Differences in the task-supported negotiations of younger and older EFL children: From repair into prevention

IRAL - International Review of Applied Linguistics in Language Teaching

The benefits of task-supported interaction are especially noticeable when negotiation of meaning (NoM) occurs. Despite the large amount of research on interaction, children’s ability to collaborate and to understand their partners’ needs remains under-researched. This capacity has been questioned, and has been claimed to develop with age. From an interactionist perspective, we have analysed the oral interactions of 80 Spanish young learners (YLs) of English as a foreign language (EFL) from two age groups (8–9 and 10–11), when performing a collaborative task. Specifically, we have examined the nature of NoM and the strategies YLs use. Significant differences between the groups were identified: whereas younger children negotiate mostly to repair communication breakdowns, older YLs show a greater concern about their interlocutor’s needs. As in previous research addressing this population, focus on form strategies are rare. This study sheds light on our understanding of how young EFL learners negotiate in task-supported interactions.