Writing is a complex process both in the first language (L1) and in a foreign or second language (L2). Research on second- and foreign-language writing processes is increasing, thanks to the existence of research tools that enable us to look more closely at what language learners actually do as they write (Hyland, 2016; Van Waes et al., 2012; Wengelin et al., 2019); research on plurilingual writing behaviour remains, however, scarce. This study looks at the relationship between knowledge of language, typing skills, writing processes (writing fluency, pauses and revisions) and the quality of texts written by 30 middle school French students (14-15 years old), during writing in their first (French), and second (English) languages. In the second study, we looked at this complex relationship among a sub-group of 15 middle school French-Turkish bilingual students (14-15 years old, residing in France) during writing in their home language (Turkish), school language (French), and English (a foreign language, also learned at school). The third study explores this complex relationship between the subgroup of 17 bilingual learners (15 Turkish-French bilinguals and 2 Arabic-French bilinguals) and 13 French monolingual learners.
We used a mixed-method study design: a combination of keystroke loggings, pre- and post-writing questionnaires, students' written texts and stimulated recall interviews. Our participants performed three writing tasks (a copy task, a descriptive and a narrative task) in each language on the computer using the keystroke-logging tool Inputlog (Leijten & Van Waes, 2013). Keystroke logging (the possibility of measuring precise typing behaviour), which has developed over the past two decades, enables empirical investigation of typing behaviour during writing. Data related to writing processes were analyzed from this Inputlog data: writing fluency was measured as characters per minute, words per minute, and mean pause-bursts (text produced between two pauses of 2000 milliseconds); pausing was measured as numbers of pauses, pause length, and location (within and between words); and revisions were measured as numbers of deletions and additions, and revision-bursts (number of characters typed between two revisions). Typing speed was measured with the Inputlog copy task tool in three languages; we developed the Turkish copy task for our study, and it has been standardized and added to the Inputlog software. To assess text quality, a team of evaluators used both a holistic and an analytical rating scale to judge content, organization and language use in the L1, L2 and L3 texts, and this qualitative assessment is compared with the quantitative Inputlog measures. We also collected stimulated recall protocol data from a focus group of seven writers, as they watched the keystroke logged data unfold; this fascinating process enabled us to obtain information related to the writers’ thoughts during long pauses and revisions. Finally, we obtained background data on the participants’ writing behaviors outside the classroom with a questionnaire.
Analyses of the keystroke logging data reveal important differences between L1 and L2 as well as between L1, L2 and L3 writing processes, which appear to be linked to our bilingual subjects’ linguistic backgrounds, and especially their contact with written Turkish (Akinci, 2016). Writing processes were more fluent in French, with longer pause-bursts, fewer pauses and revisions than writing in English and Turkish. Post-hoc comparisons of writing processes in the three project languages show that although there are significant differences between French and Turkish/English writing processes, English and Turkish writing processes are similar, with, however, significant fluency differences. Data related to typing behaviour were analyzed from the Inputlog copy task tool in French, English and Turkish, and these analyses reveal important differences between typing in the L1, L2 and L3. We also found significant correlations between language knowledge, writing fluency measures and text quality in the three languages. The relationships between writing processes and text quality in multilingual writing are complex, and we will discuss the implications of our findings for classroom practice, and future research.
Keywords: writing processes, keystroke loggings, Inputlog, EFL writing, foreign language learning, multilingual writing, bilingual learners, French-Turkish bilinguals, multilingual writing model, linguistic knowledge, typing skill, copy task, writing fluency, text quality, stimulated recall protocols