Toru's TESOL Life

My Reflective Thought on TESOL-related Lecture,Books,and Articles. Also, Useful Information Links. This blog stops posting new articles now. My current blog is as follows. This blog is mainly on thought about my teaching days and private life. http://olympicsmemorial.blogspot.com/

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Importance of Output

Though I have heard "output hypothesis" (Swain, 1985), I could not have any chance to read her article. Laufer(1998) put emphasis on mental effort EFL learners bring to learn vocabulary citing Swain and Swain et al's articles, I have read her articles today.

Swain,M and Laptikin,S. (1995). Problems in output and the cognitive processes they generate: a step toward second language learning (Applied linguistics 16 372-91)
They discuss learners notice a "gap" from what they would like to explain and what they can express in their interlanguage, which result in modified output (stretched IL).Those process between the first output and the second output is part of the process of second language learning. They argues the deep mental process learned need to have in speaking and writing, and the the process is much more than just comprehension like in listening and reading. While from listening to speaking, for example, learners have to move from the stage of semantic processing for comprehension to the stage of syntactic processing for expressing themselves.

Swain, M (1995). Three functions of output in second language learning In Cook, G. and Seidlhoffer, B (Eds.), Principles and practice in applied linguistics studies in honour of Henry Widdowson Oxford: Oxford University Press 125-44
Though what it describes is basically the same as Swain and Laptkin (1995), she divide the function of output into three; noticing, hypothesis-testing, and metalinguistic function. Notice the "gap" and take a risk of uttering some "new" expressions to test whether or not it is appropriate and conprehensible for listeners. The former two occurred when learners interact with each other focusing on meaning. But the third one is when they focus on form, that is the content on which they talk is about the language itself. She argues all three functions of output contribute to second language acquisition.

What i was impressed about the two articles are output functions not only for improving fluency but also second language acquisition itself! To put differently, output have an effect on the development of interlangauge process, not just representing the existing knowledge learners have acquired until that time!

It is in line with Widdowson's argument; usage and use. He comments usage is important but as an aid for make communication natural. In his perspective, usage and use, or competence and performance (in Chomsky's word) cannot exist independently, but they are interconnected.

What is interesting is other articles by Talone,E. and Liu,G.(1995) In Cook, G. and Seidlhoffer, B (Eds.), Principles and practice in applied linguistics studies in honour of Henry Widdowson Oxford: Oxford University Press 107-124
Their longitudinal study of Chinese boy names "Bob" reveal intriguing insights about development of interlanguage deeply connected to social contexts. They ask a question, "Do the different interactional contexts simply give Bob different opportunities to show what he already knows? or Do the different interactional contexts cause Bob's competence to develop differently?" They found that the context where Bob used the items (i.e. SVO)for the first time in his life is the the context where he seems to acquire the items. And Bob gradually began to use the item in other contexts. What is interesting is the order of items they use is not the same as the order many SLA researchers agree upon. Thus they argues the flexibility of developmental sequences.

Why he use the new item is not only because of comprehensible input, but also comprehensible output(Swain, 1985) where learners notice the "gap" resulting in modified output to make the utterance comprehensible to interlocutors. They succeed in describing the actual context where acquiring occurs and interlanguage develops.

Moreover, they criticize the other SLA theorists who think contextual variation as just a parameter to change learners performance, think learners competence isolated from their performance. Tarone and Liu think the very context have an effect on the performance/competence and IL development, and argues that SLA theory should embrace contextual variation and the process of development of IL.

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