Guest-edited special issue on 'The role of interaction in foreign language contexts'


Abstract  The study of conversational interaction among second language learners and their interlocutors has been central to studies of acquisition since the beginning of the 80 s(see Alcon, 2001; Gass, 1997; Gass, Mackey, & Pica, 1998; Long, 1996; Pica, 1994,for a review of the most important research in this area and its theoretical implications). Research has shown that L2 learners’ participation in negotiated iinteraction eases the access to conditions claimed to bolster language learning, namely: comprehensible input (Krashen, 1985; Long, 1985), production of modified output (Swain, 1985, 1995) and focus on form (Long & Robinson, 1998; Schmidt & Frota, 1986). As Gass et al. (1998, p.303) point out, studies carried out within the interaction hypothesis to date suggest that research should focus on the nature of conversational interaction, whether or not opportunities are present for the conditions and processes that are claimed to facilitate language learning, and the nature of the development that takes place. The present thematic issue focuses on the role of interaction in instructed language learning contexts, in contrast to research on conversational interaction in naturalistic settings. From this perspective, the goal of this thematic issue is to address the effect of conversational interaction on acquiring a second language and to bring insights for a better understanding of the potential benefits of interaction in instructed language learning. Taking into account the interaction hypothesis, which originated in the work by Long (1980, 1983, 1985), the papers in this issue describe learners’ work through perceived or actual gaps in communication, report research supporting the relationship between conversational interaction and language learning, and suggest further research issues which may provide both teachers and researchers with new directions in the future. The contributors come from Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Holland, Spain and the USA.

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