Task repetition and negotiation strategies in EFL child interaction


Abstract  Within the interactionist framework (Long, 1996) there has been abundant research on meaning negotiation strategies (NS) when used by adult ESL and EFL learners (García Mayo, 2002; García Mayo & Pica, 2000; Mackey, 2012) and some research with child ESL learners (Oliver, 2002, 2009). The overall finding of these studies is that interaction facilitates the second/foreign language learning process (García Mayo & Alcón Soler, 2013; Mackey & Goo, 2007). However, hardly any research has been done on child EFL interaction, which is surprising given that child language learning programs are on the increase worldwide and foreign languages are introduced in school settings earlier in life (Murphy, 2014; Nikolov & Mihaljevic Djigunovic, 2011; Pinter, 2011). The goal of this study is to contribute to fill this gap by analyzing the interaction of 60 dyads of 3rd and 4th year Primary Spanish EFL children (8-9, 9-10 years old, respectively) while they perform communicative tasks and assess whether task repetition, which has been shown to have positive effects on adult L2 learning (Kim & Tracy Ventura, 2013), has an impact on child meaning NS. The children, with a beginner proficiency level established by standardized CUP tests, completed different tasks in pairs at two testing times: at Time 1 all participants completed a spot-the difference task. At Time 2, 21 dyads repeated exactly the same task, 16 dyads completed a similar task with a different content (procedural repetition group) and the last 23 dyads completed a guessing game. The video-recorded oral production (approximately 17 hours) was transcribed and codified for meaning NEs (clarification requests, confirmation and comprehension checks, self- and other-repetition) and L1 use. Results indicate that, overall, there were no statistically significant differences (McNemar chi-square statistic) between production at Time 1 and at Time 2 regarding meaning NEs: neither task repetition nor procedural task repetition increased their frequency in the children’s oral production. However, the limited use of some L1 functions (metacognitive) and a direct question-answer pattern helped the children move the task along. These findings complement second language acquisition interaction studies in other settings and contribute to child task-based interaction research in EFL contexts. They will be considered in light of a much-needed teacher-researcher collaboration in the foreign language context so that communicative tasks can be implemented in the classroom and children may become familiar with NEs that have proved successful for language learning in other contexts.

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