Attention, awareness, ‘noticing’ and
foreign language learning
Richard Schmidt
The University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa
The Noticing Hypothesis
Intake is that part of the input that the learner notices
(Schmidt, 1990, 139)
The noticing hypothesis claims that awareness at the
point of learning (Time 1) is required for all learning
(Schmidt, 1995, 27)
SLA is largely driven by what learners pay attention to
and notice in target language input and what they
understand the significance of noticed input to be
(Schmidt, 2001, 3-4)
Precursers to the Noticing Hypothesis
The “Wes” Study (Schmidt, 1983)
“Yesterday I’m go beach”
“If you back to room, can I bring cigarette?” (would
you please)
“So tonight, Tim and me we are come back here early,
we are apartment”
“She’s name is Izumi Ukimura, she’s working is
beautiful”
Diary study of a learner of
Portuguese (Schmidt & Frota, 1986)
Classroom instruction was useful.
Frequency in input was important.
Some forms were taught and frequent but still were not
learned until they were noticed (o que é que).
Notice the gap: “For acquisition to occur, acquirers
need to notice a difference between their current form
or competence i and the new form or structure i + 1”
(Krashen, 1983, 140)
The role of consciousness in second
language learning (Schmidt 1990)
Consciousness as intention (incidental vs. intentional
learning)
•
Claim: Incidental learning is possible and often
effective, but paying attention is facilitative and may
be necessary in some cases.
Consciousness as attention
•
Claim: There is no learning without attention
Consciousness as awareness
•
Claim: Awareness at the level of “noticing” is
necessary; Awareness at the level of
“understanding” is facilitative.
Noticing
•Raw/primary data: direct input from
Source
native speakers (oral or written)
•Specific, particular instances
(exemplars, tokens)
Understanding
•Stored data activated into
working memory
•Secondary data
(information from
dictionaries, grammars,
teachers comments, etc.)
•Attention to surface form and
meaning in context
•Online cognitive registration of
sensory stimuli
Processing stage
•Detection within selective attention
(Tomlin & Villa, 1994)
•Detection plus rehearsal in shortterm memory (Robinson, 1995)
Resulting
knowledge type
Analysis:
•Comparisons across
instances, hypothesis
formation & testing, etc.)
•Inspection of secondary
data
•Item learning
•System learning
•Episodic memory of who said what •Metalinguistic awareness
when
•Learning without “noticing” =
subliminal learning
Learning without
“understanding” = implicit
learning
“Noticing” vs.
“understanding”
Noticing vs. understanding: transitive
“grow” (Pullam, 2005)
“Now, we can do the right thing and create jobs and grow our economy. This is
really an age of remarkable possibility for our Nation.” (William J. Clinton,
Presidential radio address, March 30, 1996)
“After seeing Guy's “Growing a Language” a few months ago I went around
telling everyone I knew about it, regardless of interest in programming.” (Tauber,
1998)
“If I were God, using ‘grow’ as a transitive verb would give the speaker an instant
hangnail.” (Twitter post by hotdogsladies, May 12, 2008)
“John McCain has a better plan. Grow jobs, grow our economy ... not grow
Washington" (campaign ad, April, 2008)
Impact and associated ideas
A resurgence in interest in basic issues concerning
implicit and explicit learning (Robinson, 1995, 1996;
Ellis, 1994; Hulstijn & Ellis, 2005)
Merrill Swain’s output hypothesis (Swain, 1998)
Bill VanPatten’s proposals for input-processing
instruction (VanPatten, 2002)
Rod Ellis’ form-focused instruction and proposals for
consciousnes-raising tasks (Ellis, 2001)
Michael Long’s revised interaction hypothesis (Long,
1996)
Negotiatio
n
Attention
Learning
Noticing
Model of Interaction and Learning (Gass and Mackey,
2006)
p
s
e
d
r
m
d
9
s
11
m ei
n
t
i
e
r
o
n
r
11 across: 3rd person pl
preterite of the verb mentir
9 down: the opposite of no
in Spanish
n
Leow, 1997
3
p
4
4
s
e
d
u
r
m i
ó
d
9
i
5
m
i
n
t
i
e
r
o
n
r
4 across: 3rd person sing preterite
of the verb dormirse
o
n
5 across: 3rd person pl preterite of
the verb mentir
3 down: 3rd person pl preterite of
the verb pedir
Leow, 2000
Feedback, noticing and instructed L2
learning (Mackey 2006)
Participants: students in a university level intensive
ESL program
Targets: questions, plurals, and past tense forms
Multiple measures of noticing
Learners report more noticing when feedback is
provided.
Learners who noticed more developed more.
Output, input enhancing & noticing (Izumi,
2002)
Target: English relative clauses
H1: Output subjects will notice more than non-output
subjects (confirmed)
H2: Enhanced-input subjects will notice more than
non-enhanced-input subjects (confirmed)
H3: Output subjects will learn more than non-output
subjects (confirmed)
H4: Enhanced-input subjects will learn more than
non-enhanced-input subjects (not confirmed).
Major challenges and objections to the
Noticing Hypothesis
Objection 1: The temporal granularity of diary studies
is too coarse. (Tomlin & Villa, 1994)
Objection 2: Finer grained analyses of the language
learning problem and the construct of attention are
required. (Tomlin & Villa, 1994)
Objection 3: Of the three functional subsystems of
attention (alertness, orientation, detection), detection
is crucial – but detection does not require awareness.
(Tomlin & Villa, 1994; Williams, 2005)
gi dog
the near dog
ul dog
the far dog
ro book
the near book
ne book
the far book
The lady spent many hours sewing…
‣gi cushions
‣ro cushions
The art collector went to Greece to collect…
‣ne vases
‣ul vases
Living
Non-living
near
far
near
far
gi
ul
ro
ne
Williams, 2005
Aware subjects (N= 8)
Unaware subjects (N= 33)
94.4%
61.7%
Williams, 2005. Results for Experiment 1, first
test phase, performance on generalization items.
Objection 4: Attention/awareness may be necessary
for some kinds of learning but not others.
“... although I (among many others) am perfectly willing to agree
that learning individual words (the lexicon), individual sounds
(the phonetic inventory), and writing systems must be via
attentional focus, I am not the least willing to say that learning
phonological, morphological and syntactic rules requires this
attentional focus.” (Schachter, 19980)
“... some linguistic items are too rare, abstract, complex, or
semantically opaque, or have too many irregularities to be
explicitly noticeable by learners. The article system in English is
a typical problem for learners of many different native languages.
But the fact that learners with no apparent metalinguistic
knowledge are often successful with complex linguistic
structures such as the English article system suggests that
implicit learning can occur in such cases. Indeed, with low
literate adolescents and adult, this type of implicit learning of L2
systems may be the norm.” (Tarone, Bigelow, & Hansen, 2009)
Can the definite article be used with personal names?
Normally not:
*The Maria never comes on time.
A Maria nunca chega a tempo.
Exception: the definite article + title + PN construction
the Marquis de Sade
the Ayatollah Khomeini
Exception: post-modified or pre-modified PN
The real McCoy
the John McCain of 2000
•Exception: the PN + definite article + NP construction
•
William the Conqueror (French: Guillaume le Conquérant), a.k.a. William the
Bastard
•
Catherine the Great
•
Jack the Ripper
•
Nick the Greek
Exception: the definite article + PN of NP construction
Marie Cirillo
“The Mother Teresa of rural
Appalachia”
Mother Teresa
Barack Obama
John Kennedy
“The John Kennedy of our Time” ...
http://www.rightpundits.com/?p=1747
Objection 5: Attention to environmental stimuli does
not play a direct role in acquisition because most of
what constitutes linguistic knowledge is not in the
input to begin with. (Carroll)
Objection 6: Language is a social object, not a mental
one (Block, 2003).
“ . . . there is no reason to look under the skull since
nothing of interest is to be found there but brains.”
(Garfinkel, 1963: 90)
“[t]here is nothing ‘mental’ about thinking, intending
or interpreting. It is we as agents (not as ‘minds’)
who do these things when we do them” (Coulter,
2005, p. 92).
Conclusions: What we don’t know
The claim that all learning requires attention is
controversial
The claim that learning is possible without attention is
equally controversial
The claim that all learning requires awareness, at
least at the level of noticing, remains controversial.
The claim that people can learn things (e.g. words,
morphemes, constructions) that they are not aware of
is equally controversial.
Claims that people can or cannot/do or do not learn
abstract systems without awareness is particularly
controversial.
Conclusions: What we do know
People learn about the things that they attend to and
do not learn much about the things they do not attend
to. (James, 1890, Logan et al., 1996; Schmidt, 2001)
New associations are best learned explicitly. At the
same time, implicit learning (acquisition of knowledge
about the underlying structure of a complex stimulus
environment by processes that takes place naturally
and without conscious operations) is also possible.
(Ellis, 2002)
Promising methodologies for future
research
Conversational analysis (CA) can show how
participants in interaction jointly manage their
attentional focus (Firth, 2009)
Promising methodologies for future
research
Eye-tracking technology has the potential to discover
behavioral indicators or cognitive operations including
perception & noticing (Godfroid, Hausen & Boers,
2010
Promising methodologies for future
research
fMRI studies of the neural correlates of artificial
grammar learning may shed light on implicit and
explicit learning mechanisms of natural languages
(Skosnic et al, 2002)
In the meantime: Implications for teaching
Teaching is helping to learn: One of the most
important responsibilities of teaching is to help
students notice things that they are unlikely to notice
on their own.
Classroom tasks are a powerful determinant of
attention. Students are like to pay attention to and to
learn the information to complete pedagogical tasks.
Explicit: deductive methods are generally superior to
implicit: inductive methods in the short run, but both
are necessary for the long run.
In the meantime: Implications for learners
Pay attention to input
Pay particular attention to whatever aspects of the
input that you are concerned to learn
Look for clues (generalizations, rules)
If you cannot find a general principle, concentrate on
noticing on how particular instances are used in
specific contexts
Thank you for your attention!
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Attention, awareness, ‘noticing’ and foreign language …