Second Language
Learning in the
Comparing instructional and natural
settings for language learning
Natural acquisition
instructional settings
instructional settings
(grammar-translation or
(content-based or
- The learner is
- The language is being
- The language is being
exposed to the TL at
taught to a group of L2
taught to a group of L2
work or in social
or FL learners.
or FL learners.
- The focus is on the
- The focus is on leading
- If the learner is a child, language itself, rather
learners to use the TL in
s/he is in a school
than on the use of the
a variety of contexts,
situation where most
TL for communicative
rather than on teaching
of the other children
specific features of TL.
are native speakers of - The instructional goal is - The goal is for students
the TL and the
for students to learn the to develop their ability
instruction is directed
vocabulary and
to get things done in the
toward native
grammar of the TL.
Comparing instructional and natural
settings for language learning
Error correction
Learning one thing at
a time
Ample time available
for learning
High ratio of native
speakers to learners
Variety of language
and discourse types
Pressure to use the
TL correctly
Access to modified
Comparing instructional and natural
settings for language learning
Error correction
Learning one thing at
a time
Ample time available
for learning
High ratio of native
speakers to learners
Variety of language
and discourse types
Pressure to use the
TL correctly
Access to modified
(often in L1)
(often in TL)
Analyzing an ESL Class
You’ll watch a video clip showing an adult ESL class doing a
problem-solving activity. Pay attention to the following features:
Focus of instruction: form-based or meaning-based
Source and nature of the input
Questions asked by the teacher (display or genuine
questions / yes-no or wh- questions)
Feedback / Error correction
Conversational modifications (comprehension checks,
clarification requests, self-repetition or paraphrase)
Metalinguistic comments
Teacher-student interaction (negotiation of meaning)
Student-student interaction (negotiation of meaning)
Five Proposals for
Classroom Teaching
Which theoretical proposal holds the greatest
promise for improving language learning in
classroom settings?
1. Get it right from the beginning
2. Say what you mean and mean what you say
3. Just listen… and read
4. Teach what is teachable
5. Get it right in the end
Proposal 1. Get it right
from the beginning
• Introduction
– This proposal emphasizes the importance of
accuracy in second language teaching and the use of
structure-based or form-based approaches.
– It includes the two most common traditional
approaches to second language teaching:
grammar translation and audiolingual approaches.
Proposal 1. Get it right
from the beginning
• Grammar-Translation approach
– It is characterized by giving the explicit instruction
of grammatical rules and lists of vocabulary with
their translation equivalents in the L1, and then
getting students to apply this knowledge to
translation and to language analysis.
– It uses deductive method of language teaching,
based on classical studies of dead languages, and
often ignores the communicative aspect of
language use.
Proposal 1. Get it right
from the beginning
• Audiolingual approach (1)
– It is based on the behaviorist theory of language learning
and assumes that language learning can be broken down
into a series of individual habits, which can be formed by
reinforcement of correct response.
– It emphasizes habit formation through the practice (e.g.,
pattern drilling), memorization, and rote repetition of
grammatical structures and lexical items usually in
isolation from contexts of meaningful use.
– It places emphasis on the ordering of the four skills –
listening, speaking, reading, writing – and the need for
maximum error prevention.
Proposal 1. Get it right
from the beginning
• Audiolingual approach (2)
– Teachers avoid letting beginning learners speak freely
because this would allow them to make errors. Therefore, it
consists of all controlled practice to prevent these bad habits.
– This approach was used successfully only with highly
motivated adult learners in training programs for
government personnel in the U.S.
– Though it emphasizes the learning of oral language, students
rarely use the language spontaneously for genuine
communicative purposes (but it can help students improve
their pronunciation) <see examples on pp. 118-119>
– There is little classroom research to support this approach for
students in ordinary school L2 programs (study 1).
Proposal 1. Get it right
from the beginning
• Communicative language teaching (CLT)
approaches argue that
– Language is not learned by the gradual accumulation
of one item after another.
– Errors are a natural and valuable part of the language
learning process.
– The motivation of learners is often stifled by an
insistence on correctness and by rote learning.
– It is better to encourage learners to develop fluency
before accuracy. They need to develop communicative
abilities right from the beginning.
Proposal 1. Get it right
from the beginning
• Limitation of Communicative language teaching (CLT)
– Allowing learners too much ‘freedom’ without correction
and explicit instruction is likely to lead to early
fossilization of errors.
• However, little research has been done to test the
hypothesis that form-based instruction in the early
stages of L2 learning will, in the long run, lead to higher
levels of linguistic performance and knowledge than
meaning-based instruction in the early stages.
Proposal 1. Get it right
from the beginning
• Grammar plus communicative practice (study 2)
– Learners: 48 college students enrolled in French language
courses at an American university
– Methods: 3 groups
• G1: ALM + CLT (an additional hour)
• G2: ALM + culture (an additional hour)
• G3: ALM + ALM (an additional hour)
– Results:
• On the linguistic competence measures, no significant
differences between groups
• On the communicative competence measures, G1 scored
significantly higher than the other two groups
– Conclusion: L2 programs which focus only on accuracy and form
do not give students sufficient opportunity to develop
communication abilities in L2.
Proposal 1. Get it right
from the beginning
• Grammar plus communicative practice (study 3)
– Learners: ESL adult students
– Methods: 2 groups
• G1: grammar-based
• G2: grammar-based + communicative component
– Results:
• Beginner and intermediate-level learners engaging in
communicative activities in addition to their regular grammar
course made greater improvements in accent, vocabulary,
grammar, and comprehension than did learners who
received only the grammar course.
• The area of greatest improvement for the learners getting ‘real
world’ communicative practice was in grammatical accuracy.
Proposal 1. Get it right
from the beginning
• Conclusions (I)
– The proposal “Get it right from the beginning” has
important limitations. L2 learners receiving audiolingual or
grammar-based instruction are often unable to
communicate their messages and intentions effectively.
– Primarily or exclusively grammar-based approaches to
teaching do not guarantee that learners develop high
levels of accuracy and linguistic knowledge.
– The classroom emphasis on accuracy usually results in
learners who are inhibited and will not take chances in
using their knowledge for communication.
Proposal 1. Get it right
from the beginning
• Conclusions (II)
– Learners benefit more from opportunities for
communicative practice in contexts where the emphasis
is on understanding and expressing meaning.
– It is important to be aware that meaning-based
instruction is advantageous, but it does not mean that
form-based instruction is not. In fact, L2 learners need
to develop both accuracy and fluency in order to use
the language effectively.
Proposal 2. Say what you mean
and mean what you say
• Introduction (I)
– This proposal emphasizes the necessity for learners to have
access to meaningful and comprehensible input through
conversational interactions with teachers and other
– It is based on the interactionists’ hypothesis. When
learners are given the opportunity to use the TL to interact
with others, they are compelled to “negotiate for meaning”,
that is, to express and clarify their intentions, thought,
opinions, etc., in a way which allows them to arrive at a
mutual understanding.
Proposal 2. Say what you mean
and mean what you say
• Introduction (II)
– Negotiation for meaning can be achieved in communicative
language teaching (CLT) and task- based instruction (e.g.,
students are asked to work together to accomplish a particular
goal using the TL).
– Negotiation enables learners to use a variety of modifications
that naturally arise in interaction, for example, clarification,
confirmation, repetition, and other kinds of information as they
attempt to negotiate meaning.
– Through negotiation, learners can acquire the language forms
more naturally – the words and the grammatical structures –
which carry the meaning they are attending to (see examples
Proposal 2. Say what you mean
and mean what you say
• Group work and learner language (study 4)
– Learners produced not only a greater quantity but also a
greater variety of speech in learner- centered (group-work)
activities than in teacher-centered activities. In addition, the
learner-centered activities led to a much greater variety of
language functions (e.g., disagreeing, hypothesizing,
requesting, clarifying, and defining).
– In contrast, in the teacher-centered activities, the students
primarily responded to the teacher’s questions and rarely
initiated speech on their own.
Proposal 2. Say what you mean
and mean what you say
• Learners talking to learners (study 5)
– Learners talked more with other learners than they did with
native speakers. Though they cannot always provide each
other with the accurate grammatical input, they can offer
each other genuine communicative practice.
– Also, learners produced more talk with advanced-level than
with intermediate-level partners.
– However, their errors showed no differences across
contexts. That is, intermediate-level learners did not make
any more errors with another intermediate-level speaker
than they did with an advanced or native speaker.
Proposal 2. Say what you mean
and mean what you say
• Learner language and proficiency level (study 6)
– When different proficiency-level learners interact with
each other, the result showed that when low-proficiency
learners were in the ‘sender’ role, the interactions were
longer and more varied than when high-proficiency learners
were the ‘senders’.
– The explanation was that high-proficiency ‘senders’ tended
to act as if the lower-level ‘receiver’ had very little
contribution to make in the completion of the task.
Therefore, the lower-level ‘receivers’ played a very passive
role and had very little negotiation for meaning.
Proposal 2. Say what you mean
and mean what you say
• Interaction and comprehensibility (study 7)
– Modified interaction led to higher levels of comprehension
than modified input.
– Learners who had the opportunity to engage in interaction
(e.g., asking clarification questions and seeking verbal
assistance as they were listening to the instructions)
comprehended much more than those who received
simplified input (e.g., repetition, paraphrasing, simple
grammatical constructions, and simple vocabulary) but had
no opportunity to interact while listening.
Proposal 2. Say what you mean
and mean what you say
• Interaction and L2 development (study 8)
– Learners who engaged in conversational interactions with
native speakers produced more advanced question forms
than 1) learners who had no interaction with native speakers
and 2) learners who received pre-modified input (i.e., the
native speakers use language which had been simplified and
scripted to match a level of language which was
comprehensible to the learners) but had no negotiation of
meaning with native speakers.
Proposal 2. Say what you mean
and mean what you say
• Interaction with recasts (study 9)
– Learners who were at more advanced stages of question
development benefited more from interaction with recasts
than they did from interaction without recasts. However,
learners who were at less advanced stages of question
development did not differ according to the type of
interaction they were exposed to (study 9).
* “Recasts” are paraphrases of a learner’s utterance which
involve changing one or more components of the utterance
while maintaining the meaning (see examples on p. 104).
Proposal 2. Say what you mean
and mean what you say
Conclusions (I)
The research described above has contributed to a better
understanding of how to organize group and pair work more
effectively in the classroom.
The measure of L2 learning in these studies was often the
learners’ immediate production following the interactions. It is
therefore difficult to draw any conclusions as to the longterm benefits of conversational interaction.
These studies were designed as one-on-one pair-work activities
between trained native speakers and learners focusing on a
single grammatical feature. Therefore, it is also difficult to
relate the findings to classroom interactions.
Proposal 2. Say what you mean
and mean what you say
• Conclusions (II)
Recasts may be more salient in pair work, particularly if only
one form is recast consistently. However, in the L2 classroom,
teachers’ recasts are less likely to be effective in regular L2
classrooms. For one reason, teachers’ recasts are not usually
focused on only one form; for the other, they may not be
perceived by the learners as an attempt to correct their
language form but rather as just another way of saying the
same thing.
Proposal 3. Just listen…
and read
• Introduction (I)
– This proposal emphasizes providing learners with
comprehensible input through listening and/or reading
activities. It is believed that hearing and understanding the
TL is sufficient for L2 learning.
– It is based on the assumption that it is not necessary to
drill and memorize language forms in order to learn
them. It is particularly associated with Krashen’s Input
hypothesis that one essential requirement for SLA is the
availability of comprehensible input.
(see example 8)
Proposal 3. Just listen…
and read
• Introduction (II)
– This approach is very controversial because it not only says
that L2 learners need not drill and practice language, but
also that they do not need to speak at all in their learning
– The material that the students read and listen to is not
graded in any rigid way according to a sequence of linguistic
simplicity. Rather, the material is graded on the basis of what
teachers consider intuitively to be comprehensible for the
learners, because a given text has shorter sentences,
clearer illustrations, or is based on a theme or topic that is
familiar to the learners.
Proposal 3. Just listen…
and read
• Comprehension-based instruction (study 10)
– Learners received native-speaker input from tapes and books
but virtually no interaction with the teacher or other learners.
There was no oral practice or interaction in English at all.
– The result showed that learners in the comprehension-based
program learned English as well as learners in the regular
program (from grade 3 through grade 5). This was true not only
for their comprehension skills but also for their speaking skills.
– However, a follow-up study in grade 8 showed that students
who continued in the comprehension-only program were not
doing as well as students in a program that included speaking
and writing components, teacher feedback, and classroom
Proposal 3. Just listen…
and read
• Total physical response (TPR) (study 11)
– In TPR class, students (children or adults) participate in
activities in which they hear a series of commands in the
TL. They simply listen and show their comprehension by
their actions but are not required to say anything.
– The vocabulary and structures are carefully graded and
organized so that learners deal with material which
gradually increases in complexity and each new lesson
builds on the ones before. This position differs from
Krashen’s input hypothesis.
Proposal 3. Just listen…
and read
• Total physical response (TPR)
– Research showed that students can develop quite
advanced levels of comprehension in the TL without
engaging in oral practice.
– When students begin to speak, they take over the role of
the teacher and give commands as well as following them.
However, the kind of language students can learn in such
an environment is quite limited.
– This approach gives learners a good start. It allows them
to build up a considerable knowledge of the language
without feeling the nervousness that often accompanies
the attempts to speak the TL.
Proposal 3. Just listen…
and read
• Immersion programs (study 12)
– In an immersion program, a second language is taught via
content-based instruction. The emphasis is on subject
matter learning through rich, comprehensible input, and little
time is spent focusing on the formal aspects of the L2.
– Canadian French immersion programs provide excellent
examples. The findings show convincing evidence that
these programs are among the most successful large-scale
L2 programs in existence. Learners developed not only
good comprehension, but also fluency, functional abilities,
and confidence in using their L2.
Proposal 3. Just listen…
and read
• Limitations of immersion programs
– However, learners failed to achieve high levels of
performance in some aspects of French grammar after
several years of the study in the immersion programs.
– Some researchers think that learners engage in too little
language production in these programs and do not get
sufficient form-focused instruction. Students just use
their incomplete TL knowledge because they are rarely
pushed to be more precise or more accurate.
– Also, because students share the same interlanguage,
they have no difficulty understanding each other. Therefore,
there is little need for them to use appropriate TL form to
negotiate for meaning.
Proposal 3. Just listen…
and read
• Input flood (study 13)
– Learners were given high-frequency exposure to a
particular form in the instructional input (e.g., adverb
placement). They read a series of texts containing the use
of this form, but there was no teaching of this form nor was
any error correction given.
– The results showed that exposure to many instances of
correct models in the instructional input could help learners
add something new to their interlanguage, but not to get
rid of an error based on their L1. That is, this approach
failed to provide learners with information about what is
not possible or not grammatical.
Proposal 3. Just listen…
and read
• Enhanced input (study 14)
– Learners were given the reading passages designed to
draw their attention to a particular form (e.g., the
possessive determiners – his/her) which was embedded in
the text. This was done through typographical
enhancement (i.e., the form appeared in bold type,
underlined, italicized, or written in CAPITAL LETTERS).
– Comparison of the performance of learners who had read
the typographically enhanced passages with that of
learners who had not showed little difference in their
knowledge and use of these forms. Perhaps the
enhancement was not explicit enough to draw the learners’
attention to this form.
Proposal 3. Just listen…
and read
• Input processing (study 15)
– Learners received explicit explanations about a particular
form (e.g., object pronouns) and comprehension-based
“procession instruction” (i.e., through focused listening
and reading activities, learners were required to pay
attention to how the target forms were used to convey
– The results showed that learners who had received the
comprehension-based processing instruction achieved
higher levels of performance on both the comprehension
tasks and the production tasks than learners who engaged
in production practice doing exercises to practice the form.
Proposal 3. Just listen…
and read
• Conclusions (I)
– The French immersion research confirms the effectiveness
of comprehensible input in terms of learners’ development
of comprehension skills (reading and listening), fluency,
and confidence in the TL.
– However, the research does not support that an exclusive
focus on meaning in comprehensible input is enough to
bring learners to high levels of accuracy in their L2.
– The claim that “language will take care of itself as long as
meaningful comprehensible input is provided” is
Proposal 3. Just listen…
and read
• Conclusions (II)
– It is important to keep in mind that the learners in the
comprehension-based immersion studies were beginners
and the follow-up study suggested that more guidance
from a teacher was needed to ensure their continuing
development in the L2.
– The performance of the learners in the comprehensionbased programs was eventually surpassed by that of
learners who had opportunities to use the TL interactively
and to receive some careful form-focused intervention later
in their development.
Proposal 3. Just listen…
and read
• Conclusions (III)
– The TPR results show great benefits for learners in the early
stages of their L2 development. It prepares learners to go out
into the TL community to get more comprehensible input.
– The input flood and enhancement studies provide more
evidence that L2 learners may not be able to discover what
is ungrammatical in their own interlanguage if the focus is
always on meaning, even if the frequency and salience of
correct model is increased.
– The processing instruction shows greater benefits for
comprehension practice over production practice. This points
to the benefits of an explicit focus on language form within
input-based instruction.
Proposal 3. Just listen…
and read
• Summary
– Comprehension-based programs appear to be beneficial in
the development of basic comprehension and communicative
performance in the early stages of L2 learning.
– However, comprehension-based instructional approaches
may not be sufficient to get learners to continue developing
their L2 abilities to advanced levels. In particular, these
approaches may make it difficult for learners to discover and
eliminate patterns already present in the interlanguage that
are not grammatical in the TL.
Proposal 4. Teach what is
• Introduction (I)
– The purpose is for teachers to choose appropriate language
features to teach according to learners’ L2 developmental
– The research has shown that some linguistic structures develop
along a particular developmental path. These structures are
called “developmental features”, such as question forms
(examples 9-12), negation, tense, and relative clauses.
– On the other hand, researchers also found that some language
features can be taught at any time, such as vocabulary, which
are called “variational features”. The success of learning these
variational features depends on factors such as motivation,
intelligence, and the quality of instruction.
Proposal 4. Teach what is
• Introduction (II)
– These research studies can inform teachers about which
language features are “developmental” (and thus
teachable only in a given sequence) and which are
“variational” (and thus teachable at various points in
learner language development).
– The recommendation is to assess the learners’
developmental level and teach what would naturally come
next. This is based on Krashen’s “natural order
hypothesis”. Thus, instruction cannot change learners’
natural language developmental course.
Proposal 4. Teach what is
Research findings (I)
1. For some linguistic structures, learners cannot be taught
what they are not ‘developmentally ready’ to learn. That is,
instruction cannot permit learners to ‘skip’ a stage in the
natural sequence of development (study 16 – German
word order).
2. When learners are ‘developmentally ready’ to learn a
specific language feature, instruction on that feature
(whether it is meaning-focused or form-focused) makes a
difference when it is provided at the time (study 17 –
English relative clause formation).
Proposal 4. Teach what is
Research findings (II)
3. The research showed little effect for instruction on learners’
development of question forms. This may be due to limited
instructional time or no explicit instruction (study 18 – whquestion inversion rules).
4. Instruction that is timed to match learners’ developmental
readiness may move them into more advanced stages but
their performance may still be affected by other factors,
such as L1 influence (study 19 – questions)
Proposal 4. Teach what is
• Conclusions
– The research only measured the short-term effects of
instruction. There is no way of knowing whether instruction
had any permanent or long-term effects on learners’
developing interlanguage systems.
– Explicit instruction might have led to more positive results,
particularly if the instruction had consisted of contrastive
information about L1 and L2.
– “Teach what is teachable” position is of great potential
interest to syllabus planners as well as teachers.
Proposal 5. Get it right
in the end
• Introduction (I)
– Proponents of this position argue that there is a role for
form-focused instruction and correction provided within
communicative contexts.
– This position is assumed that learners need guidance in
learning some specific features of the TL. Comprehensible
input and meaningful interaction is not enough to bring
learners to high levels of accuracy as well as fluency.
– While they view comprehension-based, content-based,
task-based, or other meaning-focused instruction as
crucial for language learning, they hypothesized that
learners will do better if they also have access to some
form-focused instruction.
Proposal 5. Get it right
in the end
• Introduction (II)
– This position also emphasizes the idea that some aspects of
language must be taught and may need to be taught quite
explicitly. Explicit instruction is particularly needed when
learners in a class share the same L1, because the errors
resulting from L1 transfer are not likely to lead to any kind of
communication breakdown; thus, it will be very difficult for
learners to discover the errors on their own.
– They argue that learners will benefit in terms of both speed
and efficiency of their learning and also in terms of the
level of proficiency which they will eventually reach.
Proposal 5. Get it right
in the end
• Research findings
– The research findings support the hypothesis that formfocused instruction and corrective feedback within
communicative L2 programs can improve learners’ use of
particular grammatical features.
– The effects of form-focused instruction are not always longlasting, which can be explained in terms of the frequency of
use of the particular structure in regular classroom input. Thus,
opportunities for continued use may have contributed to the
continued improvement in learners’ use of a particular form.
– Form-focused instruction may be more successful with some
language features than with others.
Proposal 5. Get it right
in the end
• Conclusions
– Form-focused instruction and corrective feedback provided
within the communicative contexts are more effective in
promoting L2 learning.
– The challenge is to find the balance between meaning-focused
and form-focused activities. The right balance is likely to be
different according to the characteristics of the learners, such as
age, metalinguistic sophistication, motivation, goals, and the
similarity of the TL to the L1.
– Explicit, guided form-focused instruction is needed when
features in the TL differ from the L1 in subtle ways, particularly
when the information about these differences is not available in
the regularly occurring input.
Implications of Classroom
Research for Teaching
Rethink the five proposals
1. Get it right from the beginning
Grammar-translation & audiolingual methods
2. Say what you mean and mean what you say
Communicative language teaching
(“what to say” vs. “how to say it”)
3. Just listen… and read
Comprehension-based programs
4. Teach what is teachable
Setting realistic expectations
5. Get it right in the end
Finding the balance between meaning-based and formbased instruction

Learning in the Classroom - National Kaohsiung First