The influence of task repetition type on attention to form by young EFL learners

Early language learning conference
Reykjavik (Islandia)

Task repetition (TR) is considered a valuable practice to direct learners’ attention from meaning to form (Bygate & Samuda, 2005). The first time learners perform a task their focus is on conveying meaning, whereas during the second enactment they tend to focus on the form of their message, which has been claimed to be necessary for acquisition to take place (Long, 1996). Despite the increasing body of research on young learners’ second language acquisition process (García Mayo, 2017; Murphy, 2014), very few studies have focused on TR and its impact on language learning. The present study intends to contribute to fill this research gap by examining the oral production of 20 dyads of young EFL learners (age 11-12) enrolled in a Content and Language Integrated Learning (CLIL) program. Their proficiency level was beginner as attested by a standardized test and they had been learning English for seven years. They repeated a collaborative task three times over a three-week period. Their oral production (7 h 18’) was transcribed and coded and their attention to form, operationalized as language-related episodes (LREs) (Swain & Lapkin, 1998), was measured in two types of TR, exact TR (ETR), where the participants repeated exactly the same task, and procedural TR (PTR), where the participants repeated task type but with different content. Contrary to most previous research on LREs, most (76.76%) were form-focused, mainly addressing morphosyntactic aspects, and resolved targetlike in both groups. The results also revealed a statistically significant decrease in the number of LREs at time 3 in the ETR group, whereas the LREs in the PTR group remained stable. The former finding was not completely unexpected as the learners may have lost motivation to complete a task they had to repeat three times. The results from the PTR, however, are more positive and support previous research in EFL settings (García Mayo & Imaz Agirre, 2016) as to the benefits of PTR to draw the learners’ attention to formal aspects of the language. Pedagogical implications of these findings will be discussed and ideas for task design will be offered.