastering particular
grammatical struciures and the sequence of stagesthev follou'ed in
,"t.r1.trrr., such as negatives, interrogativ.r, relative clauses.Another branch of the
".tJ studies.of L2
interpretative traditiJn of research - SI-n can be found in ethnograP-hic
.l"rrroom. (e.g.Van Lier 1988, Markee 1994a).Thesestudieshave sought_todescribe
kinds of discourse in r,vhich classroom learners engage and how these influence their
Th,e-qo4firqutoti'-ltiqiti9"]l:I!9ryI--uch of the w'orkbasedon UniversalGrammar
(e.s.Flynnand Martohar-djdtl9ttJ"@+E9tg.d{-#i1s of suchinsinrmentsas
grr---.ti.ulitv ludg"-.nit"rt, huu"b".., ,,ridJoE"-ilL-"fi.iF-.. learnerswith different
of for*]fo.-rrseilin ,VlfiPattenand Cadierno 1993).
Where applicationsto t.u.hl"g are concerned,the con{irmator-v tradition frequentlv
entailsu patticularview of u.hatit meansfor a teacherto be professionallv competent.
Accordinito thisrier,r,education do researslrrdiscov9ring
is anaPpliedscienT'..Researchers
rh; b"ffi.lJ hGse aE-then
t t""r1"r,;*i'; f" tEEu19}tt",+rcscr+dons'This
f) preSuppoSeSu*"".,,-t),lvher9.!h9curriculumisviewed
ffi;r;h p;tidt.gT"iormation about the most effecti\e me,ans
ffiEih--e curri with r4eans--tst4g than
in the previous se.tio.t.
Th"." ur. manv problems u'ith the applied science vievr of the relationship between
research and practice. A, .t" have alreadv note_d,theinformation provided b1' even the best
designed explrimental studv mav not be applicablelo otJrg.! cglle&t' AEo, it is
statusoften claimed for it, assubjectiveand socialfactors piav a crucial role in the production
of anv kind of knorvledge, including that obtained experimentallv (see Kuhn 1970) . As Carr
and Kemmis (1936) pJint out, the separationof ends (or values) and means is notreallr'
possible.Also, ends iould not be taken as given but should themselves be the subject of
critical scrutiny, as protagonists of critical pedagogv have argued (see Pennycook 1989). A
.good example of tie need to consider ends u: *'"lbcqt94lt@igations
if t.".h"rr; qrr"riio.rJ,ru*be. of L2 studies have investigated the effect of display and
..GG.tiuGi"rtlo"r o., l"ur.". output te. g. Brock 1985). In thesestudiesit is assumedthat
teachers will and should ask questions and the onlv issueis what kind of questions work best

for languagelearning. One might legitimatelv challengethis assumptionhorvever.It hasbeen

suggestedthat classroom L2 acquisition is likelv to smoothl-vif learners enjol
su-e p u . t i c i p a t t i
r i g h t sa st h e i r t e a c h e r
tPica 1 9 8 7 veverr,Teacners quesllons,
In an\'

p r o b l e m i s t h a t t h e a p p l r e d s c l e n c e v l e \ \ ' o t t e a c n l n g a l l o c a t e sP a r t l c u l a r r o l e s t o r e s e a r c n e r s
and to teachers, lr.hich are nece \alue laoen ln nalure. t(e ers are tn
o\l-leoge \\

rela t\\'een-Tesearc
kind *[iEft;ists and studentsin traditional classroomsand,

Bv adheringto what van Lier t 1990t callsthe emic principle (i.e. tr.v to understandh.
s o c i a lc o n t e x t \ v o r k st h r o u g h t h e p e r s p e c t l \ e so t t h e p a r t l c l P a n t sa) n c lt n e n o l l s t l cP r l n c
sornsthi.lg jln lerms of its_n4_!_U4l slllroundings). it mar ma

clearlv \ \ ' n e t n e rer Itherr own

nelr o w I I te
LcacIuIIg d l c the
c o l l L c x L 5 are
ffixts same
Llrc 5 as.
drlrtr d orl different
5, u r r w l r r , the
u l r l c l E l r L from, L r r c contexts
uvrrLl !r
'-- aim to provide objective
studiedin the reseat.n.Fo"tp..tutiu" ....
interpretative researchmav havetheorl construction asits ultimate goal, it can be considered
practical in nature. Carr and Kemmis ( 1986) expiain horv interpretative accounts facilitate
dialoguebetu.eeninterestedparties (i.e. researchersand teachers).Thevcan lead to changes
in the way actors comprehend themselvesand their situations; are understood bv
changingthe rvavsin rvhich thev are understood' (ibid.:91). In fact, interpretative research
achievesvaliditv r,r'henit passesthe test of participant confirmation.Thus, the beliefs, values,
and perceptionsofteachers are not ignored (or controlled) asin educationalresearchin the
confirmatorv tradition, but are given a constitutive place in the research.The traffic of ideas
between researcher and teacher is, potentiallv at least, trl.o lva\'.
Again, though, there are problems. is that because interpretative research
insiststn e*planutionst-Flt-a?econsistentu ith the participlnts' orvri percepiionsit runs the
r i s k o f u . . . p t t . r g i c c o T n G - f f i f a r e i l l u * o r r l O b r i o u s l r . a c t o r s c a n b e m i s t a k e n .s o t h e i r
interpre ned criticalli'. In oth., words, aclherenc€-tothq
emic principlq can lead to faultv understandings.The hoJiStlcprincipleis also problemati-c.
f{unresult in information that is too rich, so detailed that the rvood cannot be seen for the
,r""rJh-rn@withc-onfr rmato;i;;;-E;Gi"th.i"latlonshlp,
b.t*=.i-th. ..r"u..h"r an thg teachqr. For, althorrghthe gap h., b..ttiu.rowed, they stiil
inhabit different worlds. Carr and Kemmis (1986: 99) put it this u'av:

Despite their differences . both the'interpretative'and the positivist [i.e. con--".

firmutor-vl approach convey a similar understanding of educational researchersand of ,'
the relationship to the research act. In both approaches,the researcher standsoutside /
the researcheJ situation adopting a disinterested stancein w-hichan-vexplicit concern ]
w.ith critically evaluating and changing the educational realities being analysedis (
rejected. l

The truth ofthis is evident in rvhat is perhapsthe best piece ofinterpretative researchin SLA
to date -van Lier's (1988) studv of aspectsof classroomdiscourse(i.e. turn-taking, topic
and activitri and repair rvork). Although van Lier offers a fen' comments on hou' teachers

might profitablv engagein interpretative researchthemselves(ibtd.: 230 onw'ards),the bulk

of his book is rvritten from the standgoint of the researcher fuqcLiA4llgl1s a gatherer of
knowledge and concJrne-f,iirith truth". thu.r from the standpoint '- of the practitioner
c o n c e r n e d\ 4 ' l t ha c t l o n .
Researchers,then, follon' agendasthat are set bl'the requirements of the research
traditions to which thev adhere.Thev also have their orvn social agendas.As members of
universit'i' departments, researcher! qe er.pected to be pr earch and_are
rewarded accordins to th" qn.ntit)'n"J u-b1ish-they
*61r.,"1-:b:l-pSSf:_ti.e. other researchers),'"ho fnn.tiiiiii.iGG&iFotthe journals
i,r *lri;h tfi;;;;f;;b.;ublished.Their researchnilsiE[ibGTiate ttratlTmeetsestablified
-- #. =-,.= J=, - - - - - - lr',-, l-;T.-
.r-i!.i-i. t.liubilio' diaf (i.e. that it is rvell designedand that the results warrant the
conclusionsmade).Researchellqg ngl gbligedto rya\e tberr-L.1.{* T::@e!o,-teq-chers
or---ito demonstrate that ltls reievant to them. Still lessare thev required to rvork w'ith teachers
to 6nd r,vavsin u-hich research can be converted into action. Indeed, it mav rvell be that in
the depariments r,vherethe researchers rvork practical research receives less recognition
than oure research.
As we have seen, teachers have verv different agendasand operate from a different
kno*'ledge base.Whereas researchersare concerned in establishingthe truth, teachers are
interested in linding out rvhat rvorks, Teachersselect tasks that thev believe will contribute
to their students' learning but thev are rarelv able to investigate whether their predictions
are borne out. Thev determine the successof the tasks in other ways (".g. by impres-
sionisticallvevaluating*-hether the task stimulates active participation bv the learners).
Teachersw-ork from practical knorvledge.They use their experience of teaching (and
of learning) in classroomsto develop a bodv of knowledge as habit and custom, as skill
know-ledge (e.g. how-to deal rvith a student who dominates classroom discussion),as
common-sense know-ledgeabout practice, as contextual knor,vledge(i.e. regarding the
particular classthev are teaching) and, over time, asa set of beliefs about holr,'learnerslearn
anL2. Polanvi (1958) refers to this kind of knowledge as personal knowledge.As Schon
( 1983) has obser.r,ed,and as w'e noted earlier, much of this knorvledge is onlv evident in use
(i.e. it is revealed in actual teaching but the teacher cannot articulate it) although some of it
mav become espousedthrough reflection (i.e. the teacher can provide an explicit account
of it).
Given these differences in goals and in u'hat counts as know'ledge, the gap between
research and pedagogv and the gulf betr'r'eenresearchersand teachers is not surprising.
Zahorik (1985), cited in Freemanand Richards(1993), hasidentified anumber of different
w'aysin w.hich teaching can be conceptualized. Scientificallv based conceptions emphasize
the development of models of effective classroom practice basedon the results of empirical
research.This is the kind of conception we are likelv to find in researchers.Alternative
conceptions are r.alues-based1i.e. effective practice is that w'hich takes into account the
identitv and indiridualitv of learners) and art-craft (i .e . effectivepractice is built up gradually
through experience and reflection). It is these conceptions that 1r'eare more likely to find in
teachers.As a consequence,some teachersmav feel that researchis of little value to them,
not just becauseit is d'ifficult to access(a familiai complaint ) , but becauseit doesnot conform
lvith their olvn ideas of lvhat teaching is and, therefore, does not addresstheir concerns.
Other teachers, horn'ever,mav feel that their own conceptions of teaching lack value and
statusin comparison to the scientificallv-basedconceptionsof researchers.As Bolitho (1991:
25) notes, often take up extreme positions,often deferring blindly to theory or
rejecting it out of hand as irrelevant to classroomissues'.In either case,the outcome is
unsatisfactorv' .

What then can be done about ali this? Clearlv, something is needed to bring the w-orlds
of the researcher/theorist and the teacher cioser together. One lr a1 mighl_b9 to lfrdrryays
of familiarizing
teachersu-ith the technicalknou'iedgeobtainedfrom researchand, also,of
in theii o*1n-4@t.Weu-ill brieflr'examinebothTl'TEese, C
A., .r.n-f,tion of manv educators, is that both pre-service and in-service teacher
education courses should provide students r'r'ith an understanding of a range of academic
issues considered relevant to their lvork as teachers.Teacher preparation and further
educationprogrammes, therefore, tvpicallv offer courses,designed to familiarize teachers
with these basic elements. In the case o.f progr.+mmes fuLLLlqaching there is a broad
consensusregarding u-hat t}reseelements consistof: r.vhatlanguageisl horv it is used inlpgsgh
and er,aluatedand hor,vlanguge is learnt. '' OnE6
curricula can be developed, taught,
qrou rinq this kind of educall4is to d".= an a\\'aren
- l<', u<.
to teach a lanqua er ootions from rvhich teachers must select
with the Darticular contexts in r.vhichthel'lvork 1-?h"cls ' ,
ow'1 1pP'ta^L
need for a foundation in t}ese basic elements has been stronqlv argued by Stern
( 1983). In t}re introduction to his book Fundamental Conceptsin LanguageTeaching, Stern argues
the need for guides to help the student teacher'pick his rvavthrough the massof accumulated
information, opinion, and conflicting advice; to make senseof the vast literature, and to
seessuchguides asnot telling teachersu.hat to think but rather helping them to sharpentheir
own judgements. He w-orks on the common-sense premise that judgements that are
informed, basedon sound theoretical foundations, u.ill produce better results than those that
are not. Stern's ou.n guide is comprehensive,involving sections dealing r,vithhistorical
perspectives,conceptsof language,conceptsof societv,conceptsof languagelearning and
concepts of languageteaching. Other guides have focused on specific areas,including SLA
(e.g. Larsen-Freemanand Long 1991, Lightbou-nand Spada1993, Ellis 199+).
The aim of these guides is to make technical knorvledge availableto teachers in a
digestible form.There is still the question of horv teachers are to integrate this knowledge
i n t o t h e i r o n ' n p r a c t i c e-.\ s H i r s t t 1 9 o 6 : 4 0 t h a sp o i n t e do u t :

To trv to understand the nature and pattern of some practical discourse in terms of
the nature and patterns of some pr,."lr: theoreticai dir.o,l.r. can onlv result in its beins
radicallv misconceived.

Often enough, teachersin training, particularlv pre-service, complain about the lack of
relevance of the foundation courses thev har,etaken to the actuai task of teaching (see for
example Schuvler and Sitterlev 1995).This has led to the suggestionthat teachqra sh_-o"ld
become more than consumers of theories anffreseiich: thev should become researchers
. ----
and theorlsts ln thelr o\\'n rlght.
The caii-I6F teaChEiconducting research in their ou'n classrooms is norv w-ell
establishedin education, largelv as a product of the pioneering r,vork of such educators as
S t e n h o u s e( 1 9 7 5 ) , E l l i o t t a n d E b u t t ( 1 9 8 5 ) a n d K e m m i s a n d M c T a g g e r t ( 1 9 8 1 ) a m o n g
others. More recentlv,educatorsof languageteachers(e.g.Nunan 1990 and Crookes 1993)
havealso argued the need for teachersto researchtheir ow'n ciassrooms.One form of teacher
research that is commonlv advocatedis action research.
Action researgh orlqlnates ln the \\olt(_pl-Kql.]LLsfllj) ln the Unlted Stalel (see
decision-making in theu ork plfA H. tilsi"i...""a
in practice it

(tE_r::.-utt.d factorl'
r,vhateffect involving rvorkers in the decision-making Process ""
@entin t h e H a rr,rood
ed on workers bv

ment, substantiallv,that qfuq representativesof the

u'ere iniolved In researcnlnqtne cn tion initiailv d b"t lut"t recoo'eiEd
-:- * -----:-.

and that $ hen all the \lorKers parllcll inlFe-decision-makin ion rose markedl
a th" practical benefits of involvin€ actors in
d e c i s i o n - m a I 0 n g . ' . 1 V I o r eimportantlv
ffiMore L c w . t I l 't-d
I O rL.oui.,
1 m P o r t a n I r vfor rLuclr'1Ul]!]1:5,r-
Ler'vin'swork is of interest becauseit reflects th.
-<'----------?"1 -r --,t-*l^^^ t^.,-:-.'-..,^*1,;-^ti-+aractl-^-'".^itrptlertcthe
advantagesor oemocracv in the ,torkpl".*
tw--gllC;i".t-" r.t.ut.h, asit hasbeenappliedsubsequentlyto education:a@J9!93=L
is intlded both to improveclassroom practiceandalsoto serveasa meansfor emancipating
u nasDotnan instrumerrt"lfrr.t.tio '
Caseof the latter, it mav be politicallv charged and, for that reason, potentialll'-risky'
It is customarv to identifv three kinds of ugtio.rI"rgg.h.8.tq there ij"-technicalactiln
outside researchers
u'here outside r.r"ut.h co- d
l r o m t n e o r v o r p r e v l o u sr e s e a r c nL. r o o K e s1 r e e l ; i h u t u c t e r i z e st h i s k i n d o F a c t i o nr e s e a r c h
'---'1--:--1-: I

5.s refaTl\-.ATydserl'atGlfr-e,
a reEtiie-It
ts a noting that
conservative li.te, ttottttg i! is
that tt ls likelv
Il{9 worKlg9trsneu by
to result in-worklgblished L y scholars

i;, it fgltgf9glr]igliT
" .tundlrdrli-Elffiott"1
m""l r.rr..r,*ntl" -.ii.i.,;.,g tih.values
Second-rthereis research undertaken bv teachers in their ow'n classroomswith a view
to im-proving local prl11-."t Carf tndKcmrnis=cfer-tothis kind ol'reiearCh ;t fi.t.i
i.tio" ..r"uih brrt Hopkins ( 1985) prefersthe term teacher research. As Long ( 1983a:-268)
tut to provid" Jil.*, bv rttri.ti thev can monitor their orvn practice. It involves a cvcle of
-i.tluitiesa.-*O*.,-r;T,grr.eT ).The starting point is
planning (i.e. the identification of some problem that needssolving).This results in action
behaviour r,vill arise). Observation of
ii... thi"u.hing of a lessonin rvhich the problematic
the action protid., material for reflection,',vhich mav then lead to further planning. Each
step or moment in the cl.cle looks back to the previous step and forward to the next step'
The cvcle servesto link the pa,stuith th9 futulg thrgggtdte Dlocessssqf l-e-c-g1ffuc_tion and
co,-,struitio.r- F"r-thEmo.e-iGir gtiryq(i.e. talking about the action) with,actual
practi-eli}. the action in contexf,.Th" tturtl"g point of the cvcle, planning, is generally seen
problematic. Ideallv, teachers should form plans for action based on an analysis
of their o'uvnexperience,but in realitv they are likel-vto pick out issuesfrom the educational
or applied linguistlcsliterature (see,for example, McDonough and McDonough's (1990)
studl:of langul.geteachers' r.ien s about research). Carr and Kemmis acknor,t'ledgea role for
a n o u t s i d ef i c i l i t u t o r i n h e l p i n gt e a c h e r sf o r m u l a t e a p p r o p r i a t ep l a n so f a c t i o n .

Reconstructive Constructi\

4 Reflect -------------> 1 Plan

t II
Praci\e I ,],
intheso'eQl-context3 Observe <-- 2 Act

'Moments' of action research

Figure 3. 1
Source:Carr and Kemmis 1986: 185

The,thir_d*typeof action research is critlc_ql_ gctrg319s1ar9h- research that is_n_ot onlv

t h a t m o s t c- -l#o s e l rr e f l e c r sL e \ \ ' l ns o r l g l n a lt o r m u l a t i o n .C r o o k e sc o n s i d e r si t m o r e D r o o r e s -
iive.Teachers are required not onlv to understand local problems and identify soluqrgryb_r$ ;7
:i- '\',
to exarilinethe underlling;sgial causes ofg'oblems andu-hatneedsto be doneaboutthem v
r;ffime for reflectio" (*.J.tiuip;ii;f
awarethat their cQga-cities ;h" 6)
actionresearchcvcle)are influencedbv socialfactols.Thev needto recognizethat their
understandino, of- ;clur.ro6Er6uiEEil-iriorted.The
-Jhunlr* for achievinsL, i, dir.oi.r.
. _€_
in the senseintended br.Habermas (1979) liee communicaTion?6ong participantsu-ho
ilhile not outlawed, is seenasdangerousb_ecauseit is Likeivto undermine the social$'r4lSgtry
neededto ensure collaborative discourse.
,q"ti."i.*"..hJh"", triJt;,h+ulf betrveenthe researcherand the teacher.Crookes
(1993) suggeststhat it overcomes the limitations of traditional researchbv ensuring that its
results are relevant to the needsofteachers; bv encouragingand supporting teacherreflection
and through this professionaldevelopment; bv encouragingteachersto engagein other kinds
ofresearch and use the results ofsuch research;and, in the caseofcritical action research,
bv prompting teachers to address the unquestioned values embodied in educational
institutions. According to Carr and Kemmis (1985) action research provides a basis for
developing truiv educational theories through theorizing about practice.
Action researchis not r'r-ithoutits critics, horvever.Hopkins ( 1985) arguesthat the action
researchpractisedin education has departed from Leu'in's original concept of externallv
initiated intervention for assistinga ciient system. He also suggeststhat the models of action
research such as that shor,vnin Figure 3. 1 mav strait-jacket teachers making them reluctant
to engagein independent action.These criticisms, horvever,do not seem to be especiallv
damagingasthere is no reasonw-hveducationalistsshould adhereto Ler,vin'sinitial conception
ofaction researchnor is there any reasonrvhr-teachersshouldnot depart from the proposed
cvcle whenever thev feel the need to do so. More serious are criticisms concerning the
impracticalitv of asking teachers to engagein research and the qualitv of the research they
Teachersdo not alu'avsfind it easvto undertake research.Nunan (1990), drawing on
his experience of rvorking u.ith teachers in Australia, lists a number of difficulties they
experienced.Becausethe teachersu'ere not usedto observingeachother teach, thev found
collaborationdifficuit.Thev tended torvardsexcessiveself-criticismu'hen thev hrst engaged
in analvsinq their on-n .Iur.?oornr.T ;-;;;q"
.-_,,- :----=---=-=T- -,- +_ __- -Q
able rn nature DecausetneY clrclnot lrnd rt eisr to idenEfi:Geciffc reseurch cuestions. a
p D""*,g"h
and McDonough 1990). It proved extremelv time-consuming to designproperly formulated
projects.The teachers u'ere unclear as to horv the researchshould be reported becausethel'
were uncertain lvho their audience \r'as.Finallr.,there u'as a host of problems to do lvith the
range and scopeof the research.Or,er time, of course, such problems can be overcome as
teachersaccumulateexperience of hou- to do research,but initiallv the task thet'face can
appear daunting.
Another objection to action researchconcerns doubts about the qualitv of research
carried out bv i"".h.rr. Brumfit and Mitcheli (1990a:9) arguethat'there is no good
argument for action researchproducing lesscare and rigour (than other modes of research,;
unlessit is lessconcerned rvith clear understanding,*.hich it is not' . Implicit in this statement
is a beliefthat manv teachersrvill not be ableto achievethe standardsprofessionalresearchers

deem necessary.Crookes (1993), horvever,argues that n'hen research is entirelrvlocal and

no attempt to generalizeis made it is less necessarvto conform to the requirements of
reliability, validitv, and trust*-orthiness. He also suggeststhat action researchreports do not
need to be academicin styie.Thev can take the form of'teacher-oriented reports' and thus
be more discursive, subjective, and anecdotal.The difference betrveen the positions of
Brumfit and Mitchell and Crookes are indicative of the iack of clear criteria for determining
u'hat constitutes good qualitv action research.
From the educational perspective described above, the gap between the researcher/
theorist on the one hand and the practitioner on the other is seen as the inevitable product
of the social (and, one might add, political) lr-orlds'"vhichthev inhabit.As Kramsch (1995)
has pointed out the behaviours that these tu'o social groups tvpicallv manifest are s,vmbolic
of the value svstemsto u.hich thev adhere.The move to involve teachersin researchcan
be seen,in part, as a move to reshapethe sl'mbolic capital of teachers'behaviourbv inves-
tigating it rvith the authoritv to be derived from research.Thisis one reasonwhy the rationale
for action research so frequentlv makes reference to its contribution to professionalism in
the teachingfraternitr.
One lvav of viewing action researchis as a meansbl'rvhich teachers can test'provisional
specifications'(Stenhouse19751inthe context of their or'vnclassrooms.These specifications
can be dralvn from the teacher'sown practical knolvledge, in rvhich caseaction research can
help to make explicit the principles, assumptions,and proceduresfor action that comprise
this kind of knorvledge. Alternativelv, the specificationscan be drau'n from the technical
knowledge provided bv research.Action research servesas an empirical test of whether the
generalizationsprovided bv confirmatorv researchor the understandingsprovided by inter-
pretative research are applicabie to specifrcclassroom settings.When teachers consistently
find the results of their own research do not support the findings of confirmatory or
interpretative research thev need to be prepared to reject these as inapplicable to their
own contexts. Action research,then, functions as a u'av of implementing the third of Weiss'
models of research use the interactive model - bv bridging the gap between technical
knowledge and practical knovuledge.
The question arisesas to r,r'hetherthe applicabilitv of proposalsbasedon researchmust
necessarilv be submitted to an empirical test bv requiring teachers to take on the role of
researcher(asStenhouseadvocates)or rvhether it might be possibleto predict r,vhichproposals
are likeiy to be acted on through an examination of the proposalsthemselves.It seems
reasonableto supposethat some proposals are inherentiv more practical than ot}ers.What
makes them so?Toaddressthis cuestion w'e turn to the studv of the uptake of innovations.

Innovationist perspective

A number of applied linguists have recentlv turned to u'ork on innovation to help them
*\7 I understand the variable successther,have observed in both large-scalelanguageprojects in
Y , the developing world and the variabieresponseto nel\'ideas among teachersin the developed
c w o r l d . K e n n e d v ( 1 9 8 8 ) , W h i t e ( 1 9 8 8 a n d 1 9 9 3 ) a n d N { a r k e e( 1 9 9 3 ) h a v e a l l d r a w n o n
researchin a varietv of disciplines(e.g. Rogers (1983) in sociologt',Lambright
and Flvnn ( 1980) in urban planning,Cooper ( 1989t in languageplanning and Fullan (198)1
a a d ( 1 9 9 3 ) i n e d u c a t i o n ) .H e n r i c h s e n( 1 9 8 9 . r ,B e r e t t a( 1 9 9 0 ) , S t o l l e r ( 1 9 9 + ) a n d M a r k e e
(199+b) havereported actualstudiesofinnovation in languageteaching.It should be noted,
however,that to date there hasbeen no studv of innovationsstemming from proposalsbased
on SLA.12

Innovation can be conceived of in tu-o different wavs - a distinction that is important

proposal representsa t e l l n e u i d e a .n o t p r e r i o u s l r e v i d e n t i n p r a c t i c ea n v u h e r e .
Th@n cesoi absolute i nnoration i ;T;EuagFGachfig, althou$,
arguabll'Wilkins' (1976) proposal for constructing sl'liabusesaround notions constituted
such an innovation. Secondi.the-reare perceir_edr11g_rg!!ggs.Thatis, the changeis perceived
kind-a4rd, indeed, most definitions of innovation mSFe par-tftufrffi.."." ioldo@rr'
As Lightbown (1985) has observed, SLA has not produced much in the rvav of ner,v
pe!4ggg1-c-propasaHJhus.prop osals d er i r e
absoluteinnovations.For example,KrashenandTerreil (1983) vielv their NaturalApproach
usTGGitiiiltiorZf the principles and techniques of earlier methods rather than as original.
Hou'ever, the-vclearly believe that their proposals rvill be new to manv practitioners. SLA
may also serve to provide a rationale for innovations that have originated elsew'here.For
examplElTh?JdFao{ the inlormation-gap task tJohnson I982toriginaiedTiohT-thFb'F\ of
communicative languageteaching, but it has undoubtediv received support and, arguablv,
been refined through SLA research (see,for example, Long 198 1 and Skehan 1996).
llnnovation i,sinherentlr threatening, as Prabhu (1987:105) has pointed out in the
context ofdiscussinghis proposal for a procedural svllabusin India:

A neu'perception in pedagogr',implving a different pattern of classroom activitv, is an

'l intruder into teachers' mental frames an unsettling one, becausethere is a conflict
rl of mismatch betrveen old and new perceptions and, more seriouslv, a threat to
prevailingroutines and to the senseof securitv dependenton them.

What then determines lvhether and to uhat extent teachers cope r,vith these threats?The
answ-erto this questioninvolvesa considerationoffour setsoffactors:

' the sociocultural context of the innor-ation

. the personalitv and skills of indir.idual teachers
' the method of implementation ti(
' a t t r i b u t e so f t h e p r o p o s a l st h e m s e l r e s .

First, as Kennedv ( 1988) notes, there is aa nrerarcnv

hierarchv ol intglleb.cingllrb-svstems
of rnterrelatrng rvhich any
in \\'nlcn
suD-svstems ln any
' :
'essor an\ DroDosalemanating
.Thus,the succEss6TTfriproposal
emanaung from
Irom SLA
)Ld (oianf ot
ror anr'-oth-er

'the 19"u1,
administrative.nolitical.or iultural
culturalfactors. Kennedvcomments:
factors.Kennedv comments:'thecultural svstemis
a.silmed qq be the -ffiooo".lul as it rvill influ-e4*cg._[gtll_pljgggl-]l$ldminlitra6rc
He cites an unpublished paper bv Scollon and Scollon to the effect that'gonversational
methods' ma.y q!19 take root in China b"
Confucian emphasison benevolence and respect betrveen teacher and.students.
p*a on the"litv and quaiities
of indi.,id-uat t-".tr" Itr{dlrcatgd ur,d uidty
moblle) may be -o." i^.lirEd1o?

*ujo-ryudgpt*r,g$gp$t. factorsarelikelvto plava majorpart in determining

!\ hichcategorra teacherbelongs

Third, the method of implementation is likelv to influence to what extent an innovation

takesroot. Havelock (1971) distinguishesthree basicmodels of innovation.The research,
development and diffusion model vier,vsthe researcherasthe originator of proposals and the
teachersasconsumersand implementors of them. It is iikelv to be usedin conjunction with
a power-coercive strateg), lvhere some authoritv takes a decision to adopt an innovation
(e.g. a new- svllabus) and then devisesr,vavsof providing teachers vl'ith the knowledge and
skills thev need to implement it. Innovationin this model, then, takesplace top-down. The
problem-solving model involves engagingteachersin identifving problems, researching
possible solutions and then trr-ing them out in their teaching. Innovation in this model,
then, originates r,viththe teachers.A social interaction model emphasizesthe importance of
social relationships in determining adoption and emphasizesthe role of communication in
determining uptake of an innovatorv idea.To a large extent, these three models parallel the
three approachesto relating research and pedagogy discussedin tlre previous section.That
is, the research development and diffusion model reflects the positivist, technical view; the
problem-solving model reflects the call for teacher research, w-hile the importance placed
on communication in the socialinteraction model mirrors that olaced on discoursein critical
a c t i o nr e s e a r c h .
The fourth set of factors governing the uptake of innovatorv proposals concerns the
attributes of the proposalsthemseives.These are of particular interest to us becausethey
may provide the applied linguist r'vith a basisfor evaluatingproposals emanating from SLA.
The principal attributesdiscussedin the literature (seeKellv 1980, Rogers 1983, and Stoller
1994) are listed inTable 3.1, together w-ith brief de{initions.Some of these attributes are

Table3.1 Attributes of innovation

Attribute Definition

Initial dissatisJaction The level of dissatisfactronthat teachers experience r""'ithsome aspect
ol their existing teaching.

Feasibilttv The extent to which the innovation is seen as implementabie given

the conditions in rvhich teachers work.

Acceptabilitl The extent to \\.hich the innovation is seen as compatible with teachers'
existing teaching stvle and ideologv.

Relevance The extent to rvhich the innovation is vierved as matching the needs of
the teachers'students.

Complexitl' The extent to which the innovation is dilficult or easv to grasp.

Explicitness The extent to rl,hich the rationale for the rnnovation is clear and

Triabihty The extent to \\'hich the innovation can be easilr.tried out in stages.

ObservabtlitS, The extent to \r'hich the results of innovation are visible to others.

Originaliq, The extent to u'hich the teachers are required to demonstrate a high
level of originalitv in order to implement the innovation (e.g. bv
preparing specialmaterials).

uwnefsnlP The extent to u'hich teacherscome to feel that ther.'possess'the


seenasincreasingthe likelihood of an innovation becoming adopted (e.g.feasibility,relevance

and explicitness).That is u'hv thev are to be vieu-ed positiveiv. Other attributes are likely
to inhibit innovation (e.g. complexitv). Still others ma\-promote or inhibit innovation
dependingupon the particular adopters.For example, in the caseof originality, some teachers
mav be more likelv to implement an innovation if it callsfor their own original contribution
( developingneu. teachingmaterials)u.hereasothers mav be lesslikely to do so.The
attributes also varv in another lr.av.Some (e.g. initial dissatisfactionand relevance) seem to
be more relative than absolute in the sensethat their application depends on the Particular
context in which teachers are \\rorking, r'vhereasothers (i.e. complexitr', explicitness,
triabilitv, and obserr.abilitv) seem more concerned lvith the inherent characteristics of the
innovation. Applied linguists interested in evaluating proposals dra'uvnfrom SLA are likely
to benefit from paving close attention to the inherent rather than the relative attributes of
In addition to these setsoffactors that influence the uptake ofinnovatorv ideas,there is
also the question of ectsoflan pedagogvare involved in the change.This,too,
can influence the likelihood of the innovation es5fuf.Markee(.199+b),drar,ving in
particular on the rvork of Fullan ( 1982 and 1993) in education,suggeststhat innovationsin
the form of the development and use of nerv teaching materials constitute the easiestkind
of change. Innovations requiring change in methodological practices and, even more so in
the teachers'underlving pedagogicaivalues,are lesslikelv to prove successful.
There haveb""" ..1q!r:"b_&Legg4p!r_!g tppllq11-tfrryf qtionist perspective to language
pedug6ly. Beretra 11990) sought to evaluate the extent to rvhich the methodologicai
1n".t.tion;proposed bv Prabhu as part of the CommunicationalTeaching Project (CTP) in
India (Prabhu 1987) u.ere actuallv implemented bv the teachersinvolved.This project is
basedon the assumption that learners acquire grammar subconsciouslvw'hen their attention
is focused on communicating in meaning-focusedtasks.Although Prabhu did not draw
directlv on SLA research/theorv, his proposal is verv similar to that advancedbl' Krashen
and for this reasonis of considerableinterest here. Beretta collected historical narrativesfrom
15 teachers involved in the project and then rated these according to three levels of imple-

1 orientation (i.e. the teacher demonstrateshe/she does not really understand the
innovation and is unable to implement it)
2 routine (i.e. the teacher understandsthe rationale of the CTP and is able to implement
it in a relativelv stable fashion), and
3 renewal (i.e. the teacher has adopted a critical perspective on the innovation,
demonstrating awarenessof its strengths and lveaknesses).

Fortv per cent of the teachers rvere rated at Level 1 , 47 per cent of teachers at Let'el 2
and 13 per cent at Level 3. Beretta considered Levels 2 and 3 demonstrated an adequateler,'el
of adoption. However, u.hen he distinguished betrveen regular and non-regular classroom
teachersinvolved in the project, he found that three out offour ofthe regular teachers were
at Level 1 . He concludedthat:

. . . it seemsreasonableto infer that CTP u'ould not be readil-vassimilablebv tvpical

teachers in South Indian schools (or, bv extension, in other schoois elselvhere where
similar antecedentconditionspertain) (ibid.: 333).

to rea4_st lgggplgb-Je-1s19-f
He points out that the fajJyrs.of the--regular-teachers -of

the innovation's feasibilitv because, for example, the teachers lacked the command
teaching.Therea@iudy for
Eample, we cannot be sule-uhether the regular teachersreallr.failed to adopt the innovation
or w'hether thev simplv lacked the English needed to produce narrative accounts of their
experience- but, nevertheless,it demonstratesthe potential of an innovationistperspective
for evaluatingpedagogicproposalsderived from SLA theor-vand research.
Probablv the most comprehensive studv of innovation in language pedagogy is to be
found in Stoller's (199+) studv of innovation in intensive English languageprogrammes
in the United States.Stoller obtained completed questionnairesfrom 43 such programmes
and also conducted in-depth intervier'vs u-ith fir-e programme administrators. She found
that the most frequentlv cited innovations related to the development of nerv curricula or
f th. r.rtr@s"r"*." p.-;;;a.r rn.* t*fitant tha.rot-6irs
foj successfuLinnoration. Attributes rated as particrrlii\rimporrant-were usefulness
(relevance), feasibilitr', improvement ol'er past placticeq_(r,vhichrvould seem to relate to
initial dissatisfaction)and p_racticlltv (which relates to acceptabilitv). Stoller was able to
identifv three major factors in the questionnaire responses.One factor lvas w'hat she termed
a'balanced divergent factor'. The attributes involved here rvere explicitness,complexity,
compatibilitv with past experiences, visibilitr', flexibilitv, and originalitv. In the caseof this
factor, however,the attributes operatedin a zone ofinnovation in the sensethat they facilitated
innovation'w.hen thev \\-erepresent to a moderate degree but not when they were strongly
or weakh.present.The second factor rvasdissatisfactionand the third factor viability. Stoller
a l s o d e m o n s t r a t e st h a t t h e r e a p p e a rt o b e d i l f e r e n t p a t h st o i n n o v a t i o nd e o e n d i n so n t h c
nature of the inno'ation6tG5 tl-r.*r.?.r. .
f"ffRiBt dir..tirfaction and finallv the balanced din'..g..rt factor. The
emphasisthat Stoller placeson viabiiitv in this type of innovation reflects the importance that
Beretta attachesto feasibilitv in the communicational teaching project.

1,_,rw An innor,
evaldating t
ir,e, then, r.vould seem to afford applied iinguists a way of
like.bto succsgdiGili-"oi be possible,
Eourse, to make very precise predictions about rvhich proposalswill be taken up and
t/ rvhich ones u.ill not, but, arguablr',the verv act of evaluating their potential will help
researchersto make them more practical. One might also add that an innovationist analvsis,
using the kinds of categoriesdiscussedin this section,ma\.provide teacherswith an explicit
and relativelv svstematic u'ay of determining whether specific proposals derived from SLA
are of useto them.The studl of innovations,therefore, offers another possiblervay of bridging
the gap betrveen SLA and languagepedagogr'.

.tr-t--,n^^^^roJ+t,_rr.zrrS-uN -.*.lJ L-wn<-t".-<.'<r1

i'<'- a.*r.-il-? D rsl ,,ra.r-u"nn^1 ..=a"
Applied lingriist's *11,-"-.1
perspective ; - Jrs,,lA, .-,,..."_L+LiftJ+
--/ |
dehned l-g-:,,,*r:,." ,*;*1.J. ,ffG&i1.?*6*:.Ift'T*i.f*'
psvcholinguistics,sociolinggrsrqlcs, anio[Fer area of potentiallv
education, and arn'oTher potentially relevant
I l r . r..
e n o u l r \ t o l a n g u a p eD e o a g o g \ . l t l s l m D o r t a n t t o m a K e a c l e a r c l r s t l n c t l o nD e t w e e n a n n l l (
Ii-rguistics'and,'linguisticsapplied' . One obviousTEii6iliTiffip inquistics
--.1"".. utilizes
"l inf;rmation-sfrrceFoTEer
--------' the abovedefiniti&n-ak.. Ttt.t. it
lor,vever,a deeperreason.Widdow.son( 1984) arguesthat 'it is the responsibilit,v of applied
: linguists to consider the criteria for an educationallv relevant approach to language' (ibid.:
17) and that this cannot be achier,edbl simplv applving linguistic theorv. This is becausethe
of their task is inherentlv different from the rvav teachers conceive
irvaylinguists conceive
[f t t " i . . . L i n q u i s t sa r e c o n c e r n e d u - i t h t h e p r e c i s ed e s c r i p t i o no l , ] C ! g . u € r 3 l d u ' i t h i 1 s

explanatior. Teachers are concerned \\'ith the e-ffective use of language and_r,vithjts
in-ecan distinguish betrveen applied linguistics and linguistics applied so we can

applv SLA researchand theon'to languagepedagogv.Thisis u-hat man,vSLA researchershave
expresseddoubt about doing, adr,isingcaution. In the caseof applied SLA, horvever,an
attempt is made to examine the relevanceof SLA in educationalterms; it requires the SLA to haveknor,vledgeofthe theorv and practice ofboth SLA and langrragepedagogy.
Onlv w.henSLA researchersengagein appiied SLA do thev function as applied linguists.13
A good example of applied SLA is to be found in Brindlev's ( 1990) account of a course
he taught as part of a postgraduate dipioma in adultTESOL. Brindlev dismisseswhat
he seesasthe traditional approach of SLA coursesrvhich he characterizesas give you the
theorv vou apply it' (the approach implicit in Stern's 198 3 advocacvof foundation studies)
in favour of a.r upp.ou.h thai pror.idesopportunities for the participants to analysedata.This
encouragesthem to reformulate broad SLA research questions in terms of classroom
implicationsand includesa strong problem-posing/problem-soh'ingelement bv inviting the
participants to addressspecific classroom situations in the light of insights drawn from their
stud-vof SLA and to discussoptions for classroom applications. Brindler'-did include a
knowledge component of the iourse (i.e. he provideJ an introduction tokev topics and
terminologv) but in accordance w-ith his applied SLA stance,he invited the participants to
identifv those SLA topics the-vfound most relevant to their concerns. Interestingll', he found
that psvcholinguisticstudiesof developmentalsequences(generallvconsideredof central
importance bv SLA researchers)came bottom of the list, possiblvbecausethe teachers'
primarv concern rvaslr-ith teaching rather than learning.
ied SLA, then, asa branch of applied linguistics,must necessarilvconcern itself with
ofa seco cannot be a that thesemode f anl
lndeed, in manv casesthev probablv are not. It is no more correct to assumethat a theorv
oflanguage learning is ofrelevance to teachers than it is to assumethat a theorv oflanguage
is. Relevancemust necessarilvbe determined not from u.ithin SLA but from without bv
demonstrating hou' the findings of SL.\ address the needs and concerns of practitioners.
Hou' then can SLA be made reievant to pedagogv?An answ'erto this question can be
found inWiddorvson's(1990) discussionof the roles of the appliedlinguist (seeFigure 3.2).


Figure 3.2 Relating disciplinarr theorv and languagepedagogr

Source:Widdorvson 1990: 32

ForWiddorvson, the applied linguist's task is to mediate between disciplinarv theory/

researchand languagepedagogr'.He suggeststhat this mediation inr,'oh'estwo interdependent
processes. The first is appratsal,u.hich involves interpretation (i.e. the explication of ideas
within their orvn terms of reference),follorved bv conceptualevaluation(i.e.'the process
of specifvingr,vhatmight be caliedthe transfervalueof ideas' (ibtd.:3 1)).The secondprocess
is appltcation,rvhich also involves tlvo phases.In the caseof operation,specific techniques are
proposed based on the conclusions of the conceptual evaluation.Alternatively, specific
techniques taken from teachers' customarv practices can be subjected to scrutiny, a process
that both drarvs on the results ofprior conceptual evaluation and potentiallv contributes to
it.The result of this processis a rationale for proposed action.The secondphaseof application
is whatWiddowson calls'empiricalevaluation'.Thisis undertakenb-vteachers,possiblyw'ith
the assistanceof applied linguists, and involves monitoring the effects of their actions by
examining the relationship betu'een teaching and learning. It cails for teacher research.
Widdowson's frameu-ork provides a basisfor applving SLA in the follow'ing ways:

f\aking SLA accessible

V-Hs function involves interoretation. Becausethe bulk of SLA oublications were written for
r e s e a r c h e r sa n d n o t D r a c t i t i o n e r s .t h e r e i s a n o b r i o u s n e e d f o r s u m m a r i e so f t h e m a r n
findings. Such summariesu'ill hale four major purposes:to make a principled selectionof
those findings that are likely to be ofinterest to teachers; to provide surveys ofthe findings
of a rvide range ofresearch r,vhichhas addressedthese issues; to evaluatethe findings in their
o\\-n terms 1i.e. to establishrvhich ones are valid, reliable and trustr'vorthv);to present the
survevs in a language that makes them accessibleto practitioners and rvhich provide the
means by which teachers can receive a foundation in SLA.
The organization of these summaries bears some thought. One possibility is to structure
them around the issuesidentified in the rgsear-eh-Thislvould lead to survevs of such issues
as learner errors, input and interactioryi-i35ili3ggirrL,the role of formal instruction, etc. An
alternative, however, is to base the sufvevs-on pedagogical concepts. This would lead to
surveys ofresearch findings that are relevant to such issuesas error treatment, the use ofthe
learner's L1 in the classroom,and options in grammar teaching.Thislatter approachis clearlv
more demanding but is likelv to increase the perceived reievance. It provides a bridge
betw'eeninterpretation and conceptual evaluation.

2 Theorv development and its application

One wav of conducting conceptual evaluation is through theory construction. As Krashen
( 198 3) hasnoted there are dangersin ,r)'irg !o uppl)' th9j ."r"
-rTHr "t
i a n d a m o r e p r r n c r p l e da p p r o a c J \ i st o u s e r e s e a r c ht o c o n s t r u c ta t h e o r v n h i c h c a n t h e n b e
applied. One advan-age of such an approTch'EErrceptuaiization is that it provides an
opportunitv for developinga pedagogicallvrelevant theorr'.As Brumfit (1983) has noted,
t e a c h e r sn e c e s s a r i l or p e r a t eu - i t h c a t e g o r vs r s t e m s A
. t h e o r v o f i n s t r u c t e dl a n g u a g ea c c u i -
}:-i-'_' can assist them in creating appropriate categoriEiWFnGd earlier, however, that
there are aiso dangers in such an approach. In particular, so much investment mav be made
in a theor-v that it becomes petrified, resistant to modification in the iight of counter
. arguments and ner'vresearchfindings. If this happens,of course conceptual evaluation gives
rvay to persuasion.
The application of the hvpothesesthat comprise a theory is one rvay of operationalizing
SLA for pedagogv.Thisoperationalizationtakesthe form of specificproposalsfor the practice
of teaching.The proposals mav concern overall approaches,the aims of the language
curriculum, the content and organization of a s"'llabus,teaching activities, methodological

procedures, and methods of testing learners and evaluating curricula - in other words anv
aspectof languagepedagogv.Theseproposals,mav take the form of original ideas,but as I
have alreadv pointed out, it is more likelv that thev rvill identifv options alread_v to be found
u,'ithin pedagogv.Irrespective of their form, these proposals cannot hr". th. status of
prescriptions. Rather thev serve as illuminative ideas.The',' are suggestions'"vhich practi-
tioners, if thev seefit, mav or mal not chooseto experiment rvith.The provisionalnature of
proposalsis determined not bv doubts about the r,aliditvof the theorv/researchupon which
lh.v u." based(even though such doubts mav u'ell exist ) but bv the recognition thaino theorv
and no research can claim to be applicable to the mvriad contexts in r,vhichpractitioners
operate. The applied SLA researcher,hou.ever, has a dutr. to ensure that anl I has
P o t e n t l l l r e r a p P l ' c a t t o na n d , ct. the attributes ol dilterent
examined from the innor,ationist oe ir-e described in the previous section. InJhii-war,,
it mav be possible to identifv u'hich proposals have a good chance of being adopted b1

3 Researchingthe L2 classroom
As rt'ehaveseen,another rvav of operationalizingconstructs,lvhether thesehavebeen derived
from pure researchor from teachers'personal knorvledge,is to carrv out investigations
r ! , : I

in classrooms 1Wr-ght 1rn). Suc ie3r.h ptotid.i-u@g

:rhelps-6-lv-aTd ofi-attacks that proposals derived from teachers' own experience or from
methodologists'r'vritings are nothing more than hunchesor unproven prescriptions. Further
more, Practitioners are likelv to attend to classroom research more seriousiv than to pure
researchbecauseit directlv addresses issuesthat thev are concernedu.ith.
Classroom-centredr.r.u..h conductedbo'res"urchers, hou'ever,doesnot suppl-va bodr
of information about effective pedagogv rvhich can be transmitted to teachers as solutions
to their problems anv more than does pure research.The most that can be said is that
proposals that are tested through classroom research mav become more fully illuminated.
In accordancervith the vie,"'n'sof Stenhouse,verma,Wili, and Nixon (1982i, the external
validit,vof anv research,including classroomresearch,can onlv be establishedbv individual
teachers in the contexts of their or'vn classrooms.It follolr-s, then, that w.hatWiddolr,'son
(1990) refers to as'outsiderresearch'needsto be complementedbr,'insiderresearch,w.hich
is researchconductedb"' teachersthemselves.

4 The teacher as researcher

We saw'eariier
in our discussion
of the educational that thereis_a-compellingcase
lt.!tt--.- -

ProDlems loenllnec Dv teacners. lt Pro\ldes means ol enabhng teachers to reflect on thelr

theoriesofian learnins and teachinslEat-Ire
r 990)
) )v ) in
r cLclrLiearFrEllects
vedrs fellecLsmaiftreasilg
urc lncreasrngall'areness
thai languageteacrung
mat teachingists an ed"ucational
enterprise and, thus, needsto be informed bv mainstream educational thinking.Widdowson
(1990) seesthe need for teachersto be engagedin the active processof exp'erimentingin
their classroomsas a r,vavof determining the practical effect of ideas in action.
There is still a role for SLA in teacher'ledresearch,,'er. AsWiddorvson ( 1993) has
pointed out, action research,like anr-other kind of research,cannot take place w.ithout
theorizing. Teachersneed to engagein the process of conceptual evaluation in order to
identifv research problems. A familiaritv rvith SLA, then, can help teachers shapeproblems

in a wav that makes them researchabie.In so doing, holvever, it must not impose issuesor.r
teachersbut rather act asa resourcebv which teacherscan refine questionsderived from their
o\vn experience.AsWiddo\\'son (1993) puts it, theorizing must be client-centred.
SLA can help in another u'ar'.It can provide teachers w'ith information about the kinds
of instruments and procedures thev rvili need to usein order to collect and analysedata. Some
thirty vearsof researchingL2 acquisitionhaveled to the development of a number of research
tools (seeLarsen-Freemanand Long 1991 , Alhvright and Baile-v1991), manl' of which can
be used bv teachersin their ou,n classrooms.
As lve noted earlier, the idea of the teacher as researcher r,vill not always be lvelcomed
bv teachers. For some teachers, at least, horvever, SLA can be made real through the
discoveriesthev make about holv their olvn learners learn a second language.

From an applied linguist's perspecti"'e,then, SLA is relevant to language pedagogy in

a number of lva-vs.It can contribute to the appraisal of pedagogic issues.To this end, the
applied SLA u,orker can assistbv making research accessibleto teachers,bv developing
theories ofinstructed L2 acquisitionand bv advancingpedagogicproposalsbasedon t}ese
theories. SLA also has a role in application.The appiied SLA researchercan seekto illumi-
nate pedagogic problems and their possible solutions through conducting experimental and
interpretative studies in and, particularlv on L2 classrooms.Finalh', the SLA worker can act
as a facilitator of teachers' o$,-nresearchbv helping them formulate research questions and
choose appropriate research methods. These functions can be seen as strung out on a
continuum with'outsider activitv' at one pole and'insider-activitv'at the other.While it can
be argued that the relevanceof SI-A increasesas one moves ulong the continuum, outsider
activity should not be disparaged,ashasbecome fashionablein some quarters.Teacherscan
and do benefit from an understanding of the issuesdiscussedin SLA. How.ever,the deter-
mination of reievance is ultimatelv the dutv of the teacher, not the applied SLA worker,
although the latter can aid the process and, doubtlesslv,should try to do so.
Finally, it must be clearlv acknou.ledgedthat SLA does not constitute a body of
knowledge that is necessarvfor the development of effective teaching skills. As Brumfit
( 1983: 61) hasobserved,'learningto perform competentlvis never the sameaslearninghow
to understand the processofperformance and to explain it'. SLA can contribute to teachers'
understanding; it cannot ensure competent practice and, to quote Brumfit again, is
alw'aysthe possibiiitv that practice u'ill run aheadof theorl', aslvell asthe reverse' (rbid.: 68 ) .


1 The failure of the comoarativemethod studiesto demonstratethe suoerioritv of one

method over another did not lead to the abandonmentof classroo- ."r"u..h bur.d o.t
pedagogicalconstructs,hor'vever.Ratherit led to a focuson particular aspectsofteaching,
suchaserror treatment or learner participation.Alhvright ( 198 8) describeshow the global
method studiesgave\^-avto the detailed studv of classroomprocesses.
2 SLA researchersw'ho begantheir careersas teachersinciudeVivian Cook, Pit Corder,
Mike Long, John Schumann,ElaineTaroneand mvself.
3 Preciseh'ivhat counts as a relevant freld of..qri.. in SLA u'here languagepedagogyis
concernedis, ofcourse, debatable.In Ellis (1995), I arguethe casefor the irrelevanceof
UG-basedresearchand theon'. Another areain rvhich I haveoersonallvbeen able to find
littlereleranceislanguagetransfer.ThecompetitionmodeirBatesandMa 1 c9 W
8 2hyi n n e v
hasproved productive in promoting researchbut to date hashad little to sayto teachers.
However,this faiiure to find relevanceshouldnot be perceivedasa criticism ofthese areas

of enquirv.Thestudv of languagetransfer,for example,is obviouslvof centrai importance

fbr understandingL2 acquisition,the goal of SLA.
Other factors to do rvith the relative statusof pure research(i.e. researchdirected
exclusivelvat the creationoftechnical knor,r-ledge) as opposedto appliedresearch(i.e.
researchdirected at addressingpractical"s; i" th. universitt settingsin r,vhich
researcherstvpicallv'rvorkmav alsohavecontributed to the diminishinginterest in adding
application s e c t i o n st o p u b l i s h e dp a p e r : .
According to the positivist vierv of the relationshipbetu-eenresearchand language
pedagogr',researchpror.idestechnicaiknou-ledgeu'hich teachersusein making decisions
about vl-hatand hor,r-to teach. Researchprescribesand proscribesw.hatteachersshould
Pica(1994) doesnot indicatehou'her teachersarrived at the questionsthev asked.One
possibilitv is that their questionsrvere influenced,in part at least, bv their knon'ledge of
the SLA literature and their perceptionof u-hatthis literature claimsis important and
relevant. It r.vouidbe interesting to knorv u-hat kinds of questionsare askedbv teachers
u'ho are not familiar lr'ith SL-A.. I am grateful for Jim Lantolf for raisingthis point.
It should be noted that some researchersseea positive disadvantage in trying to establish
links w'ith languagepedagog'"'. Neu.meverand Steinberg( 1988),for example,considerthat
one of the reasonsfor the immaturitv of SLA is preciselvthe felt needto make applications.
Sometimes,horvever,thesenatural samplesof spokenlanguage'r,vere supplementedwith
samplesof elicited language.For example,Cazden,Cancino,Rosansky,and Schumann
(1915) usedexperimentalelicitationsbv askingtheir subjectsto imitate or transform a
modei utterance.
The interpretativetradition of research,r'i'eddedto ideasborrowed from critical sociologv,
hasmore recentlv been usedto examinea third tl'pe of knou.ledge sociallvconstructed
knolvledge.Thispost-modern approachhas,.r.rtil .ecentlv, not b"eenstrongiv reflected in
10 Richards(1991),in a survevof 50 MATESOL programmeslistedin theTESOLdirector,v,
found that 29 ofthem includedrequiredcourseson SLA.
lt There is, of course,a dual applicationof Leu'in'smodel of actionresearchto teaching.One
is that researchersinterestedin changingclassroompracticesneed to work rvith teachers
rvith a simiiar interest in researchingchange.Theother is that teachersneed to work with
learnersin negotiatingthe activitiesthel' will engagein. The latter appiicationis reflected
in the idea of a processsvllabus(Breen 1984),accordingto'"vhichthe content,method-
ologv, and methods of evaluationfor a languagecourse are teacher
and studentsasthe coursetakesplace.Tothe best of mr.knor",-ledge, however,proponents
of the processsvilabushavenot made direct links betrveentheir ideasand thoseof Le'"r-in.
12 Markee's(199+b) studv examinedtask-basedlanguageteaching,w'hich,asMarkee points
out, hasbeen influencedbv psvcholinguistictheories of L2 learning.
It should be clear from this that the SLA researcherand the appliedlinguist canbe one and
the same person. Indeed, manv SLA researchers(mvself included) would consider
themselvesapplied linguists. It should be equallv clear that the two roles need not
be related;there are manv SLA researchers u'ho are not appliedlinguists.Thereare also
some SLA researchersorlith ,ro foundation in languagep"augogt ,:uho 'SLA


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Chapter 4




f N AN INFTUENTIAL PAPER WHICH d i s c u s s eds i f f e r e n c e sb e t w e e n f i r s t

|. und second languagelearning, Blev-Vroman (1989) drarvsattention to the extent'lq
*hi.h .".ord lung!3g9_( .lfirst ]qlguge '
l -tittr*.tt""-"nr.ttti"gt'ot. of;;;nffiA
:--"."-;1, - -
it is hardlv srlrpfrfinglEatlFelanguage teaching profession has explored manv alternatives
in the search to find more effective methods (Larsen-Freeman 1985). And it is equallv
unsurprisingthat one of the responsesthe professionhasmade is to seervhetherupprou.h",
to second languageteaching w.hich connect rvithfrsr languageacquisition hold out anv
This chapter u'ill review t$.o such instructional approaches.The first is broadlr'
concerned ouith"hension-drir.en learning, regarding second language development
aslikelv to proceed,under the right conditions,simplv asa result of exposureto meaningful
input. The second, lvhich in some wavs arose out of dissatisfactionwith the {irst, proposes
that engagingin interaction and producing output w'ill be sufficient to drive secondlanguage
development forw-ard.In each case,clearlr',interlanguagedevelopment is seen to be the
bv-product of engagingin meaning-processing- in the first casethrough comprehension,
and in the secondthrough production. As a broader aim, the chapter developsthe claim that
instructionai activities that emphasizemeaning, whether comprehension or production
based, mav induce learners to reiv on strategiesfor communication rvhich result in a
bypassingofthe form oflanguage.

The place of comprehension in language learning

The clearest example of a comprehension-basedaccount of second languagedevelopment

derives from Krashen (1985). He proposed that comprehensibleinput is the driving force
for interlanguage der.elopment and change,and that the effects ofsuch change carrv over to
influence production - that is, one learns to speakbv listening, a claim which is interesting
becauseofits counter-intuitir.e nature. Krashen arguesthat the predictabilitv ofthe context
makes what is said function as a commentarv on u'hat is alreadv understood. The result is
that it is more likelr, that the interlanguage svstem rvill be extended bv the context-to-
languagemapping involved.

Krashen articulatesa rationale for comprehension-basedinstruction. He draws attention

to the successthat various listening-basedmethodologies can claim, such asTotal Physical
Response(Asher 1977),asr,vellasmore experimental researchin its support (Winitz 1978;
Postovskv 1977). Most of all, though, he is enthusiasticabout the achievementsof immersion
education, in r.vhichcontent-basedlearning'drags' languagelearning $-ith it parasiticallv.The
featuresof immersion education, such as learning environment lvhich is supportive, and
w-herebilingual teachers provide ample content-basedinput while allorving learners to
produce language at their pace, are seen as consistent rvith Krashen's position. Manv
evaluationsofsuch an approachto foreign languageeducation (Sw'ainand Lapkin 1982) have
shou.n that immersion-educated children reach much higher levels of achievementthan
do children educatedbv traditional'core' methods, and in some areasperform at levels
comparableto those of native-speakerchildren. And this is achievedrvithout compromising
content-basedlearning in areassuch asgeographv,mathematics,science,and so on.
Krashen's vier,vshar,ebeen influential u'ithin second ianguage education and have had
considerableimpact on the nature of pedagogic provision. Not surprisingh', therefore, they
havebeen subjected to searchingcriticism, and it rvould no\\'seem that the claims that
made cannot be substantiated.General criticisms of the theoretical status of Krashen's
M o n i t o r M o d e l c a n b e f o u n d i n M c l a u g h i i n ( 1 9 8 7 ) , G r e g g ( 1 9 8 4 ) , S p o l s k v( 1 9 8 5 ) a n d
Skehan(1984).The present discussionrvill be confined to analysesofthe functioning of
comprehension, and the lvays that comprehension-driven learning mav (or may not) occur.
Perhaps, first of all,, it is u-orth returning to the Canadian immersion pro-
grammes. Earlier evaluationswere generallv favourable,and suggestedthat such an approach
to Ianguageprovision might be rvorth adapting in other contexts. Ho'"vever,more recently
the limitations of immersion approacheshave also become apparent. In particular, attention
is nou'increasinglv dralvn to the contrast in achievement betlveen receptive and productive
skills. Although the chiidren concerned perform at levels of comprehension close to native
speakers,the samecannot be saidof their production abiiities.Harler and Su'ain( 1984) and
Sw.ain(1985) report that immersion-educatedchildren, after manv vears of instruction,
still make persistent errors u'hen speakingand."r'riting,suggestingthat the automatic transfer
betu.een comprehension and production that Krashen argues for does not occur w-ith any
This sort of evaluation demonstrates that an unqualified interpretation of the benefits
of comprehension-basedmethodologies is not justi{ied. In retrospect, it is difficult to seehow
comprehension-basedapproachescould have been so readilv accepted, since thev offered
oniy rudimentary accounts of the mechanisms and processesbv which comprehension lvas
supposedto influence underlving interlanguageand generalizeto production. Consequently,
the next section r,vill examine comprehension processesin more detail to tn'to account for
the immersion evaluation hndings.

Comprehension strategies

The findings become much more understandable if one examines the relevance of native-
speaker comprehensionmodels for the process of second languagelearning. Looking at
comprehensionin more'micro'terms, Clark and Clark 11977)have argued that native-
speaker listeners t1-picallvdrarv upon a range of comprehension strategies when they are
listening.Thev focus on holv svntacticand semanticstrategiesmav be used to recover the
meaning of rvhat is heard in a rather impror-isatorvmanner (ibid.: 57-85). Examples of
s,vntacticstrategiesthat thev discussare:
C O M P R E H E N S I O N A N D P R O D U C T I O NS T R A T E G I E S 7 7

Whenever r'ou find a determiner (a, an, the) or quantifrer(some, all, many, two, six,
etc.) begin a ne\\-noun phrase.
Whenever r,ou find a co-ordinating conjunction (and, or, but, nor) begin a ne\\.
constituent similar to the one tou-juit completed.
Trv to attacheachneu'u.ord to the constituentthat camejust before.

Thev illustrate this last strategv through an advertising campaign run b"' a London
eveningpaper'"vith posters such as'Zoo keeper finds Jaguarqueuing for underground ticket',
and'Butler findsner'vstationbetr,veen Piccadillvand Oxford Street'.Thepaperwanted more
people to realizeholv useful its small adr,ertisementssection u'asand to attract their attention
to posters ther' rvould normallv glance at onlv brieflv u-hile passing.So thev exploited the
that readers \r'ere led into br- using the third of the abovemicro-strategies.
Readers then had to recognize the improbabilit\: of their first interpretatio. of
being attachedto'Jaguar' and station' to'betrveen Piccadiilvand Oxford Street', and
rnoo'I th" link to the first noun in each sentence.
Clark arid Clark (;bid.:72*79'1 also discusssemanticstrategies,such as:

4 Using content rvordsalone,build propositionsthat make senseand parsethe sentence

into constituents accordinglv.

Fillenbaum (1971) illustrates the operation of this strategvbv showing that rvhen people
w e r e a s k e dt o p a r a p h r a s e ' p e r v e r s es' e n t e n c e sl i k e ' J o h n d r e s s e da n d h a d a b a t h ' , t h e v
normalized them, lvith more than half of his subjectseven assertingthere u'as a shred
ofdifference'betrveen the paraphraseand the original.
Clark and Clark are, in effect, arguing that native-speakercomprehensionis probabilistic
in nature, and does not follorv anv sort of deterministic model rvhich *'ould rely on an
exhaustiveparsing of the utterar." .o.r." Instead,listenersuse a variety of meansto
maximize the chancesthat thel u'ill be able to recover the intended meaning of u,hat is being
saidto them.Thev are not, in other u'ords, using some linguistic model to retrieve meaning
comprehensivelv and unambiguouslr'.Instead, thev cope r'r.iththe problem of having to
process languagein real time bv emploving a varietv of strategiesnhich rvill probably
combine to be effectir,'e, even though there is no guarantee that this rvill be the case.
Presumablv if a comprehension difficultv arisesduring ongoing processing,the listener can
shift to a different mode of meaning extraction, asperhaps in the caseof the zoo keeper and
the Jaguar(asrvasintended bv the authorsofthe poster). But this is not done routinelv: the
primarv strategv is to achieveeffectir,enessin ver1,fast languageprocessing.Most listeners,
in their native language,prefer to make a best-guessand keep up, rather than be accusedof
being slorv-u.itted but accurate pedants (although \ve can all bring to mind some members
ofthis species).
These issuesdiscussedbv Clark and Clark (1977) can be locatedr'vithina wider
model of comprehension,u'hich hasa more macro table is adapted
f r o m A n d e r s o n a n d L v n c h 1 1 9 8 8 : 1 3 ; , n ' h o s u g g e s t h a t c o m p r e h e n s i o n( a g a i n ,f o r t h e
moment, native-speakercomprehension)is dependenton three main sourcesof knowledge:

background knou'ledge
- factual
- sociocultural

procedural knorvledge
- how'knou'ledgeis used in discourse

knou'ledge of situation
knol'ledge of co text
n'hat hasbeen, rvill be said

I e'lqe
-i:,:;:: ;n; kno.w-
:" r^taaiiC
>: il-,lil!i c
::t, ,rnh,_rlogical

Theseknowledge sourcesare drau'n on, interactiveh', to achievecomprehension. Micro

approaches(compare Clark and Clark 1977) are largelv concerned u'ith the operation of
siitematic knowledge r,vhichailow'seffective guessesto be made as to the meaning of what
is being said. ButAnderson and Lvnch are proposing that listeners build meaningsbv drawing
,n u.,.lide. ranqe of resources,including both schematicand contextual know'ledge.This
:,--:--:=. r:f,t \\'e are not exclusivelvdependent on the nature of the soundsaddressedto us
,, .,..--',. meaning.liu.e can relate u-hatis being saidto previous knorvledgethat we have,
i i : r . ' . , . . r : a , b e a b l e t o m a k e v e r l e f f e c t i v ei n f e r e n c e sa b o u t t h e m e s s a g e sc o n c e r n e d '
.-::...,: ... :: sr rtlare the messageto the probablethings that are likel,vto be said given the
:.::..:: .t ,-n. siruationalcontext, lor examplethe bus queue,or r'r'hathas been saidpreviously,
..',..::- .utting dou'n the range of possiblemeanings that u'e encounter, and making our

.--:!:t : ab,rut n'reaninqmore likelv to n'ork. In this respect,listenersare behavingin exactly

i--..:..::-.: r'.rl :: .krlled readersdo u'hen thev samplethe printed material in front of them,
::--:.:: ::-.::.l, ,ring o\ er everv letter. Comprehension,in other words, is a mixture of bottom-
,: ::'-: ' : i' ,..,n F)rocesses tEsker-1988),lvith the more effectiveuseof top-dolvn Processes
:: t..--n. rne e\tent oithe dependenceon the acousticor visual stimulus involved.
:,,: :ll this implies is that the comprehensionprocesscan be partl-vdetachedfrom the
. .: . .r.. :',:rl.tic svstem and from production. If comprehension dralvs on effective
. ,: :i: .-. *.. and on a capacitvto relate input to context, then it mav partll, be an autonomous
-- :c development does not transfer automaticallvto other areas.A good compre-
:r t:r r-..r\ be an effective and appropriate strategv user, rather than someone who
:.: -,:r i trti., r-\trdCtSuseful svntactic inferences from the ianguagervhich is being processed
)-,,:.:. iy.r jr. Effective comprehension mav leave the underlving interlanguage sYstem
-:.: -rchedand unscathed.
Thcse arguments applv particuiarlv forcefuliv to the secondor foreign languagelearner.
.:- .uch .n."r, rt. are deali.rg r,vith people u'ho do not lack schematic knou'ledge, but w'ho
I n3\e limited svstemic knor,r.ledqe.Such learners, rvhen confronted bv comprehension
- and
:.r,,blems.are llkeli'to exploit *-hit thev are best at mobilizing relevant schematic
k roltleig" to or,ercome theii svstemic limitations. As a result, the need for the
interlanguagesystem to be engaged,and to have the chanceto changeand grow,
a second
To put ,ii. Ir directlv u. porribl-., it rvouid seem that, after all, learning to speak
Ianquaqe,at leastfor most people, is not accomplished simplv by listening to it.
C O M P R E H E N S I O NA N D P R O D U C T I O NS T R A T E G I E S 7 9

From comprehension to production

Krashen'sproposal(1985), that comprehensibleinput drivesforlr'ardlanguagedevelopment

and generalizesto speakingrvas attractir-e.Claiming that u'e learn through exposure to
meaningful material mav not be verv startling \!-e are unlikelv to learn from material rve
do not understand, after all. But claiming that interlanguage change arises in a receptive
modalitv and later becomesar,aiiableto production rvasbv no means self-evident- hence
t h e a t t r a c t i o no f t h e a r g u m e n t .
We have seen, though, that the evidence reported from evaluationsof immersion w'as
supportive of the original claim and so rve haveto acceptthat speakingdoes not come'for
free' simpll. through listeningto comprehensibleinput. In this respect,Long ( 1985) makes
a three-level distinction betn'een conditions for second languagelearning. He suggeststhat
it is valuable to consider lvhether factors such as input are:

I necessarv
2 sufficient
3 eflicient

Logicallv, an influence might operate at a level 7, 2, or 3, u'ith 3 efliciencv constituting the

most searchingcriterion, that an influence is not just causative(necessar-v and sufficient), but
is likelv to produce successfullanguagelearning most quicklv. At the other extreme, ievel
1 , necessarv,an influence \\.ould have to be present, but u'ould not be enough, in itself to
produce successfullearning (let alone accomplish this rapidl-v) since it rvould act simplv as
a precondition. Krashen'sproposal \\'asthat input is necessary)sufficient, and efficient, while
the preceding pageshave argued againstthis.

Roles for output

S w a i n ( 1 9 8 5 ; S u - a i na n d L a p k i n 1 9 8 2 ) , a n i m p o r t a n t c o n t r i b u t o r o f i m m e r s i o n - b a s e d
evidence, was led to consider rvhether other factors besidesinput might take us further in
meeting the three levels of condition proposed bv Long, and account for horv language
development might be driven foru'ard. In particular, she proposed the Comprehensible
Output Hvpothesis, that to learn to speaku-ehaveto actuallv speak! Drau'ing on her specific
suggestions(Srvain 1985), as well as on other sources, several roles for outPut can be
identified that are relevant to languagelearning.The first tw'o of the proposed roles still have
a connection witl input, but rework this relationship in some !vav.The remaining roles for
output are more specificallvtargeted on the productive modalitv itself.

b generate better input

Paradoxically,one needs to start bv drawing attention to the u'av in rvhich one could onlv
get good q,rilt,o input bv using output ispeafng) to give one's interlocutor feedback, so that
the input directed to the listener is more finel-vtuned to the iistener's current comPetence
(Long 1985). In this vierl-,output is important asa signallingdevice to negotiate better input:
input rvould still be the major explanatorv construct, but output rvould be necessaryto
generateit most effectivelv.Simplv listening rvould not ensure that good quality input r,vould
be received, since one u.ould haveto reh'on good luck or the sensitivitv of one's interlocutor,
neither of rvhich is verv dependable.The strongest form of this account concerns the

for meaning'literature (Pica 1994).This proposesthat engagingin meaning
negotiation, as indexed bv the use of, for example, clarification requests, confirmation
checks,and comprehensionchecks,evidencese16cientsignallingof miscomprehensionand
the clear engagement of a malleable interlanguage system rvhich is more likely', as a result,
to develop productivelv.In such cases,better input should be received,but in addition the
attempt to engage in conversation lvill trigger support at verv important points for
interlanguage development.

- fOr,*raivt17
W"-::g) ,.)"' .J .''lo"n,-7
Sw'ain(1985) arguesthat knon'ing that one u'ill need to rpglk makes one more likely to
attend to syntax 'uvhenone is listening. She suggeststhat if l;iteners are aware that it is not
enoughsimplvtoextraCtmeanin gfrominput,butthatth"1,q@o'
to thJ].r"urrc ty ,r'hi.h -.u.ri.rg, in ord==-..
to"*" @ri,
for their ow yntax

fnderlving speech. It is similar to r,vatchinga top-classtennis plaver, say,and making a

distinction betrveen simplv obserr.ingand admiring a stroke, on the one hand, and observing
and analvsingthe stroke so that it can be emulated later, on the other. So once again, we are
dealing here rvith output having an indirect effect in that it causeSinput and listening to be
used more effectivelvfor interlanguagedevelopment.

To accept the input hvpothesis is to be dependent on w-hat is said by others. If this is
enlightening, given the learner's current state of interlanguagegrammar, then progress may
result. But one is extremeh' be so fortunate as to receive relevant information
for specific points of interlanguage development relevant to the areaswhere one is framing
hvpothesesat exactlv the right time. Speaking,in contrast, allou.s the speakerto control the
agendaand to take risks and look for feedback on the points ofuncertainty in a developing
grammar (Swain 1985; 1995). This is unlikelv to make learning more efficient, since
t"h. ,, can control u'hat is going on and engineer feedback tlhut l, likely to be most

To be effective in the use of a language,one needs to be able to use the languagew'ith some
e a s ea n d s p e e d . E a r l i e r , i n t h e s e c t i o n o n c o m p r e h e n s i o n ,t h e ' r e a l t i m e ' p r o b l e m w a s
mentioned, according to rvhich it is important to posit mechanismsof comprehension which
havesome chanceof explaining listening in real time.The samebasicallyapplies to speaking,
the onll'lvav in r.vhichiearners can go bevond carefulll constructed utterances and achieve
some level of natural speedand rhythm.To obtain the automaticitl'that this involves requires
frecuent rtunrtv to components of utterances so that they can be
[roduced imoortant
speechruth". thu. th" .p"".h this respect, there is an aspectof
speaking which makes it an example of skilied behaviour, like driving a car, or, probably
more reler,antl-v,like plaving a musical instrument. O."lf by fr"q"."t d"
of spjechlikel) to he imn.or"d-
This applies to all speech,but it is likelv to appll even more forcefuliv to some aspects
than others. It mav affect morphologv vitalh', but hardlv affects rvord order. Hence the
C O M P R E H E N S I O NA N D P R O D U C T I O N S T R A T E G I E S 8 1

opportunity to practise speechin morphologv plavs a more prominent role

may be all the more important.

The previous arguments for the importance of output have not challenged the view' that
languagelearning is essentiallvthe developmentof a sentence-based interlanguagesvstem.
BUt it has been claimed (Brorvn and Yule 198 3) that much ELT rvork focuses excessivel),on
'short Il
t u r n s ' . a n d t h a t a sa r e s u l tl e a r n e r s 'c a p a c i t i e tso t a k e D a r t i n e x t e n d e dd i s c o u r s ea r e I I
not stretched. Certainlv, current developmentsin discourseanalvsissuggestthat there is a
Iot to be learned if one is to become an effective communicator. Discourse management
(Bygate 1987), turn-taking skills, and a range of similar capacitiesrvhich underlie the
negotiationof meaning in ongoing discourse(Cook 1989), can onlv be achievedbv actuallv
participating in discourse. If meaning-making is a jointlv collaborative activity, then rn'e
cannot read about these skills, or even acquire them passivelv,but instead have to take part
in discourse and realize hou- our resources are put to vuork to build conr,'ersationsand
negotiatemeaning.Extensivespeakingpracticeis ihere fore unaloidable.

develop a oersonal vo

A learner w'ho is com letelv de ent on u'hat others unlikelv to be able to deve
a Dersonal manner ot s Such a learner rvill be dependent on the sorts of meanings
5ilhe hasbeen exposedto, and n'ill not b" ubjclp_q_Ig!-atj versauon
Es.TfiFlmpiies a strange,passivevieu-of w'hat languageis used for, and how personal
conoeifr'sare manifested bv it. It seems inevitable that if one $'ants to sav things that are
important, one must have,during languagelearning,the opportunitv to steer con-versations
along routes of interest to the speaker,and to find rvaysof expressing individual meanings.
A role for output here seemsunavoidable.

The importance of output

These six reasons for the importance of output provide yet another argument against the
sufficiencv of a comprehension-basedapproach. Thev detail the inadequacv of simpll'
listening, and sholv that output too is a necessarvcondition for successfullanguagelearning.
But the next question is to consider *'hether output, in turn, is sufficient and ef{icient as a
condition for language.
The six roles for output listed abovemight suggestthat it is.The first such use, obtaining
better input (seep.79), w-ill not be pursued here since it is only a more sensitiveform of
Krashen'svieu's.The iast trvo roles, acquiring discourseskills and developing a personal
voice (seeabove),are more concerned rvith the construct of communicativecompetence.
The centrai roles for output in promoting interlanguage development are forcing syntactic
processing, testing hypotheses,and der-elopingautomaticitl'. The first trvo of these central
roles focus on form u,hile the third is more concerned u.ith performance and fluency.
The contrast implied here betr".eenattention to form and attention to performance,
suggestsa question rvhich is susceptibleto empirical investigation.We need to devise studies
u'hich can establishlvhether actual output favoursform or emphasizesfluency at the expense
of form. Although output mav generallr' be a good thing, the roles it serves in specific
situationsmay not be so beneficial. It then becomesimportant to establish,through research,
the conditions and constraints under rvhich output promotes a focus on form.

In the literature. r\\'o ienerai ac.ounts of the role of communication in languagedevel-

opment hal'e been proposed: languagedevelopment through the negotiation of meaning
(Pica 1 994, for exampi. ,: an,l de..lopment through the operation of strategiccompetence
(such as Bialvstok 1990 r. \\ e s ill eramine eachof them in turn to assessr,vhetherthey can
clarifl.rvhether output and interaction havea positive influence, and if so, r,l'hatthat influence
might be.

Advocatesof the negotiation of meaning approach(GassandVaronis 1994 andPica 1994,

for example) suggestthat the ongoing identification of difficuities in interactive encounters
stimulates learners to overcome such difficulties. In so doing, it is hvpothesized that
modificationslvhich are made to speechin the serr.iceof repairing conversationalbreakdown
i d e a ls u p p o r t i v em e c h a n i s mt o :

1 identifv areasrvhere interlanguage is limited and needs extension;

2 prgl-l{e scaffo!!1gg e!{1 feedback at preciselv the point r,vhenit w-ill be most useful
s i n c c t h e l e a r n e r u ' i l l b e o a r t i c u l a r l vs c n s i t i v et o t h e c u e s o r o r i d e d t o e n a b l en e w
meanrngs to be encoded.

Conversationalmoves such as comprehensionchecks. clarifica

like u'ill reflect hon conversationleids to enqaqement\\ith an underlvinq interlaneuaqe
systemwhen it is made un v malleabie.To link back rvith the roles for output discussed
, suchnegotiationof meaning providesideal opportunities for hypothesesto be tested
and a syntactic mode of processing to be highhghted.
There are, holvever, problems h".SJ-L!gtr_{_L_2_E_6),for example, has questioned the
ir d.rirubilit.'of.. .

| | a n d l r h o s e . - u l @ w e ] l t h i s i s a c h i e v e. -d . t { e P r o P o S e s ' i n f a c t , t h a t
l l s u c h r n t e r a c t l o n sc a n b e r r r t t u t t n ql o s. and ryul
is The u'ider issue,essentiallv,is that it is one thing for successful
l 'J discourse concerned.
negotiation to take place, but quite another for this to have beneficial consequencesfor
interlanguage development. Far
sequencesmav distractthe learnersand overloadthe processingsvstemsthe]'are using,with
t h e r e z u k t h a t e v e n u ' h e n s u c c e s s f usl c a i t o l d e dn e g o t i a t i o n so c c u r u h i c h p r o d u c e m o r e
no time to consolidatethem.
In an,vcase,there is also the possibilitv that such studies may have over-estimated the
empirical importance of negotiation for meaning. Foster ( 1998) demonstratesthat although
one can, indeed, point to differencesbetr,r..een interaction tvpes and participation patterns as
far as negotiation of meaning indices are concerned, global figures disguisethe true state of
affairs. In fact, unusuallv active students, lvhatever the task or participation pattern, engage
in the same amount of negotiation of meaning - nil. result, we have to conclude that for
most students this aspectof output does not have a definite impact on interlanguage change
and development.

Strateqic comDete

The situation is not particulariv different u'ith respect to the operation of strategic
competence and communication strategies,the other more qeneral framew'ork which might
C O M P R E H E N S I O N A N D P R O D U C T I O NS T R A T E G I E S 8 3

provide a rationalefor output-led interlanguagedevelopment.Thisliterature (Tarone 1981;

Ferch and Kasper 1983;Bialvstok 1990; has examined the r,vaysin r,r'hichthe strategies
that learners adopt when faced bv communication problems can be describedcl"arlv ?.rd
classified.Manv categorizationsvstemshar.ebeen proposed, such as Ferch and Kasper's
(1983) distinction betrveenachievementand avoidancestrategies,and Bialvstok's(1990)
contrast between linguistic and cognitive factors. One attraction of such systemsis that thev
account for the range of strategies lvhich are used as parsimoniouslv and vet as compre-
hensivelvas possible.In addition, it is useful if thev can be grounded in related fields, as is
the caservith Ferch and Kasper's(i983) appealto generalpsvcholinguisticmodels.
Hor,vever,a central issue is rvhether the operation of such strategiesof communication
at a particular time to soh'eparticular problems hasanv implications for interlanguagechange
and development over time.l C)ne could ask, for example, r,vhetherachievement strategies
(that is, retain the original intention of meaning, and use resourcescreativelv to solve a
communication problem) are more iikelv to lead to developmentthan avoidancest.ategies
(that is, do not extend one's linguistic repertoire, but instead changethe messageto be
communicated so that it comes rvithin availableresources). Similarlv, one could askwhether
there are different implications from the use of linguistic strategiescompared rvith cognitive
A different rvav of examining essentiallvthe same point is to consider the relationship
between communitation strategies and the Can"l" u.rd Srvain (1980) model of communi-
cative competence.This contains three (Canale and Sr.vain1980) or four (Canale 198:7
competences:linguistic, sociolinguistic,discourse,and strategic(discoursebeing the added
fourth competence: seethe discussionin McNamara 1995). Linguistic, sociolinguistic,and
discoursecompetencesare, in a sense,more basic, since thel represent areasof coherent
comPetencein relation to different aspectsof communication.Strategiccompetence,in thts
formulation, has a less integrated qualitv in that it is meant to function in an impro",isaron'
manner w'hen problems are encountered because other competences are lacking (see
Bachman 1990). Presumablvthe capacitvto negotiate meaning would be part of a more
A w'eakinterpretation ofrvhat is happening rvould be that such strategieshave no other
function than to solve some sort of communicative breakdor,vnin order that conversation
can proceed.With this interpretation, all that happensr,vhena problem is encountered is that
some degree of resourcefulnessis drarvn on, and the problem in question may or may not
be solved. In this t'i"t1.,it is not assumedthat there is much rracefrom the activity of solving
the problem in question. Although the'solution' mav enablefurther interaction to take place
(whichis, of course,not a bad thing), its detailsare regardedastransitorv and unimportant.
However, a stronger interpretation is that u'hen communication strategies are used,
thev haveimplications for longer-term languagedevelopment.There are three requirements
for this to happen. First, it is necessarvthat solving current communicative problems leaves
some sort of trace. In other w-ords,u-hat is initiallv an impro','isationto convev one's meanins
w'hen resourcesare limited is noticed and becomesmore than a,.u.,ria.tU,r;
success;there must be something about the interaction *.hich is sufficientlv ,uli".rt, and,/or
the processing capacitv available allou's such attention. Second, the improvisation w.hich
has become a solution must be useful to future problems - it must have some transfer or
generalizing po\\rer. Such an outcome lvould reflect the u,'avthe interaction itself has led
to useful h,vpothesisgeneration or to svntactic processing (Su.ain 1985; 1995). Third,
the communicativesolution needsto become proceduralized,either becauseit is so striking
during one occurrence (Logan 1998), or becauseits strength is built up more graduallv
through repeated related solutions to essentiallv the same communicative problem

(Anderson 1992).ln anv case,it becomes availableaspart of one's communicative
one are encountered. If all
o.r..,br.qr.nt occasionsrvhen problems similar to the original
indeed have a
these conditions are met, and interlanguage deveiopment occurs, then lve do
case of learning to talk bv talking. In this case solving communicative problems engagesa
language l"ar.ring capacitv directlv, since solving problems is rvhat Puts Pressure on the
c o m m u n i c a t i v es v s t e mt o c h a n g e .

Problems with communication strategies

There are a number of problems rvith such an interpretation of holv communication

strategies function beneficiallv over time. Of course, w'hat rvould be ideal, in this regard,
1vouid be longitudinal studies of the impact of different patterns of communication strategy
use on interlanguagedevelopment, sincesuch studiesrvould chart the nature of interlanguage
change,fo.."l.uu.rt learners, relating interaction patterns and strategic languageuse to the
,r.rd"ilvi.rg svstemschangervhich occurs. Unfortunatelv, such studiesare in short supply and
isolated ca-sestudies huloeto be relied upon to an excessivedegree. (The thrust of most such
researchhasbeen to establishclassificationschemesor analvtic framervorks r,vhichhavelittie
to savabout longer-term change.)Even so, there is some information available.

Em p i r i caIIy- m ot ivat ed concer n s

Schmidt (19S3) reports the caseofWes, a Japaneselearner of English in Hawaii. Schmidt

studiedWesover an extended period, gathering dataon his languageperformance in informal
settings over t\,vo vears. Schmidt used as a guiding theoretical framervork the Canale and
Sr.ain (1980) model of communicative competence mentioned earlier. He also drew'
',vasquite clear that he
attention to Wes's attitude to learning and using English, sinceWes
was uninterested in instruction or correctness,and lvas more concerned with achieving
effective communication r,r.iththose people he rvanted to talk to. In this he was successful,
since in the period of the studv he rvent from being regarded as a minimal English speaker
to being taken as a worthw'hile interlocutor bv native speakersw'ho clearly reacted to him,
at the end ofthe period ofstudv, as a conversational equai.
The most interesting aspect of the studv, however, is that w'hen Wes's improvement
over the period r,vascharted in terms of the Canale and Su'ain framework, it was apparent
that nhiie his strategic and discourse competence changed markedly for the better,
his improvement in terms of linguistic competence r,vasminimal (and his s)/ntax \vas as
fractured at the end of the period asit rvasat the beginning) , while in the sociolinguistic area
the change w-asnot verv great. In this case,then,Wes's reliance on strategic capabilities to
achieve communication rvas spectacularlv successfullvhen judged in terms of conveying
meanings and being acceptableas a conversationalpartner, but ver-vunsuccessfulwhen
judged in terms of development in his underlling interlanguage system. Reliance.on
communication strategies,that is, seemed to be harmful to his linguistic health, a point that
evidently did not disturbWes, since he had achiei-edthe goalshe had set for himself as far as
c o m m u n i c a t i o nu ' a sc o n c e r n e d .
A similar conclusion arisesfrom s'ork done at the Foreign Service Institute (Higgs and
Clifford 1982), u.hich is also of a longitudinal nature.The Foreign Service Institute (FSI,
training programme emphasizesthe acquisition of oral skills, and is accompaniedby the
administrationof the FSI-lLR (lnteragencr LanquaqeRoundtable)oral interview test (Lou't
1982).Thistest enablesboth a globaland an anah'ticvieu'of the competenceof the personne-
C O M P R E H E N S I O N A N D P R O D U C T I O NS T R A T E G I E S 8 5

being trained to be obtained. The former is based on a five step scale on w.hich
proficiencv can be estimated (supplementedby plus scoresfor eachnumeri."l
Iatter gives seParateratings for svntax, r.ocabuiarr',fiuencv, and other skill areas. Ii thi, *uy,
the longitudinal development of the learners can be monitored through an examination of
the profiles generated bv the analvtic markings scheme over ser.eralpoints in time.
Higgs and Clifford ( 1982) report that profiles of students at earlier points of instruction
can be used predictivelv to estimate the likelv later gain of the candidatesin question. Given
the basic five-step scale, candidates lr.hose grammar ratings u,ere abor.eor equal to their
ratings in vocabularvor fluencv tended to continue to progressand reach higher performance
levels as ther,'receivedmore instruction. In other lvords, balancedanalvticratings or higher
grammar predicted continued gain and capacitl' to profit from instruction. In contrast,
students lvhose earlier profiles shor'vedstrong fluencv and vocabularv skills did not manifest
the same degree of sustainedimprovement. Higgs and Clifford (1982) called these learners
2's' (from the 6ve-step scale),suggestingthat the earlier profile rvasassociatedrvith
a probable plateaurngin achievementat around Level 2. It seemedasthough the earlier fluency
and vocabularv gains comprised continued development, and mav havebeen associatedwitir
fossilization.These learners corresponded,in some wavs, to Schmidt'sWes, since earlier
communicative effectiveness (and the higher fluencv and vocabularv scores earlier in
instruction might be connectedlvith a communicativeorientation on the part of suchlearners)
represented a short-term advantage proved expensive in the longer run since it was
associatedwith an interlanguagesvstem u'hich became less permeable. Once again, the
suggestion is that unless there is direct involvement of the underlving languag" Jurt"- i.,
communication, it need not develop, even though communicative effectivenessdoes chanqe.

Th eoreti caIIy-b as ed con cern s

In addition to these empiricallv motivated concerns over the usefulnessof communication

strategies,there are some more theoreticalh.-basedworries. First of all, there are r,vhatmight
be termed logical criticisms of the vie'lr'point. For example, it is difficult to imagine
how such strategiescan leave a trace. It is likelv that interesting operations will occur"*u"'alu when
achievement strategiesare used to cope r,r'ithcommunicative problems whose solution will
require some adaptation of the underh'ing svstem. But in such casesthe need to solve
unforeseen problems lvill ensure that the lion's shareof cognitive resourceslvill be directed
to conveving meanings.As a result, it is not easv to see ho.rvmemory of u-hat exactly has
worked .u.t b" effectivelv retained for the next occasion rvhen the strategv may be .,,rl,
since this outcome u,ould require the spare capacitv to fumble tow-ards,rrit solution and
simultaneously to monitor its nature and its effect. It seemsunlikelv that the conflicting "
on limited resourcesrvill allou' this r,r'ithanl dependabilitr .VanPattent I 990 I makes a si"mila.
p o i n t i n r e l a t i o n t o c o m p r e h e n s i o n . , r h " . . h e d e m o n s i . a t e st h a t s r n t a c t i c a n d s e m a n t i c
processing seem to conf-lictas far as attentional resources are concerned, and that attention
spanis too limited to aliolv both to be emphasizedsimultaneoush,.One can only assumethat
speaking,as Part of the interaction, u-ill pose significantlv greater problems for l"
More generallv, for the use of communication strategies to lr.ork to foster p.ogi.r,
svstematicall-v, it r.vouldbe necessarvto shorvnot simplv that thev leave a trace, but also that
the use of such strategies has some cumulative brulding potential. For if SLA research has
demonstrated anvthing, it is that developmental sequenceshave considerabie importance.
It would be necessary,therefore, to shorv that the progressive improvisations which solve
communication problems build upon one another, and are not isolated chancemanipulations
of languageelementsin one restricted area,but havesvstem-der.eloping potential, and push

the interlanguage svstem in some consistent direction. Unfortunateir', this argument,seems

hard to dommunication strategiesseem much easier to imagine as unplanned
".o'"irug-.. rvould seem that
resourceful so-lutionsrather than as cumulative building blocks. It
to debating the relative merits of
researchers in this area have devoted much more effort
different classificationsYstemsfor strategiesthan to examining the developmental potential
the literature
of the different strategi. tvpes that have been classified.when one examines
First of all, a researchbias in this
on types of strategvuJJ, ihi.rg. are distinctlvunpromising.
subjects to
ur.u of,..r leads inr'estigatorsto p.o"oke the need for strategv use bv requiring.
focus on vocabularv ptJbl.*.. As a result, the arearve knorv most about is probably the
relevant for interlanguage development. Further, tl,hen one looks at exampies of strategies
(for example, upp.oii-ution, r.void coinage, circumlocution, literal translation, avoidance,
and so o.r lnlulurtok 1990)), one can hardlv seehorv thev can help make a sustainedcontri-
bution to language development. Similarlv, negotiation of meaning sequences(Pica
Lyster u.rd n.-ntu*t g97) shorv little evidence of useful modi{ications to interlanguage being
made, or of the incorporation of scaffolded supports for more complex language' So, once
again, a potential*'un il rvhich interaction could drive foru'ard interlanguage development
revealsitself to be implausible.
Even more generailv there is the point that much of communication is elliptical,_a
creation bv the participants in conversationr,vhoeach spend their time working out what the
judge their
other knows. In other u,ords, if Grice's maxims are being follorved, speakersr'r'ill
contributions to conversationso that ther, are relevant and brief. Suchpeople, native speakers
or learners, are going to place great emphasis on communicating meanings, but^may
not necessarilvu,orrv ibout the exact form that the-vuse (Kess 1992).ln this respect, Grice
( 1975) hr, -"d. it ciear that maxims for conversation make for a considerable processing
burden because of rvhat is nor said.To spell evervt}ing out in comPlete and rt'ell-formed
sentenceswould soon emptv rooms, and get one classifiedas a boring pedant. Much adult
conversation is elliptical u.ri ir-r.o-plete in surface form, heavYin the assumptions that it
."vhich enables inferences about intended meaning,
makes about background knorvledge
speakerattitudes, ,o on (Widdo*'son 1989). It goes againstthe grain, in other words,
to do more than use form as one element or pressure in native-speaker communication,
w.herethe major emphasiswill be on the satisfactorinessof the florv of the conversation, not
the correctness, or completeness(or the usefulnessfor interlanguagedevelopment amongst
Iearners)of rvhat is said.
So speakersw.ill generally, or at ieast often, sav onlv w.hat needs to be said, confident
that their interlocutors rvill engagein w-hateverconversational implicature is necessarYto
recover the intended *"utring (oi rvill sav something that w-ill enable the {rrst speaker to
correct anv misinterpretation that r.r'illoccur). Learning to participate in such conversations
g,ill therefore not be learning to use complete and rvell-formed sentences'but instead
learning hou' to make r.r'ell-judgedinterventions s-hich one's conversational partners will
judge ai furthering the conversation. And just as rvith comprehension, the problem from a
l^.rgu"g" learner's point of vierv is that mature languagl users are just too good at grasping
thJfrli-""ning of utterances u.hich are elliptical.The knou'ledge sources covered earlier
fromAnderso. und Lvnch (1988) in relation to comprehension(schematic,contextual, and
systemic) are just as relevant in the caseof production, since the speakeris framing rvhat is
,uid *.i,h the comprehension abilities of the listener in mind. In this respect w'e have_aclear
difference betrveen the mature and the child languagelearner.The mature languagelearner
is able to drau'on vastlv greater storesof schematicand contextual knorvledge,and is not
(particularl,v) egocentric in orientation lalthough \\'e can all quicklv think of e-xceptions
amongst our acquaintances).Consequentlr he or she is abie to br"passsvntax for a great
C O M P R E H E N S I O N A N D P R O D U C T I O NS T R A T E G I E S 8 7

deal of the time. Since it is meanings which are primarr', as long as the speaker feels that
communication is proceedingsatisfactorih-, the need for precisesvntax is diminished.This
contrasts verv clearlv lr.ith the vounger languagelearner rn'hohas much less schematic and
contextual knorvledge availablepersonallv, and u'ho is also much less able to imagine rvhat
his or her interlocutor has bv rvav of knou-ledge in each of these areas.As a result, the child
hasmuch lesssconeto take svntacticliberties and short cuts.
We are ,ror" fucirrg quite a changed picture regarding the usefulness(or lack of it) of
conversationfor languagedevelopment.Thereis Iessneed, for the older learner,to produce
complete and lvell-formed utterances, becausemost interactions require collaborative
construction of meaning rather than solipsisticpartv pieces.Further,."r-hen communicative
problems occur, the strategiessecond languagelearners adopt are not likelv to push for'"vard
underlying system change in anv cumulative lvar'.Finallv, there is the issue that, even if
conversationu'ere b\- means of complete, rvell-formed utterances,cnd attempts to cope
with communicative problems u.ere useful, there is stiil the likelihood that attempts to cope
with ongoing processingdemands w'ould not allou-the learner to capitalizeupon such a
temporary breakthrough, establisha memorv trace of it, and use it in the future.


The central theme of this chapter has been that syntax has fragile properties. Normal
communication is pervaded bv the pressures of processing language in real time. We
comprehend and produce languagenot bv exhaustivelv anah'singand computing (although
we can do these things if rve have to, for reasonsof creativitv or precision) but instead br'
drawing shamelesslr'-onprobabilistic strategies r.vhichrvork effeclively enough (given the
support and potential for retrieval of miscommunication that discourse provides) at
considerablespeed of processing.\\'e reiv on time-creating devices, context, prediction
skills, elliptical language,and a range of similar performance factors to reduce the processing
load that rve haveto deal rvith during conversation.And the older rve become (up to a point)
the more adept lve can be at exploiting these resources.
The central point is that languageuse, in itseif, does not lead to the development of an
analvtic knolvledge svstem since meaning distracts attention from form. But clearlv
communication does proceed, so one can infer that speakersdralv upon other non-analytic
knowledge svstemsu'hich, one assumes,havequalities reievant to real-time communication.


In one sense,of course, this point is addressedthrough the distinction between

communication and iearning strategies.The former emphasizessolutions to immediate
communicationproblems,u.hile the latter areconcernedu'ith activitiesw'hichareintended
bv the learner to lead to longer-term development.In some casesthis distinction is clear,
asr,vhen,for example, a communication strategvdealsr,vith(sav)hou. to expressan idea
when a lexical item is missing (and hasno lasting effect) or w'hen a learner deliberatell
organizesa list of for memorization,not attemptingto usetheser,r.ords
but insteadr,vorkingtowards the extension of an underlving vocabulary.But the central
issueis that one can also regard the operation of manv communication strategiesas
containingiearningpotential,for exampleu-hena usefulcommunicationstrategvbecomes
proceduralizedand so reusable.It is preciselvthis tvpe of communication strategythat is
relevant in this section.


Anderson, Oxford:OxfordUniversitvPress.
A. andLvnch,T.(1988)Listening.
'Automaticitv 105:
Anderson,J.R.(1992) and the JournaloJPsychology
ACT theorr''. Amer)can
16 5 - 8 0 .
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Chapter 5




tion," "cooperative learning," "responsive teaching," and many other
terms likithem testifv to a fundamentuT-E-iftfro-. conclrtgiog, association, and other
laboratorv-basednotions of Iearning to human learning uiiiiilt*.E" theGydal'social
. t w o r l d o f t h e l ea r n e r .
This shift to the truction) o l e a r n i n gd o e sn o t m a k e
\\ .-.-
S- " rl tthe
h e iniestigation o f ' 1learning
i n v e s t i o : t i n n of , processes anv easier. On the contrarv. The security of isolating
/qOb" -tA , ,
)i variablesand defining them operationally,a securitv obtained bv laboratory-like experiment-.
U X-t'r. I
. ,.9) \u"d statisticalinferences,is largelr-lost,asthe researcheris forced to look for determinants
)\ I iot learning in the fluid dv,lu-iL, of real-time learning contexts.
-k -r-^l:.:^-^ll--
r V
Lv Traditionallr- -rve --^ L^,,^ + L ^ , , ^ l ^ + of
have thought ^ f scientific
.^;^-+;C^ -research
^.^^*^l^ .c a
as . matter
'-rr+6r ^ f looking
of l^^Li-^ iinto
nrn n arrcer
Q f\ and effects, and the benefits have been cast in the shapeof generalizationsfrom a sample to
\ a population and ofaccuratepredictionsoffuture occurrences.Thisresearchscenario,while
adequatefor simple phvsicalprocessesand laboratorv-controlledbehaviors,u'ill no longer
lr'ork once w'e venture forth into the real r,vorld of complexitv, in which manv people and
circumstancesact and interact. Here there are no simple causes,and predictability must
yield to contingencl'3::gelgb$Qe aimed at increasing our understanding, both
holisticalh' and in the smallest details, oflthe-social settinf as a cohp-ldada
-t lt
lntreased u n c l e r s t a n d l n g alio\\-s
c r e a s e c lunderstandrnq u s not
a l l o \ \ s us t o generalrze-hrHo-DarnrCIIIAnze;TmrTs;TraoaPI
n o t to
of the contexts in r'r'hichthe investigated processesoccur.
It is of the utmost importance to realize hor,r.different the job of researching languagt
learnins n qD If,o r
l n q becomes once we decide that the social context is central.To continue looking
gperatiinallv defined. discreteh'measured,statisticall-v -.niprrlut.dltnd .ausalll pred
-. -- r -r -.- -r L: - I . l Preorc
ti\.e $rublgs 1quld be to approach one job w-ith tools that belong to another. It rvould b.
like going to an archaeological site rvith a combine harr,ester oi like shining shoes with a
nail file.
In this essavI examine social interaction in language-learning settings from the poin:
of vieu. that such settings are complex svstemsin rvhich both attention to detail and globa.
C O N S T R A I N T S A N D R E S O U R C E SI N C L A S S R O O MT A L I ( 9 1

understanding are necessar\'.There are manv different kinds of interaction that may occur
in these settings,but I group them into t',vo broad tvpes: teacher learner interaction and
learner-learner interaction. Both hare been-Thffib]Fct ol considerableresearch,and their
-" ^*-,- I ie arning
learnrnp nas-E)
- - - - _ - a >bq$,gss,sucl-deb
- ate_di-lobk
franscribed examples of learning talk to trv to understand hor,vsocial interaction facilitates
The first example is an extract from a teacher learner interaction; the second, an
extract from a learner-learner interaction. (ln the transcriptions that follou'; x's in
parenthesesindicate an unintelligible, brief exclamation or r,vord;a left square bracket
indicatesoverlap; colons indicate lengthening of the previous sound;the equalssign indicates
that the turn continues belorv at the next equalssign; and three ellipsis dots indicate a pause
ofabout one second.

Teacher: Put the umbrella. . .

Student: Put the umbrellaon thef oor . . .
Teacher: On thefoor . . .
Student: . b e r w e e.n
Teacher: between
. . .
Student: . . . the bookshelf and theTl'.
Teacher: Vbrygood.

In this example of interaction in an ESL classroom,it is easvto distinguishteacher from

student.The teacher prompts and gives feedback,lvhile the student produces languageas
part ofa task (here, placing objectsin a picture as a wav ofpracticing prepositions).
That such classroom interaction is easilv recognizable is often taken as evidence of its
artificiality. The characteristic pattern has the teacher doing most of the talking while the
students act as rather passiveresponders and follou'ers of directions. As Anthonv Edwards
and DavidWestqate(1987) put it, classroomtalk seemsto run along" d
settings that aim to
clpate ln the la assroom,"asJohn Sinclairand David Brazil (1982) note. "I
R F,
assroom w.avit is? Hou it differ from interaction in other
settings, and hor,vcan it be brought in line u'ith present-dav critical and constructivist goals
for education?

Learner 1 : HereI - sometimes go to the beachlxxxxxx)

Learner 2: PebbleBeach?
Learner 1: llot PebbleBeach.My (xxxxxx)
L e a r n e r2 : l T h e . rn e a r- O h . .er a h .
Learner1: [Uhuh
Learner 2: it good?
Learner 1: Yeah, I thtnk so.
Learner 2: But I think herethe beachnot beautiJul
Learner 1 : O:h,re::allv?
Learner 2: Yes.It's not white.Thesandis not white.
Learner1: [Uhuh
L e a r n e r2 : A n d t h e v a t e r- l o u c a n n ost u i m .
Learner 1 : I seebecause yeah!lVecanswimbut-
L e a r n e r2 : [ T h i sv a t e ri s
Learner 1 : [-the wateris co]d.

In this conversation betlveen tr,vo ESL learners, in contrast to the teacher-student

interaction above,no one dominates or is in control: both learners contribute fairly equallv
to the talk.Th" l"rr t
arguments. Th=@g_at least not in this extract, infect each other vr.ijh
Jl linguistic errors or create some form of interlinguai pidgin, as teachers sometimes fear
// learners might do when left to their ou-n devices.
tf = wtraTIinffi]5FFo=ilniries do learners har e to learn netl languagervhen thel talk
to each other in this rvav?Are the blind leading the blind here, or can such learner-learner
conversationbecome a sort of interactional bootstrapping, rvhere participants assemble
learning material or contribute learning material to each other in the natural course of their
- The effectivenessof teacher talk and of iearner talk as input for learning has been

.-,-.extensir.elvdiscussedand researched(Chaudron 1988; Pica 1987; Ellis 1994).Teachertalk

il | f;. bee.r iauded for being comprehensible and criticized fo. b"i.rg inuuthffilffiot
I I ffi-nea to student needs. Learner talk has been lauded for providing opportunities for

r, ! i
I n e g o t r a t r n g m e a n l n g a n d C r r t l c l z e d l o r b e l n g a c l e l e c t l v em o d e l , r l d d l e C \ \ l t n l n a c c u r a c l e s .
On the lvhole, research has been s tive of learner learner interaction more than of
t&cTer talk.Tu-t t-FTdffierlearner l o n a r ( e . 9 . ,a s
talk studiedhasusualh'be
_-f -

worK: see Lo 5),;ffi the teacher talk has tended to be-?ronologic
(e.g., in the form oflectures or instructions;seeParker an ron 1987). We therefore
cld noTTrou-TflfE-the nature of the talk or the nature ol the rnterlocutor or a comtllnaLlon
of both that makes

Constraints and resources

r . The British sociolopistAnthonv Giddens describesthe structure of social systemsin terms

,4t of rules that both enableand constraintfi-aracteristics. lust as in a game, and I include the
special ," "languageguri"," tlElq.tu!-9.1d1,
, governed by rules that allorv cerrlaT mov., l. -.d" *hi]g disallor'ving(or dlsfavo{ngr

[l r.ql"gr the ruies are often tacit and ambiguous, and their precise interp.etiti6li.

{'/2 a backdrop of constraintsand resourcesthat are in some r.vavsdifferent, in some ways similar.
to those that characterizeother settings.The classroomthus can be seen to constitute a
sPeecnexcnanSes) jls-re1cKS, )cnegloll.
o fFurntaling r duties.The-classroom is the priqlar.
ch talk-for-la rning iiearnine qlk)__t!_g.rd --7.!--- and as such the
i, ff
classroom demonstrates tne norms lor r behavior(u-hatis cal@d"fuity".bv Giddens
, (le-a84);...' ieu (19
Gpl. reople in
rn language
language classrooms, engaged in the
engaged rn tne official
olnclal business
Dusrnessot language learni
of language learnlng.
, - i , - r ' i classrooms,
tend to behave and talk in lvays that ratifr,that business, in other rn'ords, they behave and
taIK approprrately SIee Fairclough t 19921 r an tnctslve drscussron
t e r m ) . E l e m e n t so iffiness, most prominent inside the classroom, may remain
visible also outside the classroom,lvhenever learning talk is carried out in nondesignateri
placesand at nonscheduledtimes (in cafeterias,around picnic tables,and so on), as wher:
two students in the extract of learner learner interaction given above agree to engagein ;
C O N S T R A I N T S A N D R E S O U R C E SI N C L A S S R O O M T A L I < 9 3

conversation at the req uest of a researcher.But time and place mar-make a difference in the
taik outdile lessons.Thispossibilitv needs to be taken into account when learners'and
teachers'interactionsare analvzed.
There are practical consequencesofthis constraints-resourcesvieu'oflanguage learning
* I L
contexts. In an article entitled "NoTalking in Class,"J.H. Lii (1994) depictsthe traditional I r&Sr Ir 5*q-
role ofteacher aso a n o t n a l o I s t u o e n t s a s m o s u \' l l s t e n l ncgt p a s s l v e' l vl n c l a s s . ek raeu^4
hiileed, a student is quoted as savingthat he used6
w-asso bored bv lectures."Theselectures."Th"r. comments .o-*..ts fit the
th knd@
e n o u g h .I h e l n t e r e s t r n' t\\G
t here is that in the innovative classdescribed (w'hich has tri'enty-
five students),the problem is solvednot bv the teacher'schanginghis wav of speakingand
interacting r,viththe students but bv the placing of a computer betu-eenthe teacher and the
taught. Thanks to the insertion of the computer, students "no$- have the opportunitv to
interact n'ith teachersand receive instant feedback."Askepticalperson might ask,Whv do
interaction and feedback recuire an artificial interface?Whv can't professors interact with
t h e i r s t u d e n t su i t h o u t a c o m p u t e r ?
Pierre Bourdieu and Jean-ClaudePassejon,in their u'ork on cultural reproduction,
sugfest rnar rne
the lnsuruuon
institution equrPSequipsfne the teacher
feacner rvith \\rtn certain
cerfarn distancing
techni nnosr t
efficient technique is "magistEilifdiscourse," \thich condemns th cher to "theatrical
onorogue. rnstitutionai control over the teacher's language use,
according to Bourdieu and Passeron(1977) that "efforts to set up dialogue immediately turn
constraintsis intriguing.:
This characterization of teacher- student interaction mav seem overdralvn and
unrepresentative of todav's classrooms,manv of r,r'hichare more d).namic and dem k
the tvpes of talk thut .u a\
teldhGTls free to ignore such constraints in the interests ofpedagogical action. Bourdieu
and Passeronare clearlv skeptical about the possibilitv of that freedom, though perhaps
transformation-minded educators may $-ant to seehorv far thev can go, and to what effect.
The institutional setting, of course, offers resourcesand facilitates their deployment in
,h.,u@materials Er r . - , ,I
palpabletfraush perhaps more lmportant, ot authorrty and po\\'er: the authorlty to set the vlbu,lq uv,
fg."C1_!bsg"=1,. judgerandgrade,test,pass.lailt; the authori!-Jo-spe;k;EaFo\lfr -
to control and evaluatethe speechof others.TffiI
iTTand this pounerhavetraditionallv
e teacherand the uork oTr:-ffitr-ng.but ther are increasinglrr iewed as no longer
appropriatein todav'sIearning environments.John Merroll.reports the storv of a teacher's
not knor,vinghow' to continue rvith a multimedia project after a specializedinstructor was
laid off. It had not occurred to this teacher that she couid ask the students to teach her;
asking them did not fit her concept of the teacher's role. As Merror.v (1995) suggests,
"teachersu'on't survive, and school rvill become increasinglvirrelevant, if teachersdon't
change their stvle of teaching," a stvle he refers to as "the bank deposit approach".
It is lr'ithin the structure of institutional constraints and resources that the teacher's
interaction w'ith learners must take olace.When teacher talk and teacher learner interaction
are examined, particularlv rvhen ,".o--..rdations for changesare made, these structuring
forces must be kept in mind. If interaction is as important for ianguagelearning as current
theories claim it is, then the kinds of interaction the classroom permits and the changesthe
teacher can realisticallr-make to those kinds of interaction are of qreat importance to
initiation-response-feedback exchange

ll'hat ts this called?

Learner: PIastic.
Teacher: Y o u c a l ] e d t r p l a s L i c .G o o d ! l t ' s p l a s t t c . B u t j r s g o r a n o t h e r n a m e I o o

This exchange betu'een a teacher and a learner is unmistakablv classroom talk. It

contains the follou'ing steps:

alreadv knolvs the ansrver.
The teaiElr wishes to see if the learner has some particular piece of knowledge and
can displav this knorvledge.
The learner responds effectivelv and efficientlv, but also elliptically, using just one
The teacher evaluatesthe learner's response, approving of it, but then suggeststhat
there might be another, more felicitous, ans\\.er.

This particular form of classroom interaction, the teaching exchange,is considered amonq

/x the most frequentl,v occurring t.vpesof teacheesrudent talk in the classroom (Sinclair and
I 988:\r'ellsffialled an IRF
exchange,sinceit consistsof thesethree parts (or moves):initiation, response,feedback.
In the IRF format, a number of different things can be accomplished. !1!h= rnot,
C5mechanical, rote-lqarning end of IRF, the teacher's questions require the students merel.
to-recite prJviouslv learned items. IRF mav also be used bv the teacher to see if students
r I I -, 11, -1,- -,,-l-^-- -^ -^^ :f'^!--l^---

v a certain u'ord o item. IRF can demand more, challenginq studentsto think.

stlons. to clant\.

IRF therefore
continuum belw'een mechanical and demanding, as shou'n in the figure below
\o-itr-h"t the IRF tb-ril@-ns,
iren the .'arGE:6i-FdagoElFit it would be a
* mistaketo dismissit altogetherasbadpractice.Everl casemustbe examinedon its merits.
'^ is
As a rule of thumb,the precisenatureof the IRFbeingemplo)'edin a particularinstance
t.@-sinFthisi.*.h"..:&s_!gg.h.rt]'pialffi IF,h.pttp*t
question or seqqslse o:fuuestions..\[ter the follou"ing question-answerpair

Recitation Display Cognition Precision

F i g u r e5 . 1 l R F c o n t i n u u m

Teacher: betneen"wateris heattng"and"wateris heated'?

What's the dyfference
Learner: Whteris heatin7, tt it's the one v,'ho'sheattng.

a varietv of third turns are possible.In each case,a different tvpe of task is revealedto be
in progress: 'd''"tVt*1
Good. Sav the whole sentence:llateris heating the radiators.
-,t^..tL WI ,,
(recitation) -'

Teacher: Good.l4hat do we call rhat construction?


Teacher: And can),ou think oJsomethlngsthat tt mtght be heattng?

, " *xu*i:"
Teacher: Aha, can 1ou explain that in a httle more
Adapted from van Lier (1995a)

This example shorvsthat the IRF structure cannot be regarded asa single t,vpeof pedagogical
activitv.All four IRF t-vpesof teacher-learner interaction given abovecan be used to evaluate
or control or to invite participation. Knou-ing the purpose of a particular IRF exercise-
though this mav not alu'avsbe easr',is crucial in determining its pedagogicalr-alue.But there
are some things that all IRF sequenceshavein common, and these common featuresmust
as a pedagogicaltool.
be examined before IRF can be assessed

Learning as co-construction: the limits of IRF ( .- ) u<A

The central feature of IRF is that the teacher is r'.eouivocallv in charge.This being in charge
m a n i f E s t si t s e l fi n a n u m b e r o [ u ' a r s .
Everv IRF exchange is a step in an overall plan designed bv the teacher.The plan mav
be to check lr.hat the s"tudentsknorv (as in recitation or"displuj)rfro construct knowledge
o r a n a r g u m e n t . D e r h a p sa l o n g S o c r a t l c l l n e s , o r t o p u s h t n e s t u c l e n t st o \ \ ' a r c lc l a r l t \ '
d f.--e _ x p r e s s i o nl t. i s i m p o r t a n t t o n o t e i::
"r"'--"' g n s t r u c t e d .l o- r a r r i n q
t h a t t h e 'p l a n -i s n o t € g c-:-:-;:; :-
degrees,stTdFntsmal be an are of the nature o[ th-eplan and au are of the direction in u hich
the discourse is moving, but usuallv these matters are revealed onl,v gradualh' and
The teacherdoesali the initiating and closinq_(inother u'ords,takesall the first and
thirdI turnr- u-orkis done
turnslJftlThe students' doneexclusivelv
exclusivelvin the
the response
responseslot.The IRF format
slot.TheIRF format"r,trd..!114@d.1, A, D",-ti:Tffi gh

ansrvers".It is extremelv hard, if qot impossible, in the IRF format, for the stu
stions Fffi self-correct, and so on. Indeed, I found that such student utterances
oteru'helm quences.or in other Iryd:+:lIF
format. Often thev are *'hispered comments to a fellou-learner or questions rvrit n
- - r .
j n a n o t e b o o k . l h e I K F t o r m a t d l s c o u r a q e sl n t e r r u p t t o n ( o r d l s r u p t l o n ) a n d c a n t n e r e l o r e

be cailed'aclosedre491qh in that it structurallr,and functionally

l a c e .I t i i urslve gul bus tour, but the itinerary is olten
olvn to the studelts.
unities to exerciseinitiatire (see r.anLier 1988; Kinginger 1994:)or
-regulation (a senseof or,vnershipof the discourse,a
senseof being emPorl-ered)are extremelv restricted in the IRF format. Not only are student
uttt' g @mrne rapon*
Jr\ s l o t , i a n d u i c h e db e t n e e n t \ \ o t e a c h e rt u r n s l r a n T G i 1 9 9 6 a 1t,h e r a l s op r e v e n tt h e s t u d e n r
!V''4 f, r^o m crl o l n gt u r n t a K t n g ,t o p r c d e v e l o p m e n ta, n d a c t i r i t v s t r u c t u r i n g+u:o- r k . T h e t d o n o t
h -z I
.' r '].*Jl\ alJovr,to anv signihcant extent, negotiation of the directioiTT'iiEuition]
\ | ,r-,

r*{ 1+J.+ I
:H+lo"t Flinders
t > > V ; )Shul'
n u v l1ee1),
> > l ) r O f o't l l e l n s t r u c -
tional con\Ittlg! Hgf":T"$,1t-*:'^':j +1:'t'"'-
l.!)nrp and Gallimore 1988),especiallvif suchrecommendali6i-sare
,=..*- ' 1-#-
discusseflfr\r lhglperspectile of critical pedagogr-(Darder 1991; Shor 1992)?I explore
do** . )Or 'different
though related angles.

/-f\ t'ygotsky's 6J proximal developmentand the notion oJ pedagogical

)- \.f)' calfotding
\ rv

\_./ LevVygotsk discussesthe range of activitiesa learner can accomplishr,viththe assistance

of a more capableperson, such as . t"u.h.r.
activities(skills ations,etc.) are rvithin the learner'scompitence (this miqht be cali"d
re entrrelv outs earner s scope.I he mrddle activit\.. which is naturdllr
the tocus o agoglcal acrton. ls relerred to b\. V\-gotskr as th.e zone of

and Cole), a teacher develops strategies fo. uGting th. l.o.-ffih. ,r*io* kinds of
scarrororng (Bruner
(Dru I 983;.
-\ The inlT-iation- k exchan , at least rvhen it moves beyond mere
recitation and displav,can be re scaffolding
i".trygro",a w.ayof developing
cognitive structures in -- .:.--
l oe\elopment. o r a u ' a v o l a sslstrng
s s l s t t n qlearners to

a platform of shared knor,vledge that rvill facilitate the introduction and integration of
new know.ledge. IRF used in several steps in a iesson or during one activitl. am-ongother
its purpose, it vields to other lvals of stiucturing
ucrurlng participation.
Scaffoldi be oftrue I benefit, must be temporarv. The scaffold must be
allr dismantled as rner shorrs sjpil handling more of tl
task in question.
This over,(BruneFT9S 3 I . and lr.ithout it scaffoldin,,
tt | | i =-- --
\4'OUlClSlmDh' breed ' l e s s n e s sl .t i s u n c l e a r u ' h e t h e r I R F h a s i n i t s
structure the flexibilitv to effect handover. I suspect that, for handover to be possible, IRF
must be a ned at some point to make place lor autonomour l.urn"rffirre. This
switch from IRF to more o scoursestructures mav be a crucia slon
point, and researchshouldTocuson ii cloiJr..
tc '& tto"*e/V o

C O N S T R A I N T S A N D R E S O U R C E SI N C L A S S R O O M T A L I ( 9 7

Intrinsic motivation and learner autonomv Co'^,*f!ffi,^r,, t*

-/'/'- ,,^^-o\vq,,tl
can be defined ast1rehuman response p.t64!9 needsforr competence,

It expressesitself as a here-and-nor,r'interest in col.dircting an activitv for its orvn sake,for
the pleasure,stimulation, o. challengethe acti,i lv
ated to the perceptlon

intil nft6ffi
ing able to chg/le and of being somehow in contrp4 of orre s
actionf.Acti6-nsthat are perceir-edasbei
rat-ibffAtdo extri nsic reu aiseor criticism (see
ieduce N+

ren'ards( in the form of teachera al or praisein the third turn) a extrinsic onged
u_s e o f t h e l R F f o r m a t m a v h a r e a n_e s a t i v e e f l e c t o n i n t r i n s i c m o t i v a t i o n a n d c a u s e a d e c rrl rtex,a, sne
in levels of attention and involr.ement. IRF exchangesare like discoursal traininq w
In bicycle riding the training rvheels must eventuallv come off, and liker,visein interaction v ^..
' Qi,
I R F m u s t b e , e p l a c e db r f r e e s o c i a li n t e r a c t i o n .
a t i o n ( s e e \ . a n L i e r 1 9 9 6 a ) ,p e C l g o e r c a . L .
A l
iftreasingseIf-regulationandautonom\..IRFmustA\ \{
,, : :: :i:ii : i ---T--j--- , ,
FffiiFffi" patterns, ones that allou' student initiative and choice to develop.

Transformation; or, chang ing educational reality through inte raction

C r i t i c a l p e d a g o g vs e e k st o t r a n s f o r m e x i s t i n gs t r u c t u r e so f c o n t r o l a n d i n e q u a l i t r ' ( Y o u n g
1992: Darder 1991) and to allorv studentsto frnd voicesof their ou-n and become critical
and autonomous learne.r o.".JEqili6l1iG
fialogu-, *hich, according to Paulo Freire ( 1972), can f-lourish only in a climate of equalit)'
among_pgrticipants.Freire maintains th"t di
dialosue there is no communication, and rvithout cqlnm

participation in its cons-ructio

t o b e r e a l i z e d ,d i s c o u r s em u s t m o \ 1 ef r o m t t t e r n sR ; S e r t T o n n s t 1 9 9 ) t a p t l r c a l l s
WDPK (What do pupilsknorv?)and 1G,.rs'rthat teacherthink;1fr more discursivi
patterns mar irauirr'. lt thus m@stigate hou IRF itself
be transformed and ho'"vtra\zuitions from IRFto other discourse forms can be

Equality and symmetrv 6.eTs

The IRF structure is clearlv a sisnificantadvanceoter the ritual m isterial rformances
ince at least it
involves studentsand asks themTil"CixiTii6trt€-Iffiit-hillomeone else's agenda.
olvever, in terms of communicatio-, control-tnitiative, meaning areatlon anilIregotratlon,
messageelaboration, and a number of other features characteristic of social interaction, the
learner's side of the IRF interaction is seriouslvcurtailed.

It is therefore useful to consider other forms of interaction, including conversational

(such as learner-learner interactions) and see n'hat characteristicsthel' have that might be
relevant to languagelearning. For a general examination ofinteraction, I suggestthat there
a r e t w o m a i n g r o u p so f i s s u e s :

tn anv
a less

Issuesof negotiation and the joint construction of talk. This relates to shared rights and
'r, duties of icipation, that is,
i interactional ,)'ory,.1
participation, Such svmmetr.)', most clearly visible
,in conversationamong equ4-s,E-aF
ffBqI as the con€rsatfonEetu.een
as tle conversattonbetu-eent$-otu-o ESL
studentscuoted abovedemonstrates,
quoted above demonstrates. it is by
bv no
-*"r impossible.\,r/1,r,ft ,o.- ,,eq,t{c" uLt c-rft<rtal"l<-
cstl<rta J'+-,<- f4*'?
,fry b'v Ul^ak a^-+ "eq,'Jc".).)'*"*
-_ -'{--_
-- The phenomena relating to, on the oneland, contiol, power, and equalill'and, on t!e'bt!q,
' conversationalsvmmetrv and negotiation of meaning are connected:unequal participants
tend to haveasvmmetrical interactions. But a distinction must be made between interactions
that are oriented tou'ard achieving symmetrv and those that are not (lRF, lectures,
iristructions,and other common teacher talk belong to the secondcategorvfl
or some sort of abdication of authorit-v.A separationbetween svmmetry and equality is
crucial for the possibilitv of fruitful communication between teachers and learners and,
indeed, betu'een native speakersand nonnative speakers.If true communication were
possibie onlv betlveen equals, then teachers and learners (and even parents and their
children) would be forever condemnedto pseudo-communication.Thisis obviouslynot so.
Having postulated that communication, lvhether betw'eenequals or unequals, requires
an orientation tow-ard interactional symmetrv, I norv show',first, how' such an orientation
mav be visible and, second, what benefits it might have for languagelearning.
In w'hat wavs can utterances be oriented tolvard svmmetrv? Basicallv.the orientation
. vservsrrrt

expressesitself irlrelations of contingencrtetween an utterance and other entities -

primarilv other utterangXiprece-ding and follorving), shared knowledge, and
relevant features in t)/u'or-ldGbson Calisthem affqrdangeqsee further below).


efers to trvo distinct characteristicsofinte

€- -'--.r
ance) or through shared knon'ledge or shared affordancesin-fEe environmenti

]:xF?ETltigns:"d the craftingo so that futur

utte-ra4cescan find a conversational home 1sffi-Lier 1992,1994 and 1996a).The first
characterlstlc has weII studied under the heading of contextualization by John Gumperz
(1992).The rvaysin rvhich utterancq are linked to one another have also been studied
extensivelv bv ethnomethodologistsj,rvho have used related concepts such as conditional
relevance and reflexive tving (Garfintel 1957; Sacks,Schegloff, and Jefferson 1974) .
M-v preoccupation u'ith contingencv originates inthe belief that speakers,b1'using
lanquaqe'conrinqenrh, i" rffi-"y prrribr"
C O N S T R A I N T S A N D R E S O U R C E SI N C L A S S R O O M T A L I ( 9 9

(unit" the gi""n and the e comment, the foregrounded anfu

gy'ounded).Contingent languageuse encourages, justifies, and motivates grammatical-
'ization. -
Noncontingent languageuse or, rather, less contingent, since Se qualit.v of
contingencv exists on a continuum - proceeds more staticallv and encouragesa treatment
of la;@ insteadof as an organic *'hole.
Contingent features are most visible in the kind of talk usualiv referred to as
-#-- | t Ia
' forms of talk. conversationis perhapsthe hardestto dehne. It is. in a
sense,a catchallconceptthat can contain other kinds oftaik - such asinstructions.requests
srorres. Dusinessoears.A complication is that other kinds of talk can have conversation
then after a r,vhiles',r-itchback to business.So neat boundaries cannot be drarvn around the
ph-nomenon of conr-ersation.Yetlve usuallv knon'rvhen a conversation is taking place.

In conversation,everv utterance is connected bv manv links some of them overt

manv more of them iovert - to previous utteiances and through them to the shared (or
woild of the partlcrpants. L.\,ervutterance setsuP ex s for what will
b e s a r c l n e x t .u t t e r a n c e s l n c o n \ e r s a t l o n a r e t n u s , a t t n e s a m e t l m e .
intersubjectivitr') is achieved and maintained.
-=.+Vlen.rzruls contingent, rather than planned in
advance.In addition, t n, at
least ideallv.a I sav "ideallv" since it often happens that one person monopolizes the
conversation and does not let tle others get a word in edqer,vise.But the orientation tou-ard *
::: : i : r : : lir i i
svfrifrFtFstill holds. since the participantsu'ill note that the conrersatron* t-dSd-
To illustrate w"hatmakes an interaction conversational.I quote two extracts fron-t
nonnative speakerinteractions. In the first there is a high ievel ofcontingencv; in the second.
a m u c h l o r r - e rl e v e l :

'.Speaker1: From mv room I can seethe ocean view' -'f

Speaker2: W'ow
1: And- I
Speaker2: I a^) L^,,. I t
l-1nd nt)n rrrdrr ruom do -rou have: I
I 1//-"t"-r''--n
.-<.l/c _,,)
Speaker1: Two bedroom twoJull bathroom
...' -'
--- I
Speaker2: Whar what what I aa , - w'?L-
Speaker1: Two bedroom- | Yww'
Speaker2: [Ti'o bedroom
Speaker1: -and twoJullbathroom

Speaker 1 : I neveraskedvou,what did,voudo in Japan beJqrgyu camehere?

Speaker 2: Uhn aJterfntsh high school
S p e a k e r1 : U h u h
Speaker2:lwo&-frr... ..three)'ears
Speaker 1 : H m m
Speaker2: And -
Speaker 1: fiIthercAdJes-wotk
Speaker 2: h - this is ver,v- dtfficultJor explain
Speaker 1: Tr),
Speaker2: I use. . .the computer
Speaker1: Uhuh

Speaker 2, an ESL learner, is the same person in both interactions, but in the first her
interlocutor is ofroughlv equal proficiencv and in the second her interlocutor is a nativelike
bilingual speaker.The first extract illustrates svmmetry, and all utterances exhibit a high
degree of contingencv.The second extract is more like an intervierv in which speaker 1
encouragesspeaker 2 to speak. Relations of contingencv are weaker, and symmetry is
reduced. If contingen_c1cofd be visgalized-asbundles of jtrilgs connecting utterances,
then the strings u.ould be thicker a"d moie nurmerousin the first conversation and more
se and sprndly rn tne seconcl.
o @ used to create contingencv: empatlr)'Irar\ers ("l/owl"),
6 repetitions
of parts of each other's utterances ("two bedroom- two bedroom"),intonation
p-tterns, gestures, and so on. The devices come from a stock of resources similar to
Gu-m-p#s(Ig9Tf"contextuaiization cues" (indeed, as I suggestedabove, the creation of
contingencies overlaps significanth. r'r.iththe process of contextualization), though any
interactional marker that can be used to make a contingent link can also be used for other
purposes, and this makes tabulating and quantifving contingency impossible.

Contingency, negotiation, and language learning

The dynamics of interaction have been studied in most detaii by Teresa Pica and her
colieaguesiPica 1 987, 1992; Picaand Doughtv 1985; Pica,Young,and Doughty 1987). This
research,which focuseson opportunities for learners to carry out repair strategiesfollowing
communicative problems, has revealed various conditions that favor or disfavor such
interactional modification and hasshou'nt oilitbe;anG c-o'mpreherislon:freeo-rdinp-to Pica
what enables learnersto
enableslearners movebevond
to move DeYond tnerr current rnterlanguage
their current receptive
in-erlafrFguageeceptrve and
re ancl
e*pr essiu6-cip ac-ti e@ stan d unfalq ili ar liqgui stic inpur! o1 when
reoulred to proouce
proiluce a comprehensible messagdare
messas(are dpportunities to modify and restructure
i-lt"i. i.rt..uction w'ith their interlocutor until-mutual com sion is reached".
tJ\ resol\ lng communlcatlve through the use of interactional modifications
re o??n.kEii*T"put
ehe-nsiSlFln'pfit available
f6r leirniilg. R-esearchhas shown horv learners activelv lr'ork on the language to increase
their knowledge and proficiencr'.
The follo.rving observations, based on these analvsesof repair in inter-language talk,
might help to place repairing in the overall context of interactional languageuse.
First, as Gul'Aston has pointed out, repair '"vork and adjustments of various kinds can
be used to€xpress convergenceof perspectivesamong participants or to "seek closure on
f,-r--<- ' --:;--=---__
a problem" iRudl_uck 1991), not necessarilvto make something comprehensible.George*
ffi11996'l found that more-proficient interlocutors sometimes simplv decide to give up
on certain problematic it o]he.
., .----. l- ..- -: -:----:-::=:::Tl-. r-- -..'-_-fJ
th'a.jlrncreasedcompre ot t.glg."
the preponderance of repair (in the highlv visible form of interactional
modifications) ma,-vbe the result of the tvpe of discourse investigated. In much of the w'ork
of Pica and associates(Pica,Young, and Doughtr' 1987; Pica 1992), the activitv types in
question are communication tasks in rvhich participants (often a native speaker and a
nonnative speaker) need to exchange information. This need leads to interaction that
is usually both asvmmetrical and unequal, an environment in u-hich explicit repair.
rvith imbalances of the kind illustrated br,Yule. tends to be salient. A similar focus on
C O N S T R A I N T S A N D R E S O U R C E S I N C L A S S R O O MT A L I ( 1 0 1

repair can be seenin the analvsisbv Michael Moerman (1988) of interaction among native
speakersofThai. He concludes that"repair is of central importance to the organization
of conversation". Moerman's discussionof repair, horvever, is based on transcripts of
testimonv inThai court cases,rvhere the status of overt repair is probablv different from
that in general conr.ersation.Indeed, ethnomethodologicalanalvsesof repair and related
matters in conversation(Schegloff,Jefferson,and Sacks1977;Heritage 1984; Pomerantz
19 84 ) indi cat=_s-t-19:gp_Iglgrylc e for seif- re p air an
t h a t i s . r e p a i r t h a t f o l l o r ,sr c o m m u n i c a t i o np r o b l e m s .
and related to the secondobservation, the interactional activitl of repajringalust
be placed irti!-!9ed-q?g. Repairing, .n utt" g ir,
, -L;"------;-'7-
the face of p-oblems, is one set of actions among manv that manifest orientation toward
mutual (inter-subjecti\.itv) and svmmetrv. ilepairing occurs in responseto the
-.. ---------T-i--
".rgug.-".,a ,, ,
p e r c e p t l o no l t h o s et r o u b l e s .b u t s t n c et r o u D l e ss n o u l cD l ea \ - o l c e cl n t n e n r s t P l a c e r, t m a K e s
senseto focus attention aiso on other mechanisms for mutual understanding and
intersubjectivitr'. It makes no sense,from a discourse-analvticalor a pedagogicalperspective,
to assign special status to an activitv that is undertaken onlv lvhen other, more-preferred
activities have been unsuccessful.To use an analog)',ice skaters are iudged more on hovl'

Successin interaction - thiiEtFe-aEhielementof mutual
-;: understandinq.
' continqencv, /
+. , , ' ',,,., ii i li---l-il-1 .
and lntersublectl\'ttJ - ts clependat-rtg! tne sKrlllul use oI all rele\.antsoclal ano lrngulslrc--
es and those that
c i"-U" al"ial into ittree c*egories, asfloliou's(see
Atlti"ro" DuncanTgT2;Kasper1989;r'anLier and Matsuo1995fbr
fP#;lb Ianning,predictin-gltfy--)
V Opening sequences (By the wav;Do you know w'hat?)
Cataphora -) r \-^.,,.
/ i^-^-
! llJaclr
+L;- |

Grounders and preparers (OK, three potnts I wanna make)

Strategic moves (Let me give you an example)

qE:"-:faking signalsduring one'sown or anotherperson'sturn)
Back channels (Uhuh;Hn)
Gaze (eve contact, Iooking ar,r'ar')
Turnover signals (Let mefnish; ltrhat doyou think?)
Empathy markers (Oh; l|bw;Really?1

Repair and correction (Doyou meanx?;Acrualll'tt'sy)
Demonstrations of understanding (Oh;l see)
Gists and upshots (So;In a nutshell;lYhatyou're sayingis)

The relations betrveen interaction and learning are not explained bv this list or, indeed, bv
anv other that might be devised. But at the very least the analvsisshou'sthat the concept ot
v need to be expanded from Piclls-d_9.fin1{gp;W\en a listener signals to.a
-S aker'smessageis not clear,and lis and soeaer vrorkinteracti\e
to ve this impasse" (1992) . Negotiation includes the proactive and concurrent resources

for utterance design, as w'ell as reactive resources other than repair. Repair is thus only one
among many torms oi negotiation of meaning.
A fourth and final consideration goes to the very foundations oflearning and its relation
to the environment. Almost all the r'vork in applied Iinguisticsthat addressesthe role of
input and interaction (see Ellis (199+) for an overvieu') assumesan input-output model of
communication and learning. This model is basedon a vielr' of languageuse as the transfer
of linguistic matter from one person to another and largelv ignores issuesof reciprocity and
contingency. Being basicallv a transmission model (as rvords like inpur and output indicate),
it does not addresslearning as transformation and languagelearning as grammaticalization
(the development of grammatical complexitv in the organic sense, outlined, e.g., by
Rutherford (1987)). It is likelv that the true role of interaction in learning and the true
Z'_fi@qpgoath, no-ionrllk..o"tingencl'and,ur.r*.,.y rvili becentral,andovertacts
- _r=

ft IILL. gFiJEglgqrgrr4l1Ma'cuian?Z{onc-1985;Giaumann t990; Plattand

Brooks 199+1.Linguistic matter in the environment, to the extent that the learner has access
to it (seevan Lier (1996) for a detailed discussionof access),provides affordancesto the
active and perceptive learner (Gibson 1979;Deci and Rvan 1994.s Whether or not such
affbrdancesare packaged as repair sequencesis likelv to be a minor issue.

A theoretical conclusion

I have discussedtrvo different tvpes of interaction in language learning, teacher-learner

interaction in the IRF mode and iearner-learner interaction, to illustrate equality and
symmetry.I havesuggested that interactionis particularlvbeneficialfor learninswhen it is
.)k contingent. Sl' _tya+s_
5sl'mmetricalinteractionis deficientin contingencl'.Unequaldiscoursepartnerstend to
ifficult to orient their interaction torvard svmmetrv: as a result-Their
iflteractions often look li uences or intervier,vsll-here one of the pafrners takesi

Two questionsremain:What are some \\.avsin r'vhichunequal discourse partners such

as teachers and learners or native speakers and nonnative speakers - can engage in
symmetrical and contingent interaction, and horv r,vouldthat engagementbenefit learning?
What are the pedagogicaibenefits of r-ariousforms of asymmetrical discourse, such as
lectures and IRF exchanges?
to relevant language material
LCt -

r i m e e x t e r n a l c o n d i t i o n t o e n s u r ea c c e s sa n d l e a r n e r s 'a c t i r " ee n g a q e m e n t .
a n d J e f f e r s o n1 9 7 + ) . L e a r n e r s ' n a t u r a l l e a r n i n g p r o c e s s e s , t h r o u g h t h e d e s i r e t o u n d e r s t a n d
and be understood, svnchronize rvith eflicient perception and focusing. Learners will be
vigilant tou-ard linguistic features and rvili *"k. an effort to b."utii;Ily-pi6AFJet
a m b i q u o u sr , r ' h e r ea
ol contingent interaction. To put this idea in the strongest possible (though of course
^bJ hypothetical) terms: the organic, self-regulating process of contingent interaction is a
necessarvand sufficient condition for languagedevelopment to occur. In the absenceof
appropriate research,this is ofcour ulative hvpothesis
t that is onlv one side of the coin. To the exGnt target of languagelearning
C O N S T R A I N T S A N D R E S O U R C E SI N C L A S S R O O M T A L I ( I O 3

is a standardized,oflicial code (a set of cultural habits) to $'hich the learner has to or wants
to conform, linguistic affordancesmarked as appropriate and desirable must be presented
in the environment, and accessto these affordancesmust be facilitated. Here organic
languagedevelopment and external languagedemands (socioculturallv and institutionally
mandated) meet each other halft'av, and Vr
spacewherein internal and external realms (inner resources and outer constraints) of
langif, F-flFe-ffie-diarTd.
,,-ffimEAl-latlon takes place under the guidance of parents, teachers, and other
competent persons, and the different u'al-sthev do this can be captured bv terms such as
Bruner's scalfolding.(Teaching,didactics,instruction,training, drilhng, and so on are of course
also terms that havetraditionallr,beenused for such expert-novice activities.)
If this vierv of the reiations between languagelearning and social interaction has merit,
then the dl,namic connections betu'een more didactic (asvmmetrical, less contingent) and
more conversational(svmmetrical, more contingent) forms of interaction are of central
importance in the languagelearning enterprise.

A practical conclusion

In a book on talented teenagers,Mihah' Csikszentmihalyi,Kevin Rathunde, and Samuel

Whalen (1993) compare current teaching u.ith the traditional role of the master in an
apprentice system.Thev observe that theleacher, insteadof being a practitioner in a domain,
l l ) /

is now' a transmitter of information and thus di e s t h e d e v e l o p m e nt

n t of e x t e n d e d and
o [ extended and ; t /l^ ,^
- suctr--ll-TEosebetrt'een master and apprentjce. -
r ----'-:-. rauJ^
_ :
and "kept highl) specialized. >wy. )'J
rffib.t*'.en-i.ucfi..t und ttudentsare depersonalized
I delilerr stsie-mlanJ
get worse when, as is currentlv happeningin manv parts of theWestern lvorld, class size{
------\ .'
t i
Ir"rdschool sizes keep increasing, u, io ,.J.h".r' *o.klo.d,
\ \r'' ,,,
Th-eTeareTF-usphrsical and instiiutional constraints that tend to minimize the possi-
bilitiesfor meaninplulinteractronbet\\'eenteachersand studentS.ln (Jlddenss structuratlon
tfi consrraints ideallv direct and guide, facilitating the deplovment of resources.But in
a defectiveinstitution (definableasone in rvhich constraintsand resourcesare out ofbalance),
constraints mav obstruct the r-en' purposes for rvhich thev rvere brought into being.Against
constraints of this second tvpe, the teacher must marshal all the resources,meager though
thev often appear to be, that are availableto proride learning opportunities to students.As
the historv of educational reform mo\,ements sholvs, lalge-scale reforms tend to achieve
nd among
students must be the individual responsibilitt' of everv teacher. For teacher development
this responsibilit-vmeans the promotion of u-hat Max van Manen (1991) calls "pedagogical
. ^ I : - - - r,vith
- . . i + l ^ students
. + , , ' l ^ - + . and
^ ^ A -(r/q
I l- )
thoughtfulness"or "tac!] ful, understanding orientation in dealings 'VA'fl*t-
anv teacners na\e resDonoeo to calls tor more interactire and -+--

E@nsloiooiv. of teaching bv reducing their teacher-fronted activities and increasing

learner-learner interaction through cooperativelearning and task-basedlearning. In current
jargon, thev have become a "guide on the side" instead of a "sage on the stage".
However, before rve slving the pendulum from teacher-centered entirely to teacher-
peripheral, it *

.Y ,)
it is quality interaction. If rve ask learners, manv rvill sa1.-that
thev *,ant-lecture-s,expla!g!g!!_
and ottr-erloims of explicit teacher guidance. And '"veshould never neglect the univ
answeftd a disproportionate amount of highlv controlling and depersonalized
teachertalk is not
teacher not to minimize teachertalk per
minimize ali teacher per sebut to find lr-ays
u-avsto modify
modifv itir in more-
corgnge.nt dtr:S]lons. ln addltlon. teacher learner interaction, such as the IRF, that-ii
ej€! ed .forj! affo Id ing Iear ner s' Ia{ uage use GGn-iiii? atlY ) must contarn wlt

i[ the seeds er (Sruner ontinuallv be on-the
t fbr signs that learners are readv to be more auton uageusers.
classroorn nxlsl regularh' pror,ide learners lvith opportunities to engage in
s l m m e t r i c a l i n t e r a c t i o n s , s i n c es u c h i n t e r a c t i o n si m m e r s e I e a r n e r si n c o n t e x t u a l i z e da n d
Hud' con
ln stat gc-v,
inEqualit)'in clenc\ aker carn
the main bu
T bachers can also experiment u'ith r.r'avsof counterbalancing the inherent inequali
their talk rvith learners (though in most institutional and c be
for them to preteld differences betlr.eE-nthem and their learners do not exi-it).
In1 docum-entarl'r'ideo, classesin various British schools set up links with classesin
far-flung places like Finland, Greece, and Portugal (Trvitchin 1993).At one point, a fax
came in from a class in Greece; it contained drawings and descriptions of weaving
techniques,with labelsand expressionsin Greek.The teacher and learners were naturalll'
at the same level w'ith respect to this text, and interaction among them became symmetrical
and exploratorv. When a parent rvho knerv Greek *'as found and invited to classto explain
the text, the teacher and his students r,vereall learners.
Takiig guidancefro- tl6ffiI er e*amp he thoushtfulGacher-reseiriEF
looksforwaYstomakeclassroominteractionvariedandffi n the world of
language,we all embodv different voices on different occasions(Bakhtin 1981;Wertsch
1991; Mavbin 19947.It is usefui for learners to find that their teachershave
and that the learners the t
- :E=
such expemmenTatlon
is crucialif thev are to find th"ffi ts t true
purpose of languageeducation.


I thank Kathi Bailev for insightful comments on an earlier draft.

1 I realize I gioss over the problems that are inherent in the concept of rule and that have
been highlighted in much of the u'ork of Wittgenstein, for example, Philosophical
2 While the problem of poor teacher-studentcommunication cannot be solvedbv iust anr.
comPuter u-ork, there is certainlv evidencethat innovativeuseof computers can
interaction,for example,througirinteractiver,''ritingprogramsund .ollubo.utive".rhu.r""
u'ork (for extensivediscussion,see Crook 1994; van Lier 1996).
3 Wells distinguishesbetrveenthird turns that evaluateor provide follow-up (29-30). See
4 Svmmetrl' and contingencv are closelv related but not svnonymous. Symmetry is a
C O N S T R A I N T S A N D R E S O U R C E SI N C L A S S R O O MT A L I < 1 0 5

structural discourse term, the result of interactional '"vork bv participants. Contingencl'

'-iJuTognitite _
but thisdoesnot meanthatthepe
. :": : i
J&itical. As an analogv,iight and heat often occur together, for example, in flames,
, n d l i g h t b u l b s ,b u t t h e r a r e n o t t h e 5 a m e.
s u n l i g h ta
GibsJn describ;6mU;;>, foilo','r, "The aflordancesof the environmentare r,rhatit
ollerstheuni-ulftftffir'ides or frt
reGi;To;E to tEe-environmentand the animal. . . . It im ementaritv of
animal and vironment" (127).The term ffirdance speciflcallvrelers to those
;p-t-t the linguistic environment that become perceivableby the iearner as a result
of meaningful activitv. Affordance is neither the external languagenor the learner's
signs,and rele'ant p."


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Chapter 6



Towards a Redefi nition of the Domain
of S LA


v E R T H E L A S T T W E N T Y Y E A R S S L A s t u d i e sh a v en o t i g n o r e d i s s u e so f
discourse and the social context. But often the references to social or socio-cultural
context give it onlv a marginal role in the processesof languagedevelopment. Equally, there
is relati'"'eh'Iittle concern r'vith the socialimport of secondlanguagedevelopmenrjilggf4
t:t..,' {*gant}es&gt ol-'o.i"l id.nti
ll\ l
i n t e r c u l t u r a l i n t e r a c t i o n su - h i c h t a k e o l a c e e v e r v d a v ] a l s o i n c l u d e t h e e l f e c t o f t h e s e
I inref6ultural errcounters on individuals - u'ho are. themselves. part of these u'ider social
So, tnls
)o, paper ls
this PaPer is concerneo
concerned wrtn rvith second ta
secondlanguage development and mmediate social
\- I context in r,vhichindividuals succeed.or faii. t truct Iocal meani
coriiTitutedin iuih-iriteliefiofrsand-EiT66ebrocessesin turn feJdback ntercultura
d e ih e c o n d i ti o n s ( o r
ffio un te r s and-16-6 r or.'i for discour lon ano
, - - l

L-ngfage socialisation rather than language acquisition better describes holv learners
ine to produce and interpret discourse and hou- such learning is supported (or not) bv
the assumptionsof societv at large about multilingualism and second languagelearners.
These issuesare particularlv saiient rvhen researching SLA u,ith minority group workers.
And here, Gumperz's notion of contextuaiisation illuminates the ways in w-hich local
understandings and misunderstandings have an eftect both on the immediate context for
learning and on the u'ider assumptionsand ideoloqies about linguistic minority groups
n'hich also enter into and have an effect on local interactions and conditions for discourse

The transformation of manv cities inWestern and Northern Europe from monolingual
to multilingual environments creates crucial sites for the studv of second language
development. Adult minoritv rvorkers lr-ho are struggling to make a nerv life for themselves
represent a particularlv significantgroup lvhen researchersare considering u'hat constitutes
the domain for second languageacquisition studies.For manv of them, contact w'ith the
majoritv group is in institutional settings at rvork or in bureaucratic encounters - and
th.r" b..9 .These
settingsprovide far from ideai conditions for languagelearning and vet they mav be the only
ones nhere the nerv languageis used at all. Charting the interactions and relative Progress
of this group in an indifferent and often hostile lvorld drives the researcherto conceptualise
individuals not simplv as languagelearners but as social beings struggling to manage often
conflicting goals.After all, the researcher mav be interested in their languagedevelop-
ment, but the minoritv u-orkers are concerned r.vithgetting things done. As Bourdieu
asserts:"What s
1977, p. G:1. Looklng at the sociaiperson' arguesfor a more holistic approachto
--_---_______ - - | |
J[ond language de nd

Limits to a social perspective on SLA

Interaction and pragmatics in SLA

There is of course an extensive literature on interaction studiesin SLA u.hich examines t-

the conversational devices rvhich foster certaiq ljnguisti. a more dialogic
'.o-p..h".trib1" -in
vein, recent v,,.ge,!.i.i@6tiutio.t of i,-tpr., \
socialinteraction. But despitethe concentrationon collaborativedialogue,languageis still
conceived ofas a d ratEer than as a discouiiE---I is - into- -
tf[:ch' r.r"mbe.-sof a communitr are socialised.Learnersare nori-Efiaif,iteii:ed as .
co ositions to think and act in certain u'aYs
r o o t e d i n t h e i r d i s c u r s i v e h i s t o r i e s " ( L a n t oal fn d P a r , l e n k o1, 9 9 5 , p . 1 1 5 ) b u t t h e g o a l o f
dialogic learning is still the abilit-vto deplo-vlinguistic phenomena. Methodologically,
the analvsistends to fo.nt o.t u Putti.,rl.. f..,.t. h
l o c a l i n t e r p r e t a t i o n sa n d r e a c t i o n s .U n s u r p r i s i n g h ,t h e r e l o r e ,t h e r e i s l i t t l e o r n o e t h n o - i
to suppEtEiclusions drau.n. The relatively neu' field of interlanguage
?raph.-tie"ce *o.rld seem io b" u more promising areafor looking at the ih=oGTocia-lpEison.
But desniteits concern rvith contextual factors,it is the narro\l-concept of the learner and
sPge.glLlc-t! \l.hi_.h g"""tu," ,h" k. Th"
significanceof socioculturalissuesimplies:

It would be a mistaketo vieu'developmentalissuesin ILP (interlanguagepragmaticsf

in purelv cognitive terms becausethe strategiesfor linguullq 4glpn are so closelv tied
to self-identitv and socialidentitr'. (Kasper and Schmidt,1996l'p. 159'

To date, hou.ever, these issuesof social identitv and, indeed, other social issuesoutside the
immediate context of utterance, have not ligured to anv significant extent in interlanguage
Finalll', the interaction and pragmatics studies in SLA literature continue the tendency
in SLA more generallv to reifv languageso that French, Enghsh and so on are treated

unproblematicallv as homogenised languages'.This essentialisingof a language
assumesthat there is onlv one variety to be learned and that the languageand communicative
style of the broker's vard or the baker'srs similar to that of the standardvarietv.

A sociolinguistic perspective on SLA

From a sociolinguisticpoint of vielv mainstream SLA studiesremain asociai- the social

rmpdFTTilearnrngto rnteractthrough languageremalnsfudden.A socrolrngulstrc perspectlve
shifts awav from the linguistic system and from ajgryjllth specific items of prag-
lversrtY an les. )Pecrncall\',ttus m rned with interaction
as communicative piactice and hor,vsuch practice helps us to understand larger social forces
and, in turn, their impact on interactions. This connecting up the macro and the micro in
sociolinguistic theory gives due recognition to interactions as sitesr,r'hereminority workers
are not simplv exposqdto and able to negotiatecomprehensibleinput butlk?rll-ac-tors
Recortstitutinglearners as socialactorsbrings into focus issuesofsocial identitv.There
is a derCloping literature on language-ifr-dsocial identitr- and its relation to SLA in which
applied and sociolinguisticsmeet.Within this literature, the iearner is understood asa person

fh with multiple identities, man.v of them contradictorv. Identity is dvnamic acrosstime and
plaE an-dlangUefuse, social identitv and ethnicitr-are inextricablv linked and understood
,41,0 within larger social processes.For example, Pierce ( 1995) ajgrsses*Ue+ersonal and so-eial
how'these are observablein their interactions and the rvavsin r,r'hichcertain sociai identities
r b a c k g r o u n d e d . l O q c en o t i o n s o f s o c i a l i d e n t i t r a r e ? i T l E d u p , t h e
dominant tradition of SLA as an asocialphenomenon is put into question. I

Language socialisation

One responseto the critique of the relatively asocialcharacter of SLA is tg-sqggesthrg!3ge

iocialisation as an alternati\e p..erspectir-e.Theconcept w'asoriginallv developed within
inthropoiogl'to describe the processrr-herebva child becomes an emergent member of the
communitv in rvhich they are grou-ing up. More recentlv it has been extended to include

_language tne rnolrect meansot develoPrngsocro-culturatKno\\'leclge.
-----=--: w here 5LA hasused
modelli-ngand experimentation asthe dominant paradigm to researchhow-linguistic features
are attended to, stored and accessed,Ianguagesocialisationstudieshave used participant
observation. Studies of adult minoritv w'orkers based on naturallv occurring ianguageuse
- provide data that more nearly resembles child languagesocialisationstudies. Su"h d.tu ."n
/ offer insights into the SLS process provided that it is also supplemented by ethnographic
\ data on speech events and local histories and identities ofparticioants.
\- In the follor,r.ingexample (from Bremer et a|.,1996, pp 50-51) Marcello, an Italian
rvorker in Germany, is being intervierved bvl a counsellor in the Job Centre. Marcello was
one of the informants on the European Science Foundation project on natural second
languageacquisition. He had been in Heidelberg for about a year rvhen this interview was
taped, having come to Germanv as a real beqinner. He rvas still seeking work and the
interview with the counsellor u'as both an opportunitv to find out about rvork possibilitres

and to use his developing German. As an example of languagesocialisation,Marcello needed

to be socialisedinto the specific genre of counselling intervieu's and use this interaction as
an opportunitv to develop his socio-cultural knorvledge of how bureaucraciesr,vork, how'
work is categorised, u,hat the goals of such an interl'ierv are likelv to be and so on:

Data Example 1

1 M: rvir muss vergessen<laughs>

we havetoforget
2 T: ja * gut * dann hatten r,vir die saachefur heut
ok goodso we'retfuoughJorrcda1'
3 und rvenn sie also in zukunft noch fragen haben kommen sie bei mir vorbei ja
and tJyou haveanv questionstnJutureyou'll \ookin ok
M: ja
T: (rufen sie an ) ok (leans, back, speaksquietll', looks at door, standsup)
g i v em ea c a l l o k
M: so und jetzt muss ich gehen
so and now I mustgo
7 T: <ja>
8 M: < > <bothlaugh>
. l l

9 I : \4'teoersenen
10 M: u'iedersehendanke

Transcr i ption Convention s

T short pause
additional comments on \,vavof speaking etc.
tl overlap
(xxx) inaudible or omitted rvord

At one level, this could be construed as a simple caseof pragmatic failure. Marcello
fails to understand the pre-closing signalsof T including'Ja", "gut" and "dann hatten rvir die
t /./
sachefiir heut" and advice for the future. It is onl-vu'ith the non-verbal cues that Marcello T_
realisesthat thel a.e in the mi is interpretive difficultv is not surprising
;ffi;;celia 11982) has argued conversational features such as greetings are acquired
before pre,closings. But this rJqr"n." is also an unusuailv explicit moment of language
socialisation*'hen at line 5 Marcello topicalisesthe act of departure. This is more than just
a matter of picking up on some pre-closing signals,and it is u'orth mentioning here that the
crucial nonuerbal rlgtruir r,vhichare part of the interactive environment are rarelv considered
in linguistic pragmatics.
Ii o.d"i foi Marcello to manage this tvpe of institutional discourse and understand
w.hen,holr;andrvhr'theencounterclosesataparticularPoi''t,@d i<
i n t o t h e n o r m s , r o l e r e l a t i o n s h i p sa n d g o a l s o f e n c o u n t e r s .E t h n o g r a p h i c
;t rd;." f-- minoritv *.orkers' e*perieniE-f-outtTeTling tnterr.ieu's (Bremer et al., 7996;
G u m p e r z , 1 9 8 2 a ,t g 8 U b ; R o b e r t s e t a \ . , 1 9 9 2 1 s u g g e s t st h a t i s s u e so f s p e a k e rr i g h t s a n d
responsibilities,expectationsabout speci6cgoals and the boundaries of rvhat constitutes

the personal mav differ markedlv from that of the majoritv gatekeepers. In this instance.
one of the difficulties for Marcello is the relativelv inconclusive rvav in which the intervieu.
aPPearsto end.Whereascounsellorsseesuch\^-s as an opportunity to discusswork
preferences, minoritY r'r'orkersare more likeh' to expect to b. giu.r, ,p".ifi. information
about particular jobs. Once this information has been given, ther expect the intervien- to
be terminated. But in this instance, the counsellor ends the encounrer once some
information has been elicited from the client and some advice given.
Another frequentlv occurring example of differenc" surrounds the issue of the
categorisation of u'ork experience around skiils and responsibilities and often, therefore.
around socialstatus.In the next example (from Bremer et a\.,1996,p.63), Ilhami, aTirrkish
lvorker from Germanv, is interviewed for an apprenticeship in a garage and is asked what
l o b h l s l a t h e rd o e s :

Data Example 2

I T: e r.l'asarbeit' denn dein vater lvas macht der von beruf

what workdoesyourJather do what ts hisiob
2 l: metallberuf [und]
3 T. [ja] und
ok and
4 I: (r,vxxx) schnellpresse(names the tou.n)
(u'xxx) fiampinBpress
5 T : i n d e r s c h n e l l p r e s sien u .
in thetamping pressin u.
6 l: fialmhm
T: [ja] und dort tut er metali
and he doesmetal there
8 metall [und]
9 T: Iaha]
10 I : die machen auch das macht auch papier
they alsomakeit makespapertoo
l1 T : mhm ah so ist das
mhmah itslike that

(For transcription conventionssee Data Example 1.)

This question and ansr,versequenceis unsatisfactorvbecauseIlhami is unaware of

the underlving question u'hich is about the social status of his father's job and so of hrs
father's classposition. The garage owner interrupts on several occasions to elicit a more
specific replv but never makes explicit rvhat he u.ants to know..These are examples of
in Thomas' terms (Thomas, 1Zg3), But this term tends to
agmaticdifficultiesrarhcr light the processof
this instance concerns the discourse a

Some problems with the model of SLS

an apprenticeshiPmodel
SIS ."n be seenas an apprenticeship model.The learnerover time participatesin the
interactional of the ne\\:communitvandis graduallvinductedinto what aretakento be I
its pre-existing j5lamo-del.implies a'learninqbv doing'approach in whicfi )l,f_u,,
tor example. the aclult mtn :e-tFarrffTrcTn-her rnteractlons wlth neT*sui€Efvlsor o r I1 '"' ,
5w to evaluate her rvith complaints about qualit) (Cl1'ne, 1995). Thi's--l
earnlng *.hat Rogoff ( 1984) calls ilstration of thinking through
cultural institutions and normative techniquesof problem solving" (p. 5). But socialisation
is more than cognitir.elearning in social contexts. It assumesa Processof of
'neu' runs into difficulties
beins oart of the
communitr'' . And this is u'here the notion of SLS
since it "assumesthat groups ate soctoc..ltutal totali 6
a n e n d p o r n to t e x p e r t b e l o n g i n g ( R a m P t o n ,1 9 9 5 b ,p . 4 8 7 1 '
Th"rpfrffiJl!-.n"a.t thestor;.It doesnotfullyl
"tsl@ofthe discoursesto rvhich learners are exposed and
take account ofthe relationship betrveen I f-

the Iearners themselves. In other rvords it is an overlv functionalist model. It underplays tl
the total role and r.lf id" ourse and the
\ o
So, it is not possible to talk unproblematicallv of socialisationthrough languageas the
means of developing sociocultural knorvledge asif there is a stablebodv of such knou'ledge.
The idea of graduallv being inducted into a communitv's pre-existing discoursessuggestsa
simple, functional model lvhich does not accord rvith our data of naturailr. occurrinq
intercultural encounters. In other u'ords, such events are not simplr. opportunities lbr the
transmission, horvever indirectlv, of the necessarvsocio-cultural knou-ledge, but thel are
sites w-heresocial identities are constructed, r",'herethe interactants are positioned and
position themselves.People speakfrom rvithin a particular discursive formation. In the case
of minoritv workers, this inclu e s o l e t h n r c a n d c l a s sD o s l t l o n . t n e \ \ ' l c e r
oursesofracis tence and Dercell
positioningu'hich em

Positioning in and through discourse

the detail"d u'avs in rvhich interactants position themselvesand are positioned illuminates
some of the problems rvith an orthodox vieu- of languagesocialisation.Different minority
w-orkersinvest in interactions and in the process of languagesocialisationin different lvavs
\(- a.rd are themselves defined relativelv differenth'.
There are numerous examples of this positioning in the srr""a u"g""g" al aa*
lmmigrantsproiect (Bremer er a1., 1996; Perdue, 1993). A contrastivestudv of two ltalian
il-for*ants in Britain rtho are enquiring about buving propertv in an estateagents (Roberts
and Simonot, 1987) shorvshorv thev are positioned differentlr'. One of Santo's strategies
lvhich helps to maintain conversational involvement is to make general, evaluative

Data Example 3

1 N: then vou might get one for about fiftr- or sixtv * or sa)'fortv eight sixty something
like that

2 S: \'er\ e\pensir t arta an\ \\ j-'

3 \: uell tl-u. thisir c\pcr,ii',q'.:--.-. -- . r:. -

Bv contrast.\ndreas strategiesar. r.,l.ti\ q : , rc\ elop onl.,'those t}emes which

t h e e s t a t ea q e n th a si n r p l i c i t l r : d . r rtti u n c u :

1 N: blackstockroad er thats a onc b.dr{rc,m flat

2 A.: ,veah
3 ON: its not tlvo bedrooms
4 A: mhm
(Roberts and Simonot, 1987)

Santo'ssocialisationinto maintainingconversationalinvolvementin serviceencounters

means that he elicits more helpful and extended comments from the clerk. Andrea's
encounters are less successful,do not produce opportunities for learning hou' to do this
tvpe of conversationalinvolvement and, as ethnographic evidence show:s,cumulatively,
ionAndrea as marginaliseddiscursir-elvand socialh.(Robertsand Simonot, 198j).
refracted through their experienceof living in a racist societv.For example,Abdelmalek, a

Data from multilingual British factories also shorvshor,vminority w.orkers position

themselvesstrategicallv in order to attempt to co-construct an argument in their favour. ln
this example (Roberts et al. , 7992, p.39), the minoritv lvorker, IA, is trving to negotiatea
job for his son in the same factorv ashe rvorks in. The problem is that his son is only sixteen
years old and is not allou.ed to rr-ork the regulation 5i hour w.eek:

Data Example 4

1 Mrs B: Can't help him.

2 IA: What forl;
3 Mrs B: All the men in this mill are on 55 hours
4 IA: 55hours?
5 Mrs B: All the men
6 IA: Old men?
7 Mrs B: All men
8 IA: Young men and just 8 hours er.erv dal
9 Mrs S: But Mrs B savsnot the oLD men..\li the men evervbodv- must work 55
10 Mrs B: Ladiesrvork 40 hours
11 IA: This is voung bol.. the same like ladr rlaughterl
12 Thev are too voung. If not u'anted then too long time . . . just 40 hours per

Despite the misunderstandingat line 5, I.\. at lines 8 and 11-12, begins to negotiate
his u'av around the companv rule. He does this hr cappinq \{rs B's asserti,onu.ith his ow.n
assertionsabout voung men and prelents this 1r,rn.rbecoming a distancing strategy by
claiming solidaritv through the joke that roun; nrin are similar to ladies.The condrtions

for furthering his socioculturalcompetenceare in place sincehis assertionsare responded

to bv Mrs B and the encounter ends rvith her agreeing to talk to the overlooke, ubout
The contingent nature of such interactional positioning means that conditions for the
production and interpretation ofdiscourse varv from interaction to interaction. But these
conditionsare alsoconstrainedbv rvider socio-politicalformations- suchasthe inequalities
that exist in a stratified multi-lingual societv.So a model of secondlanguage,o.i"ilruaio.,
needs to include an understanding of the ideologies w'hich feed into and aie constructed
out of interactions.

Language practice and ideologsi

I nere has been a lot oi dtscussionaroun-tftheterm 'practice' in u-hat has been called th-e
N e w L i t e r a c v S t u d i e si n B r i t a i n a n d t h e U S A . ' P r a c t i c e ' o r m o r e u s e f u l l v ' p r a c t i c e s ' a r e
more than action and events.In the caseof literacv practices for example, thev include both
the literacv event and the knou'ledge and assumptions about rvhat this event is and what
gives it meaning. For example, [b4!_qgg$-s as literacv in a subgroup is determined by th
a societr. Literao' pracTicesJE-rc-6T{are
!Il9!ru++)v fra{1err.J
The notion of also been used and debated in critical and anthropological
linguistics asboth action and the ideologies r'vhichsurround it. Eirthgh (1992) makei the
nt drscourses. r example, \1'l criticai perspective,questionshavebeer.r
raised aboui takenI-or granted notions of r.vhatconstitutes a speakerof a particular languaqe
rvhat is a non-native speaker, r,vhat*cert4n qroups count as 'target language,'and io or.t
However, this problematising rvork, although it has influenced applied linquistics, has had \-
speaker'. communic@r' and so on. These feed into frilit-lnt..actlon itself and f".a off "
i, ajq.i.*ll .j.,hg ruid..T*orrrr.,
Within the British tradition there are two comp-Ei!-sets of discoursesaround ethnicity.
/ The first has been u'idelv reflected in government policv and popular discourse.This tenis
to essentialiseethnic groups, equate land,-Ianguageand ethnicitv and cast minority ethnis
van Dijk and his associates have traced simiiar processesin the discoursesof elite groups
which shor,v

horv ethnic beliefs are strategicallv expressed, acquired and distributed throughout
t}e dominant group, that is as part of managing ethnic affairs and reproducing elite
power and r,vhitegroup dominance. (Van Dijk et al., 1997, p. 165)

An extreme example of this first set of discoursesis from data gathered in multiethnic
British r,vorkplacesduring the Iate 1970s (Roberts et al., 1992).A supervisorwas running
through a routine list of questions in English as part of a simple recruiiment procedure.The
South Asian applicant had ansrveredseveral questions about himself and his previous u.ork
experience rvhen he w-asasked"Do vou speak English?"to rvhich he replied, "What do vou
think I'm talking to you in norv!"The current discoursethat r,vascirculating at the time

'assumed to speakEnglish and the

that someone of South ,\sian ba:k;:'-'und " as unlikelv
l dent the super\'isor'scertainty that here was
evidenceto the contrarv did not aPPearto
another non-Engiish speaker.We.o,rid .p".,tlate
on tie outcomes of such an encounter and
n'orker rvho both needs to become
J the possible teniions set up for the individual minoritr
D by a member
u member of rr"ot communitv but rr'ho is insultingh'positioned
as a non-English speaker'
' of th"t communitv in
Th" second set of discoursesstem from the British-based Cultural Studies and,
u'hat Hervitt (1985) has called'local
particular,Hall's (1988) notion of'ne',v ethnicities'and
multiracial vernaculars'. Recent research has sho*'n the destabilisation of inherited
ethnicities and the emergence of neu- ethnolinguistic identities which challenge
orthodox essentialistideas of language and race (Gilrov, 1987; Hervitt, 1986; Rampton,
1995a).This secondset of discouries suggestthat the processof secondlanguagesocialisa-
tion is not a straightfonvard caseof becoming communicativelv competent, within a fixed

a D a r t- o f h a r i n s s e r e r a ls o c i a li d e n t i t
s'hat socialisationmeans.

Contextualisation and wider social Processes

The link betw.eenSLS and these u,ider social processesis r'vellillustrated in Gumperz's
studiesand their recent formulation in Eermans et a\. (1997). As Levinson (1997) in the
samevolume asserts:

it is the large-scale sociological effects of multitudes of small-scaleinteractions that

still partiall"yfuels his (Gumperz's) preoccupations r'vith conrersations, most evident
p"rhup, in his concern rvith the plight ofthe individual caught up in these large-scale
forces. (p. 24)

Levinson captures here manv of the elements central to a redefinition of second language
- the fine-grained detail of
acquisition as a social ph".rom.rron. The focus on the micro
conversations- is linked to the macro - the lvider social processesw'here social networks,
identities and relationships are structured and restructured. What is significant for_a
redefinition of SLA aspart of this is the fact, as Gumperz asserts,that individuals are'caught
up in these large-scaleforces'. So ever,vencounter n'here there are laqguagedifferences is
h n t h ean
both n oopportunjty
n n o r t t t n i t v f o r l alaqguagq r e i dalso
f f i a s i t e w h e b9!
n g u a q " , sgcialisation s a . lwhere
e n t i tai esit_e. 1d ide+trt}es. a-nd
- ant discourses of language and ethnicitv,
albeit within a con\ allv respectful interpersonal framework. I |ls rn9yj:jy
Levinf6i-talksof ;affiia;ls sincethe kind of interculturalinteractionstlat
routinely occur i!
lvith the linguistic dlmension of social action shows how asPects
of linguisiic signalling and cultural and sociai background knowledge work together to
o.odui. communicati,,,einvolvement (or not) and outcomes at both individual and societal
\ Ievels. , therefore,in liner-i$4e41!cusslon aboveis on@

I,, o.d"ffii,'Gr,rnp"., 4ryryf:- eclecticbagof tools an{, as

Levinson( 1997) suggests, is[
can be found in Conversation .--
Analvsis. Gunrperz drau's on pragmatic notions in his
.-7---- :. ' ' I
i n t e r p r e t i t e p r o c e d u r e s E l u t a s P a r t o I a \ \ I o ( r : o \ ' l o l o g l c a l interest. Similarly, he has been
much influenced bv Conr.'ersation -\nallsi=. Likc C\ his analvsisfocuses on members'

procedures,elucidatinghou-participants use their interactionalresourcesto maintain the

interaction and create a level of mutual interpretation. But Gumperz suggestsCA is limited
in as far as the participants'interpretations are seen as depending on sequentialordering
rather than on active involvement. And this invoh,'ement rests on tr,vo kev terms for
Gumoerz:'conversationalinference' and'contextualisation'.
The cupacitv to understand interactions and be socialisedinto ne'uvcommunities of
practice depends absolutelv on some level of shared inferential processes.This does not
mean that interlocutorc shuie interpretive conclusions about the meaning of th,].r-g,
, |
'. V
"rd"tttt "
."*" t. This is in no sense an absolute sharing since anv a
conclusions over meaning have to be accomplished, not taken for granted. And, as I have
s u g g e s t eadb o re , b e i n gc o m p e t e n ti s n o t a s i m p l ep r o c e s so f l e a r n i n gt o m a n a g ei n s t i t u t i g n a l

Nevertheless, the processof socialisation,horveverambiguous, must relv on negotiating

local meanings through conversational inference. The question is:What is the relationship
between the linguistic signs that participants must process and conversational inference?
Gumperz has proposed the notion of cues' to account for how these signs
are taken up bv interactants.Contexfrralisationconsistsof:

all activities bv participants lvhich make reler.ant, maintain, revise, cancel, anv aspect
of context which in turn is responsible for the interpretation of an utterance in its 7
particular locus of occurrence. (Auer, 1992, p. 4)

Cpe1eqglsa:gcues are definedas:

constellations of surface features of messageform . . . The means bv rvhich speakers

signal and listeners interpret lvhat the actir-itv is, hou'semantic content is to be
understood and horv each sentence relates to rvhat precedes or follou.s. (Gumperz,
, . 13 1 )
1 9 8 2 ap

These cues serve to f"."gr.""d -"k" ,. ture in relation to

oth..r und .o6ll ,p ..'r,'ot"d i.rt.rp."i.tlonr. So, lor e* u
'ok' 'good'
Example 1 signalsa preclosing sequencervith the rvords and both spoken with
falling intonation. These contextualisation cues routinelv mark the closing of a particular
toplc or'activity' (Gumperz, 1982a)in an interaction.
Contextualisation cues call up background knou'ledge u'hich not onl,v relates to
traditional linguistic and pragmatic knorvledge but to socialrelations, rights and obligations,
linguistic ideologies and so on. In Ilhami's case,mentioned above,the question abouthis
father's job u-ithin the speech event of an intervierv and occurring at that point in the
sequenceis expected to cue in information about social status. (SeealsoTr,'ler, 7995, on the
interactive negotiation of participant status.)
Not onlv are contextualisation cuesheavilv charged lr.ith social and cultural freight, the
g'ays in r,r'hichthev invoke context mark them as problematic for the minority speaker.
Levinson, in providing an analt'tic framelvork for contextualisation cues, makes the
important point that messageand context are not in opposition - the messagecan caI-Lf- t-7

n'ith it or project the context (Levinson, 1997).Thismakesthe processof coming to a level

of shared understanding, and learning from this experience, an_extrelffionplex_gg.
Levinson argues that contextualisation cues invoke context in particular r.l-avs. The cue is:

A conventionalreminder, like a knot in a handkerchief, u'here the content of the memo

is inferentiallv determined.Thus the cannot be saidto encodeor directly'invoke
the interpretive background, it's simplv a nudge to the inferential process & -

tr illerpretive processma-vbe guided b)' general pragmatic principles of a -Griceanso4

and thus be in manv lvavs universal in character: but the
are anvthing but
al different g ' \ P '2 9 t .
\-n... the)'haveto
u.. ,{=l-pr9}-leqs here for minoritv language,p""t"(@
identifv that thereis a cu,e(for examplea particularprosodic
.# ., ,<-*---fh. ' rnn-
significance-ii-ne languageor rarien' and not in anothert(S"g!dE, as Ll'r inso*5r;1997)
suggestsrthgjgcio-culturalb-kg."' cular cqe..It sets
O f f t h e i n [ e r e n t i a lD r o c e s sb u t u n l e s si n t e r a c t a n t ss h a r ei n t e r p r e t a t i v e ls
po knowing what part s of background kno\\' mav be calleduui.Third
there is the fact that contextlalisation cues are reflexive es ntext'asmuch
a6ntext shapeslanguag{$glhe majoritv and minorit-v interlocutors may make di
situated iudsements both Ii uisticallv and contextua v m o m e n t b y m o m e n t i n t h e
irylerar:ion: a misread prosodicTne-ffidex a seti p.e-st ppositions about speaker
perspective,for example, rvhich createsa neu'interpretative.context ' and
, t- ,L , -.f1^rt,fr'J^
r-^' +. h'.-- (1 )
on a different footing. -'^q.A
7. :1""tF""
These issuesare central to an understanding of u'hat it might rr}l d lntor -,.1
li aLA v

a second meaningof
meaning of contextuali.uiion
contextualisation cues cuescan;tfy
can only b6 U3leaigt
t-#11,k^9t nqulsuc

minority speakerif there is extended exposure to the communicatit'e practices o the group
or network from r,vhichthe majoritv languagespeaker comes.

It is long-term exposure to . . communicative experience in institutionalised

netlvorks of relationship and not language or communitl' membership as such
that lies at the root of sharedculture and sharedinferential practices. (Gumperz, 1997,
P .1 s )
The need for this long exposure or immersion is that, as I have said, t[e relationship
bStfy_."" c"e ""d co"te"t l Cffg! fualtiot r&!Ig!gliv, that is in coq!1q!t t!9 vr,\at
has not been said, just been said and so qp (Gumperz. 1922DAlso manv of the formal
\L -5townrcls processrngLnemessaqelrn sum, contextualisationcuesare srrpperyt.utu.TT\'
! Equaliv important is the fact tha\.contextual cues are indexical markers ot membership
of a paiticgllqgloup Kno*'ing ho.u t
f-i ,l* int..uctionll-Eornerr to pick
\ i u-p_pl I cue not onlr creatEffiTsunderstanding but sets the minoritl' linguistic speaker
-- apart.
\/" apart. She is rs not ln in that interactional
rnteractronal momentmoment an emergentemerfeniffier member oT-the ot the same same com-
) municative communitv. As a result, small interactive differences can contribute to large
to be allocated a house
t orgetajoband,intermsofthesocia]order,feedingintothest@ns
Lr socret]'
o Contextualisation, therefore, functions at the micro level, both guiding (or not) minute
bv minute interpretative processesand also indexes "those implicit values of relational
i d e n t i t v a n d p o r v e r t h a t . . . g o b ) ' t h e n a m e o f c u l t u r e " ( S i l v e r s t e i n ,1 , 9 9 2 , p . 5 7 ) a t t h e
macro level. Local situated meaning and u'ider ideological concerns are caught up together
It is not simplr- a caseof pragmatic failure or even of sociaiisationinto some stable bodv of

socio-cuitural knolvledge. Rather, it is a question of the struggle meaning at many

levels. Any item produced b1-either side mar' lack stabilitv and create ne.,o'u.rd confusing
contexts. But there is also the struggie over meaning at a more macro socio-politicallevel
Here it is a question of \a-hatcounts as meaning.W
o\4't vv na AS
-D e lu( What do?s'understanding' the other's inten?6e;nl;
uncertaintv that inhabits
i f lixed
judgements and positions after the event smce it is the gatek , as representatir-e
of a major social institution, controls the u'ar,in rvhich realitv is represented and contributes
orthodoxgggg.t socialisation.Abdelmalek mav be developing a competence in
.- "l
interpreting changeof topic cues and er,enin understandingthe goals of such counselling
intervieu's. But the developing competence that results from such socio-cultural knorvledge
ma), be matched h)' r- hi gJritTli-5infrEie
mav be sistance. Sffi
Delonglng ln a ne\\- communll\ a n o \ e t l n e l n s i l l u u o n s \ \ ' n e r e l a n g u a g e s o c r a l l s a t t o nc a n . . [
nt \\nat ls clllferent, otner , e\en e ano ol

social conditions rvithin lvhich there is the potential for communicative and material success
or not and the potential for language socialisationand the readinessfor it - or not. Given
the wider discoursesthat circulate about ethnic minorities, each intercultural interaction
can both produce relativeiv adverseconditions for ianguagelearning and can feed into these
rvider discourseseach time a misunderstandingremains unresolved.

Some methodological implications

The connection betvreen micro and macro-in redefining the domain of SLA has method-
ological as rvell as theoreqr_cal
imfliqqll-ons. As ser.eralexamples m ffi;Faper E;;-rho*:.n,

understandingthe sequentialordering of interactionbut it needsto be complementedbv
Wh" CA is concernedotith th"ffi
by membersin accomplishing interact/on,a methodlhat will help anall-sts
aboutonlineinferencingis alsoneeded.I
draw g.jg".r.!1,
conventionalised rvavsof interpretingmeaning.
Ethnografhic methods are also !reLdSd& uqderstand interactants' subjectivity (Bremer
,, oI,1996;G,r*p.rz,19B2b;
Pre;;lt95 irrl". pu.-
ticfe.tion in the liver oJq-pqq!!!a_rsub-groupconEiEGETe anah.sts'""derstanding
of p/
how minority lvorkersare position m'
effect of this on individual motivati al and social investment a ructron
of socialidentities lr'ithin ions of domination that characteiEET?iT


Bv looking at the enr-ironment rvithin r.vhicha particular group of people are expected to
develop communicative competence - minoritv rvorkers in a stratified multilingual society

- a number of questionshave been raised about SLA and its relativelv asocialperspectir.
a socialactor in a new language
Languagesocialisationbetter describesthe processofbeing
butjn its orthodox form it does not fulll-account for the connection between micro
racism, indifference
interactionalprocessesand the macro socialissues.Widerdiscoursesof
and stratificaiion feed into and off local interactional differences, misunderstandings
created bv these socialforces, at micro and
covert or explicit opposition.The environments
understanding and
macro leuels, produce complex and often hostile conditions for the
production of iir.o,rrr" in a secondlanguage.Bl examining these conditions,it is possible
io begin to redefine the process of second language acquisition as second language
socialiation but in so doing, questions are also raised about anv orthodox SLS' Learning
belong to a neu..orn-rr.ritu *a1'also mean learning to resist,_orat the least take up
ambig"uousposition i., reiaiio., to the socio-cultural knowledge and discourse-s which
constitute it. As in manv other theoretical and practical areas,the transformation of Western
Europe into a multilingual societv illuminates the process of second languagedevelopment
and redefines its domain as centrallv concerned lvith the social.


Mv thanks are due to Mike Ba-vnham,Ben Rampton, Jo Arditty and MarieTh6rdseVasseur

for comments on earlier drafts of this PaPer.


'lntroduction: inAuer, P' & dr

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4 n n t t n l 'R
* "p' v" i p un' f ] r r l i o , l I i n n t t i r r i r s '/ ; '1"0 8 - l 2 4 .
YJ"r("'" '"'d"'"""' "
Levinson, S., (1997)'Contextualising"contextualisation cues"', in Eermans, S., Prevignano, C.
andThibault,P.(eds),pp. 2+-30.
Perdue,C. (ed.) (1993) Aduh languageacquisition. Cross-linguistic perspectives (Vols. 1 and 2).
P i e r c e ,B . ( 1 9 9 5 ) ' S o c i a li d e n t i t v ,i n v e s t m e n ta n d l a n g u a g el e a r n i n g ' .T E S O LQ u a r t e r \ ; , 2 9 ,
o ?1

Rampton,B. (1995a)Crossing: Language andethnicityamongadolescents. Harlorr':Longman.

- (1995b)'Languagecrossingand the problematisationof ethnicitv and socialisation'
P r a g m a t i c s , 5 , 4 8551 5 .
Roberts,C., Davies,E. and Jupp,T.tl992l Language anddiscrimjnation.A studyo;fcommunication
in muhiethnicworkplaces. Harlou': Longman.
Roberts, C. and Simonot, M. (1987) "'This is mv life": Horv languageacquisition is
interactionallvaccomplished',in Ellis, R. ted. ) jecondlanguage (.pp.
in context
13 3 - 1 4 8 ) . H e m e l H e m p s t e a dP: r e n t i c e - H a l l .
Rogoff, B. (1984)'lntroduction: Thinking and learning in socialcontext', in Rogoff, B. and
Lave,J. @ds)Ever,vdav Cognition:The development in socialcontext(pp. 1-8). Cambridge,
MA: Harvard Universitv Press.
Scarcella,R. (1982)'Discouise accent in secondlanguageproduction', in Selinker,L. and
Gass,S. (.eds)Languagetransfer inlanguage learning(pp. 306 326). Rou.lev,MA: Ner,r.burr'
Silverstein,M. (1992) indeterminacvof contextualisation:Whenis enoughenough?',in
Auer, P., and di Luzio,A. (eds) Iie contextualisation oJlanguage (pp. 5 5-76). Amsterdam.
Thomas,J. (1983) pragmaticfailure'. AppliedLinguistics,l,91-112.
Tyler,A. (1995)'The co-constructionof cross-culturalmiscommunication'.kudiesin Second
Language Acquisttion, 1 7, 129 152.
van Dijk,T.,Ting-Toome-v, S., Smitherman,G. andTroutman,D. (.1991) ethnicit,r,
culture and racism', in van Dijk,T. (ed.) Discourse associalinteraction:Discourse
( p p . 1 4 1 8 0 ; . L o n d o n :S a g e .
Chapter 7

MichaelP. Breen




P L O R E T H E B E L I E F that therlassroom will have certain effects

relationships can be discoveredbetw'eenthe socialprocessesof the classroom group and the
individual psychological process of second languagedevelopment. Given the present state
of our knowledge about the learning of foreign languages,this assumption is supported
upon tenuous foundations. As most people at least begin to learn new languagesin
classrooms,the researcher can hardly fail to locate some variable of classroom life that uill
have a systematic effect upon language learning, or some variable of learning behaviour
which has correlational potential with instructional treatment. The researcher may ask,
"What are the spectJiccontributions of the classroom to the process of language devel-
opment?" The assumption being that we mav be able to explain hora/ classroom-based
instruction influences and interacts with learning if we come to understand the special
workings of the classroom context. The teacher's priorities - perhaps more urgent and
direct - are to build upon those inherent features of the classroom situation which ma.
facilitate the learning of u."*- Ianguage.Tlg.leaclerlguestion may be: "ln what ways miglrt
I exploit theseei'al-relirv-pf th" .Iurrroo-
Itus paper olters partlcular ans\\ersto both the researcners and tne teacners questlons.
It begins with an examination of the approachesof current research towards the language
class. I offer a particular evaluation of recent developments in investigations devoted to
second language acquisition and to language learning in the classroom situation. This
evaluation, though necessarilybrief, has three purposes. First, to identify the possible
contributions of the language classroom rvhich are perceived and revealed by current
research. Second, to identifv rvhat seem to be significant contributions of the classroom
which current research appears to neglect. And third, to deduce certain implications for
future research and for languageteaching.
The researcher and the teacher are confronted br. a crucial common problem: how'to
relate social activitl', to psr-chological change and how to relate psychological processing
to the social dvnamics of a group.The researchermust explain these relationships if he is to
understand adequatelvlanguagelearning asit is experienced by most people - in a gathering
made up of other learners and a teachet.T .itl

event with the aim of i s nt. The teacher is obliged

-ontinually to integrate the learning experiences of individuals with the collective and
communal activities of a group of u'hich, unlike the researcher,he is not an outsider. The
researcher enters the classroom when a genuine sociocognitive experiment is already well
under way. In evaluating the findings of research, becauseof abstraction from the daily llfe
of the class,we need to discover and make clear for ourselves the particular perceptions of a
classroom which r!'e, as researchers, hold either before we enter it or subsequent to the
collection of our data. It is a truism of social anthropology that no human sociaiinstitutions
/ r a l u e s ,a n d b e l i e t st h a t t h e l e n g a q e . ' l h i si s n o l e s st r u e o f t h e i n s t i t u t i o n o f r e s e a r c h . T h e
definition of the classroom situation that we hold will influence how we perceive the
classroomgroup and how we might act w-ithin it, and this is asunavoidablefor the researcher
asit is for a teacher or a learner. One of the paradoxesof research is to challenge taken-for-
granted beliefs whilst, at the same time, clinging to beliefs which sustain the research
endeavour.Belief allows the researcher (and many teachersand learners) to take for granted
the capacitv 6fi to metamorDhose r uts into learning outcomes
t\4een teaching and learning, or isit a.-.-=-'-
ief sustainedprimarilv bv the social we invest in a gatherins of te

Can we detect particular definitions of the classroom situation within current language
learning research?What metaphors for a classroom are availableto us as researchersat
present? I wish to explore two metaphors for the classroom that emerge from tvr-oreient
and influential research traditions. I ar.nconscious that there may be as manl.metaphors
for the classroom as there are researchersin languagelearning. But I have to be brief and I
am encouraged to generalisehere by the tendencv ofresearchers to seek securitv around
particular domtnant
parttcular seeing.I One prevailing metaphor is the classroom
dominant paradigms or wavs of seeing.' cl
as elperimental laboraqqry, and another, more recently emergent, is the clas#oom as
discourse. I wlll brieflv explore
exolore both.

^l/ l* a
The classroom

We are encouraged to regard the clasi

experimental laborator

ntal laboratoryby the areaoftheorl'

i bn-Jr*X
a@ec-ond LanguageAcq,uigitionISLA,1.Its tradition caiE?ic
tostudiesinrirst;" j:;#ift:;.'X:m
acquisition of certain grammatical morphemes, through the comprehensive theories
of Krashen, and up to the recent flowering in the identification of learner strategies from I
retrospective accounts offered by individual learners - either verbally or within learning
diaries.The primary function of the language classroom as implied or sometimes directly I
recommended bl' SLA research is that the learner, by being placed in a classroom, can be ff
,!o a certain kind of ling";stie I
d e s i r a b l e - I e a r n i n g o u t c o m e s . H e r e , t h e v a l u e a n d p u r p o tsheeocf l l l s r o o m i s i t s p o t e n t i a ll l
to provide linguistic data that are finsllruned for the efficient processingof new know-ledge;
classroomscan w'ashlearnets ttitir optim
learners accountsof their olvn strategiesencourageus to deduce further that the classroom
is a place in which we might reinforce good language-iearning strategies so that the input
becomes unavoidably optimal. As the mainstream of SLA research rests on the assumption
that the comprehension of input is the catalyst of languagedevelopment, it implies a
role for the teacher that is delimited vet complex. In essence,either the teacher must

i-rner inclinations the teacher learning behavioirs
so that each learner ma.' *tain a repertoire of effici atesies.The SLA
66m implies teacher as sur ntal
Iearners as subject to behaviouralreinforcement.
problems t}at warrant more attention if we seek to understand the relationship between a
language class and language learning. First, the interesting variables of linguistic input
anJthe strategic behaviour of learner s are notspecialto classrooms.Theywere not uncovered
as prevailing features of classroom life at all.2The second and perhaps more significant
problem is that tw-o crucial intervening variables seem to have been bypassedby SLA
."r.u..h. Both of these variables are centrallv related to the processing of input. Both will
determine rvhat a learner might actually intake.-SLA research whic! emplgglggaQgristic
input (provided_llinltruction or exposure) as the ilariable and somellter

'ith-TtTE6-earjreliance on I
over any actire
Ite a 6r plvchological c[ange there is a resultant in its
r---- | ) o o ,suPerficiality
\ attention to learners' internal perceptual processes.The researchtakes f6i-pffihTed-What
--------------.--- rr .. I l t . ,l
question oI' howa learner selectir-elrperceives parts of linguir,i. tffi.@T.n-a
_worffi lace.Therefore, the interveni@
.o*p."h".rrion by SLA ,"r.u..h it seems paradoxical that the active reinterpretat)dn and
reconstruction of anv input bt' the learner is not accounted for. The search for correlations
between, for example, the frequency of a grammatical form in input and the frequent
occurrence of that form in some later learner performance seems motivated by a rather
narrow view of human learning. The research leads us to a causalconditioning as opposed
to a cognitive and interactive explanation of languagedevelopment. We are left unsure hor

these investigations primarily coiffi rners are unpredictable, inconsistent, and

sometimes seeminglv inefficient processors. Thus, the same learning outcome can
be achieved bv different strategies while different learning outcomes can be achieved bv.
the same strategy.Investigationsinto Iearner strategieshave not yethelped us to understand
how or why it is that one thing can be interpreted or learned bv any two learners
with seemingly different profiles of strategies. Until we understand these things, the
capacity of instruction to encourage or shape desirable or efficient strategic behaviour of
Iearnersremains unfounded.3This problem emerging from t}e data we derive from learners
concerning their strategies leads to the second crucial intervening variable which seems
to be neglected in SLA research. Learners certainlv are strategic in how they go about
learning, but if we ask them u'hat thev think thev do, or if they keep a diary of what
they do, such retrospections, inevitablv posr hocrationalisations, will exhibit a coherence
that bears onlv metaphorical resemblance to the actual moment of learning. Something
intervenes betw-eena learner's introspections to a researcher or to a diary reader, just as
something intervenes between input to a learner and benveen rvhat a learner has intaken
and some later test performance. I suggestthat one thinq u'hich crucially intervenes is the
learner's definition of situation: the definition oibeing an informant to someoneinvestigating
strategies,the deflnition of being a languagelearner in a classroom,and the definition of
doing a test. If we hope to explain fullv the relationship betu'een classroom input and

learning outcomes, or to explain possible relationships between strategic behaviour

and language learning, then *.s_nqed to locate these
Tlationships socially.Aow and whv
learners do what they do b," strongl_yinfluenced
Titl -
and by their perceptionsof both.a
t-hatlve rvish to understand how.the external social situation of a classroomrelates
to the internal psvchological statesof t}re learner, tlre metaphor of the classroom asprovider
of optimal input or reinforcer of good strategiesis inadequate.ltreducesthe act or experi-
ence of learning a languageto linguistic or behavioural conditioning somehow independent
of the learner's social reality. Not onlv is SLA research currentlv offering ,,s a delimited
account of language learning, reducing active cognition to passive internalisation and
reducing language to verv specific grammatical performance, the mainstream of SLA
research is also asocial. It neglects the social significanceofeven those variables which the
investigatorsregard as central. The priority given to linguistic and mentalistic variables
in terms of the efficient processing of knowledge as input leads inevitably to a partial
account of the languagelearning process.The social context of learning and the sociafforces
within it will always shape what is made available to be learned and the interaction of
individual mind with external linguistic or communicative knowledge. EvenWundt, the
first experimgntal psych ou]d not studv hisherr'eGial66.E;",
su6h ai reasoning, belief, and language in a laboratoly precisely b:Sgglg-glgb
were rootecl wrt recent research tradition
dn oflspring of work rn ress intervening social variables.This tradition
provides mv second metaphor.

Recent classroom-basedor classroom-oriented research explicitlv seeksto describe what

gelually happensin a rather specialsocial situation.This reiear.hrelies upon methods of
conversational and sociolinguistic data collection and analysis,thereby seeking to offer a
richer and lessprescriptive account ofclassroom languagelearning than earlier investigations
of the comparative effects of different teaching methodologies.6 Classroom-orlented
eesteacher , I
researcher explores the classroom aJa- as variable l(
participation by learners, various error treatments by teachers, and specific features of
classroom talk such as teacher evaluation, teacher-learner negotiation, and prevalent
instructional speech acts including displav questions, formulation o, and
messageadjustment. Although much of this researchseemsto avoid beinq "*plu.r"iion,
explanatorv in terms of the possible effects of classroom discourse r'rponlung:rrugelearning,
some investigators seek to correlate selected features of classroom talk with certain learn-
ing behaviours or learned outcomes. Classroom-oriented research rests on the assumption
that the discourse of a ianguage classwill reveal w-hatis special and important aboui that
Ianguagelearning situation. It intends no practical implications for the teacher, although
some of the more overtly correlational studies may encourage the teacher to assumeth-at
he must endeavour to orchestrate his own and the learners'contributions to the discourse
according to conversational moves or speech acts which exemplify "good" instruction and
"good" learner participation.
Clearly, this focus upon the actual discourse of classroom communication provides
a valid location ifrve rvish to begin to understand the experience oflearning a languagein

a classroom. However, even with such an ecologically valid point of departure, cuffent
classroom-oriented research leavesus with tr,vo important areas of uncertainty. We have
to question the extent to which the surface text of classroom discourse can adequatelr
,eu.ul th. underlving social psychological forces which generateit (the exoectations,beliefs
t ifi@.i.tions and learning it provokes). This central issue leads us back into
debateon the poisiblerelationshipsbetweencommunicaai"g.lltt
ih" lorrg-"rtablished
lear.rini, betw'een language and cognition. A number of the correlational studies within
.lurr.oo--oriented research avoid the complexities of this debate by appearing to assume
6|ratcertain phenomena in clasgrolm discourse cause,learnin$Looccur. Anv correlation
n o9 ofr;", I u t"u.h"r',
hetween observable f'eaturesof discourse and testable learning
formulation of a rule, for example, and a learner's later use or reformulation of that rule
- d o e sn o t e x p l a i nh . ; . ; ;t:"-i endencl
on the ,rrp"rfi.i"l features of classroom talk can force us to deduce that if other learners in
the classiailed to use the rule correctly or w'ere unable to reformulate it the[ the teacher's
original formulation was inadequate.But what of the internal dimensions)f classroom
corimunication: the learners' lrariableperception, reinterpretation, and accommodation of
whatever may be provided through classroom discourse?In these matters, classroom-
oriented research seemsto share a ps,vchologicalnaivety with SLA research.
The second area of uncertainty is perhaps more fundamental. Most current
classroom-oriented research paradoxically reduces the external dimensions of classroom
communication, the actual social event, to observable features of the talk between teacher
and learners. Sixty years ago, Edr'r'ardSaPir cannot use observable data
alone from s even II \4 m to describe them uatelv.Nor can ue
dataactuallymean.EvenDel Hvmei, who was foremostin proposingthe ethnographrv of
speaking*iri.h now underliesmuch also
sociolinguistic insistedthat if we wish
nd"q,-,u,lety to explain any speechevent we .r".d to discover its existential and experiential
,ig.rifi"u.r.. for. thor. taking part.TThese proposalsimply that the-meanings and values oi
.l"ur..oo- discourse reside behind and beneath what is said and unsaid. {-5eseerrcher's
inte f the "text" of classroomdiscoursehas derived throush the participants'
i"@?Eir.tutiontof thuiffir". th" teu n as error
'a l."rn.rZ Is a learner'frequest for information - even if
- l
to as sucn
Is superficial negotiation of meaning or a learner's generation of further input evidence of
the wish to learn more?
To begin to understand language learning experience in a classroom the researcher
must discover what teacher and taught themselvesperceive asinherent within the discourse
of lessons. More importantly, recent classroom research clearly shows the researcher as
someone who investsinto his text of classroom discourse certain patternedness or

c\utt meaningfulness.Classroom communication, like anv text, realizes and carries meaning
potentiJ . Becauseof this, if we wish to discover what the teaching and learning of a language
i.r u is for the people undertaking it, we need to know rvhat orderliness and sense
they investinthe overt communication of the class.Put simplyrthe discourseof the classroom
does not itseh re'eal *hut th. t"""hur. arrd th.

inteisubjecti't e experience.The subjectiveexperience of teacher and learners in a classroon

attitudes, and preferred ,ways
of doing things.Th.
intersubjectit'e experience derives from and maintains teacher and learner share.

definitions, conventions, and procedures which enable a working together in a crowd. Of

course, the discourse of a classroom mav provide a lvindolv onto the surface expression
of the intersubjective experience and even onto momentar-v expressionsof subjective
experiences,for these tlvo dimensions of experience must interrelate and influence one
another. However, classroom discourse alone allolvs us a partial vielv from which we are
obliged to describe others' experiences as if "through a glassdarklv."
Classroom-oriented research sharesw.ith SLA studies tJTetendency to reduce or avoid
consideration of certain intervening variables rvhich inevitabl-v influence how and why
learners mav internalise input and hor,vand rvhy learners interact w.ith a teacher in the ways
they do.This reductionism is characterisedbv an emphatic focus upon linguistic performance
- upon observable features oflanguage and discourse.To be fair, neither research tradition
mav intend to understand or even explain language learning in the classroom situation.
However, any researcher r,vhotries to correlate features of linguistic performance data in
terms of classroom input w'ith some learning outcome is, at least implicitly, seeking a
possible explanation of that learning outcome. And such an explanation can only be causal.
Classroom research is not asociallike SLA research, but it does share a non-cognitive vievi' lA
qtl"gryi:"gprysron ano...on*^Eilr-iG-pur o 1r
i n p u t a s d i s c o u r s er a t h e r t h a n m e r e l l g r a m m a t i c a l d a t a . research
perceives the learner as ac to the discourse.ffi
not dualities of social being and mental being - an idea appareitl@
by the very separateness of SLA and classroom-orientedresearchpnorrtres. lt rs rncumbent
upon classroom-basedinvestigations of language learning to;count for those social
psychological forces rvhich generate classroom discourse and for those socio-cognitive
effects of the discourse even3[its objective is primarilv to describe social phenomena. If the
subjective and intersubjective experiences ofand from classroom discourse are reduced to
what we can find in the discourse ^i; alone, then rve are allowed to deduce that classroom
;i. ;;;;;;';ilonditioning - no more nor lessth". ,o"iul U rr [7
determinism! Jn"<g- +
It appears that the tu.oYnelgg[9p-for the classroom u,hich@t
'er sP'
of lan
definitions of the classroom situation which se.* to\-"qle.iiE" ,o.i"lrJiit
. -
learnlnq as 1t E exDerl y teachersand learners. metaDhors
unloitunately constrain our understanding of language learning because e@Les fof_
granted crucial intervening psvchological and social variables w'hich are the fulcra upon
and psvchological forces which permeate the processesof teaching and learning must reside
within anv explanation concerning horv and why people do what they do when they work
together on a new language. More seriouslv, perhaps, both contemporary metaphors
implicitly reduce human action and interaction to classicalconditioning, wherein,learners
though superficiallv participating are essentiall-v passiverespondentsto observablelinguistic
and discoursal stimuli. It therefore appearsnecessarythat research has still to adopt a
definition of the classroom rvhich will e h coonitive and social variables so that
their mutual influencecan be better understood. More precis"ly *-nEET...,"t.pFot


soclal Dernqs.
or soclal rernaPs the
Delngs.rernaPs tne metapnor
neri can be viewed as thinking social actors
and not reduced to generators of input-ou\p-urifor analyzedas dualities of either conceptual
1verequrre can proudee a basis
for the synthesrs
SLA and classroom-oriented research endeavourswhilst necessarilybeing more com-
prehensive than both. These deductions lead me to propose a third metaphor for the
classroom in the hope that it might further facilitate our understanding of classroom

metaphor is that it is likely to be

the characteristics of mv third
ianguagelearning' One of
and learners than it may be to some
fu-lti", to most languageteactrers
rnore exPetientialry

e classroom f,s coral gardens )

couldbe perceivedascoral gardensmaybe
A proposalthat the .lu.ooiill*",ion
d"'iui' from Malino*t[]-:'*t:]t:i:":Y::"::
reactedto as rather oaa fft" metaPhor
he describedin coratGardens
in particuiarthoseinvestigations
;::'rJ":fi;;;i,;, 'h
Magic.loff" th" -"t"phorF+Re it'"t;11'Ll;:: TTI''{'*'"!
o a"no,.atocl'assroomlanguaselearl'"(q'^":^1'"'.::ili::::,lo'*:tH:iJ,l,i:
_ _r"

# necessarilYan ant ical endeavour. a
w l t h l n a n u m a n grouP'
withinTTilma-n " : ' , .investigations
R I U l P 'our j : " " - 5 - * " ; - - f f i p o I o g i-c a l .-t-

C@;naa'a;r'n*11 1T ttFtlg$-l* ils;5;;t it. And, o,

humrutY *"
@6 rto,-,ld
vvr )rrvuru
'^r'"' ----i; s
tr*;st in a social situation\th
(@Til i' t"o5-lqperlelt,
ffiustasgardensof ,,* 2s oardens ot
. on *hii might be obser'edasi
M l n6fi. L r 4 J r - outwardlY
a r a n g u a g c class
*"t" s*"ted m"g,t-il-tE;l-iutt bv
ili - i, q,'u'."a of subiectiue_eld
:"::,'r::1""-:ffi;ilt;;^;;^;;;:J.o-,,,o., purpose
-" -er
^,'"r locate
and define
thetasks s
teulttlttS 'utauvav'
orraiiriolbackgrounlio "thty
u, if it nevei existed"before, clntinually specify and mould
t1e new language itr"lf "ttd
In essence'the metaPhor of cl11.::l
the activities of teaching and learning'
tftilllure hndworth i!Yg!!gt'rg as
insists that we perceive the language
...-3%-" situation,.n"t
-n adoptthis definitionof the classroom
,.,n':;;;ii""'ii,.;;;;;;;;;";rs we:T t-:::..,:1.:]:.c::'
: ^i":"1*::1.*,",t-*t'
^- ItA+-- ^f o l".orr:or-

r r "PP'ou:n - - ^t:,11::"
- ^ rknowledge
-.,.l^l^^ -
- asiinvolving
.vnlvinq ssocio-
u.,J ."air.overing of lu.,g,.ug.. ".
:'#:-J:"J"T;:1';';;;";;;;;";";;"" L-, l^l:.^:+,;^- o^frilc

!il:"il#;;."mprehension *r'ir'tit'. J"'T:'*-A;*H
attu utc r*"1""" -
of meantnqlutness
""'(--'-- within the intersubjective construction
: F i i . . o J l n o t h e r u o r d s ' I n p u t l s
reinterpretatronoI *ttutt"tt .,'"v o" tttott"diiliLEilibk"llother'w1:t:^'**-

" in its e of the class Bene-rates

u-nfamiliarby those r'r-hoparticipate

.'#ffi;;;;s *#r,g i.,

j"tior,. clur...,omloriented
researchexplores thediscourse T::::::
rvhilstth. tl"'s'Jorn ascultureextends acrossislands
of lessons, "t*tt-::"I]::li::::::
touch,the surface
I:tililrffiil;. lessonswill
oft"r, d'"lib"tately hides' The discourse of
of talk and which th" itself what
to thot" lt"o"s and it will not signify
mainiy symbolise*fr" f".,i.iPants contribute
from them'
th.v u"t.t"lly invest in ih"t ot derive
justify my own belief in the classroom asgenuine
It is, of course, incumbent uPon me to
or abstract'
that such rn"iuphot may b; too idealised
culture. In order to meet th. .ha.g" " classroom' I
features of thl cttlt"re of the language
I need to identifv some of the essJntial
The culture of the classroom is interactive
The languageclassinvolves all its participants in verbal and non-verbal interaction ofcertain
kinds. This interaction exists on a continuum from ritualised, predictable. phatic
c o m m u n r c a t r o nt o d v n a m i c , u n p r e d i c t a b l e ,d i v e r s e l y i n t e r p r e t e d c o m m u n i c a T i , o i l O l
situations.One specialcharacteristicof classroominteraction, however,is that it is motivated
b1'the assumption that people can learn together in a group.This meansthat a high premium
is pl5!_upon_l9lsens,ur tuhilr, -i.r.tffidfgr, ult.rr.tir nd
negotiable meaning r.r'illparadoxicall-vbe the norm, and from which participants will seek
t ts nr.illimpose their own purposes.This
is not to sav that the observable interaction rvill not be patterned or constrained, but that
it is very likely to be patterned differently in the interpretations invested in it by each person
in the class.Therefqre the researcher needs to be w'ary of assuming that the patterns of
interaction which we perceive as si the same saliencetor teacher a
tiuiht.4 special characteristic of the languageclassis that interaction is further motivate
by the assumption that people can objectifv a language and talk about it and analyseit in
wavs they may not naturallv do if left alone. Th-e lanquaqe class implies metalinguistic
oppor6nilles for genuine interaction through the new l".rg.r"g" code. A language class
. I - l - H

entaifs interaction /"bST{__1.!g!age_and interaction lthrougFl/anBua7es in continual

. #--TIIlEest
and other characteristics of the interactive process of the languageclassmav
or may not be efficient or optimal for languagelearning. However, all represent the jnherent
authenticit)/of the interaction within a languageclassgiven the external constraints of space,
time, participation, etc., w'hich tvpifv anv classroom devoted to any subject matter.
A significant paradox for the languageteacher - a paradox of which teachers are w'ell aware
- is that the establishedinteraction which is evolved and maintained by the culture of the
classroom group often conflicts lvith efforts towards communication through the new
language.Communication in the new languagerequires the temporary suspensionof those
cultural conventions governing the evervdayinteraction ofthe particular classroom group.
It requires communication r,t'hich is, in fact, inauthentic to the interactive context in
which it has to occur. This implies that one of the conventions assumedto be honoured by
participants in the culture of a languageclassis the willingness and capacity to suspend
disbelief, to participate in simulated communication within classroom-specificinteraction.e
'qhs{Iure oJ the classroomis differentiare\
Although the languageclassmav be one social situation, it is a different social contextfor all
those who participate within it.The culture of th" .l"rr.o
6FEiff.t".rt social rei'iiRfhis means that the c9!!g{ofl9ss9!L(the language being taught) /
and the p (the things being done) are both coljlnugll1-
point ofi'arious subjective r-ier,r's
of language,diverse learning purposes, and different
preferences concerning how' Iearning should be done. Such differentiation brings with it
potential for disagreement, frustrated expectations, and conflict. The culture of the
.lur..oo^ do., .roi erasethese differences; it contains them. A major'ca-a'Il6-g?1or%iEF \
und l" flicting internal iocial realities )

The outside observer has accessto the compromise lvhich results, but we would be naive
to deduce that such a compromise represents what is actuallv intended or perceived as the
social realit,v for anv one Person in the class.

The culture of the classroom represents a tension between the internal world of the
individual and the socialworld of the group,u.eclllsn! juxtaposition of

l( experiences and communal teaching-t;#"g

a mind of its olvn, which
s trom thrs tuxtaDosltlon.

) l

g r o u p s \ - a l u e sm
, eanrngs.
F-. thu.r the sum of the individual psychological orientations of teacher and learners.

departure for psychological change.A teacher and a learner have to discover rfict definition
of situation r,vhichseemsto maintain the group and its activities - riat definition of situation
which will be relativelv distinct from their personal definitions. This involves all members
of the group in empathising with the roles and views of others and continually checking
such external frames of reference. The individual has to

fs, and attitudes it generates)implies that

the researcher should be wary of crediting the classroom with powers separablefrom what
individual learners actuallv mafteclassroomsdo for them, and similarly wary of crediting
individual learners with powers separable from what the classroom group provides. An
individual learner in a classroom is engaged in both an individual learning process and a
group teaching-learning process.Thereforeindividual psychological changewill continually
relate to group psvchological forces.The researcheris obliged to discover tlese two worlds
becausethey are distinctive. To inJerindividual learning process from classroom process or
vice versa w'ill lead to a partial understanding of classroom Ianguagelearning. We need to
exnlore both and how thev relate one to the other.

culture oJ the classroom is highly normative,

Our mem 6-urbehaviour rvill be evaluated againstcertain

norms and conventions - membership entails sho*tii we
assroomsare very special in this regard. Schoolsan are among the main
t oI'us enteidlrinq
our li-.s, our vie*s of classroomswill be silrnificanth coloured bv this initial experierce.
More importantly, our personal identities as learners w'ithin a group derive much from such
experience.This is due to the fact that our public learning selveshave been moulded by a
continual and exolicit evaluation of our worth as \earners.Whena e learner enters a
classroom. he anticipatesthat the evaluation of him as a leiTfrEi to be a crucial part
_tnatexpe that the search for external criteria for successin coping
with languageleaining and, less optimisticallv perhaps, the day-to-day search for ways of
reducing the potential threat of negativejudgements of one's capabilitieswill impinge upon
whatever internal criteria a learner mar- evolve regarding his own learning progress.

Learners in a classwill obviouslv varv with regard to tleir relative dependenceupon external
and internal criteria. However, one ofthe prevalent features ofthe culture ofthe classroom
is the establishment of overt and covert criteria againstwhich its members are continually
judged.In I1q-. of the classroom refies the persons who participate
(al I tt
within it in teachers an teachers,
"b6fiiners," "adv " participators,
etc., etc.P[f51IEill
theTanguage class is a hlv normative and evaluative environment wE-iEhengagesteacher
and tqe€b! in conlilgiuudgement of each othe@s members who
are supposed to learn and a member u.ho is supposedto teach. This highly normative
characteristic of classroom life implies for the researcherthat we need to discover the overt
and covert grorrp .rit"ri" (ond -
error corrections are consistentlv based upon objective linguistic criteria or are otherwise
apparently random would lead to a superficial analysisof phenomena which, though opaque,
are deeply significant for a teacher and learners in the particular classroom.

fficifture of the classroom is arymm-dilita*-1

Becauseteaqhers are exBected to knou- lvhat learners are expected not to know, certain
class.The culture of the classroom insists upon asymmetrical relationships.The duties and
n most societies perhaps all, despite some relative variation - an

. Teachers
betu'een teacher and taught is a contradiction of what a classroom
arners are ver)-
degree of asymmetry w'hich enables them to maintain a
establishing precise
harmonious *oi.i.rg gro.ri As teachers,\\'e are also familiar r,vitha classwhich erodes rvhat
they perceive as being too democratic or too authoritarian an approach on our part, even
though we ourselvesmay perceive our teaching style asconsistentlysomething else entirely!
Here is a paradox. Learnersgjut a te to a role and identitv ofteacher.
And a teacher has ib ta.n uties in t arnlng grouD. - - I

ffiffitFistory of the tribe marches behind the teacher, and a teacFer throug
unfoldinq culture th" pq$i."lu.
"f "lutttoot
to learners. Indeed, one of the rights andluties of a teacher is to do precisely tlatl However,
ffiffi.i.ul relationships do not only exist betw'een teacher and taught. Sub-groupings
which are asvmmetrical with the dominant classroomculture also emerqe and orosoer. such
a s a n t i - a c a d e m i cp e e r g r o u p i n g s o , . . . , " t " 1 " " . " . . , * h
successful or less successful and ev6fil--o$iwho share a common identity (such- as
individually differentiated yet collective, it is also made up of sub-grorrl. which develop for
themselvesmainly covert, though sometimes overtly expressed,roles and identities which
are potentiallv asymmetrical rvith both the dominant culture and with other sub-groupings
in the class.
Asvmmetry of roles and identities, and of the rights and duties they bear, derives from
and further generatesconceptual and affective dissonances. Asymmetrical relationshipsvery
often entail disagreement in beliefs, in attitudes, and in values held.The collective nature
of the classroom culture and the negotiated compromises which permeate the teaching-
learning process often hide within themselves - sometimes w-ith difficulty and often onlv

fbr a tirnc - difl'crcnt views of what should be happening in a class and what should not.
Tlris suggcststhat, although the nature of interpersonal and intergroup relationships within
the language classroom may be complex and changing, the researcher needs to uncover
what these are if we wish to describeiwhat happens in the classand further interpret this
as it is experienced by those within the class.As researchersin the past, we have tended to
be teacher-centred in our assumingthat the major asymmetry in role and identity, and the
likely Iocation of dissonancein perceptions and effects, resides between the teacher and
the rest. We have also perhaps underestimated the possible effects - both negative and
positive - of asymmetry and dissonancewithin the classroom upon the language learning

Perhapsone of the best wavs of revealing the establishedculture of the classroom group is
to try to introduce an innovation which the majority neither expects nor defines as
appropriate. Most teachers have had direct experience of the effort to be radical in their
approach with a class(be it through different material, tasks, or procedure, etc.) and have
suffered the experience of at least initial rejection. A genuine cultureis one in which its
membe Iative har actorv milieu. As suchthinss
take time to develop. inp' which the gro rceives as chanse will also take time to
be absorbed or it will be resisted as deviant. (This does not mean that harmony will
necessarilyreign in the classroom, for even apparent anarchy - as long as it is the preferred
ethos of that group - may be quite consistent with a definition of classroom life for some
seemingly unsocialisedcollection of learners!). In essence,a classroom group seeksa
particular social and emotional equilibrium just as soon as it can - even one
- 1'
seem to titheticalto-Iffi newlv
establishedorder. The indivi arner risks ostracisation from the group ifhe does not -
overtly at least conform, and the teacher risks rebellion in various forms if he does not
honour the conventions expected bv the collective definition of what a language teacher
should be. Although thls conservative spirit has its origins in the prior educational
experiences of the learners, each new classroom group reinvents "tle rules of the game" in
ways which both reflect and form the classroom-culture assumptions of the particular
participants who are suddenly sharing each others' company. It has to be said, of course,
that a teacher may participate in this conservatism and, indeed, work throughit in order to
help develop group harmonv, security and efficient ways of working. And teachers are
certainly familiar with the dilemma of wishing to innovate whilst being cautious of
disruption. This means that the very presence of a researcher,or even the awarenesswithin
the group that thev are the focus of apparentlv objective evaluation and study will mobilise
change. Our personal experience of having someone visit our home for the first time and
then looking at it with them, as if seeing it through their eyes, can remind us of the effect
of intrusion. In a sense,the classroom changesin the eyes of those within it and, tJrerefore,
wlLLchangein certain rn'avs.Thisis, of course, the truism of observer effect. But there is also
tglbcryg*fgl4.-1n that the classroom we now see will be in a state of dis-equilibrium:
it will not be the same cl;ssroom asvesterdayand w-ewill be investigatinga classroomgroup
which is ner,vly adapting in a number of subtle rvays.This phenomenon can be either bad
news or good news for the researcher. It will render short-term, one-shot investigations
into classroom language learning largely"invalid and unreliable. If, on the othe, haid, *e
approach studies of classroom language learning on a longitudinal basis, then we may be
able to explore the process of re-establishment of social and emotional equilibrium which

our initial arrival challenged. In other words, 1r'emav uncover more precisely the "rules
of the game" u'hich represent the self-maintaining culture of that particular working group.

culture oJ the classroom is jointly construct

Whilst we may acceptthe truism that all knowledge is sociallv constructed - most especiallv
if we are working wi{ the knowledge of a language and how it is used between people -
we need to consider how classroornsre-construcr knowledge. In a language class, the
classroomgroup togeth" e (the coiten-t oflessons),
but toge-theralso jointlv constructs the lessonsiihE-Fiia
r or not thaieacher plans a lessonin advance,the actual we4<jng gut of

ocialddvnamic t h e g r o u p i n s i s t s t h a t l e s s o n se v o l v e . t h r o q g h e x p l i c i l o r - i m o l i c i t
off the
J r n a m i co
negotiation. In whatever wavs the lesson mav be perceived bv those who participate in it, Qpp*
f[iToit takeswill be drawn bv the joint contributions of most, if not all, of the members . - -,'n,
of the class.Teachers and learners are well aware that lessons are rarely straightforw ^ra 4//M*
journevs but are punctuated bv hesitant starts, diversions,momentary lossesof momentum, U'
interesting side tracks, and unexpected breakdowns.That it may be better to plan classroom
learning in advance has little to do with this entirely normal and creative evolution of
Severalimportant implications for the researcher result from the fact that the content
and process of language classesare jointlv constructed. First, any teacher-centred (or
researcher-centred)perspectiveon lessonsis partial. Second,the researcher'sbackground
knowledge of the actual languagebeing worked upon in a classcan be a serious handicap
becauseit potentiallv blinds us to the processof re-invention of tlat languagewhich teacher
and taught engage in together. (This implication warns us againstrelying on external
linguistic criteria alone in assessingthe nature of comprehensible input, for example.)The
problem reminds us of a similar gap betrn-eenthe teacher's definition of the new language
and the different learners'definitions.There are likelv to be as manv versions of the new
Ianguage,and changing versions of it, as there are people in the room.Third, the researcher
has to be continually wary of being dazzled by what seemssalient in classroom life. For
example, even the most passiveor non-contributorv learner in a classcan be a poltergeist
on the proceedings. Silence, encouraged or not, is a characteristic part ofthe culture ofthe
classroom and it has great significance. Silence or w'ithdrawal can change a Iessonjust as
powerfully as their opposites, and not just for the person w'ho w-ithdraws, but also for all
the others who senseit.The fourth implication of the joint construction of the content and
process of a language classis particularlv significant for researcherswho wish to examine
the effects of classroom language learning. The fact that lessons-in-processare communal
endeavoursmeans that any learning outcome,for any member of the class,has been socially
processed.The actual nature of individual achievements has been communally moulded.
The culture of the classroom inevitably mediates between a new languageand a learner in
class.The culture of a particular classwill shape what is made availablefor learning, will
work upon what is made availablein particular ways, will evolve its own criteria for progress
and achievement, and rvill attain specific and various objectives. (lt is worth emphasising
here that linguistic input is only a part of the first of these classroom-basedphenomena.)
What someone learns in a language class will be a dynamic synthesis of individual
and collective experience. Individual definitions of the new language,of what is to be
attended to as rvorth learning, ofhorv to learn, and personal definitions ofprogress will all

interactwith the particular classroom culture's dehnitions of each of these things. If strictlv
individualised or autonomous languagelearning is desirabie or even possible then the
classroom is necessarih' antlthetica\ torvards it.The \anguage I \earn in a classroom is a
communal product detit ed through a jointlv constructedProcess.

What is overtly done in a classroom and what can be described by an observer are
epiphenomena; thev are reductions of classroom reality. How things are done and why things
nr" do.r. have particular psychological signilicancefor the individual and for the group. The
particular culture of a languageclassw-iil socially act in certain ways, but these actions are
Lxtensions or manifestationsof the psychology of the group, its collective consciousnessand
subconscious.Individual perceptions and definitions w-ill, of course, feed into and evoh'e
from those of the group. However, the socio-cognitive world of the class- its culture u'ill
be a world other than the sum of the individual worlds within it.What is signtfcant for learners
(and a teacher) in a classroom is not oniy their individual thinking and behaviour nor, for
instance,a longer-term masterv of a syllabus,but the day-to-dayinterpersonal rationalisation
of what is to be done, why, and how. The immediate significance of the experience oi
classroom language learning resides in how individual priorities (teacher and learner
definitions of what, why, and how) can be given social spacehere and now. It is precisely this
interplay between the individual, the individual as group member, and the grouP which
represents and generates the social and psychological nexuswhich I have proposed as the
culture of the languageclassroom.Most often the flow of classroom life is actually under the
surface.What is observableis the rim of a socio-cognitive coral reef! Classroom life seemsto
require that many learners spend surprising amounts of time doing little, whilst a teacher
spends equally surprising amounts of time trying to do too much. As researchers we can
describe such overt peculiarities, but we also need to explain them.We have to ask whether
or not such phenomena are true, and we must doubt the integrity of the observable. If u-e
do, then we are led towards discoveringwhat is, in fact, immediately significantfor the group
of people we started to observe.The search for the significancewhich a person, learner or
teacher, invests in moments of classroom life (and for the significance granted to these
moments by the classroomculture) is neither trivial nor avoidable,though it may be compler
and subtle. We will never understand classroom language learning unless we explore it-.
Iesson-by-lessonsignificancefor those w'ho undertake it.

Reviewing the classroom as culture

I have offered brief descriptions of eight features of the genuine culture of the language
classroom in order to achieve two purposes. First, to illustrate the potential of classroorr,
life itself, its social and psy'chologicalrichness.The particular features I have selected art
offered with no evaluative intent. I would not wish to suggesthere that such features art
"good" or "bad" aspectsof a classroom.Thev are the inevitable characteristics of the socia,
event in which most people learn a foreign language.My second purpose has been to drau
attention to significant social and psvchological variables which we seem to be neglectin;
in our current research in languagelearning. My main argument would be that, if we u'is:
to investigate language learning, these variables must be contained in whatever metaph,::
we have for that special social location from w'hich a great deal of languagelearning actuai.'

My practical purpose in exploring the metaphor of the classroom as culture has been
to seekto offer a possible means for relattngsocialand cognitivevarrables which may influence
languagelearning; to suggest particularTrame we may come to understand
bles a
ical and social factors. A teacher or a
learner is not ejtherindividual mind or social actor when participating in lessons.Each is at
once cognitive and social, and so are the classroom realities which each perceives. Current
languagelearning researchtends to examine psvchologicalchangein an asocialway or social
events in a non-cognitive w.a,v. Either approach implies distinctivenessof psvchological and
social dimensions of learning and, therebv, risks offering both a partial account and a
simplistic causal explanation of the relations betw'een social phenomena and individual
development. The metaphor of the classroom as culture allows us to perceive the two
dimensions as irrevocably linked and mutuallv engaged.Themetaphor also captures the
classroom group as a socio-cognitive dynamic r'vhichis an extensionof the individual within
it. Becausethe classroom culture is a human enterprise, it provides the researcher with a
living subject, an informant, not unlike a single learner.When investigating an individual's
learning process,we may endeavour to account for the particular permutation of attributes
and activities of that learner u'hich may influence the learning. Similarly, the study of a
Ianguage class as culture can provide us u'ith a holistic and integrated framework which
incorporates the experimental and discoursal attributes of a classroom, but which also
locates these attributes within a richer cluster oftvpical characteristics.
The eight features I have described are selective, and there are further features which
reflect and create the socio-cognitive realities of a language class.A classroom group will
achieveinteraction, collectivism, or significancein its own ways. But all of the features
overlap and interrelate, and a classwill evolve particular permutations of featuresover time.
Just as each feature will varv as the life of the classproceeds, there r,vill also be changesin
the patterning and interaction of all the features.Although I r,r,ouldsuggestthat the classroom
as culture and the features w'hich represent its cultural nature are universalto language
classroomswherever they mav be, a particular classroomwill evolve both individual features
and a synthesisof features in particular ways at particular times. And it is the synt}esis of
features which is the specilic culture of a classroom group. If such proposals are acceptable
and valid, w.hat do they imply for undertaking research w'ith a language class?Also, what
does the metaphor of classroom as culture offer to the languageteacher?I wish to conclude
by briefly outlining some major deductions for researching and teaching.

Researching within the classroom as culture

A researcher's sympathies rvith u'hat I have argued so far may be strained by the seeming
complexity suggestedfor methods of investigation. If our goal is to move closer to the
realities of language learning and to understand the experience of discovering a new-
Ianguagein a classroom group, then such an audacious inquiry demands anthropological
sensitivity.The culture of the language classrvill resist exposure from a single source - a
sampled informant or a special moment perhaps or through a single investigatory lens.
Cautious triangulation has to be married with longitudinal patience!We are required to
enter a cultural world - as if from Mars, perhaps and intrude upon a relatively unique
socio-cognitiveprocess,unavoidablyparticipating within asmanv realities asthere are people
in the room. In essence,we have to criticallv reexamine our own assumptions and familiar
ways of collecting information. We will be obliged to employ what Gar{inkel referred to as
I 3And such methods rvill lead us in the follorving directions :
oJ understand;ng.

1 An initial questioning of our own rvell-establishedperceptions of the classroom

situation - its purposes, its subject matter, capacities,and social and psychological
processes.(lf we have learned or taught a language,or if we know the languagebeing
taught for example, we are unlikely to be objectiveh'innocent.)
2 A recurrent reasonabledoubt about the integritv of the observable, and an insistent
curiosity for learner and teacher points of view'.
3 An uncovering of the intentions and interpretations invested in classroom activities
and content by its participants. A search for what is significant in the immediate and
existential (historical) experiences ofthe classroom for those lvithin it.
+ A socio,cognitive frame of reference which will give accessto mutual relationships
between social activity and psychological changes.An investigatory template which
can reveal socialbehaviour asmentally motivated and thinking and learning as socially
5 An anthropological exploration of what, ho*', and why things are done within the
classroom from the perspectives of all the members of the group (and including the
researcher'sperspective). A discoverl',over time, of the subjective realities which that
classroom contains and the distinctive intersubjective world of the group which is
evolved by them but w.hich is also other than the sum of individual definitions of the
6 An evaluation of change and progress which accounts for individual and collective
contributions, achievements, and failures. Evaluation which seeks the interac\ns
between individual and collective and which can be based upon criteria deriv\d
directly from individual expectations and the group's emerging norms and values. \
7 A study of the interpersonal and inter-group relationships, the roles and identities\
generated and maintained, and the rights and duties which are entailed (and including ]
the researcher'slocation in these relationships).
8 A description and explanation of the specific culture of the classroom group which
accounts for all the features of classroom life which generate the language learning
context for that group. A profile of features and their dynamic permutations which
avoids the partialitv of the isolation and comparison of a few selected variables.
9 A research approach lr'hich honestly grapples lvith'observer effects' so that we can
move from intrusion towards a reciprocity of frust and helpfulness; becomingwithin
the classroom culture over time and being seen as contributing as much to the group
as we receive from it.

If the above objectives are seen to be difficuit or impossible to attain, then our future
investigations into classroom language learning *.ill need to acknowledge more explicitly
those things which we have not accounted for.

Teaching within the classroom as culture

As direct participants in the culture oi t}eir languageclasses,teachers are very likely to be

highly sensitiveto t}re nuancesoi tle ieatures of classroomlife which I havetried to describe.
However, the metaphor oi the classroom as culture suggeststwo major implications for
the languageteacher.The flrst relates to the specialtask of teaching a language,and the
secorydrelatesto the teacher'sdirect concern s-ith the processof learning in classrooms.

,-,ide :la-.sroombe exploited asa resourcefor the development
{l .lHott can the culturt
o f K g u i s t i c a n d c o n r n r : l : - - r : . - . : N r o \ \ l e d g e a n d a b i l i t i e s ?A l t h o u g h a c l a s s r o o mi s a n

apprenticeshipfor later authentic communication and anv use of the new languageprimarily
serves the learning and teaching ofthat language,anv group oflanguage learners has two
significant contributions to make to the development of the new'Ianguage: first, individual
prior definitions and experiences of languageand communication, of learning, and of
working in classrooms:second, the capacitv to be metalinguistic and metacommunicative.,
to talk about, to explore collectivell', and to reconstruct jointly language and its use.The
language classhas the communicative potential for a dialogue about subjective definitions
of language,how languagemav be best learned, and how the classroom context mav be best
used. The positive and explicit use of the interactive, collective, normative, and jointly
constructed nature of lessons can be a meansto uncovering and sharing what individual
learners and the teacher perceive as significant for them in learning a language together.
And what is revealed can, in turn, provide the starting points for later interaction, collective

more overtlv. I do not have sDacehere to cletall the practlcalltles ol moDlllsln

of languageand communicating from rvhich anv new know'ledge and experience must flow.
SF6"9, tlhe teaching-learning p.o."r, requires decisionsto be made, and decision-making
h)rs"ffgh communicative potential. The sharing of decision-making in a language classwill
- communication u-hich has authentic roots in getting things done here and norv.
'?Ho* can the culture of the classroom help the teacher to facilitate classroom language
l-FgiThe culture oFlhe class h a s t h e potential t o r e r e a l t o t h e t e a c h e r t h e language
leirning processasit is actually experienced. In this lvay,teachiag languageand investigating
languagelearning may be seen to be synonymous.Teachersrahdlearners alreadv undertake
research in classrooms, but their joint investigation tend( to focus upon subject matter -
the new language and its use. An additional focus of investigation could be the language
learning process as it actually unfolds and as it is directly experienced in the class. Manr'
teachers and learners alreadv undertake such action research, but it is sometimes rather
implicit and accorded little space and significance. I am suggesting here that genuine
classroom languagelearning researchmay progress to the extent t}at those people who are
immediately involved in its evervdavrealities also become explicitly engagedin a methodical
reflection upon their own learning and teaching.The pedagogtcmotivation would be that
teacher-learner research has the potential to facilitate a delicate understanding and
refinement of language developmentwithin the classroom itself. If this pedagogic purPose
may be seen as valuable, then the researcher can offer knowledge and skills to a classroom
rather than act onlv as a recipient of its

Learning within the classroom as culture

I have briefly argued for the explicit use of shared decision making and for teacher-learner
research in the language classbecauseboth seem to me pedagogically appropriate within
classroomsdevoted to the discoverv and development of a newlanguageandits use. However,
both proposals derive from considering the potential of the culture of the classroom;for
language teaching. Both also derive from the wish to bring research in language learning
u.rJ th. classroom experience of languagelearning closer together. The research approach
suggestedearlier requires participating investigatorsand Iongitudinal involvement (at least),

-;.t i:.:l;l.ilc'n: bet\\'een doing research,doing

and it could lead to a positir. erc,sii'n -:
t e a c h i n g ,a n d l e a r n i n q .
Th[ paper is not intended as sonreRousseau.squrappealfor a return to the primitive
savager)tl.l.rrroo- liie. in reaction. perhaps. to a vision of finely-tuned classrooms
*,heiei. Iearners might be discoursallr programmed. \or is it intended as a rejection of
the metaphors of classroom as erperimental laboratorv or classroom as discourse.
Classroomsare experiments and thel are places*-here the discourse symbolizes significant
actions and thoughts of those participating. .\nd classroomsare specific cultures. All three
metaphors ...-io me to be true, but all three are also partial. I have tried to show that the
.lurr.oo- as culture embracesvariablesu-hich \\'e mal haveformerly neglected in research.
The metaphor can allow us to see the classroom more distinctly to re-explore its
potential more precisely. However, \\'e still need to develop, during the research Process,
sufficiently sensitive methods of investigation so that the culture of the languageclassmay
be less of a metaphor and more of a revelation.
I am pleased to be able to end with one of Edw'ard Sapir's enlightening observations
because hL .*pr"rred, sixty years ago, a crucial consideration regarding the relationship
between scientific efficiency and genuine culture. Sapir comments on his imPortant
distinction between human progress and cultural experience:

We have no right to demand of higher levels of sophistication that they Preserve to

the individual his manifold functioning, but we may well ask whether, as a
compensation, the individual may not reasonablydemand an intensfcation in cultural
,olur, aspiritual heightening of such functions as are left him.l5
i (1949:97 fmv emPhasis])

In this paper, I have tried to argue that our professional contern with one of the individual's
most sociallymotivated functions - learning how to colxiunicate with members of another
social group, another culture - requires ,r, to ,.,odJ.stand how the individual may best
achieloethis. And if the individual undertakes t}re task in a classroom,we need to understand
the socio-cognitive experience made available through the meeting of individual and
classroom group. The classroom may be a relatively inefficient environment for the
methodical mastery of a languagesystem, just asit is limited in providing opportunities for
real world communication in a new language.But the classroomhasits or,vncommunicative
potential and its own authentic metacommunicative purpose. It can be a particular social
context for the intensification ofthe cultural experience of learning.


1 This tendency has been captured bv Kuhn's (1962) analysis of scientific research.
Researchexemplifying the first r-ierr-I u'ish to explore is representedin the excellent
anthologiesofHatch (1978), Felix ( 1980t,Scarcella and Krashen(1983) and Baily,Long,
and Peck (1984).The second prevalent vieu-is implied by recent studiesof classroom
language learning, fairlv represented in the valuable collections of Larsen-Freeman
(1980), Seliger and Long f 19E3r and Ferch and Kasper (1983). Of course, much
languagelearning researchmakesno reterenceto the classroomand severalresearchers
do .rot assumethe perspectivesdiscussedin this paper. Mv emphasisis upon currentir
influential views of languaqelearning and l-hat these imply for the functions of the

2 Paradoxically,the featuresof optimal input were initiallv derived from (1) the order of
emergenceof certain linguistic featuresin the production of languagelearners and (2)
the characteristicsof simple codesusedbv people other than learners- e.g., motherese,
foreigner talk, talk to foreigners, etc. Neither phenomenonhasbeen shown to have anv
necessaryrelationship with learning language.(On the relationshipbetween motherese
and learning,for example,seeNewport, Gleitman,and Gleitman 1977; Shantz1982.)
Most work on learning strategieshas tended to be individual casestudies undertaken
outside classroomsor through simulated tasks.These points are not intended critically
but suggestlimitations in relating researchfindingson learning to the languageclassroom.
To try to teach learning strategiesseemsto me an inappropriate interpretation of the
investigations of, inter alia,Naiman,Frcihlich,Stern,andTodesco(1978), Rubin (1981),
and Cohen and Hosenfeld (1981). Apart from the major problem of the researcher
having to inJerstrategies from retrospections (Mann 1982) or from communication
strategies(Ferch and Kasper,1983), we need to maintain clear distinctionsbetween the
act of iearning and the influencesof teaching.Languagelearning researchcurrently lacks
an approachto learning strategiesand stvleswhich accountsfor key intervening variables
- such asthe context in \4,-hich the learner rvorks and how the learner strategicallvreacts
to that context. Examplesof a more comprehensiveanalysiscan be found in Gibson and
Levin (1975), Mann (1983) and Marton, Hounsell,and Entwistle(1984).
Although SLA researchevolvedfrom work in L1 acquisition,it haspersistedin a narrow
focus upon linguistic and mentalistic variableswhilst the last decadeof L1 researchhas
been characterisedbv its concern rvith social, contextual and interactive variablesalso
(Waterson and Snow, 1978; Lock, 1978).The significanttheoretical synthesispror,ided
to SLA researchby Krashen (1981, 1982) has encouragedthis asocialperspective.
However, a paradox thrives at present u'herein it is fashionablein some quarters to
belittle Krashen'sinvaluablecontributions to the SLA paradigm lvhilst manv researchers
unquestioningly assume his hypothesesproven as the starting. point of their os n
investigations.Both positions seem equally unjustifed. ..,"
SeeMueiler's (1979) historical analysisof the "science"of psvehologr'.In this paper,I s'ill
arguefor a socio,cognitive perspectiveon languagelearning.Current influential approaches
to the social psychologv of languagelearning seem to me too narrowlv focused upon
motivational and attitudinal factors (Gardner, 1979) and,although socialpsychology grants
significanceto relationships between the individual and social context, its prevailing
tradition is non-cognitive and somew-hatdeterministic in its evaluationof the effects of
socialexperience.A socio-cognitiveperspectiveallows us to identifv variablesof learning
both within the social situation and within the active cognition of the learner (Forgas,
198 I ). It also encouragesseekingrelationshipsbetween learner cognition and situations
and implies the need to understand,to see through languagelearning in ways cogently
arguedby Ochsner(1979).
Allwright (1983), Gaies (1983) and Long (1983) provide excellent reviews of
c l a s s r o o m - o r i e n t er e
ds e a r c h .
Sapir (1949) and Hvmes (1972) are, of course, emphasisingcollective meanings and
values.Other scholars,notablvGoffman (1959) and Cicourel (1,973),would alsoassert
the significanceof personal intentions and interpretationswithin socialevents.I will argue
that we need to account for both and their interrelationships.
The notion of "genuine culture" derivesfrom Sapir'sdiscussionof "Culture, Genuine and
Spurious"(19+9).ln referring to Malinorvskit (1935) study,I do not wish to imply that
we adopt a narrol!' social anthropologicalapproachto the classroom;rather one which
relatessoctalexperience and psvchologicalchange in the tradition of Margaret Mead,
Ruth Benedict, and Clvde Kluckhohn (see, for example, Beattie's1964 overview of
social anthropolog).Perhaps the studv of the classroomgroup might resemble Oscar

Lewis'sinvestigationsof family life in Mexico ( 1959) but with a particular focus upon the
relationshipsbetween classroomlife and languagedevelopment.
"lnteractivl" is becoming a much-usedterm in languageteaching circles and is, thereby,
expandedto encompassmanv assumptionsand diverse meanings(ashasbeen tle fate of
"fu^nctional," "communicative,""negotiation,"and, when applied to pedagogy,"natural").
Ambiguitv residesin the fact that human interaction can be both interpersonal and intra-
persoial;'both overtly social and covertly mental. Allwright's (1982, 1984a) fruitful
identification ofinteractive rvork as a defining feature ofclassroomsclearly relatesto the
interpersonal. However, interactive w'ork also occurs in the recreativerelating of mind
to external phenomena (Neisser, 1976). But interaction is more comprehensivethan
(1) overt behaviour between people and 121 covert perception and reconstruction
of perceptions and experiences.We also need to regard social interaction as having
pry"hologl"ul roots and outcomes (Rommetveit 1981) and mental interaction as being
rlrtj".t to socialforces (Gauld and Shotter,7977; Harr6, 1978; Shotter, 1978).Thus,
interaction is also (3) a socio-cognitiveprocesswhich continually relates social action
and experienceto the content and capabilitiesof the mind, and vice versa.
10 Ou., tir" past t\r.entv yearsthere h"u" b".., a number of interesting studiesof ciassroom
relationshipsand roles within the school system.Jackson's(1968) seminal investigation
is complemented by Hargreaves(1972) and Woods (1919) - the more recent works
echoing Goffman's (1961) revelationsof the effectsupon the perceptions and activities
of people in situationswhich maintain asymmetricalrelationships.Learner experience.s
uni ;,rJg.-.nts have been studied by Taytor (1952) , Nash ( 1974), Meighan (1977) , anQ
Ha.grea.,res(1977), whilst teacher perspectives are considered by Morrison and
Maclntvre (1959).
11 A well-establishedtradition within the sociology of knowledge arguesthat most of our
learning is socially constructed. Berger and Luckmann's (1965) justification of sueh a
view is basedupon a phenomenologicalapproachto human experience.(Douglas, 1973.
and Luckmann, Tg'/8, offer a range of studieswhilst Filmer, Phillipson, Silverman, and
Walsh, 1972, provide an overview.) Perhapsthe two major influences uPon recent
endeavoursto relate social experience and knowledge have been Schultz (1962-65.
1967) and Husserl (1965, 1967). Investigationsdirectly concerned with the joint
construction of classroomlife are exemplified within Hargreaves(1977) , Nash ( 197 3 I .
Stubbsand Delamont (1976),Woodsand Hammersley(1917), andWoods(1980a,b).
IL The eight essentialfeatures u'hich I describe are based on my own experience as a
teachei and the sharedexperiencesof many teachersfrom most countries of the world
r,r,.ithn'hom I have worked. The featuresare also influenced by *y interpretation of a
number of scholars.WillardWaller's (1932) evaluationof the teachingprocessis still the
most comprehensive,*'hilst the studiesof teaching and learning referred to in notes 1Cf
and 1 1 provide strongjustification for seeingthe classroomgroup asa specialculture. (.\
helpful overvierv of classroomresearchw'ithin general education is provided by Cohen
a n dM a n i o n 1 9 8 1 . )
l.J Garfinkel assertsthe need for methods of understandingthe everydaylife of the group
we may be investigatingthrough an ethnomethodological approach. (Douglas, 1971.
Tirrner 19J4, and Douglas, 1973 provide examples of this approach, whilst Hughes.
1980, offers a humanistic interpretation of ethnomethodology.) For a broader critica-
consideration of methods of investigation, seeTaylor (1911).Interesting examples ol
current research in classroom language learning which adopt various methods o:
understandingare found in Dingwall (1982), Wenden (1983), Murphy-O'Du-r'e:
(1983),Allwright (1984b), and Bonamy,cherchalii,Johnson,Kubrusly,schwerdtfeger.
(all 1984):
t+ In Breen (1982), I examinethe practicalrealitiesofclassroomlanguageand procedure.

The more explicit involvement of learnersis consideredin Breen (1983), r,vhilstsyllabus

planning through shareddecisionmaking is discussedin Breen (1984).
l5 This implies that mv proposalsfor the researchermay also be directly relevant to the
teaching-learningprocessitself. If the culture of the group is explicitlv mobilised for
sharing decisionsand for reflective investigation,then the generalisabilityof what may
be derived from that classroommay seem to be undermined. But more mav be gained
from participatory researchthan might be lost.We havefailed, as vet, to discoveractual
relationshipsbetw.eenthe classroomsituation and languagelearning.We simply do not
know wficr the classroom contributes to the developmental process. Researchwhich
implies that phenomena unique to classroomsmust be tfre contributions to learning
which only classroomscan offer is trapped in its own circularity. Objective investigations
- through discourseanalvsisor the quantificationof selectedvariablesof classroomlife,
for example - represent little more than a researcher's inferencing and, thereby, remain
only relatively objective.Yetwe cling onto a faith in the chastenessof neutral impartiality
which is assumedto be synonvmouswith non-participant data collection and analysis.
Validity of classroom data and its interpretation demands direct teacher-learner
intervention in the researchprocess,w'hilstthe researchercan facilitatetheir exploration
bv contributing rigourous and establishedresearchmethods and criteria.
l5 Sapir( 1949: 97), rny emphasis.


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andgoalsin the
- Ft?
Chapter 8




training as an EFL teacher and the fact that it contained virtuallv no explanation of
the practices I u'as trained in. Further training informed me how Communicative Language
Teaching had supersededAudio-Lingualism, but it was not until later that further studies
made me aware that the field of foreign languageteaching hasa long and rich methodological
Ways of teaching English have been shaped by developments in manv disciplines
including linguistics, psychology and education. Thev have been informed U;:*pgXg!
research, purelv theoretical developments and the practical hands-on experience of

u"Ein-g these influences is necessary.I hope this chapter can help foster that
"f ! '

understanding by:pre-EiEQ an ovEivi6w ofthe debatesand issues,illustrated by reference

to a variety of approaches,practices and materials.
First, it is important to remember that most second languagelearning, both in the past
and todal', has not been influenced by any of the methodologies that I will revierv here.
Outside of the UK and NorthAmerica, the prevalence of multilingualism acrossthe globe
shows that monolingualism is the exception rather than the norm. Most second languages
are still learnt informally. Formal methodologies have tried to copy certain features of .,1
informal second languagelearning and tlis is something to look out for as we proceed. qe:
While the term'method' might be used to describe any practical procedure for teaching ^,"du?l\.
'methodolgg''' u
a language,the term implies the existence of a set of procjgllg: rglgted b,y Jf
teaching and lEi? lTEe approachesI w-ill
all been t ir advocatesas constituting a'methodology in that
sense.I will examine each of them bv considering three questions:

What is the desired outcome?

What model of languageis it based on?
What model of learning is it based on?

Historical / Pre-World War I I

In mv experience, ferv modern EFL teachers have looked at the history of their profession
urrdih" methodoiogical practicesof the past.The common perception is that until the advent
of Audio-Lingualism, language teaching methodology consisted simply of the grammar-
translation method, and the reform movement at the end of the nineteenth century was
simply a reaction against this. Holr'ever, as we shall see, methodological debates have
characterisedthe profession for much longer.
Howatt records the use of materials to teach both French and Latin in the middle ages
which were basedon the studv of dialogues(Howatt 1984). He.notes the development of
methods bv teachers like Bellot and Holl'band in the 16thand 17'hcenturies which included
substitution tables, dialogues based on common situations and an emphasis on spoken
pro{iciencv.DescribingWebbe's'anti-grammar'stancein the 17mcentury,Howatt observes

there is . . ever\.reason to supposethatWebbe w-asproposing a form of l'direct

method' of languageteaching rvithout the use of reference grammars, which] lvould
depend heavilv on spokeninteraction . . .' (Howatt 1984:37)

By the 19'h century, grammar-translation was the dominant methodology. lhis was
b""urrr. of the importanle given to the study of Greek and Latin in public schobls'The
study of Lati.r and Greek at tfus time focused on accessingtheir literature, somethingr,vhich
was thought to be best achieved by cops-ciousl),@l rules. and lexical
items of target language.The basic unit of study was the sentence and, as the name of
I.@ translating both into and
from the target language. si'?n t".ffiqG"'ere not onll'thought 6t.[-i-*-.t"T!,ET1lto
t6GtFil'.n.fii-AG+ffie' (Stern19831.
The 19s centur). i^*, u gr"d.,ul disillusionment with the grammar-translation method.
which led to a number of observations which w-ereto change language teaching. Marcel.
Prendergast and Gouin each drew on children's language learning to inform new theortes
(Richardl and Rogers 1986: 5). Marcel argued for a focus on meaning; Prendergastnoted
the use of contextual factors in furthering comprehension and Gouin argued for the
importance of context and that language learning was facilitated by language to
accomplishevents' (Richardsand Rogers 1985: 5 & 6)'
By the end of the 19s centurv iJeas which previously had only had a limited impact
became more widelv promoted. Central to this was the Reform Movement, an internationai
movement which grew. out of the formation of the International Phonetic Association rn
1885. Its most significant British member w'as Henry Sweet, who argued for a scientihc
1!!-roach to t}e practice of language teaching in his Ifie PracticalStudy oJLanguagesin 1899
The key principles of the Reform Movement were:

the primacv of speech, the centrality of the connected text as the kernel of tht
t"u.ffilifi;iff"ss, andthe absolute in th.
prioritl' of an oral methodolog)'
c l a s s r o o m(.H o u a t t 1 9 8 4 : 1 71 7

It is important to note that it is not just the ideasof th. &fot*J4ry,.nt which art
significant;its approachalso shapeddevelopmentswhich followed. It was the first trul.
sc]entific approachto languagelearning and can be seen as an important step in th.
developmentof the disciplinesof linguisticsand appliedlinguistics.

"'...This challenge to grammar-translation in the 19thcenturv and the increasing interest

in childlanguage learning led to the development of natural approachesto languageteaching.
Sauver'sfocus on oral interaction and of &" *oth"r to.g hool
in th tical
principles of which were outlined bv Franke in 1884. fillA6;ha-t became known as
the Direct Method, r,vhichrvas in turn popularised as the'Berlitz Method' by Maximilian
g.rV- .-
In the first decadesof the 20'n century, the forerunners of today's applied linguists
started to take the ideas of the Reform Movement furiher. In the United States the
developed bv Palm-Effio?fi6-Tiid others. The Oral Approach proposed principles of
selection,gradation and presentationr.vhichhad been lacking in the Direct Method (Richards
situations, that is, it should be contextualised, led to the Oral Approach becoming known
rather that referencesshouldbe made to_thereal world in or!€r to teach a structural
syllabus,e.g.bi3 ia and'.actions'hee
FigureS.l,fo. example).By the 1950s
*ris was the standard British approach to languageteaching.It sharedwithAudio-Lingualism
both rt.""t"r"l ui"* and a belief in behaviouriirt*o94l9l!g.nlrg, but its
focuson situationsmadeit distinct.
\>z a1b P.'', 5 3
Audio-Lingualism -t

The Second World War and its aftermath provided a great spur to language teaching,
especiallyin the USA.The Armv SpecializedTrainingProgram (ASTP) rvasestablishedin
1,942to provide the large number of foreign language speakersrequired bv the militarr.
This programme influenced the development of what became know'n asAudio-Linguaiism
saw itself as the first language teaching methodology.
4gdlg-!-l"g"alism 'Oral
when he outlined the Approach', a forerunner of Audio-Lingualism,
€-Sfi66essof teaching as depending not only on classroom methodology, but also:

fundamentallyupon havingsatisfactor)'materials
selectedandarrangedin accordwith
.' y+))
souncl llnqurstlc
Drrnclplesj_(t-rres I

The principles he is referring to here r,verethose of structural linguistics, whose main tenets
were that language is primarilv oral, and that it is a rule-governed system understandable
in terms There p@ously outlined
b}'Blooee,,1914an-d1942(Bloomfield1914,1933, t-
1e+2). lo r
The other important strand underlyin dio-Lingualism as that of behaviourist
psychologv.Behaviouristmodelsof learningessentilllillil as a behavioural skill
wherel.ui.,... receivea stimulus(suchasa Ju. i.r u d.illF;.Ffi
urrerance)uno ffi-rlGG, ."
t that this viill lead to t}e errbrs beinp reinforced and'bad
hahits' engendered. Languagehad been view.edin terms of habit-fo.-ationTefbq
Falmer outlinad a theory basedon r.r.hatrvould later havebeen called behaviourist principles

T H E YD O \ s . T H E ' I ' - \ R ED O I N G
OFTEN/NE\-ER,etc.Questions andNegatives


Problem Situations
Where is Mr. Collins?
i. Mr. Collins is a businessman He gets
What does he do?
"The FinancialTimes" every dav and
alwavsfinds it verv interesting' Does he read "The FinancialTimes"?
At the moment, he is in his office' Is he reading it?
His copv of "The FinancialTimes" is Where is his copy of "The Financial
I lmes ,
in his overcoatPocket.

ii Jack Cariton is a famous football- Who is Jack Carlton?

player. At the moment he is at the Where is he?
dinner-table. There is a large Does he play footbali?
beefsteakin front of him. What is he doing?

2 IllustrativeSituations
i. John Dallas is a film director.
A.t the Question Prompts:
moment he is in a Plane ovelthe 1. Ask and answer these questions
Atlantic. He is on his waY to about John Dallas:
Hollywood. There is a glassof (a) Who (b) Where
champagne in his hand, a stnile on 2 . U s eD O E S H E D O ?
his face, and a pretty girl opposite him 3. or IS HE DOING? in these
Question:What DOES HE DO?
The only answer is: HE DIRECTS FILMS (a) fiims (b) a glassof chamPagne
OT:HE IS A FILM DIRECTOR (c) to Hollywood (d) at a pretty girl

Question: What IS HE DOING


ii. Arthur Docker is on the sameplane. Questions and Question PromPts:

He is a verv rich man. He drives a 1. Is he smoking a Havana cigar?
Rolls Rovce, often eats caviar, plavs 2. Does he smoke Havana cigars?
rouiette at Monte Carlo, hunts lions 3. What is he doing?
and elephantsin Africa, and smokes 4. Ask and answer questionswith these
large Havanacigars. At the moment w.ords:
he is having a nap. (a) rouiette (b) lions and eiephants
r o a R o l l sR o y c e{ d ; c a v i a r
Question: What IS HE DOING?
The only answeris: FIE IS HAVING A \AP
Question: What are some of the things
SMOKES H.\\"\\.\ CIG \RS.

F i g u r e8 . 1 S i t u a t i o n al l. r r . ; - i : . . : ( : . h l r . f m a t c r i a l

(Palmer 1921). However, it is Skinner who is generallv credited as laying down the most
complete theoretical basisfor this assumption in his VerbalBehavior,lvhere he assertedthat:

We have no reason to assume . . . that verbal behaviour differs in any fundamental

respect from non-verbal behaviour.(Skinner 1957: 10)

The role of the learner inAudio-Li ilism came to be portra)'ed asthat of an vessel'
no more in the drills organisedbv his/her teacher to learn the 1/vA
languqgg1l5s Figure8.2 for example). This is to some degree unfair; it was certainly
no-tffiat the exponents oi the method had in mind. Fries outlines the role of the student
as an active one:

The studentmust be vgillingto givehimselfwhole-heartedlyto the strenuousbusiness

of l.u.@(Fries 1945)


Exercise 1

Look at 13. Lookat 14. L o o ka t 1 5 . Look at 16.

What'shis job? What'sherjob? Whataretheirjobs? 2
He's a manager She'sa receptionist They'rewailers.

Look at 17. Lookat 18. Lookat 19. Usethesewords:

,) 2 2

Figure 8.2 A tvpical audio-lingual drill


S u b s e q u e nat t t a c k so n \ u d r o - L i n g u a l i s mc l a tion over

communication. TLusis rather unfair as it saw communication as bein I and saw this
as bein_qTiiiTilatedbr learners not har translate o tarset Ia
havi ill-Klein;ans 19511.
i*F..t*rt t"""t of \udio-Lingualismwastha@g1lggre

a {
t a r q e t l a n g u a g ea n d t h e l e a r n e r s 'f i r s t l a n
66111astlu.urrulrri, of
that skilled linguistsw.ereneeded
r,vould influence lan
s as'facilitffiT6-'
rib ed these-influence
tolrepare materials
learning either
basedon a

classroom was ver):teacher :en_tred,tlT,9ggl.gltgagher

I autonomy @e,judg:s
ilimmanagersof ----'-
rl f -,^.-:----
I qAf l\ | l-ric ntfan marhl rrqlno nreqcrlr)eal

uage laboratorv was a develoPmen io:linEual method. It was seen
as the ideal Loi* ith n'hich to applv behaviouristprinciples as it lllowed self-monitoring,
reinforcement of correct lgarner responsesand the cotte"tion of e.. e
attention drawn !,g{6"- (M"eller i 959).Althoughthe languagelaboratoryhasbeen
.rts of more communicative approachesto language learning, it is
important to-remember that it marked an important departure from book-based learning,
b"i.,g attempt to applvthe principle that languageis primarily oral.
From theseroots,Audio-Lingualismdevelopedinto a systemwhich is still usedin mgy
oarts of the world today.Thecont]nuedpubhcJon and successof teffiFE;ffi1-I6;farge
shJwthatAudio-Lingualism However,Audio-Linguali:* T ..h"1*:
hasnot disappeared.
- "
ts tod4y. bven belore the method aPProacneo
ay, lts t tical basis was shed. Chomsky exposed the inadequacies
of Audio-Lingualism',vhen he showed that la Lgeis not just a learnt habit but something
created by the s r usrng an lnnate la ility (Chomsky1957,1965etc.),therebr
ca rnto o odel and of la learning.
Parallel to theoretical attackswas an increasingsenseof the limited practical
value amongst teachers and learners.

Humanistic methodologies

Duiln&t!&POs a number of methodologiesappearedwhich havebeenbroadlylabelled

u(H"-."irtA Broadlvspeaking,this labelappliesto thosemethodologieswhich-seethe
Iear:6$.5ffi.Bole' person and the classroomas an environmentwhere more than the

me \1-l ar. the\ are northl ol some atffis to

methodologies'The Sijent \\ai. Communitv LanguageLearning, SuggestopediaandTotal

The Silent ll'at

C a l e bG a t t c ' n : , ': : : - Siient\\ ar in tn-o publicationsin the 1970s (Gattengo 197-

and 19lc T:..' i..- .,,als are self-expressionin the target language, learne:

r: icpendence and the development of the learner's ow'n facility to assesscorrectness.These

- :ls are tvpical of modern languagemethodologies; it is the way they are to be achieved
' rr is unique. The roles of teachers and learners are the key to this.
Teachers,although silent much of the time, should be constantly monitoring the
:rners as learners' errors are used to shapefuture input. Learners are expected to be
',.r.onsible for their own learnin$, to make their own generalisationsfrom the language
:::sented to them and to self-assess their orvn output. Feer correction is, ,o
:.ners are expected to become comfortable with each other. It is also thought that learners
.: learn' what they have been exposed to while they are sleeping.
Silent Way lessonsare characterised bv the use of Cuisenaire rods (coloured wooden
' is ofdifferent lengths), Fidel charts (colour-coded pronunciation charts), vocabularv
:.rrts and the fact that the teacher is silent 1!ryt*rytb].. Typically, the teacher w'ili
Jel an utterance usirr-fT6-e-Effi1i?fEhartsand elicit student responsesto it. which the
: r.her will accept or ask to be rephrased.
The SilentWay takes an essentiallvtraditional structural vierv of language.It does,
- -,\ever,see the spoken language as paramount. Reading and lvriting are not explicitly
::ght, but are seen to follow'from the spoken language.
-.mmunity Language Learning i
:rmunity Language Learning (CLL) is the nary€ given to a teaching methodolog,v
,.cloped by Charles Curran in the'1970s basedop psychologicalcounsellingtechniques
:rran 1972,1976).The teacheractsasthe'counsellor', and n e r sa r et h e ' c l i e n t s '
- '-rracticethis means that a translationof w'hatthe learners rrlihJo
:' irom their L1 to the target language, thus allow'ing the learners to interact usinq the
I n. 1
:::rt language.Dialogues developed in this wav then form the basisfor further studr'.
It is a crucial part of t}e teacher'sjob to create an unthreatening supportive atmosphere
:rin the classroom as this is seen to be crucial for successfullearning. In addition,
,--her-learner interaction should not be limited to the exchange of information'but
- -rld include the discussionof the learners' feelings about the learning process.This
' .=rionship has been compared to that of a parent helping a child attain greater levels of
:.pendence (Richardsand Rogers 1985).
The desired outcome of CLL is not only that the learner should be able to communicate
- :re target language, but also that helshe should learn about his/her own learning and
.... rncreasingresponsibilityfor it (Larsen-Freeman1986).
Initiallv CLL rvas not based on any nell' theories of language; La Forge, Curran's
, --essorin promoting CLL, saw the learners' job as being to master the sound and
-.:rmatical systemsof the language(La Forge 1983), which suggestsa traditional structural
.:nus. However, he later w'ent on to suggesta theory of languagewhich seeslanguageas
. --ralorocess.This seemsmore consistent u'ith the wider foundations of CLL asit focuses
' :5e interactional nature of language, something mentioned earlier by Curran but not
: . n d e du p o n .


..estopedia, the system espoused bv Georgi Lozanov, is perhaps the best-known

- -'.anistic method due to the media interest it attracted and the extent of the claims made
'.s proponents (Lozanov 1978). It is famous for its use of music to create a non-
, t e n i n ga t m o s p h e r ec o n d u c i t e t o l e a r n i n q .

It is this focus o that makes

Suggesropedia an interesting methodilogfT-ozanov claimed that languagelearning based
or,'ii, -"rhod could be 25 times more effective than other metlods (Lozanov 1978). Amid
such claims it is not surprising that Suggestopediahas also had equally ardent critics, most
famouslv Scovel (Scovel 1979).
Suggestopedia'starget is conversationalproficiency in the languagebeing_studied'
Although Suggestopediais not based on a model of language,it usually describes Ianguage
in ternis of ii, r,oc"brrlary and grammatical system. In other words, the underlying model
of languageappears to be structural. Lozanov does say that Suggestopediadirects learners
{( to'acts oi communication' (Lozanov 1978: 109), but goes no further towards a commu-
N! nicative model of either language or languagelearning.
It is its model and conditions of learning that characteriseSuggestopedia the creation
of the right learning environment and the fact that learners are expected to have faith in the
systemand accept that they are in 4 childlike situation where they follow the teacher/Parent.
,6 Iir this *"y le
.ng "d
T.T*iiffit" Ae creation of the right enviroynt{{or learning to occur.

e Tbtal Physical Response

(TPR) is a languageteachingmethodologyproposedby JamesAsher
rhroughout the second half of the 1950s and 1970s (Asher 1965, 65,69,77). lts
distinguishingfeatureis thg bki ment. Asher was
not the first personto proposea link betweenphysicalactivityandlearning.Sincethe early
part of t}e century, severalpsychological models of learning had argued for a link between
physical activity and learning, including languagelearning (Palmer and Palmer 1925).TPR
dru*, on models of first languageacquisition, in particular the ideasthat comprehension
comes before output and that earl,vIearning is usually associatedwith the concrete rather
than the abstract.
TVpically,learners respond physicallyto commands given by the teacher.Learner output
is not required until the learner feels he/she is ready.The limitations of t}e method mean
that it is rarely used beyond beginner level. This has meant, however, that the method has
been used more n'idely than the other humanistic methodologies described here. Many
teachers have been huppy to borrow.its techniques and use them with lower level classesas
a prelude to moving on to more mainstream practices, usually CLT. Asher acknowledges
this and considers it a positive trend (Asher 1977).
TPR is not based on a particular model of language. Simple structures are usually
selected and vocabulary is selected for its relevance to learners' needs.Although this might
suggesta structural view' of language,TPR proponents would claim that the linking of the
language with a physical response shorvsthat meaning is considered paramount:
classroomthe teacher is expected to direct the lesson.The material to be
taught and the actual classroom activities are all selected by the teacher. The learner is
required to listen and act upon the instructions given.The degree of reflection on the content
is not specified, and the method clearly has some links with habit-formation theories of
The teacher-centrednessand apparently formulaic responsesof the learners might not
appear'humanistic', however, these practices are believed to reduce the stressthatTPR
proponents claim accompanieslearning a language.

,rnrmunicativeLanguageTeaching >t4- a'tro 6 3

:r-rmunicati can be said to be the current dominant

_ - _ > . " of
Even in countries
v ,education
' ' " ' : ' appear""";-''-".
u'here CLT has " " " -adopted
not been . . " r ' - -in" t e sector. m-ost
-.,rrstries to be mor-ing in its direction. Manv of its practitioners,
-. '.\ever, would espouseit on intuitive rather than theoretical grounds. Ithas become an
-nbrella term which covers a u,ide
.r.ichcovers ranpt -f
u'rde range ul classroom practlces.lvlany
classroom practices. A4anI teggher
teacher traiffig
tralnlng T
.l br.i. 'JrilTt
CLT which is original; many of the classroom practices with rvhich it is associatedare
und elsewhere(seeFigure 8.3 for example).
j--_ r -L:- ^L _.
_:-,-- ,r^lJ,Az-D
If rve look at the questions asked at the beginning of this chapter, we can answer the
:rner can communicate successfullvin the target languagein real situati,ons,raiFi-I

. rc rvhichconsiderslanguage asit is used

- ratherdpn asan abstractsvstem.Theconcept
, is the kev to this (Widdowson 1978,Hymes 1971,Canale
-.-.; ,iwain 19801.A thEEiidlmodel of languagewas developedto include ideasabout
' '.' languageis actually used to communicate in real life situations. Chomsky had alreadl'
-.- , r.\A -
- .EG-"rbe4PK{ -c
- .p.aker l<lrowsand the lutti. b"rng ryh+th" rp.ukq1 .!q4lly does, r\rt+*6fi seen in--,''
Tinguistic terms. TFq_idea was developed to include ideas of appropliacy ari-fthe
:l use of language,giving .iie . In order
'=hne communicative competence, Hymes proposed a four point model concerned w-ith
',.t a speakerboth knor,r,'s
i, ublffi iHy-"r 1971).ihe points of this model are a
, 11o.t- ngurge, what is feasiblegiven the means of
:.eme.rtatio what is in fact done.
e*t, and lasffi-v.
.*.ironme@oxy of Ar@..t
.-:edited, the concept of communicative competence helped shape new models of
--:raqe teachingand learning. CLT has been describedas:

an approach that aims to (a) make communicative competence the goal of language
teaching and (b) develop procedures for the teaching of the four language skills that
acknowledge the interdependence of language and communication. (Richards and
Rogers 1986 66)

..r basicprinciples havebeen applied in a variety of w-ays.Holever, Richards and Rogers

. isolated three key elements which thev feel characterise CLT classroom practice and
::l.orv of learning underlving it:

' (lne such element might be described S,"g*-""i."ti"" p_:i": ctivities that
!..ornot" r e a l l o m m u n i c a t i q p r o m o t e l e a r n i n g .A s e c o n d e l e m e n t i s t h e t a s k
- \rinciple' Activities in rvhich languageis used for carrying out meaningful tasks
^<-: romote learnlng. A tntrd e s s p i i n c i p l e : L a n g u a g et h a t
ning process. (Richards and Rogers
,--/ q86 72)


Leaving home

Pre-listening task

Discussthe following questionsin groups'

\ I Do vou live in the capital citv of Your country?
a. Ifvou do b. If you don't
a - would you like to?
do vou like it?
- have vou visited your capital city?
N'hat are its attractions?
- r.r'hatattractions does it have that
l. l: Sale:
your town doesn't have?
a -.r,:-=: :. i. p,,,pulatronof I our caPitalcitv?
' . t ,l - : :
.' '::.:.i. J!fut lti

I titm home (for a short or a
i .. : :..\'4...
- :-. -:j:-a . :: 1 .11..t ,. t.'x;11flou'?

Jig=ar*'listening r.:, t\.', a--'rr.
Engiand, talking
T.2a Group -\ \'c,u srii hear Darrd SnoK', $'ho lives in the north-west of
about hrs oniv daughter.Jackie.

T.2b GroupBYouxillhea.Jaclre,DaTrdSno$''sdaughter,talkingaboutherlifeinLondon'

(continued opposite)
Figure 8. 3 CLT materials u.hich encouragegrouPwork and participation

icad and answer the questionsbelolr' as vou listen.

You can't answerthem ali!)

Comprehension check

I Why did Jackie come to London?

2 When did she come?'
3 Where is she living?
4 Who is she living with?
5 What's she doing in I ondonl'
6 What does her bovfriend do?
7 What does she do at the u'eekend?
8 What does she think of living in London?
9 How often does she keep in touch?
l0 What doesshe think of her parentsi

\\:hen you har.eansweredyour questions,find a partner lrom the other group.

Compare your ansrl'ersand swap information.

What do you think?

I Is Jackie'sfather right to be so u.orried about his daughter?Was Jackieright to leavehome at


7 Use your dictionarv to find out what generation

Bapmeans. Is there a generation gap between
you and your parents?Between you and vour children?

3 In your countrY, at what age

can people get married? - can thev smoke?

can they vote? - can thev drive?

.: hasbeen observed that CLT exists in bot} rsion (Howatt 1984).

j,,rs'att suggeststhat:

r, //
' l
Th{ t'veak)"'ersion,rvhich has become more or less standard practice in the last
tenLleafs, stressesthe importance of providing learners withopportunities to
use their English for communicative purposes and, characteristically,attempts
to lntegrate such actllltles lnto a \1lcer Programme or languageteacnlng.(t-lowalt

, hilstthe 'ftrong',version:
I /,
advanFesthe claim that language is acquired throushc o m m u n i c a t i o n ,s o t h a t
n o t m e r e l v a q u e s t i o no f l c t i v a t i n g t n e x i s t i n but iner
but of stimula the develooment of the aqe s (Howatt 1984
2e7) {*.
i: concludes:

If the former could be describedas English,the latter ..tui6Q

dnslish to learnl\Hou'att 198{: 297t
158 P A T J L( \ I G H T

Our third question, concerninllggner and teacher roles, is perhapsthe most oPen.
\\'e can see that in all strands ot Cf- th
other learners and the material. A strong cooperative element is also Present in many
.lurffith",tiiio greeto
,, hi. li-..ct their ow-n learning-:r ol"t
assigned-br aleacher. Nunan analysed this question rncreaslng
indepgndenceu-ithin CLT (Nunan 1989).
Breen and Candlin identifi three kev roles for the ILT teach€ - facilitator of the
.orylun'.ttto" p-cess, particrpant withi,n the le,arn o"p' un5!g59t.\.-
at" l.u6E 1Bt"en and Candlin 1980).The1,ilso see these roles as including those of organiser
Ne ls Tlll"l-la..fhe
CLT teacheris often more autonomousthanthe
""di _]i"g4lgggh.r
practicesa.e ,rsuallylesspredicqrble,andin his/her role asfacilitatorof commu-
f^l14\ nication tt6t"".h"t oft"nGl-t"r..ts with the learners in ways rvhich mirror interaction outside
the classroom,e.g.byaskingreal questionsabout t}e learner'sbackground,opinions, etc.
'(fr onenewrolefisthatof.needsanal1st',i'e.some-

?n\its elevation by writers such as Mun r tnan an

a significant change (Munby 1978). For individual teachers in
collaboration with their learners to decide on the content of courses was very different to
the audio-lingual tradition where it u'as thought that it rvasthe job of structural linguists to
prescribe course content.THe realisation that learner needs vary can be seen as a Precursor
of the trend tovi-ardslearner n

Immersion progralnmes and the Natural Approach

Parallel to the development of CLT in the late 1970s and early 1980s another methodology
was being developed which had at its base a model of language learning partly based on
studies of students in Canadian immersion programmes. This methodology was called the
Natural Approach and its proponents were Steven Krashen andTracyTerrell.
The Canadian immersion programme dates back to the 1950s, but really became
widespread in the 1970s and 1980s. It marked a move away from the formal teaching o1[
French in Canadianschools to the teaching in French of other subjects.It was felt that while
the content would be clear to the students through the context, they would acquire the
target language through exposure. This process has been described as t}e partial
'deschooling' language(Stern 1992 12).
Canadian French immersion programmes seem to have had interesting but mixed
results. Surveying the various studies into their effectiveness,Ellis notes that they do not
seem to have had a negativeimpact on the students'proficiency in English, their L1, and
that they have also tended to break dou-n ethnolinguistic stereotypes. He also notes that
they have led to hlgh levels of proficiencv in the target language, French, in the areas of
discourseand strategic competence.Thev havenot, horvever,been as successfulin promoting
grammatical proficiencr and it has been observed that a fossilised non-standard variant of
the target can result (Ellis 199+).
In 1983 KrashenandTerrellpubiishedfr= \'arural.1pproach,whichessentiallycontained
K r a s h e n ' st h e o r e t i c a lp . r . p e c t i r e s . d e r e l o p e di n e a r l i e r p u b l i c a t i o n s( K r a s h e n 1 9 8 1 a n d
19821, . --r:-:..inesior their classroomapplication(KrashenandTerrell 1983).
T H E D E V E L O P M E N T O F E F L I \ l E T H O D O L O G Y1 5 9

- ,ti'..n andTerrell saw the NaturalApproach as'similar

to other communicative approaches
._.deleloped', and it can be seenas sharingthe sameqoalsas CLT (KrashenandTerrell
-':: 17t.
The Natural Approach's uniqueness lies in its model of learning. Krashen drew a
-:.:..tion between consciouslearning and 'acquisition', u-hich paralielsL1 development.
.- languagewhich is is seen as being ar-ailablefor natural languageuse.
. .:-rage rvhich has been'learnt' can be used to monitor and correct output based on
, ,-lrr.d' Iearning, but that is all; a function u'hich has obvious time constraints in natural
_.-:ilge Processlng.
l e a r n e r s ' a c q u i r e ' n e r , vl a n g u a g eb y b e i n g e x p o s e dt o ' c o m p r e h e n s i b l ei n p u t ' . S u c h
: -: rs defined by Krashen as being comprehensible to the learner but containing language
- , : :'rot'e the learner's current level. According to Krashen it is only comprehensible input
.:h lacilitates acquisition, learner output is essentiallyirrelevant. Also according to
' :..hen learners are only able to acquire new grammatical structures in a certain
.: called the Natural Order Hypothesis and is basedon studies of children learning
. :.: Ll rvhich suggested a certain
order of acquisition. This focus on grammatical
'--::ures, usuallv individual morphemes,
suggestsa grammatical view of languagemore
..:-pinq rvith the audio-lingualtradition than CLT (Richardsand Rogers 1985: 130).
Krashen also thought that learning was influenced by the learner's emotional state, an
.':' :hared bv humanistic approaches.Krashen argued that an'Affective Filter'existed,
----:l meant that learners who weren't very
motivated, lacked confidence or who were
-- ,.- 'us u-ould not do as well as thbse w'ho were motivated, confident and reiaxed.
The breadth of Krashen'smodel obviously attracted a lot of attention, and it would not
-:.reasonableto sa,vthat a lot of the claims on which it was basedhave been overturned.
-'ughlin has shown that the acquisition/learning differentiation is hard to support and
- :i irere is no need-to
postTlate-amonitor' basedupon it (Mclaughlin, 1987).
Krashen'sideasconcerning comp\xehensible input havealso led to a great deal of debate.
-.. been clearly argued that comprehensible
input is not the only, or even the most
. :tant, factor in languagelearning (Mclaughlin, 1987;White, 1987). The Natural order
: '.hesis and Affective Filter Hypothesis have also been subjected to criticism
-:ughlin, 1987).ln the caseof the former for methodological,"urorm concerning the
.---iion of data; in the caseof the latter becauseit is unclear exactlv how such a filter
-. ; rvork, and aiternativemodels seem better able to explain the evidence.
^: u'ould be unfair to leave our discussion of the Natuial Approach on such a critical
- . .,rithout acknowledging its role in increasing
our understandingof the languagelearning
" :)s. Krashen'smodel of languagelearning l\,as an attempt to find a broad universal
---.:u'ork and althoughit is not widely acceptednow,
it hasacted asa spur for a great deal
-:sequent thinking and debate.

.:.k based learning (TBL)

. . asedlearning of languagesis currently attracting a lot of attention. However, as with

, :ne definition of this methodolog) is not fixed. In general though it can be said that
. - :-..thodologles:

.hare a common idea: giving learners tasksto transact,rather than items to learn,
:rovloes an envlronment \\'nlcn DeStPromotesthe natural .languagelearning process

jtnrihed three approachestoTBL, including theirown: Prabhu's,

Long ar: C: .- i=. :.:.. -
.,'rhi.Ih.,-,-r :::t:i :. ":,r,-,ceduralsyllabus;Breen and Candlin's, which they regard as a
as a true task basedsvllabus(Long and
p.o..,. ,. -,.. r.. -. i :r,.r. ,r.r-n,u'hich the,vregard
Crookts i ':-
Undi r-tc.n:,., mr.t classroomteachersw.ereonly likell'to have encounteredTBL
bv u'hich the Bangalore,/Madras Com-
reterence ro rhe Bangalore Project, the name
municarional Teachinl Project (CTP) in India is commonlv known. This project
I.t establishedb.. \.S. Piabhu in 1979 and formed the basisof his SecondLanguagePedagogl
(prabhu 19S7r. It s'asa consciousattempt to compare different methodologicalapproaches
to the teaching oi Enghsh.
ifications but
specllrcatlons contained a series of tasks in the 6-rm of problem-solving
-:- Davis
r6ilGl f6.retra and Davies1985).When evaluatingthe project' Berettaand
conclude that the results of their investigation: tentative suPPort for the CTP claim
that srarmat-colstruction can take place through a focus on meaning alone''
F approach focuses on t1le input the students receive and the cognitive processing
"thrr', it
which th"y u." required to carrv out. Unlike the otherTBL approacheswe will look at,
does not focus on interaction as a facilitator of acquisition. Groupwork is allowed in
language- be
classroom, but not activelv encouraged; the argument being that -can
consolidated in this way but not acquired (Prabhu 1987:82). Prabhu outlines suitable types
of tasks and a procedri. for their uie, including guidelines for the selection and grading of
tasks (see Figure 8.4 for exdmple). He found that the best activities were'reasoning-gap
activities', *lhi.h'involve deriving some ne\4'information from given information through
processesof inference, deduction, practical reasoning, or a PercePtion of relationships
patterns' (Prabhu 1987: 46).
Long and Crookes criticise Prabhu's approach for failings deriving from its being based
o., u pro"."dural svllabus (Long and Crookes 1992:37).Thus they claim that no rationalt
exists for the syllabus content; grading and sequencing of tasks appear arbitrary and tJrt
syllabusdoes.,'i addressspecific languageacquisition issues(Long and Crookes 1992 3i t.
W" could say that the Bangalore Project has proved influential becauseof the questions it
has raised rather than the questions it has answered.
During the 1980s Breen and Candlin started outlining their ownTBL proposals, which
and Crooke, t otiated svlla6ii:il]Tfi-b6TFteiitrers anc
learnersselectingthe content oIa couise built upon socialand problem-solvinginteraction
ts aim would be to increase the students ---Ior cg!q1q!-,rl
declaratt"ekno"'l ough the.teacherwould be expectec
6-E"r*" th"t ,, b.e"dth of languagercontent was included in the course (Breen
1984.1987:Breen and candlin 1980; candlin 1984, 1987; Candlin and Murphv 1987).
This approach has been criticised because ,t t:glS. highly comfergllgachel-nc
exist.These are not insurmountable problem:
Ho*:.'uer, Long and Crookes feel that there are four possible theoretical problem,swith *u.
approach (Long and Crookes 1992: 4041). First, the lack of preselection of material'
*"un, that leainers' needs might not be adequately assessedor addressed. Secondl'
although the basis of materials sJlection is discussed,ii is not sufficiently outlined. Thirdl'
.* provision is made for a focus on languageform' (Long and Crookes 1'992:41
Finally, the model's lack of a clear psycholinguistic foundation makes it difficult to asse:,
according to current models of languageacquisition.

Pallavan Transport Corporation

(Madras City)

' - -cnts can buv and use bus tokens for a month, buving a ticket for each bus
.: ne\.. cost of tokens is as follows:
t ' tokens Rs 7.50
tokens Rs 15.00
- , tokens Rs 22.50
.lrl tokens Rs 30.00
\ studenthasto buv at least 30 tokens a month. He/she cannot buy more than 120
:,,,kensa month.
(lne token is equal to one bus ticket: the student has to give a token to the
conductor of the bus, instead of buving a ticket from him.
Tokens should be used only for the purpose of travelling between one's home and
:he school or college where one is studving.
Tokens should be bought each month between the 1st and the 15th. They can be
used only between the 16th of that month and the 15th of the next month.
\o money will be refunded on unused tokens.
Onlv full-time students of i school, college, or university can buy and use bus
tokens.They have to produce a certificate from the head ofthe institution to shou'
that they are full-time students.
Tokens cannot be transferred from one person to another.
If a student misuseshis/her tokens, helshe will not be allowed to buy any more
tokens during that year.

:''--::sft After a glossing, at the students'request, of some words (for example

..iunded', and a preliminary discussion,involving questions,about the
:.::ure of some rules (for example on the point that tokens can be bought only in
:--ultiplesof thirty and that a direct bus from home to school involves the use of a single
: ,ken while a change of buses involves using one token on eachbus), the following
--aseis discussedas the pre-task:

Ramanis a student of the GovernmentArts College in Nandanam. He lives inT Nagar.

He has classesfrom Monday to Friday each week and eats his lunch at the college
canteen.There are direct buses fromT. Nagar to Nandanam.

I How many bus tokens does Raman need each week?

2 How many tokens does he need for a month (i.e. 4 weeks, by convention)?
J A bus ticket fromT. Nagar to Nandanam costs Rs 0.50. How much does Raman
saveby buving tokens?
{ How many tokens should he buv each month? Why? How many will he actually
u s e?
5 Raman's brother goes to a School in Saidapet.Can he use Raman's extra
tokens? Holv do vou knorv?

5 Raman goesto seehis uncle in K. K. Nagar everv Sundav.Can he use his tokens to
go to K. K. \agar? Hou'do vou know?

Icsl Balan studies at the Higher Secondary School in Nungambakkam. His home is in
Advar. He has classesonlv in the afternoons, from Monday to Saturday.Thereare direct
buses from Nungambakkam to Adyar and a ticket costs one rupee.

1 Horv many tokens does Balan need each month?

2 Horv many tokens should he buv each month? How'much money does he save?
3 He bought 50 tokens in July. His school had some holidays in August, so he used
only 30 tokens up to 15 August.
a Can he go on using the remaining 30 tokens? How do you know?
b Can he return the remaining 30 tokens and get back the money? How can you

Figure 8.4 A typical Prabhu task

Having used Long's and Crookes' analysisofTBL, we now come to the model that they
propose,knon'n astask-basedlanguageteaching (TBLT).They arguethat this model is soundly
basedon SLA research,on classroom-centredresearchand on principles of syllabusand
course design (Long and Crookes 1992: 41). A distinctive feature of this model is that it
encouragesa'focus on form'.This is not a traditional structural syllabus approach, but an
can be accelerated if learners' attention is drawn to specilic
linguistic featuresof the target language(Long 1991). In developing the model ofTBLT
fuTTE-er,Long has outlined those features which should characterisea'task' and attempted
to provide a solid theoretical framew'ork for an approachbasedon them (Long 1,996, et a\.) .
However, there are still questionsTBLT needs to address.Long and Crookes acknowl-
edge this when they compare it to other TBL approaches(Long and Crookes 1992: 46) . lts
researchbaseis still small and no complete programmes have yet been undertaken to access
it. The question of sequencingtasks is still an issue, as is the question of producing a
taxonomy of tasks. Finally, the degree of reduced learner autonomy could invite criticism.
Long and Crookes' model has also never actually been realised in terms of materials
development or classroom practice, in contrast to Prabhu's model or Breen and Candlin's.
Overall,TBL looks like a verv exciting areaand one which is alreadystrongly influencing
thinking in the field of languageteaching methodologr.. It is not just limited to those models
described here; other models are being proposed and specific questions of task definition
and designare also being examined (Skehan1996,1998;Nunan 1989, etc.).

Text-based teaching

Another new post-CLT approachto languageteachinghas been text-basedteaching(also

UnlikeTBL, rr-hich\\'e sa\\-isbasedo.riGod-JiTIEffiGllt.*t-
known asgenre-based).
f fr-
basedlearning grew' out of a model of language.namelr Sr-stemic-Functional
Grammar. It
is *hi.h has been summarisedin rtr.

- panguage occurs as whole texts u-hich are embedded in the social contexts in which
I fh.y areused.
\ . ,,4eople learn Ianguagethroughu'orkin_;',\r::. .,:. ,Ie rexts. (Feez 1998)

This approach is perhaps better know'n and more widelv applied in Australia, where
r:uch of the theory w'as developed, than elsew'here.Its development there has primarih'
T .:urred within the provision of English as a second languagefor migrants, as well as more
_:rcrally in languageand literacv programmes. English for Academic Purposes (EAP)
:rammes have also been influenced bv its innovations.
scribes language not only in terms of linguistic
. lnfffiiElJtes theseto the socialinteraction [hev are usedto undertakeand the wider
r..'in-* u.E-rrt@
The model of learning upon w'hich this method is basedis informed by researchin first
with iearners through an ilti-ceship'processas they
_t:n m gree to w ners are expectecl to
,=:ffi ow'leoqe a has been debated by proponents AJat
: text-based met o g i e s a n d , in general, somE ieclarative knowl i, ,"".r i^ u,frpa
..irable, in other words, learners are e d to become, to some de

ls not seen as a necessarv outcome o

s gs iSt_o theg=uRlidn-6T-learMit'Gdeflles Fffhin this approach. l&t-
-:.ed approachescan be seen as mo@ other current methodologies
:.. the role of teacher as'expert' is central. Typically, the teacher rvould lead the initial
:rploration ofa text
sole uctron
roles, as asV skian notions of the social interactional nature of communication
:ro Iearnlng.
will bEnteresting to see this methodology develop further as more materials based
n it become avaiiableand it becomes taken up more wideh'.


:1orv does one conclude an outline of a process which has been underway for centuries -
: amely the search for better ways to teach languages? This searchhas probably never been
rs intense as it is today, with universities, classroom teachers and publishers all active.The
:ealisationthat this is an'on-going'process is perhaps the first step.This might make us
,pproach more criticalll'the claims of researchersand pubiisherswho are trying to promote
:articular solutions. Instead, lvith a senseof historical perspective, we should assesseach
reu,' development ourselves.This assessmentshould draw on the disciplines which inform
-,ur field, .rot only lu.rg.t"
- u e l l . O u r t h r e e a u e s t i o n sl r o m t h e i n t r o d u c t i o n t h a t w e h a v e u s e f r t o e x a m i n e t h e
ffioil6Togies presented here can provide a starting point. We should not ignore our own
c\perience either; classroom-centred research has been one of the most important steps
iorward in recent vears. In this way the field of languageteaching methodology will remain
vibrant and exciting.


To enable learners to participate in a casualconversation in a workplace.

Learner objectives

The learners w'ill:
- understand the purpose of casualconversation in Australian workplace culture
know which conversation topics are appropriate in Australian workplaces
- recognise and use the key features of a casual conversation, i.e. greetings and
closures, feedback, clarification, managing topic shifts
- recognise and use conversation chunks such as comments, descriptions or recounts
- take turns appropriately rvithin simple exchangesie question/answer, statement,
t5', agreement, statement/ disagreement
- use languageappropriate to casualconversation including politeness strategies,
informal language,idiom
- build pronunciation and paralinguistic skills and strategies, specifically in the areas
of intonation and gesture

Teacher objectives '

The teacher u'ill:

- provide authentic Iistening materials
- provide conversation practice through scaffolded roleplay
- record learner languagefor analysis

Achievement assessment

The unit will enable students to achievethe following curriculum outcome, eg CSWE
III Competencv 7.

Figure 8.5 An example of unit objectiveswithin a text-basedapproach


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Chapter 9

Jack G. Richards

ETHooo-a6cv I N T E A C H I N G I S T H E A C T I V I T I E S , t a s k s ,a n d
learnffexperiences-used by the teacherr,r'ithinthe teachingand learning process.
is seen to have ions about (a)
r".--l-"d h"guage learning, (b) ,"u.h"t l""t".t t
lnstructlonal materlals. I nese aSSUmptlOnS ano DelleIS pro\-lce tne DaSIS

processesof teaching.Methodologl is not thereforesomethinghxed, a set of rigid principles
and procedures that tffi nform to.
il*ploruto.y p.o."t. ,hut b"
Teaiffin!-as an exploratory processis different from the approach to teaching seenin many
teacherpreparation programs or Ianguageteaching programs, where particular instructional
methods, such as the SilentWay,Total PhysicalResponse,or the NaturalApproach, are
presented as models to be imitated and internalized. In this chapter, these two approaches
to teaching will be explored in more depth.The use of methods as the basisfor instructional
processesin a second languageprogram rvill be compared with one that moves beyond
methods and focuses on exploring the nature of effective classroom teaching and learning.

Approaching teaching in terms of methods

For many centuries the goal of languageteachers has been to find the right method (Kelly
1959).The history of languageteaching in the last hundred years has done much to support
the impression that improvements in languageteaching will result from improvements in
the quality of methods, and that ultimatelv an effective language teaching method will be
d e v e l o p e d .S o m e b r e a k t h r o u g h i n l i n q u i s t i c t h e o r v o r i n s e c o n d l a n g u a g ea c q u i s i t i o n

such as the SilentWay, Suggestopedia,or the
Natural Approach will bring about dramatic improvements in languagelearning.
Common to all methods is a set of specifications for how teaching should be
accomplished, derived from a particular theory of the nature of language and second
language learning. Differences in the instructional specificationsreflect differences in the
theories underlying the methods. Some methods advocatean earlv emphasison speakingas

be delayed
a basisfor establishingbasic languagePatterns. Others recommend that speaking
Some make use of
until the learner hasluitt up a receptive comPetence in the language.
memorized dialogues and texts; others require that learners attemPt to communicate
their or,vnlanguage resources. Common to all methods
each other u, ,oo.t aspossible using
is a set of prescriptio.t, o., u'hat teachers and learners should do in the langlag-eclassroom'
prescriptions for the teacher include rn"'hat material should be presented and when it should
be taugit and how.,and prescriptions for learners include what approach they should take
towarJlearning. Specificrol", io, teachers, learners, and instructional materials are hence
established(Ri;ha;ds and Rodgers 1985).The teacher'sjob is to match his or her teaching
style as *.li u, the learners' learning stvles to the method. Special training packagesand
progru*, are availablefor some methods to ensure that teachers do what they are supposed
to do and teach according to the method.
Despite the appeal of methods, their past history is somewhat of an embarrassment.
Studiesof the effectivenessof specific methods havehad a hard time demonstrating that the
method itself, ratler than othei factors, such as t)re teacher's enthusiasm or the novelty of
the new method, was the crucial variable. Likewise, observers of teachers using specific
methods have reported that teachers seldom conform to the methods they are supposedto
be following. Swaffar, Arens, and Morgan (1982), for example, investigated differences
between wf,at thev termed rationalist and empiricist approaches to foreign language
instruction. By a rationalist approach thev refer to process-oriented approachesin which
language is seen us"lated whole, where Ianguage learning is a function of
.o,iprIh..rrion preceding pr6duction, and where it involves critical thinking and the desire
to communicate. Empiricist approachesfocus on the four discrete language skills.Would
ciassroom practices reflect such differences?"One consistent problem is whether or not
teachers involved in presenting materials created for a particular method are actuallr-
reflecting the underlyiig philoroihi.s of these methods in their classroom practices" (Swaffar
al. l9d2:25). Swaffai er a1.found that many of the distinctions used to contrast methods,
particularly those based on classroom activities, did not exist in actual practice:

Methodological labels assigned to teaching activities are, in themselves, not

informative, because thev refer to a pool of classroom practices which are used
uniformly.The differencesamong major methodologies are to be found in the ordered
hierarchy,the priorities assignedto tasks.(1982: 31)

but - dynamic,
-- a
- - - is ) '- ' interactional process
| - in- which the teacher's "method" results from the
;t""#;f ,.t"r".tton between the teacher, the learners, and the instrucfintal tasks and
i*"-ffut et al' 1982)'AttemPts
to find general*Efr"Er that are suitablefor all teachersand all teachingsituationsreflect

methods is hence esienTldlfT:hrsih-chers cannot be trusted to teach well. Left to their own
devices,teachers will invariably make a mess of things. A method, becauseit imposes a
uniform set ofteaching roles, teaching styles, teaching strategies,and teaching techniques
on the teacher, will not be affected bv the variations that are found in individual teaching
skill and teachingstyle in the real *o.ld.
Researcherswho have investigated the nature of teaching, however, have proposed a
different view of teaching (Good 1979; Elliot 1980;Tikunoff 1985).Thev begin with the
assumption that teachers (rather than methods) do make a difference; that teachers work
in ways that are, to an extent, independent of methods; and that the characteristicsof
effective teaching can be determined. Other researchers have turned their attention to
Iearnerr 4!I!_!pugh!l!o determine what characterizes effective learning. This requires a
different approach to teaching, one in wFtFTEil