Child EFL interaction: Age, instructional setting and development


Abstract  Numerous studies have recognized the crucial role of oral interaction in SLA. During interaction learners have the opportunity to negotiate language input, receive feedback and modify their output (Pica, 2013). Research has focused on adult ESL populations with little attention being paid to the process of child interaction (but see Oliver (2002)), much less in foreign language classrooms. In some European countries, two approaches to foreign language teaching coexist: mainstream (MS) programs, where learners are exposed to the target language for about 3-4 hours per week, and Content and Language Integrated (CLIL) programs, with about 8-10 hours of exposure. However, little research has been carried out on whether interactional patterns differ between the two approaches. This paper examines the development of the oral interactions of 27 child dyads, all beginner learners of English as a foreign language. Their conversational strategies were analyzed at Time 1 (T1) and Time 2 (T2). Participants were divided into four groups on the basis of their age, 8-9 years old (3rd grade) and 10-11 years old (5th grade), and their educational approach (MS and CLIL). They completed two communicative tasks, a picture placement and a guessing game, and their production was assessed in order to (i) document whether age had any impact on the use of conversational adjustments (CA) (clarification requests, confirmation and comprehension checks and self- and other-repetition), (ii) establish if differences were found depending on educational approach, and (iii) assess whether potential differences would persist over time. Our findings showed that the general trend regarding age points to a significantly more frequent use of CA and repetitions by the younger groups in both contexts. As for educational approach, the younger MS learners used significantly more CA and repetitions at T1 and more repetitions at T2. The longitudinal analysis of the data showed that there was a general tendency for a significant decrease in the use of both CA and repetitions among MS and CLIL learners. These findings will be discussed in connection to the benefits of interactive tasks for children in foreign language contexts.

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