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  • DOCUMENT RESUME

    ED 359 786 FL 021 273

    AUTHOR Singleton, D. M., Ed.; Little, D. G., Ed.TITLE Language Learning in Formal and Informal Contexts.

    Proceedings of a Joint Seminar of the Irish andBritish Associations for Applied Linguistics (Dublin,Ireland, September 11-13, 1984).

    INSTITUTION Irish Association for Applied Linguistics, Dublin.REPORT NO ISBN-0-9509132-1-9PUB DATE 84NOTE 207p.PUB TYPE Collected Works Conference Proceedings (021)

    EDRS PRICE MF01/PC09 Plus Postage.DESCRIPTORS Adult Learning; *Applies Linguistics; Bilingualism;

    Children; Classroom Communication; ClassroomTechniques; Communicative Competence (Languages);*Educational Environment; Elementary Education;Foreign Countries; German; Grammar; Higher Education;Independent Study; Instructional Materials; Irish;Language Styles; Language Tests; Language Variation;Learning Motivation; Learning Theories; LinguisticTheory; Material Development; Reading; SecondLanguage Instruction; Second Language Learning;*Second Languages; Small Group Instruction; Testing;Uncommonly Taught Languages; Verbs

    ABSTRACT

    A number of issues of central importance tounderstanding the nature of language, its acquisition and use wereconsidered at a seminar on language learning. Papers delivered at theseminar are as follows: "Why Don't Learners Learn What TeachersTeach? The Interaction Hypothesis" (Dick Allwright); "The Role ofInstruction in Second Language Acquisition" (Rod Ellis); "TheDevelopment of the Verb Phrase in a Bilingual Child" (Annick deHouwer); "What Has the Learner Learned? Proficiency Testing in aCommunicative Perspective" (Allan Emmett); "Learning LanguagesThrough Various Media" (Sabine Jones); "Bilingualism and LexicalInnovation" (Apple Kennedy-Jonker); "Learning German Without aTeach.:: A Self-Instructional Programme for Undergraduate Students ofEngineering Science" (David Little, Aedamar Grant); "Motivation andPerseverance in Foreign Language Learning" (Lubasa N'ti Nseendi);"Foreigner Register" (Rose Maclaran, David Singleton); "Bridging theFormal and Informal Fields of Irish Language Learning at PrimaryLevel" (Sinead Norton); "Interaction Be',ween Learner and LearningEnvironment: Issues in the Development of Learning Materials forAdult Learners of Irish" (Helen 0 Murchu); "The Acquisition ofRelative Clauses in a Formal and in an Informal Setting: FurtherEvidence in Support of the Markedness Hypothesis" (Maria Pavesi);"Patterns of Reading in Ll and L2" (Nancy Sanguineti de Serrano);"Stimulating Interaction in the Foreign Language Classroom ThroughConversation in Small Groups of Learners" (Anna Trosborg); and "Stopthe Monitor I Want To Get Off: or Looking for a Way Forward inLanguage Teaching" (Carol Wallace, Jane Macaskie). (MSE)

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  • g Irish Association for Applied Linguistics

    Cumann na Teangeolaiochta Feidhmi, 1984

    2nd impression 1986

    IRAAL

    31 Fitzwilliarn Place

    Dublin 2

    ISBN

    09509132 1

    9

  • FOREWORD

    There

    are several distinct traditions in

    contemporary

    applied

    linguistics,

    reflecting

    varying

    degrees

    of

    closeness

    to theoretical linguistics,

    to

    interdisci-

    plinary

    problem-solving,

    and

    to

    social

    commitment.

    These

    traditions meet at large-scale

    congresses,

    but

    such gatherings tend to be impersonal and

    public.

    The

    real business of discussion,

    adjustment of ideas,

    and

    exploration of alternative approaches, responds

    well to

    smaller gatherings which are not too in-bred.

    Consequently

    the British Association for Applied

    Lin-

    guistics welcomed the opportunity provided

    by the Irish

    Association

    for a joint seminar in Dublin in September

    1984.

    The topic, "The Formal and Informal

    Contexts of

    Language Learning",

    enabled us to consider a number of

    issues

    of central importance to our

    understanding

    of

    the

    nature of language,

    its acquisition and use.

    It

    also

    enabled us to explore some of the

    many

    problems

    involved

    in encouraling language acquisition,

    whnther

    as teachers, parents, examiners or administrators.

    Papers

    included

    in this selection reflect

    all

    these

    concerns.

    They vary in approach from the empirical

    and

    experimental, to the philosophical,

    to the descriptive.

    Some

    of the problems addressed

    are research

    questions

    concerned with language acquisition anduse, while some

    are

    crucial

    practical questions for

    which

    immediate

    answers must be supplied unavoidably, however

    uncertain

    our current theoretical understanding.

    Languages rela-

    tively

    neglected

    in

    applied

    linguistic

    literature

    (Dutch, Danish and Italian,

    as well as Irish) form the

    basis

    of many papers.

    All in all,

    this is a

    fasci-

    nating collection which well reflects

    what we hope will

    be the first of many meetings of

    our applied linguistic

    associations across national boundaries.

    Christopher Brumfit

    University of Southampton

    Chairperson

    British Association for Applied

    Linguistics

  • CONTENTS

    I: KEYNOTE PAPERS

    Why don't learners learn what teachers teach? - The

    interaction hypothesis

    DICK ALLWRIGHT

    3

    The role of instruction in second language acquisition

    ROD ELLIS

    19

    II: SECTION PAPERS

    Interaction between learner and learning environment:

    issues in the development of learning materials for

    adult learners of Irish

    HELEN 0 MURCHU

    The acquisition of relative clauses in a formal and in an

    informal setting: further evidence in support of the

    markedness hypothesis

    MARIA PAVESI

    137

    151

    Patterns of reading in LI and L2

    NANCY SANGUINETI DE SERRANO

    165

    Stimulating interaction in the foreign language classroom

    through conversation in small groups cf learners

    ANNA TROSBORG

    The development of the verb phrase in a bilingual child

    ANNICK DE HOUWER

    41

    Stop the Monitor I want to get off: or looking for a way

    forward in language teaching

    CAROL WALLACE and JANE MACASKIE

    What has the learner learned?

    -Proficiency testing in a

    communicative perspective

    ALLAN EMMETT

    55

    Learning languages through various media

    SABINE JONES

    69

    Bilingualism and lexical innovation

    APPIE KENNEDY-JONKER

    81

    Learning German without a teacher: a self-instructional

    programme for undergraduate students of Engineering

    Science

    DAVID LITTLE and AEDAMAR GRANT

    89

    Motivation and perseverance in foreign language learning

    LUBASA N'TI NSEENDI

    101

    Foreigner register

    ROSE MACLARAN and DAVID SINGLETON

    115

    Bridging the formal and informal fields of Irish language

    learning at primary level

    SINEAD NORTON

    0

    125

    vi

    177

    191

  • I:

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  • Dick Allwright

    University of Lancaster

    WHY DON'T LEARNERS LEARN WHAT TEACHERS TEACH? - THE

    INTERACTION HYPOTHESIS.

    Four years ago in Albuquerque, New Mexico I started

    asking learners about their language lessons.

    The most

    striking thing to emerge from the very first time I tried

    it was that, after one lesson, about half the class was

    unable to tell me, 'correctly', what the lesson had been

    about.

    That is, they failed to identify the teacher's

    main teaching point, and this in spite of the fact that

    the teacher's teaching point had come from the textbook

    each learner had in front of him or her, which clearly

    labelled the point in question.

    Such a result would be

    relatively easy to understand if the learners concerned

    had been totally unable to remember the lesson, and had

    therefore simply failed to answer the question, but in

    fact they had alternative ideas about what the lesson had

    been about.

    Assuming good faith on the part of these

    students we could only conclude that, in some important

    sense, the lesson had in fact been about different things

    for different learners.

    The obvious question was: "Where

    might such differing perceptions come from, and how might

    they be related to what learners actually learn from a

    language lesson?"

    For the last four years I have been looking for ways

    of researching that question, and what I wish to present

    here is the conceptualisation of language teaching and

    language learning that has been developed, the research

    programme it has led to, and the preliminary results of

    that research.

    These will be 'very' preliminary, since

    we are still developing the necessary research instru-

    ments, but they will I hope suffice to indicate why we

    feel encouraged enough to pursue this particular line of

    enquiry.

    ('We', I should add, is a reference to research

    students working with me at Lancaster as the Curriculum

    and Classroom Research Group.)

    Before embarking on the Lancaster work it might be

    helpful if I sketch first some more of the background to

    the research question, and to the title of this paper.

    Briefly, work in second language acquisition has, in the

    last few years, drawnnearer and nearer to classroom res-

    earch.

    A key paper marking this important development is

    Long's "Does Instruction Make a Difference?" (1983), which

    reviews attempts to answer the question in the title and

    concludes, perhaps optimistically, that there is enough

    evidence to justify the claim that instruction can be

    beneficial.

    It may seem extraordinary that such a review

    was felt to be necessary, but work on second language

    acquisition has been suggesting (particularly

    in Krashen's

    publications (1981, 1982)) that instruction as

    commonly

    conceived and practised is of little or no

    help to the

    language learner.

    This suggestion has been boosted by the

    evidence coming in that the so-called

    'natural order' for

    language acquisition was to a large

    extent unaffected by

    instruction (see Allwright, 1984a for asurvey).

    Over the

    same time period (the last

    four or so years) Lightbown has

    reported research that casts furtherdoubt on the direct-

    ness of the relationship

    between language learning and the

    teaching learners get (see Lightbown,

    1983), and Pica

    (1983) has suggested, from her research, that

    if there is

    an effect for instruction

    then it seems likely to have

    more to do with the processes

    of acquisition (involving

    patterns of error- making, for

    example) than with the

    course of lingJistic

    development.

    If further research

    still confirms such findings, then

    it will look as if our

    carefully worked-out syllabuses are relatively

    powerless

    over learners' own ways

    (natural or not) of getting some-

    thing from language lessons.

    Recent work on second language acquisition,

    then,

    supports the presupposition of my title that

    learners do

    not in fact learn what teachers teach,

    and reinforces our

    interest in the research questions that follow

    from it.

    There is, it seems, a real problem in the

    relationship

    between language learning and language teaching,

    and not

    just one in the minds of a small group of

    students in

    New Mexico.

    If we look at the relationship in more

    detail

    we can see that the following three

    aspects are problem-

    atic:

    A. Why learners do not learn everything they are

    taught.

    B. How learners manage to learn things they are not

    taught.

    C. How learners manage to learn things they are

    taught.

    'A' is relatively uninteresting, since we would

    not expect

    any aspect of education or training

    to be one-hundred

    percent efficient, and previous classroom research has

    shown repeatedly that language teaching is an extremely

    complex activity, and not one that we could expect would

    be done very effectively very often (see Allwright 1975

    for an early

    study of the complexities of the treatment

    of error in oral work, for example).

    'B1 and 'C' are much

    more interesting.

    'B' raises the issue of the necessity,

    or otherwise, of actual teaching, as commonlyunderstood,

    and 'C' raises the issue of the extent to which the teach-

    ing can facilitate the learning process, as opposed to

    hindering it (since classroom research has also suggested

    that the potential for confusion in the language class-

    room is likely to be very high-see McTearfor an early

    study on this issue, 1975).

    Several hypotheses can be

    suggested to account for the picture we now have of the

  • teaching/learning relationship, and these will be

    briefly

    considered before I focus in on the Interaction

    Hypothesis

    that is my main concern in this paper,

    but first it is

    necessary to introduce the overall

    conceptualisation that

    lies behind everything else.

    An alternative way of looking at language

    teaching and

    language learning.

    The words we have in English to talk

    about teaching

    and learning reinforce in an unfortunate way

    the percept-

    ion that they are two different things

    necessarily done

    by two different people or groups of

    people.

    In order

    to understand the complexities of the

    relationship between

    teaching and learning we need to reorient our

    thinking

    and see what happens in classrooms from a

    different point

    of view.

    As I have stated elsewhere

    (Allwright, 1984) I

    believe it helps if we look at language

    lessons as co-

    produced events in which all the participants are

    simul-

    taneously involved in the management of

    interaction and,

    ipso facto, in the management of their

    learning.

    Follow-

    ing this line of thought we can look upon

    language lessons

    as sets of learning opportunities, some

    deliberate but

    many incidental, all created through

    the necessary proc-

    esses of classroom interaction.

    It should now be easier

    to see why the relationship between

    teaching and learning

    is problematic.

    What the learners do learn is presumably

    limited by the learning opportunities that are

    made avail-

    able to them.

    But the provision of learning opportunities

    is not just determined by the teaching.

    The teaching is

    just one factor (though sometimes a powerfulone) in the

    overall process by which lessons happen and

    learning opp-

    ortunities are created.

    What we need now to account for

    is the process by which learning opportunities are

    created

    and the process by which different learners

    take different

    things from the sum total of learningopportunities that

    each lesson offers.

    This conceptualisation will need to be

    elaborated

    later, but this introductory sketch should suffice

    to set

    the scene for the consideration of the various

    hypotheses

    we can propose to account for the curious

    phenomena of

    classroom language learning.

    Some possible hypotheses.

    1. The INCUBATION hypothesis.

    It has been suggested (Lightbcmnetal,M) that

    whatever

    learners are taught (or otherwise meet in the course

    of

    classroom interaction) will need an 'incubation' period

    before it can be expected to appear in their performance.

    Such an...

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