LINGUIST List 23.3856

Mon Sep 17 2012

Review: Applied Ling.; Lang. Acquisition; Sociolinguistics: Pawlak et al. (2011)

Editor for this issue: Joseph Salmons <jsalmonslinguistlist.org>



Date: 17-Sep-2012
From: Caroline Payant <cpayantuidaho.edu>
Subject: Speaking and Instructed Foreign Language AcquisitionA
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Needed a fair bit of work, but nothing out of the ordinary and she took care of things.

Announced at http://linguistlist.org/issues/22/22-2810.html

EDITORS: Mirosław Pawlak, Ewa Waniek-Klimczak and Jan MajerTITLE: Speaking and Instructed Foreign Language AcquisitionSERIES TITLE: Second Language AcquisitionPUBLISHER: Multilingual MattersYEAR: 2011

Caroline Payant, Department of English, University of Idaho

SUMMARYThe development of second language (L2) speaking skills is a complex endeavormarked by periods of instability and regression: the complexities are evengreater in foreign language (FL) settings where target language exposure isoften limited to classroom-based instruction. Pawlak, Waniek-Klimczak, and Majerpresent 20 articles that discuss current theoretical frameworks and key conceptsunderlying instructed FL acquisition. The volume is organized into threesections: (1) theoretical perspectives on instructed acquisition of speaking,(2) individual variables, and (3) research topics into the instructedacquisition of speaking. This comprehensive volume is a positive addition tocurrent discussions, with a clear focus on the instruction of oral skills in FLsettings.

Part I 'Theoretical perspectives on instructed acquisition of speaking'introduces current and prominent cognitive and social theoretical perspectivesin the field of second language acquisition (SLA) in the area of oral skills.

In Chapter 1, 'Instructed acquisition of speaking: Reconciling theory andpractice', Pawlak presents a general overview of current theoretical models thatinform oral instruction practices. After discussing the complexities underlyingspeaking acquisition, four cognitive theories of instructed SLA are presented:(1) the speech production model (Levelt, 1989), (2) the interactionistperspective (Long, 1996), (3) the skill-learning theory (DeKeyser, 2007), and(4) the proficiency model (Skehan, 1998). Pawlak, drawing on key tenets andprinciples from each of these theories, rightfully highlights the importance ofproviding FL learners with opportunities to produce language via the use ofmeaningful and holistic pedagogical tasks.

In Chapter 2, 'Authenticity in oral communication of instructed L2 learners',Agnieszka Nowicka and Weronika Wilczýnska propose an integrative model for theteaching of speaking skills that highlights the importance of developingindividual communicative competencies (ICCs) anchored in larger socialenvironments. Challenges for the development of ICCs include: the integration ofa threefold 'learning unit' (i.e., pragmatic value, semantic meaning, andknowledge of discourse forms); limited exposure to conventionalized andindividual realizations of learning units; and limited opportunities to interactwith learning units in classroom settings. Pedagogical implications include theapplication of textual typologies to oral skills, for instance, genre, texttypes, routine interactional sequences, and speech structure-based didactics ofspeaking.

In Chapter 3, 'Formulaic sequences in the output of instructed L2 learners',Piotr Białas, drawing extensively on Wray (2000), presents the benefits ofteaching formulaic sequences. The two primary functions of formulaic knowledgediscussed include saving effort (e.g., reducing processing load) andsocio-interactional functions (e.g., identity formation and manipulation ofothers through presentation of self). In discussing pedagogical implications,Białas discusses Gatbonton and Segalowitz's (2005) pedagogical proposal thatsuccess is contingent upon meeting various conditions: (1) genuine communicativeneeds, (2) psychological authenticity, (3) authentic tasks, (4) formulaicsequence, and (5) repetition of formulas. While the topic of formulaic sequencesis of great importance, a more comprehensive review of work in this area ratherthan an in-depth review of Wray's (2000) work would have enriched the discussion.

In Chapter 4, 'Formulaicity vs. fluency and accuracy in using English as aforeign language', Agnieszka Wróbel reviews some of the potential benefits ofteaching formulaic language (e.g., reduced processing load, effective use ofgenre and registers; production of natural-sounding language). Then, Wróbelproblematizes the effectiveness of formulaic language for accuracy developmentas a result of erroneous memorization of formulas. Given that formulaic languageis culturally constrained and difficult to teach, Wróbel argues that FL teachingshould focus on raising learner awareness about the use of formulaic sequences.The author clearly presents the benefits and limitations of teaching formulaicsequences in FL contexts.

One of the characterizing features of language output in FL settings isbilingual discourse, code-switching. In Chapter 5, 'Talking the same language:Sociocultural aspects of code-switching in L2 classroom discourse', Majerreports on an empirical study that examined sociocultural aspects ofcode-switching in teacher-learner and learner-learner interactions. Results fromthe analysis of 14 extracts indicate that code-switching serves both socialfunctions (e.g., lowering learner anxiety) and cognitive functions (e.g.,feedback and metatalk). Although pedagogical and research implications arecovered, findings from the empirical study are only marginally contextualizedvis-à-vis previous research on the mediating functions of language.

In Chapter 6, 'Speaking in English for academic purposes in the light of linguafranca English and sociocultural theory', Anna Niżegorodcew introduces thetenets of English as a Lingua Franca (ELF) and sociocultural theory to propose anew view of English for Academic Purposes (EAP) oral skills. Niżegorodcew arguesthat EAP should be examined from an ELF perspective rather than a native speakerperspective. Drawing on the discourse produced during face-to-face and emailcommunications between a group of nine international partners, the authorpresents 13 features of successful EAP discourse. Important pedagogicalimplications include the need to consider the norms of the language beingtaught, treatment of errors, differences between spoken and written EAP, andsocial aspects of EAP in identity formation.

Part II, 'Speaking and individual variables' includes empirical studies thatexamine individual differences hypothesized to impact the acquisition of oralskills such as individual characteristics of highly proficient learners,phonetic awareness, and learner anxiety.

In Chapter 7, 'Near-nativeness as a function of cognitive and personalityfactors: Three case studies of highly able foreign language learners', AdrianaBiedroń presents the findings of a multiple case study that examined cognitiveand affective features of highly able FL learners. Biedroń used 13 measures toassess aptitude, intelligence, working memory, learning styles, motivation,personality, psychological need, locus of control, stress coping styles, andemotional intelligence. The multiple case analysis uncovered similarities in thecognitive-emotional profiles of two of the three participants. While the studyis highly relevant, following the provision of the focal participants' profiles,greater synthesis of the findings and a clearer consideration of pedagogicalimplications would have been useful.

In Chapter 8, 'I am good at speaking, but I failed my phonetics class',Waniek-Klimczak examined 50 advanced undergraduate learners' attitudes towardsEnglish pronunciation classes and sought to identify a relationship betweensuccess in pronunciation classes and learners' personality traits. Attitudestowards pronunciation were surveyed; success in pronunciation was based oncourse grades; and personality traits were measured by a language-learningattitude questionnaire. Results indicate that learners placed greater importanceon two sub-skills, vocabulary and pronunciation. Contrary to the initialhypothesis, a positive correlation between grades in pronunciation classes andattitudes was not identified. Success in pronunciation classes did howevercorrelate with ego-permeability and negatively with risk-taking. The authorargues that the development of specific pronunciation-related strategies isnecessary.

In Chapter 9, 'Oral skills awareness of advanced EFL learners', KrystynaDroƶdział-Szelest examined 13 MA learners' awareness of what it means to be agood speaker. Beliefs and communication strategies were elicited using aquestionnaire with demographic data, open-ended questions about beliefs,perceptions of self, and self-assessment of accuracy and fluency, andcommunication strategies. Pertinent findings include a general orientationtowards accuracy and a relationship between self-image and interlocutors'language background (e.g., interactions with native speakers increase learneranxiety). A consideration of communicative strategies, divided into threetemporal groups (before-speaking, while-speaking, and after-speaking), showsthat while-speaking strategies were most common. The need to examine learnerawareness is well motivated; insights and techniques on how to increase learnerawareness are not addressed.

In Chapter 10, 'Pronunciation learning strategies: Identification andclassification', Aneta Całka proposes a new classification for specificpronunciation learning strategies (PLS) that includes both macro-strategies andspecific tactics. After establishing a taxonomy, the author examined 74participants' strategies using Oxford's (1990) Strategy Inventory LanguageLearning questionnaire. Findings indicate that participants rely on multiplestrategies (e.g., memory, compensation, metacognitive, cognitive, affective, andsocial strategies) but apply a small repertoire of tactics relevant to eachstrategy. A suggested pedagogical implication includes the development of alarger and more creative set of tactics. Useful ideas for helping learnersdevelop PLS are introduced.

In Chapter 11, 'Metaphonic awareness in the production of speech', MagdalenaWrembel investigated participants' self-perception of metaphonic awareness.Wrembel conducted introspective think aloud protocols and a retrospective oralprotocol with 15 participants. Results indicate that participants engage inself-repairs primarily at the segmental level and that they have somemetalinguistic awareness of vowel quality, vowel length, and consonantal errors.Wrembel proposes stages for monitoring phonetic coding in order to developlearners' metaphonetic awareness.

In Chapter 12, 'Foreign language speaking anxiety from the perspective of Polishstudents of German studies', Krzysztof Nerlicki examined learner anxiety with 83first- and second-year undergraduate students. A qualitative analysis ofstudent-teacher journal entries was conducted and findings indicate thatpersonalities and beliefs about speaking, impacted by previous experiences, arethe primary causes of anxiety. Nerlicki argued that anxiety was heightened byteaching practices that gravitate towards formal correctness. Pedagogicalimplications derived from the study include increasing discussions surroundinganxiety with learners in order to increase their own awareness about anxiety andto help them overcome the fear of speaking.

Part II concludes with a second study on learner anxiety. In Chapter 13, 'Therelationship between language anxiety and the development of the speaking skill:Results of a longitudinal study', Ewa Piechurska-Kuciel conducted alongitudinal, quantitative study exploring the relationship between anxiety andself-assessment of speaking skills. On three separate occasions over athree-year period, 393 learners completed the FL classroom anxiety scalequestionnaire (Horwitz, Horwitz, & Cope, 1986). Findings indicate that speakingskills negatively correlate with anxiety and that anxiety diminishes withincreasing proficiency. In sum, findings appear to be in line with theestablished claim that low-anxiety environments are more conducive to languagedevelopment.

Part III, 'Research into instructed acquisition of speaking' covers an array ofempirical topics, namely, task-based language teaching, learner beliefs, andassessment.

In Chapter 14, 'On the authenticity of communication in the foreign languageclassroom', Sebastian Piotrowski identifies specific features of typicalclassroom-based discourse thus illustrating how classroom and naturalisticdiscourse share few resemblances. Results from a qualitative analysis ofdiscourse from 148 French as a FL lessons show that: (1) authenticmeaning-focused discussions are rare, (2) focus on form interferes withcommunication, and (3) focus is on task performance. The author concludes thatauthenticity lies in the discourse, rather than the task, and suggests thatincreasing meaning-oriented discussions in the target language may serve toincrease authenticity in FL settings.

Oral assessment in FL settings often takes the form of standardized tests and/orthe application of batteries of tests, which fail to capture specific areas ofdevelopment over time. In Chapter 15, 'Ways to proficiency in spoken English asa foreign language: Tracing individual development', Irena Czwenar examinesgains in three areas that characterize oral skills: lexical and grammaticalcomplexity, lexical accuracy, and fluency. Over a three-year period, 35interviews with nine learners were conducted. Results show that one aspect oforal skills may develop at the expense of another and that regression occurs inone or more aspects over time. The present chapter supports the idea thatcurrent language assessment methods may be too general, failing to capture thenon-linear and complex nature of oral skills development.

Proponents of task-based language teaching show that the use of tasks benefitsthe development of oral skills. In Chapter 16, 'Task repetition as a way ofenhancing oral communication in a foreign language', Anna Mystkowska-Wiertelakexamines task repetition effects in an intact classroom context withparticipants who completed a three-stage collaborative task. Using measures ofcomplexity, accuracy, and fluency, the author identified gains in various areasof oral proficiency. An important limitation is the operationalization of taskrepetition. Learners did not repeat the same task, but rather a task thatincluded parallel stages. While driven by a pedagogical concern (i.e., identicaltasks may be less attractive to learners), the findings are difficult tocontextualize in the current task repetition literature given the use ofslightly different tasks.

To provide learners with multiple opportunities to experience the languageoutside the classroom, many teachers and researchers rely oncomputer-mediated-communication. In Chapter 17, 'The use of the internet andinstant messengers in assisting the acquisition of speaking skills in Englishlessons', Mariusz Kruk investigates the benefits of using synchronous chatactivities on oral proficiency development. Relying on a quasi-experimentaldesign, Kruk compared chat room-based and face-to-face interactions. Languagegains were measured with a pretest, an immediate posttest and a delayedposttest. The study is pedagogically motivated, but an important limitation wasidentified: measures of oral fluency were not clearly operationalized andreported gains cannot be assessed by the readers.

Researchers exploring learner beliefs about language learning have utilizedself-reports, questionnaires, and interviews. In Chapter 18, 'Investigating theperception of speaking skills with metaphor-based methods', Dorota Werbińskainvestigated learner beliefs using the construct of metaphors and narratives. InStudy 1, 184 adult undergraduate learners (i.e., extramural learners) respondedto a single prompt, namely, 'Speaking in language X is like…'. The use ofmetaphors and narratives revealed some of the contradictions that learnersassociated with language learning. In Study 2, Werbińska invited 40 learners tocomplete a narrative about their language learning experiences. Thecontributions of this qualitative analysis were manifold: examination of maturestudents' language learning experiences; metaphorical tools of data elicitationand analysis; and a consideration of static and fluid views of learner beliefs.The in-depth portrayal of experiences and frustrations highlights the fluidnature of language learning experiences, which may not be captured via moretraditional data elicitation methods.

In Chapter 19, 'Phonetically difficult words in intermediate learners' English',Jolanta Szpyra-Kozłowska examines learners' perception of local errors,hypothesized to have greater consequences on intelligibility andcomprehensibility than global errors. A total of 100 teenage learners were askedto identify problematic areas of pronunciation in English words. The analysisyielded the following classification of pronunciation difficulties:spelling-pronunciation correspondences, phonetic false friends, word stress,consonant clusters, long words, liquids, high front vowels, andmorphophonological patterns. Findings are of particular relevance to Polishlanguage teachers.

In Chapter 20, 'Transcultural interference, communities of practice, andcollaborative assessment of oral performance', Przemysław Krakowian discussessome of the challenges attributed to the evaluation of oral skills with a focuson intra-coder reliability. Oral speech samples from a range of linguisticbackgrounds were collected during a three-year collaborative project betweeneight European universities. The analysis led to the identification ofdiscrepancies between how oral skills are being evaluated, a finding that isbelieved to be symptomatic of the larger European communities. The authorprovides two theories that address sources of misunderstandings (e.g., thepsychological anthropology theory of intercultural interference and Hymes'communicative competence). While the larger project offers researchers a largedatabase of speech samples and ratings, the present chapter focuses extensivelyon the description of the project and intra-coder reliability was only minimallydiscussed.

EVALUATIONThe development of oral skills, particularly in a FL, is complicated by a numberof social and cognitive factors. The edited volume "Speaking and instructedforeign language acquisition" is an excellent testimony to this and is thus aninvaluable contribution to our understanding of current ideas and topics on theacquisition of oral skills in FL settings. Unlike many other volumes on FLacquisition, the present volume presents theoretical discussions drawing oncognitive and sociocultural perspectives. Given recent efforts to adopt a moreholistic approach to the study of language acquisition, readers will enjoy thethorough examination of factors at play.

The volume includes a balance of theoretical discussions as well as empiricalstudies. Part I in introduces current theoretical models guiding research. Thefirst two pieces focus most directly on dominant theoretical perspectives: (1)cognitive models and (2) pedagogical models highlighting the integration ofindividual and social dimensions. I found the sequential inclusion of these twoperspectives to be highly effective in setting the tone for future research,namely, research on instructed FL acquisition that examines the praxis ofcognitive processes, individual learner characteristics, contexts, and texttypes. Part I concludes with an important discussion on language ideology in theteaching of English as a FL, encouraging the reader to reevaluate thenative-speaker model in FL settings for the instruction of oral skills.

Another contribution lies in the relevance of the topics under investigation torecent findings from the field of SLA. In Part II, the editors carefullyselected seven articles that address a breadth of topics relating to individualvariables: (1) cognitive and personality features of highly able FL learners,(2) relationship between success in speaking and pronunciation classes, (3)awareness of what it means to be a good language speaker, (4) pronunciationlearning strategies, (5) participants' self-perception of metaphonic awareness,and (6) anxiety. Part III, less focused on a particular aspect, includesspecific areas of research. Topics included: (1) task repetition, (2) task-basedlanguage teaching in face-to-face and computer-mediated-communication, (3)beliefs about FL learning, and (4) assessment. While the topics included in thisvolume contribute positively to our understanding of the acquisition of oralskills, the topics in Part III appear to be less unified thereby lacking a clearfocus. Overall, there was minimal overlap across the topics, reflecting thearray of factors that complicate the study and acquisition of oral skills.

From a research methodology perspective, I found that the empirical designs anddata elicitation techniques overlapped significantly. With the exception of onemultiple case study, the studies are primarily quantitative in nature. Althoughthis is in line with SLA research, a more balanced number of studiesinvestigating specific cases from a qualitative perspective could inform ourmodels and current practices. In addition, a number of studies relied onquestionnaire data which, in my humble opinion, should have been supplemented byother types of data. Finally, the editors highlight the intricacies of acquiringa FL in instructed contexts; yet, only one study was conducted in aclassroom-based setting. Thus, the findings continue to only marginally informpedagogical practices. The decision to conduct studies outside authenticclassrooms could explain the limited representation of pedagogical implicationsgleaned from the studies.

The editors have targeted researchers and advanced graduate students. Readersshould have previous knowledge about research paradigms and ideas from the fieldof SLA to interpret the findings. A secondary audience includes methodologistsand material developers. The editors maintain that the volume offerscontext-sensitive pedagogical recommendations; however, my impression is thatthese discussions and recommendations were either limited or elusive. Aconcluding chapter presenting concrete pedagogical implications obtained fromthe studies would thus have complemented the discussions making this volumerelevant to a larger audience, including teachers.

Despite some minor limitations regarding the themes and research methodologies,the volume provides readers with a sound overview of theoretical underpinningsof the study of oral skills in FL settings. The empirical studies are supportedby relevant theoretical models and the results present researchers with newinsights and open the possibility to future areas of study. The researchpresented reflects ongoing efforts to identify challenging aspects specific tothe development of successful oral skills in instructed FL contexts.

REFERENCESDeKeyser, R.M. (2007). Skill acquisition theory. In B. vanPatten & J. Williams(Eds.), Theories in second language acquisition: An introduction (pp. 97-113).Mawhaw, NJ: Erlbaum.

Gatbonton, E., & Segalowitz, N. (2005). Rethinking communicative languageteaching: A focus on access to fluency. Canadian Modern Language Review, 61,325-353.

Horwitz, E.K., Horwitz, M.B., & Cope, J. (1986). Foreign language classroomanxiety. Modern Language Journal, 70, 125-132.

Levelt, W.J.M. (1989). Speaking: From intention to articulation. Cambridge, MA:MIT Press.

Long, M.H. (1996). The role of the linguistic environment in second languageacquisition. In W.C. Ritchie & T.K. Bhatia (Eds.), Handbook of Second LanguageAcquisition (pp. 413-468). San Diego: Academic Press.

Oxford, R. (1990). Language learning strategies: What every language teachershould know. Boston: Heinle & Heinle.

Skehan, P. (1998). A cognitive approach to language learning. Oxford: OxfordUniversity Press.

Wray, A. (2000). Formulaic sequences in second language teaching: Principle andpractice. Applied Linguistics, 21, 463-489.

ABOUT THE REVIEWERCaroline Payant received her MA from the Universidad de las Américas Pueblain Mexico in 2006 and her Ph.D. in Applied Linguistics from Georgia StateUniversity in 2012. Her key interest is cognitive and sociocultural aspectsof language acquisition involving two target languages: French and English. This research analyzes interaction through collaborative tasks inclassroom-based and experimental settings. Her other areas of interests areteacher training and reflective practices. She joined the faculty at theUniversity of Idaho in 2012 where she teaches courses in the MA-TESL program.

Page Updated: 17-Sep-2012