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A STUDY OF THE ACQUISITION OF ENGLISH AS A FOREIGN LANGUAGE: INTEGRATING CONTENT AND LANGUAGE IN MAINSTREAM EDUCATION IN BARCELONA

Authors:
  • Universitat Internacional de Catalunya. Barcelona
A STUDY OF THE ACQUISITION OF
ENGLISH AS A FOREIGN LANGUAGE:
INTEGRATING CONTENT AND LANGUAGE
IN MAINSTREAM EDUCATION IN
BARCELONA.
Helena Roquet i Pugès
TESI DOCTORAL UPF / ANY 2011
DIRECTORA DE LA TESI
Dra. Carmen Pérez Vidal (Departament de Traducció i Ciències
del Llenguatge)
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Als meus estimadíssims pares
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ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
It is only too difficult to thank all those who have helped me through
the long process of elaboration of this doctoral thesis. This research
would not have been possible without the cooperation and support of a
number of people to whom I would like to express my gratitude.
First of all, I am specially obliged to all those who took part in the tests,
as well as the staff at the school involved who made the tests possible
and administered them. I am particularly indebted to Ms Maite Díaz,
for her coordination of the whole CLIL programme in the school and
for her contribution to this scientific research.
My special thanks go to my tutor, Dr. Carmen Pérez-Vidal. She has
always been an exceptional teacher and her capacity to work, and to
transmit enthusiasm for learning never stop to surprise me. She not
only has guided my research with an invaluable knowledge and critical
comments even across distances during my stay in Vienna, but has
been warm and encouraging when my spirits were low, understanding
with my limitations, and demanding towards my research project. I will
never forget her wise advice and her personal involvement. It has been
a privilege to be her student for such a long time and I very much hope
that I can follow her example in my academic life as a teacher for many
years to come.
I also owe my deepest gratitude to Prof. Christiane Dalton-Puffer. My
stay and research in Vienna would not have been possible without her
kind welcome from the very first moment and I am particularly grateful
for her clever ideas as well as her warm assistance and support. It has
been an honor for me to be a visiting member of the CLIL research
group at her department, and to be able to attend the CLIL research
seminar there. She has also made possible my consultations with in-
house and visiting experts on CLIL and language testing in Vienna.
Together with her, I would like to show my gratitude to Ms Veronika
Schindelegger, not only for taking part in this research project and
helping me evaluating the tests to find a common criteria to set up a
level for the qualitative assessment, but also for her kindness and for
becoming a friend during my stay in Austria.
This stay in Vienna was possible thanks to a scholarship from the
Departament de Traducció i Ciències del Llenguatge at Universitat
Pompeu Fabra (Barcelona) to whom I would like to express my
gratitude.
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Also during this stay, I am particularly grateful to Prof. Tim McNamara
for teaching me so much about testing and for his encouraging words.
Moreover, back in Barcelona, I would like to thank Dr. Jaume Llopis at
the Universitat de Barcelona. His knowledge, teaching and patience
have provided me with the insights and skills required for the
successful application of the statistical analysis without which I could
not have completed the results chapter.
Finally, it is essential to say that this dissertation would not have come
out without the constant and sincere support of the people who are
close to me and I love. To my parents, for their unfailing
encouragement when I most needed it during this period. I am eternally
in debt for their love, support, and understanding. And finally and most
specially to you, for all the patience and support at times that were
particularly stressful, and for being the best and funniest partner when
sitting next to me while spending endless weekends in the library.
Helena Roquet i Pugès
Barcelona, June 2011
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ABSTRACT
The present study seeks to contribute new evidence on the effects of the
CLIL approach (Content and Language Integrated Learning) on young
EFL learners’ productive and receptive skills in a school set in
Barcelona (Catalonia). Catalonia is a bilingual community in which
both Catalan and Spanish are official languages and English represents
the first foreign language included in the curriculum. For that purpose,
two groups (n= 50 each) involving 100 bilingual Catalan / Spanish
students aged 12 to 15 were analysed longitudinally over two academic
years in two different types of exposure contexts: FI (Formal
Instruction of English as a foreign language school subject, control
group) and CLIL (English as medium of instruction when learning
Science, experimental group). Data were elicited both for productive
and comprehension skills and were statistically analysed quantitatively
and also qualitatively using a posttest design at the end of each
academic year. Results obtained confirm the effectiveness of the CLIL
programme, however not in all domains and to the same degree as
significant benefits did not accrue in all skills and measurements.
Concerning receptive skills, when contrasting the differential effects of
the two programmes on the participants’ linguistic progress, the group
in the FI+CLIL improved their reading competence significantly more
than the other, as was expected, but not their listening competence. As
for productive skills, our findings show a significant improvement in
the case of the FI+CLIL group, something which we had not
hypothesised, as the subjects’ writing and particularly so accuracy,
significatively progressed and so did lexico-grammatical abilities. This
is in contrast with findings published in previous studies. Results also
tend to confirm that age had an impact and thus the older, the better as
far as progress made by our subjects. Finally, our results show that the
CLIL approach did not seem to erase the differences observed in
traditional foreign language teaching contexts when gender is
considered: contrary to expectations, female participants still
outperformed their male counterparts not only in a FI context but also
in a CLIL context. In conclusion, it can be stated that the effectiveness
of a CLIL context of learning in this dissertation is confirmed but that it
does not suffice to improve the participants’ overall linguistic
competence as, whereas some levels of language competence made
substantial progress, some other levels did not seem to follow the same
path.
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RESUM
L’objectiu d’aquest estudi és aportar noves dades sobre els efectes de
l’enfocament EICLE (Enfocament Integrat de Continguts i Llengües
Estrangeres) en les habilitats productives i receptives de subjectes
aprenents d’anglès com a llengua estrangera, d’una escola concertada
de la ciutat de Barcelona (Catalunya). Catalunya és una comunitat
bilingüe on el català i l’espanyol són llengües oficials i l’anglès
representa la primera llengua estrangera del currículum educatiu. Amb
aquest objectiu s’ha dut a terme un estudi comparatiu de l’adquisició de
l’anglès com a llengua estrangera en dos contextos d’aprenentatge.
L’estudi adopta un disseny longitudinal (al llarg de dos anys) i compara
dos grups (n= 50 cada grup) d’aprenents bilingües català espanyol
d’edats compreses entre els 12 i els 15 anys. El grup de control aprèn
l’anglès amb l’enfocament convencional en aules d’instrucció formal
(IF) i el grup experimental rep l’enfocament EICLE a l’assignatura de
naturals en anglès (Science) a més de seguir les classes convencionals
en context IF. S’han recollit dades relatives a les habilitats de producció
i de comprensió i s’han analitzat quantitativament i qualitativament
mitjançant un disseny post-test al final de cada any acadèmic tot
aplicant anàlisi estadística. Els resultats obtinguts confirmen que el
programa EICLE és efectiu tot i que no en tots els àmbits ni amb la
mateixa intensitat, ja que no apareixen millores significatives en totes
les habilitats i mesures adoptades. Pel que fa a les habilitats receptives,
quan es contrasten els efectes diferencials dels dos programes en el
progrés lingüístic dels subjectes, el grup EICLE millora
significativament més en la prova de comprensió escrita, com estava
previst, però no en la de comprensió oral. Pel que fa a les habilitats
productives, els nostres resultats demostren una millora significativa en
el grup que segueix l’enfocament EICLE. A diferència de la recerca
publicada anteriorment, els nostres participants milloren de manera
significativa en la producció escrita, especialment en la correcció, i en
les habilitats lèxico-gramaticals. Els resultats també tendeixen a
confirmar que el factor edat és rellevant i que com més grans millor.
Finalment, els resultats demostren que l’enfocament EICLE no ajuda a
disminuir les diferències observades en contextos tradicionals
d’ensenyament de llengües estrangeres pel que fa al gènere dels
subjectes: a diferència del que s’havia previst, els subjectes femenins
obtenen millors resultats que els subjectes masculins no només en el
context d’IF sinó també en el context EICLE. En conclusió, en aquesta
tesi doctoral es pot confirmar l’efectivitat d’un context d’enfocament
EICLE. Ara bé, aquest enfocament no és una garantia suficient per a la
millora de la competència lingüística general dels aprenents.
Contents
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Acknowledgments……………………………………………………...v
Abstract / Resum...…............................................................................vii
List of Tables.......................................................................................xiii
List of Figures......................................................................................xiv
1. INTRODUCTION ............................................................ 1
2. LANGUAGE ACQUISITION LITERATURE: AN
OVERVIEW ......................................................................... 9
2.1 Formal Instruction Contexts ......................................................... 9
2.1.1 Four Different Periods ......................................................... 10
2.1.1.1 The Structuralist-Behaviorist Period ............................ 10
2.1.1.2 The Chomskyan Period ................................................ 11
2.1.1.3 The Social- Interactionist Period .................................. 13
2.1.1.4 The Cognitive Period .................................................... 15
2.1.2 Four Key Hypotheses .......................................................... 20
2.1.2.1 The Input Hypothesis ................................................... 20
2.1.2.2 The Interaction Hypothesis ........................................... 21
2.1.2.3 The Output Hypothesis ................................................. 23
2.1.2.4 The Noticing Hypothesis .............................................. 24
2.1.3 Instructed Foreign Language Acquisition. Focus on Form . 27
2.1.3.1 Focus on form and acquisition ..................................... 28
2.1.3.2 Research on Form-focused instruction ......................... 30
2.1.4 Individual Differences ......................................................... 34
2.1.5 Summary .............................................................................. 46
2.2 Bilingual and Trilingual Contexts. ............................................. 47
2.2.1 Bilingual Language Acquisition .......................................... 47
2.2.1.1 Definitions of bilingualism ........................................... 48
2.2.1.2 Typologies .................................................................... 49
2.2.1.3 Theories dealing with the cognitives effects of
bilingualism .............................................................................. 50
2.2.1.4 Individual variables associated with bilingualism ........ 52
2.2.1.5 Research on BLA: Background on the evidence
regarding effects of bilingualism .............................................. 53
2.2.2 Third Language Acquisition ................................................ 55
2.2.2.1 Effects of bilingualism on third language acquisition .. 55
2.2.2.2 Main models in TLA research ...................................... 58
2.2.3 Summary .............................................................................. 60
ix
Contents
2.3 CLIL Contexts ............................................................................ 61
2.3.1 CLIL Contexts of Acquisition ............................................. 61
2.3.1.1 European policies ......................................................... 63
2.3.1.2 Rationale of a CLIL approach ...................................... 68
2.3.1.3 Modalities and features in CLIL programmes .............. 73
2.3.1.4 The benefits of content and language integrated
approaches ................................................................................ 78
2.3.1.5 Challenges .................................................................... 80
2.3.2 CLIL Research ..................................................................... 81
2.3.2.1 Canadian Research ....................................................... 81
2.3.2.2 European Research ....................................................... 85
Content outcomes ................................................................. 88
Language outcomes .............................................................. 88
The language of CLIL classrooms........................................ 92
2.3.2.3 Spain ............................................................................. 93
Andalusia .............................................................................. 96
The Basque Country ............................................................. 99
Galicia ................................................................................. 102
Madrid ................................................................................ 103
2.3.2.4 Catalonia ..................................................................... 107
The Catalan territories: Catalonia, the Balearic Islands and
Valencia .............................................................................. 107
Background to the research: CLIL programmes ................ 108
Research on CLIL in the Catalan language area ................ 111
2.3.3 Summary ............................................................................ 120
3. RESEARCH QUESTIONS AND METHOD ............ 127
3.1 Objectives ................................................................................. 127
3.2 Research Question and Hypotheses .......................................... 127
3.3 Method ...................................................................................... 128
3.3.1 Context and Participants .................................................... 128
3.3.2 Design ................................................................................ 132
3.3.3 Treatment ........................................................................... 133
3.3.4 Instruments and Data Collection Procedure ...................... 135
3.3.4.1 Production (written ability) ........................................ 136
3.3.4.2 Comprehension .......................................................... 137
3.3.4.3 Lexico-grammatical ability......................................... 140
3.3.5 Analysis / Measures (analytic qualitative, quantitative) .... 140
3.3.5.1 Qualitative measures .................................................. 144
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Contents
Task fulfilment ................................................................... 144
Organisation ....................................................................... 144
Grammar ............................................................................. 145
Vocabulary ......................................................................... 145
3.3.5.2 Quantitative measures ................................................ 145
Syntactic complexity: coordination index .......................... 146
Lexical complexity: Guiraud’s index ................................. 146
Accuracy: errors per word .................................................. 146
Fluency: total number of words .......................................... 147
4. RESULTS ...................................................................... 149
4.1 Context Effects on Skill Development: Research Question 1a 151
4.1.1 Skill Development: Writing .............................................. 151
4.1.1.1 Writing: quantitative measures ................................... 152
Syntactic Complexity ......................................................... 152
Lexical Complexity ............................................................ 154
Accuracy ............................................................................. 156
Fluency ............................................................................... 158
4.1.1.2 Writing: qualitative measures ..................................... 160
Task Fulfilment .................................................................. 161
Organisation ....................................................................... 162
Grammar ............................................................................. 164
Vocabulary ......................................................................... 166
4.1.2 Skill Development: Reading .............................................. 168
4.1.3 Skill Development: Listening ............................................ 170
4.1.4 Skill Development: Lexico-Grammatical Ability ............. 172
4.2 Age Effects on Contexts of Instruction: Research Question 1b 174
4.2.1 Differential Effects of Age: Writing .................................. 175
4.2.1.1 Age effects on writing: quantitative measures ........... 175
Syntactic Complexity ......................................................... 176
Lexical Complexity ............................................................ 177
Accuracy ............................................................................. 178
Fluency ............................................................................... 180
4.2.1.2 Age effects on writing: qualitative measures ............. 182
Task Fulfilment .................................................................. 182
Organisation ....................................................................... 183
Grammar ............................................................................. 184
Vocabulary ......................................................................... 185
4.2.2 Differential Effects of Age: Reading ................................. 187
4.2.3 Differential Effects of Age: Listening ............................... 188
4.2.4 Differential Effects of Age: Lexico-Grammatical Ability 189
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Contents
xii
4.3 Gender Effects on Contexts of Instruction: Research Question 1c
.................................................................................................... 191
4.3.1 Differential Effects of Gender: Writing ............................ 192
4.3.1.1 Gender on writing: qualitative measures .................... 192
Task Fulfilment .................................................................. 192
Organisation ....................................................................... 193
Grammar ............................................................................. 194
Vocabulary ......................................................................... 195
4.3.2 Differential Effects of Gender: Reading ............................ 195
4.3.3 Differential Effects of Gender: Listening .......................... 197
4.4 Summary ................................................................................... 199
5. DISCUSSION ............................................................... 205
5.1 Linguistic Progress and Skill Development ............................. 206
5.2 Linguistic Progress and Age ..................................................... 214
5.3 Linguistic Progress and Gender ................................................ 221
5.4 Summary ................................................................................... 226
6. SUMMARY AND CONCLUSIONS .......................... 231
7. REFERENCES ............................................................. 239
LIST OF APPENDICES .................................................. 287
List of Tables
Table 1. The inductive/deductive and implicit/explicit dimensions ..... 17
Table 2. Options for focus-on-form ...................................................... 29
Table 3. Factors listed as influencing individual learner differences in
language learning in three surveys ............................................... 35
Table 4. Factors responsible for individual differences in L2 learning 35
Table 5. CLIL modalities ..................................................................... 73
Table 6. CLIL programmes according to focus .................................... 75
Table 7. Core features in CLIL programmes ........................................ 77
Table 8. Variable features in CLIL programmes .................................. 77
Table 9. Language competences favourably affected or unaffected by
CLIL ............................................................................................. 90
Table 10. Learners and institutions participating in the Plan of Action
(2005-09) .................................................................................... 110
Table 11. The roles of teachers in the CLIL project ........................... 130
Table 12. Participants (N=50) ............................................................ 132
Table 13a. Design ............................................................................... 133
Table 14: Skill Practice ...................................................................... 135
Table 15. Instruments ......................................................................... 135
Table 16. Measures used to analyse writing development ................. 142
Table 17. Qualitative research versus quantitative research ............... 142
Table 13b. Design ............................................................................... 175
Table 18: Skill Results per Context (progress) ................................... 207
Table 19: Skill Practice ...................................................................... 213
Table 20: Skill Results per Context and Age (p value) ...................... 215
Table 21: Skill Results per Context and Gender (p value) ................. 222
Table 22: Skill Results per Context and Gender (p value) ................. 224
Table 23. Experimental design and data collection times of the CLIL
project. ........................................................................................ 301
xiii
List of Figures
Figure 1. Average performance in the syntactic complexity measure
(coordination index) at T1 and T2 .............................................. 153
Figure 2. Progress in one year in Group A and Group B syntactic
complexity (coordination index) measure .................................. 154
Figure 3. Average performance in the lexical complexity measure
(Guiraud’s index) at T1 and T2 .................................................. 155
Figure 4. Progress in one year in Group A and Group B lexical
complexity (Guiraud’s index) measure ...................................... 156
Figure 5. Average performance in the accuracy measure (errors per
word) at T1 and T2 ..................................................................... 157
Figure 6. Progress in one year in Group A and Group B accuracy
(errors per word) measure........................................................... 158
Figure 7. Average performance in the fluency measure (total number of
words) at T1 and T2 ................................................................... 159
Figure 8. Progress in one year in Group A and Group B fluency (total
number of words) measure ......................................................... 160
Figure 9. Average performance in the task fulfilment measure at T1 and
T2 ................................................................................................ 161
Figure 10. Progress in one year in Group A and Group B task
fulfilment measure ...................................................................... 162
Figure 11. Average performance in the organisation measure at T1 and
T2 ................................................................................................ 163
Figure 12. Progress in one year in Group A and Group B organisation
measure ....................................................................................... 164
Figure 13. Average performance in the grammar measure at T1 and T2
.................................................................................................... 165
Figure 14. Progress in one year in Group A and Group B grammar
measure ....................................................................................... 166
Figure 15. Average performance in the vocabulary measure at T1 and
T2 ................................................................................................ 167
Figure 16. Progress in one year in Group A and Group B vocabulary
measure ....................................................................................... 168
Figure 17. Average performance in the reading test (cloze) at T1 and
T2 ................................................................................................ 169
Figure 18. Progress in one year in Group A and Group B reading test
(cloze) ......................................................................................... 170
Figure 19. Average performance in the listening test at T1 and T2 ... 171
Figure 20. Progress in one year in Group A and Group B listening test
.................................................................................................... 172
Figure 21. Average performance in the lexico-grammatical tests at T1
and T2 ......................................................................................... 173
xiv
Figure 22. Progress in one year in Group A and Group B lexico-
grammatical tests ........................................................................ 174
Figure 23. Average performance in the syntactic complexity measure
(coordination index) at T1 and T2 .............................................. 177
Figure 24. Average performance in the lexical complexity measure
(Guiraud’s index) at T1 and T2 .................................................. 178
Figure 25. Average performance in the accuracy measure (errors per
word) at T1 and T2 ..................................................................... 179
Figure 26. Average performance in the fluency measure (total number
of words) at T1 and T2 ............................................................... 181
Figure 27. Average performance in the task fulfilment measure at T1
and T2 ......................................................................................... 183
Figure 28. Average performance in the organisation measure at T1 and
T2 ................................................................................................ 184
Figure 29. Average performance in the grammar measure at T1 and T2
.................................................................................................... 185
Figure 30. Average performance in the vocabulary measure at T1 and
T2 ................................................................................................ 186
Figure 31. Average performance in the reading test (cloze) at T1 and
T2 ................................................................................................ 188
Figure 32. Average performance in the listening test at T1 and T2 ... 189
Figure 33. Average performance in the lexico-grammatical tests at T1
and T2 ......................................................................................... 190
Figure 34. Average performance in the writing test at T1 and T2 in
relation to gender ........................................................................ 193
Figure 35. Average performance in the cloze test at T1 and T2 in
relation to gender ........................................................................ 196
Figure 36. Average performance in the listening test at T1 and T2 in
relation to gender ........................................................................ 198
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Introduction
1. INTRODUCTION
Globalisation and internationalisation are making increasing demands
on the foreign language skills of European citizens. As a consequence,
one of the key features in the European strategy towards
multilingualism is an interdisciplinary approach to education. This is a
policy in which lesser-known languages, either majority or minority
languages in the community are established within a school programme
as the medium of instruction for content subjects. This approach has
recently been known as Content and Language Integrated Leaming
(CLIL). In these so-called CLIL classes a language other than the L1 of
the students is used in teaching a non-language subject matter, the aim
being to increase the students’ exposure to the language and to create a
motivating low-anxiety environment in which attention is paid to the
message conveyed rather than to form. In this way the students’
language competence is to be enhanced and they are to be better
prepared for life and work in a globalised society and
economy, where English in particular dominates as the Lingua Franca
of today’s world.
The interest of investigating the effects of CLIL contexts of acquisition
on linguistic outcomes and processes seems undeniable and
undiminishing. One of the main questions in relation to CLIL as a new
educational approach arises when analysing to what extent the
increased exposure to a target language brought about when adopting
CLIL to teach one or more subjects in a school translates into tangible
improvement in the quality of language output. In addition, another
relevant issue is what aspects of language proficiency are most likely to
be affected. This is more particularly interesting when CLIL is
analyzed and contrasted together with other contexts of acquisition,
with different input conditions, such as formal instruction (FI) in the
foreign language classroom.
This research study1 presents CLIL as a central feature in the European
strategy towards multilingualism and its impact on second language
acquisition by secondary English as a foreign language (EFL) learners
and compares it to FI. Indeed, CLIL and FI allow a close examination
of the effects of different contexts of leaming on foreign language
1 This study has been developed within the framework of the ALLENCAM research
group: Language Acquisition in Multilingual Catalonia, Universitat Pompeu Fabra
(www.upf.edu/dcl/recerca)
1
Introduction
leamers' linguistic outcomes and attitudes, a question currently under
scrutiny in second language acquisition (SLA) research. In this study
the terms foreign language acquisition (FLA) and SLA are used
alternatively. And only when relevant will the central difference
between a foreign and a second language be made.
It is hypothesised that because each of the two contexts has differential
patterns of input exposure and offers different opportunities for
interaction, both quantitatively and qualitatively, their effect on the
participants’ communicative and motivational development will also be
different.
More specifically, this research study focuses on whether or not the
acquisition of a language which is only heard and practised in the
language classroom as the object of instruction, i.e. FI, presents
significant differences with respect to the acquisition of a language
which is only heard and practised in the language classroom as the
vehicle of instruction, i.e. CLIL. And, likewise, it focuses on whether
or not the degree of inf1uence of individual factors such as age, or
gender inf1uence the level of competence achieved in each different
context. Since research studies which have covered age and gender
issues in the last decades throw contradictory results, we believe that
analysing the effects these two individual variables have may
contribute with useful data to the FLA research field.
The reason for focusing on the classroom, however, is not merely to
shed light on how FLA takes place. Being myself a teacher, this
research is also motivated by a desire to discover what classroom
conditions or contexts are most likely to facilitate acquisition, whether
CLIL or FI, and what exactly does CLIL contribute to education in
general and language acquisition in particular. It is important to
remember that CLIL initiatives are becoming very popular all over the
world. Where it was once believed that the formula for successful
foreign language acquisition was “the earlier the better”, on the face of
the fact that no generalized improvement has come about in EFL in our
contexts, nowadays CLIL initiatives may well be seen as a second
alternative to the success in FLA (Pérez-Vidal, forthcoming). In other
words, there is an inherent indirect goal in the study which falls within
the domain of teaching and learning EFL. However, such a pedagogic
purpose is not biased towards didactics as in methodological handbooks
for teachers, where the aim is to suggest specific techniques or
activities that teachers can use. This research considers didactics not in
2
Introduction
terms of “techniques” or “activities”, but in terms of what kinds of
classroom behaviours teachers need to engage in to promote learning in
CLIL contexts as opposed to FI. Indeed, we believe that the ultimate
goal of research in language acquisition studies is that findings be taken
into consideration by educational policies and the educational
community in general (both top down and bottom up forces).
Hence, in order to accomplish its main objective, the present
dissertation has been structured around seven chapters. Chapter 1
corresponds to the present chapter, the introduction, and explains the
main objective of this research, justifies its relevance and describes
how it is organised.
In chapter 2 the theoretical background to the study of LA in Formal
Instruction Contexts (from now on FIC) is presented from an applied
linguistics perspective using a highly canonical structured. The chapter
has three main parts. The first one is an overview of SLA/FLA research
from the 50’s until today. The second one analyses LA and
Multilingualism in detail, focusing on Bilingual and Third LA, the
issue on focus in our study, while dealing with Catalan/Spanish learners
of English as a third language. The third part presents the specific
context of acquisition scrutinised: CLIL.
Chapter 3 deals with the research questions and the method used to
carry out the present research study. The organisation of the chapter is
as follows: Section 3.1 presents the objectives of the investigation. In
section 3.2 the research question and the hypotheses used to address the
issue analysed are explained. After this, a section with the method is
offered. In it the context and participants of the study, the design,
treatment, and instruments used, and the data collection procedure are
explained in detail. The last part within the method section (3.3) is a
large description of the quantitative and qualitative measures used to
analyse the data, and the statistics adopted.
Chapter 4 presents the results of the analyses performed in order to
answer the research question formulated in Chapter 3. This research
question enquired how context of learning affects the oral and written
development of young bilingual secondary education EFL learners
when contrasting a group experiencing FI only and a group
experiencing FI in combination with CLIL. Three specific issues are of
interest in this field of research when contrasting the two contexts. The
first one, related to general language development and presented in
3
Introduction
section 4.1, is whether all linguistic abilities develop accordingly or
differently. The subjects examined are measured as far as their writing
abilities, their reading abilities, their listening comprehension abilities,
and their lexico-grammatical abilities. The second issue, related to
individual differences and presented in section 4.2, is whether changes
occur irrespective of age differences. The third and last issue
corresponds to section 4.3 and relates to another individual variable,
gender, which has caught the interest of research in recent years.
Chapter 5 contains the discussion of results. This chapter is organized
into different sections each one dealing with one of the three
hypotheses established in relation to the main question. Firstly, section
5.1 tackles the issue of language progress and skill development. It
discusses the results obtained in order to address the first hypothesis.
Secondly, section 5.2 deals with the the issue of language progress and
age: whether changes occur irrespective of age differences. In the third
place, section 5.3 discusses the results concerning the issue of the
impact of gender differences in a FI and a FI + CLIL context in relation
to each of the different skills measured.
Finally, based on a summary of the main findings and the discussion,
Chapter 6 offers the conclusions reached after carrying out the
investigation. It also identifies the limitations of the study presented
and suggests several issues for further research.
To conclude, chapter 7 is a list of the bibliographical references
included throughout the dissertation. After this, 3 appendices are added
in the end. The first one presents the tests administered to the
participants. The second one shows a table with the school’s CLIL
programme development. Finally, in the third and last one, the rating
scale used for assessment of the writing task from Friedl/Auer (2007) is
shown.
It is very much hoped that the investigation presented here will be able
to discretely contribute to the field of SLA research and at the same
time be of interest to all those involved in education. This is the right
place to play tribute to all the schools which are offering their CLIL
programmes as sources of empirical evidence such as the school in
which data were collected for the present dissertation. Their
contribution to scientific research is tantamount to their capacity for
innovation and service to the community. To finish on a personal note,
given the effectiveness of the CLIL programme analysed in this
4
Introduction
5
research as far as specially writing skills and accuracy, I have begun to
pay attention to content topics in as much as to form in many of my
EFL FI classes. As a consequence, I have started to use more authentic
texts and topics and in addition chosen by students and thus
overcoming the artificiality of FI contexts in EFL. More often than
before my students ask questions just for pleasure of finding out more
about the topic, and it happens that when students like what they are
doing, classes become in turn a much more stimulating experience for
the teacher. Because as we all know, there is nothing that equals the
gratification of working with motivated students.
6
I. BACKGROUND TO THE STUDY
7
8
Language Acquisition Literature: An Overview
2. LANGUAGE ACQUISITION LITERATURE: AN
OVERVIEW
In this chapter the theoretical background to the study of LA in Formal
Instruction Contexts (from now on FIC) is presented from an applied
linguistics perspective. The chapter has three main parts. The first one
is an overview of SLA/FLA research from the 50’s until today. The
second one analyses LA and Multilingualism in detail focusing on
Bilingual and Third LA, the issue on focus in our study, dealing with
Catalan/Spanish learners of English as a third language. The third part
presents the specific context of acquisition scrutinized: CLIL.
The notion of language acquisition (LA from now on) can be
approached from a variety of perspectives: sociolinguistic, educational,
neurolinguistic, psycholinguistic or linguistic. Each of these approaches
involves different assumptions, methods and goals, albeit they all aim
at contributing to a better understanding of the processes underlying
LA. The present study focuses on the linguistic account of language
acquisition, more specifically Second Language Acquisition and
Foreign Language Acquisition (from now on SLA and FLA) in relation
to a specific European context of learning: Content and Language
Integrated Learning (CLIL from now on).
The task awaiting the study of SLA and FLA is vast. It must account
for failure as well as success and must cover both naturalistic and
formal learning, at all ages, in second and foreign language
environments, with monolingual, bilingual or multilingual speakers and
with all the variables that these macro considerations imply. For
example, consider a group of monolingual students in a state secondary
school in Spain, who may be learning a FL, that is a language not
spoken in the environment in a conventional Formal Instruction
classroom, or following a bilingual immersion programme, compared
with a group of multilingual speakers learning a language in the target
language community during a Study Abroad (SA) Period. If what is
being proposed is a FLA theory, it must be applicable in any of these
different contexts of learning. In addition, it must cover all aspects of
language: form, meaning, sound, use.
2.1 Formal Instruction Contexts
In this part an overview of S/FLA research is presented. First of all,
following a chronological order, four different periods are identified
9
Chapter 2
and described: i. the structuralist-behaviorist period, ii. the Chomskyan
period, iii. the social-interactionist period, and iv. the cognitive period.
After this, four key hypotheses that provide a rough sketch of the
features which come to play a role in the process of acquiring
languages are introduced: i. the Input Hypothesis, ii. the Interaction
Hypothesis, iii. the Output Hypothesis, iv. and the Noticing Hypothesis.
Next, a section dealing with focus on form and acquisition and the
current state of research in this domain is presented. Finally, the chapter
ends with a section on individual differences in SLA.
2.1.1 Four Different Periods
In this section, developments in the field of Linguistics applied to the
acquisition of languages are succinctly presented and organised in four
chronological periods, roughly corresponding to four differentiated
models. As Pérez-Vidal (2001a) summarises, three distinct periods can
be identified since work in the field of Linguistics, understood as the
study of language as a system, began around the 50’s: a structuralist-
behaviorist period, a period named after its main figure, Chomsky, and
the social-interactionist period. The main focus in this author’s account
is placed on the role of input in the process of language acquisition and
how it is viewed differently in each period. This is a view which
specifically relates to contextual differences in language acquisition,
the main focus of the study presented here. After these three, a fourth
final period follows, a cognitive period which is included in this
presentation in order to show the most recent developments in the field
of Linguistics applied to the acquisition of languages, together with a
summary of Skill Acquisition Theories.
2.1.1.1 The Structuralist-Behaviorist Period
In the first period of research on LA, conventionally called the
structuralist-behaviorist period, the structuralists linguists were close to
the behaviorist school of psychology (Skinner, 1957). They believed
that learning takes place as a habit formation process, a stimulus-
response reaction followed by a positive or a negative reinforcement. It
was posited that children learn languages by being encouraged or
reinforced when they speak properly, and by being discouraged when
they do not speak properly. This implies a view in which adults or
carers speak to children and model specific linguistic forms and
patterns so that children imitate them and internalise those patterns. If
they imitate well, they will be reinforced with a Very good! Right!, if
10
Language Acquisition Literature: An Overview
they don’t, they will be corrected. In the case of an L2, native speakers
(from now on NSs) will speak to non-native speakers (from now on
NNSs); and, in classrooms, teachers will speak to students to help them
learn in a similar way to how adults do with children.
What this means, in terms of the role assigned to language learners, is
that acquisition is manipulated from outside by choosing what one says
(input), and providing appropriate stimuli to speak. It is thus controlled
from the outside and the learner is passive and learns by analogy, not
by analysis.
2.1.1.2 The Chomskyan Period
In the following period, to put it very succinctly, firstly Chomsky
objected to the view that human learning, and specifically language
learning, can be explained as the stimuli-response chain (Chomsky,
1959). He rejected that learning is a habit formation process, a process
of imitation and analogy, where children acquire a language by
imitating more and more complex structures. He objected basically on
two accounts. On the one hand, he argued, although children do imitate
certain words and structures, they cannot possibly imitate structures
that they have never heard before, such as GO-ED for past of go
instead of WENT, in the case of English.
Thus, given that imitation cannot explain some of the language
produced by children, we can easily say that the structuralist
behaviourist paradigm does not work as an explanation of the language
acquisition process. It is true that imitation does play a role, and today
we know that it is a strategy used by child and adult learners: there is
no doubt that some children imitate a great deal, although some imitate
much less, and that the same happens with adults in natural and formal
acquisition in the classroom. However, the crucial objection put
forward in this period is that imitation does not take into consideration
a much more essential process which is going on underneath imitation,
the complex process of acquiring a language.
Secondly, Chomsky also objected to the idea that children are
reinforced by what they say well, and corrected when they do not speak
well. Chomsky accumulated evidence that proved that when adults talk
to children, what they are mainly concerned about is communication. If
something is corrected it is to make sure that the child’s contribution to
11
Chapter 2
communication is true, not false, but blatant grammatical errors tend to
go uncorrected provided that what the child says is true.
“He a girl” (a child says of her mother pointing at her)
The mother accepts in spite of:
- wrong gender
- and no verb (Pérez-Vidal, 1996: diary record)
As a result of this view, and in contrast with the previous one, the role
assigned to the learner is that of being engaged in a mental activity
process whereby, in the case of a first language, children use what
adults say, the input, to form and test hypothesis about how language is
organised, hence trying to infer the rules from the language spoken to
them by their carers. Further development of language ability is the
process from basic rules to more refined one which will allow the child
to incorporate more and more of the language he or she hears. In this
way, what is called the interlanguage of the learner develops, that is the
type of language produced in the process of learning the second/foreign
language. Hence, language acquisition is a creative and rule governed
activity. And this, Chomsky claimed, is possible because we are all
genetically programmed, we have an inner mechanism which is
different from all the others we inherit (so it is language-specific) and
unique to humans (species-specific), that allows us to proceed in this
way. This inner mechanism includes knowledge of the properties that
are common in the basic structure of all languages.
Accordingly, babies learning their first languages and second language
learners alike are active in the process of learning languages, they
proceed by analysis, rather than analogy, and they are creative, for they
are able to use a set number of rules to produce as many sentences as
they wish.
Since those days, empirical research on input addressed to children has
proved that input is generally correct, although modified, and somehow
simplified by adults whose role is to interact with children and help
them say what they would not be able to say on their own. Such a kind
of input has received several names: ‘motherese’ baby talk and more
recently child directed speech (CDS). This type of assistance has
received the name of scaffolding. It was proved that such a type of
communication contributes to the process of how a child acquires a first
language (Gallaway and Fichards, 1994). As it will be further explained
in more detail in the following sections, a very powerful model was put
12
Language Acquisition Literature: An Overview
forward by Stephen Krashen (1985) who, on the basis of this evidence,
formulated the same principle in relation to second language
acquisition. His Monitor Theory, resting on five hypotheses of which
the basic one was “The input hypothesis”, stated that input which is
accessible to the learner, because being simplified to just one level
above his or her competence level, might become intake, that is,
acquired language. However, this idea that only comprehensible input
is necessary for acquisition to take place was subsequently criticised as
is explained further below. Other authors became more interested not
only in the input addressed to learners, but in the discourse interaction
in which learners participate, also drawing from the research in first
language acquisition. Hatch (1978) applied the construct of scaffolding
to adults learning second languages, and subsequently other authors
carried out empirical research in order to prove to what extent the type
of input addressed to adult learners was similar to that addressed to
children, and whether it also favoured acquisition (Larsen-Freeman and
Long, 1991). The terms teacher-talk and foreigner-talk or ‘foreignese’
came to be used to refer to this specific type of input.
2.1.1.3 The Social- Interactionist Period
The third period in this account of SLA research is the social-
interactionist period. The idea that input is necessary in the process of
acquiring languages has not changed in this period, however it has been
refined in three respects. Firstly, in the sense that input is no longer
considered sufficient; it is even seen as insufficient by some authors
(Long, 1985). It is understood that in addition to input, specific
interactional adjustments are displayed not only by the native speaker
in the situation of communication, as was assumed in the preceding
period, but also by the learner within the microcosm in which learning
takes place. It is proposed that adults learn an L2 by participating in
interaction where modifications at the level of language and discourse
take place. In this way they benefit from comprehensible input, which
allows them to incorporate new syntactic structures in their
interlanguage. In addition to that, negotiation of meaning takes place.
Consequently, NSs contribute to the process of language acquisition of
adult learners in two ways: by allowing them to negotiate meaning with
them, and by adjusting their discourse with the type of modifications
needed. Negotiation of meaning is a key phenomenon in the model put
forward by social interactionism. It takes place when there are
communication problems either due to limitations in the learners’
13
Chapter 2
competence, or the complexity of the situation. In this sense,
negotiation is a kind of problem solving strategy applied to language,
motivated by a pressure to communicate imposed in a particular
situation, something which has recently been stressed by authors such
as Gass (1997).
Secondly, if we go back to the mental activity which goes on when
trying to establish hypotheses about the rules of the language we hear,
in the model put forward by Chomsky it would appear as if all input
can be processed with the same degree of efficiency, yet this is not the
case. The order of acquisition and the stages of acquisition studies
proved that when learning a particular language we first learn some
aspects of it and then others (see Ellis, 1994, for a throurough summary
or Dulay et al., 1982). And this we all do following the same order. It
was also clear that children make the same mistakes on route towards
adult competence, and so do adults gaining native-like competence
throughout their different stages of interlanguage. Input studies first
acknowledged the need for input, and, through this third period, they
also investigated the manifold reasons why we learn some bits of
language before others. These reasons can be summarised as follows:
1. Learners get positive evidence in the form of input.
2. But this is not sufficient, because they will only notice some
phenomena in this evidence, and not others, those utterances they
notice will trigger rules which will be language specific (Schmidt,
1990).
3. The learner’s output produced will be contrasted with the input,
which may contain negative evidence, correction that will help them
disconfirm hypothesis they have made.
Thirdly, there is conclusive research showing that learners, both
children and adults, who receive either explicit corrections or implicit
corrections perform better (Long, 1996). The previous three successive
stages, which in real life may not take place in such a neat order, are
only possible when learners are engaged in interaction with an
interlocutor.
What is the role of the learner in the process of acquiring a language
according to this view? It is the conversational adjustments and
interactional modifications in which they are actively engaged when
negotiating meaning which promote acquisition.
14
Language Acquisition Literature: An Overview
2.1.1.4 The Cognitive Period
Since the late 1980s, there has been a revival of interest in
psychological theories of language learning. Cognitive psychologists
see no reason to assume that language acquisition requires specific
brain structures used uniquely for language acquisition. Rather, they
hypothesize that second language acquisition, like other learning,
requires the learner’s attention and effort –whether or not the learner is
fully aware of what is being attended to. Some information processing
theories suggest that language, like other skilled activity, is first
acquired through intentional learning of what is called ‘declarative
knowledge’ and that, through practice, the declarative knowledge can
become ‘proceduralized’ and, with further practice, it can become
‘automatic’ (De Keyser, 2003). Other theorists make a similar contrast
between ‘controlled’ and ‘automatic’ processing (Segalowitz, 2003).
The difference is that controlled processing is not necessarily
intentional. Controlled processing occurs when a learner is accessing
information that is new or rare or complex. Controlled processing
requires mental effort and takes attention away from other controlled
processes. For example, a language learner who appears relatively
proficient in a conversation in a familiar topic may struggle to
understand an academic lecture, because the effort and attention
involved in interpreting the language itself interferes with the effort and
attention needed to interpret the content. Automatic processing, on the
other hand, occurs quickly and with little or no attention and effort.
Indeed, it is argued that we cannot prevent automatic processing and
have little awareness or memory of its occurrence. Thus, once language
itself is largely automatic, attention can be focused on the content. The
information processing model offers a useful explanation as to why
learners in the initial phases of learning seem to put so much effort into
understanding and producing language.
Thus, according to the information processing model, learning occurs
when, through repeated practice, declarative knowledge becomes
automatic. In addition to practice, it is also hypothesized that a process
referred to as ‘restructuring’ may result in learners appearing to have
made quite sudden changes in their interlanguage systems rather than
gradually increasing the speed with which they use constructions that
were already present. Restructuring is a cognitive process in which
previously acquired information that has been somehow stored in
separate categories is integrated and this integration expands the
learner’s competence (McLaughlin, 1990; McLaughlin and Heredia,
15
Chapter 2
1996). Sometimes the restructuring can lead learners to make errors
that had not previously been present. For example, when a learner
comes to understand that English question forms require inversion,
there might be a period in which embedded questions (Do you know
what the children are doing?) would be produced with inversion as
well (*Do you know what are the children doing?).
Some researchers working within information processing models of
SLA have argued that nothing is learned without ‘noticing’. That is, in
order for some feature of language to be acquired, it is not enough for
the learner to be exposed to it through comprehensible input. The
learner must actually notice what it is in that input that makes the
meaning. This idea has raised a considerable amount of interest in the
context of instructed second language learning (Schmidt, 1990, 2001).
The next section (2.1.2), dealing with the hypotheses in SLA which
account for how languages are learnt, further developes it as the
Noticing Hypothesis.
The implicit/explicit dichotomy is also one of the central issues in the
cognitive view of SLA. The underlying question here is whether adults
can learn a language fully through the same implicit learning
mechanisms used by the child in learning a first language. According to
De Keyser (2003), ‘implicit learning’ can be defined as learning
without awareness of what is being learned as opposed to a more
explicit process whereby there is no lack of consciousness of the
structure being learned.
It is important, furthermore, to distinguish implicit learning from two
concepts it is often confused with in the second language literature:
inductive learning and implicit memory. Inductive learning (going from
the particular to the general, from examples to rules) and implicit
learning (learning without awareness) are two orthogonal concepts (see
table 1 below). Via traditional rule teaching, learning is both deductive
and explicit. When students are encouraged to find rules for themselves
by studying examples in a text, learning is inductive and explicit. When
children acquire linguistic competence of their native language without
thinking about its structure, their learning is inductive and implicit. The
combination of deductive and implicit is less obvious, but the concept
of parameter setting in Universal Grammar could be seen as an
example; supposedly learners derive a number of characteristics of the
language being learned from the setting of the parameter, and this
clearly happens without awareness.
16
Language Acquisition Literature: An Overview