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Cognitive and linguistic profiles in early foreign language vocabulary and grammar

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Abstract

In this chapter, we assess the extent to which profile effects, that is domain-particular patterns of cognitive and linguistic predictors in early natural L2 acquisition, extend to classroom learners . Specifically, we test the relative impacts of cognitive and linguistic factors on achievement in the early foreign language acquisition of English vocabulary and grammar among German primary-school students . Using linear-mixed effects regression modelling, this chapter maps profile effects in the acquisition of vocabulary and grammar in native German-speaking students and bilingual students speaking a minority L1 other than German at the end of grades 3 and 4. The data reveal distinct profiles in ( a ) linguistic domain, ( b ) mode, i.e. productive versus receptive skills, ( c ) stages in development and ( d ) group, i.e. monolingual versus bilingual students , with both cognitive and linguistic factors contributing to English skills.

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Conference Paper
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The Teacher Input Observation Scheme (TIOS) (Kersten et al., 2018) operationalizes instructional constructs which have been identified within the cognitive-interactionist framework to foster SLA (Long 2015, Ellis & Shintani 2014). These include rich and varied comprehensible input, authentic and meaningful conversational contexts combined with a focus on negotiation of meaning and corrective feedback as well as the support of learners’ output and cognitively stimulating problem-solving activities, and the children's activation of prior world knowledge. TIOS subsumes these constructs under four scales, i.e. Cognitively Stimulating Tasks, Verbal Input, Non-verbal Input, and Support of Leaners’ Output. In a pilot study with N=169 German primary school students (internal consistency of TIOS: alpha = .866) the TIOS Total Score as well as Task Characteristics and Verbal Input correlated highly significantly with learners’ L2 lexical and grammar comprehension (Non-verbal Input approached significance level). A regression analysis showed that 21% of variance in lexical as well as in grammar comprehension were predicted by the teachers’ total score. Following up on these findings, this cross-sectional study focuses on the question which techniques as operationalized by TIOS most strongly predict L2 lexical and grammar comprehension of young L2 learners of English. To that end, L2 lexicon and grammar comprehension of N = 118 L2-learners of English from regular and bilingual German primary schools (f = 54, m = 64, mean age 9;11) were tested using standardized assessments for receptive vocabulary (British Picture Vocabulary Scale III; Dunn et al., 2009) and grammar (ELIAS Grammar Test II; Kersten et al., 2012). Two independent observers evaluated videotaped L2 lessons of the students’ teachers (N = 7) with the TIOS. Results showed that teachers from bilingual immersion programs used significantly more techniques than regular EFL teachers. In correlational analyses, the four TIOS scales as well as the total score correlated significantly with lexical and grammatical comprehension, as well as with program type. Regression analyses revealed that at the scale level, Task Characteristics predicted grammatical L2 comprehension (explaining 76,3% of the variance), and all scales except Verbal Input predicted lexical L2 comprehension (explaining 57,7% of the variance). On an item basis, items that include cognitive stimulation showed strong positive relationships with both L2 grammar and lexicon, while items that mainly foster comprehension on a beginner level had a strong negative relationship with L2 comprehension. Results are discussed in terms of lack of directionality in cross-sectional designs.
Chapter
Nicht erst seit der Empfehlung des Europarats, dass jede/r EU-Bürger/in zwei weitere Fremdsprachen neben der Muttersprache (M+2) erlernen möge (Europarat 2001), ist Mehrsprachigkeit ein expliziter Auftrag für den schulischen Fremdsprachenunterricht. Ebenso stehen als fachliche Ziele des Fremdsprachenunterrichts neben der Erlangung von kommunikativen Kompetenzen in der Zielsprache die Entwicklung mehrsprachiger Diskursfähigkeiten, interkultureller Kompetenzen und Sprach(lern)bewusstsein (Hallet und Königs 2010). In dieser Hinsicht hat der schulische Fremdsprachenunterricht eine Scharnierfunktion (Jakisch 2015).
Article
This study investigates the receptive L2 proficiency of early and late starters in primary EFL education in the German context. Thus, the L2 reading and listening proficiency of primary EFL learners was assessed at the end of primary schooling in year 4 in two German federal states with different ages of onset. A special focus of the study is on indicators of teaching quality as well as teacher qualification. The study did not find significant differences in the receptive L2 proficiency between early starters and late startes. When controlling for teaching quality or teacher qualification the earlier age of onset or increased amount of exposure did not explain variance in learners’ receptive EFL skills. However, supportive climate as an aspect of teaching quality correlates positively and significantly with learners’ EFL proficiency. In addition, there is a small advantage for children taught by teachers with a major in EFL.
Conference Paper
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Linguistic input is considered to be the most important prerequisite for the acquisition of a second language. Over the past decades, theories within a cognitive-interactionist framework have identified numerous aspects of L2 input and of the context in which the L2 is embedded and encountered, which provide cognitive stimulation during the acquisition process, induce widespread neural activities, and ultimately facilitate long-term retention. Among these are a high amount of rich and varied comprehensible L2 input with frequent repetitions, which are embedded in authentic topics with meaningful communicative goals, the activation of prior experiences and autonomous action-oriented problem-solving activities, multi-sensory learning, positive emotions, authentic interactions with an L2 speaker including various opportunities for the negotiation of meaning, form, and corrective feedback, raising awareness of linguistic elements within meaningful contexts (Focus on Form), and fostering learners’ L2 output (Long 2015, Ellis & Shintani 2014, Böttger 2016). Even though these principles derive from well-established foreign language teaching frameworks, analyses have shown that they are used more frequently in bilingual L2 programs than in regular EFL primary programs (Bruhn & Kersten 2018). In a study of 210 children aged 3-6, Kersten et al. (in prep.) found that L2 input quality had significant effects on the learners’ L2 lexical comprehension, and on the rate of development of their L2 grammar comprehension. Elaborating on these findings, the current study investigates the impact of L2 input quality and of cognitively stimulating activities on the L2 acquisition of 183 primary school learners in bilingual and EFL primary programs. L2 input quality is operationalized using the Teacher Input Observation Scheme (TIOS, internal consistency α=.905), which includes scales on Cognitively Stimulating Tasks, Verbal Input, Non-verbal Input, and Support of Leaners’ Output. More specifically, the study focuses on the research questions: Does the use of techniques and activities as operationalized in the TIOS differ between EFL teachers and teachers in bilingual teaching programs? Does L2 input quality as operationalized in the TIOS predict lexical and grammatical L2 comprehension of young L2 learners of English? To answer these questions, the TIOS was used to rate 18 videotaped lessons in EFL programs (9 lesson) and bilingual immersion programs (9 lessons) by two raters. L2 lexicon and grammar comprehension of N=183 students (aged 8-10) of the respective teachers (n=83 EFL students; n=100 immersion students) were tested with the help of the BPVS III and the ELIAS Grammar Test II. Statistical analyses (correlations, multiple regression, and multilevel modeling) suggest that the TIOS scores explain 21-22% of the variance of L2 lexical and grammar comprehension. Task characteristics, verbal input and the total TIOS score highly correlate with all L2 results. Teachers in bilingual programs outperform EFL teachers significantly in the use of tasks characteristics, verbal input, and non-verbal input. The multilevel analysis reveals a significant positive influence of task characteristics on L2 comprehension, and a negative influence of output supporting strategies. Results are discussed with respect to the program differences and to the effects of the cross-sectional setup of the study. Future research calls for a stronger differentiation between input effects at different levels of L2 proficiency, and for longitudinal study designs. (This paper is an updated version of the conference presentation.) Böttger, H. (2016). Neurodidaktik des frühen Sprachenlernens. Stuttgart: UTB. Bruhn, A.-C., Kersten, K. (2018). Operationalizing teacher input: Empirical evidence on the effect of input on the L2 acquisition of young learners. Paper presented at EUROSLA 2018. Ellis, R., Shintani, N. (2014). Exploring Language Pedagogy through Second Language Acquisition Research. London: Routledge. Long, M. (2015). Second Language Acquisition and Task-Based Language Teaching. Malden: Wiley-Blackwell. Kersten, K., Steinlen, A.K., Schüle, C. (in prep.) Social variables, preschool program, and L1-input quality affect foreign language acquisition: Evidence from bilingual preschools.
Article
Aims and Objectives/Purpose/Research Questions This paper investigates the extent to which current formal models of third language (L3) grammatical acquisition extend to sequential child L3 acquisition. We examine whether heritage speakers learning a foreign language as an early L3 transfer grammatical properties from the heritage language or the dominant second language (L2). Design/Methodology/Approach We used a sentence repetition task and a picture story retelling task. The tasks focussed on grammatical phenomena that were either different between English and German, that is, verb-second and adverb order, or between English and German, on the one hand, and Turkish, on the other, that is, verb-complement order as well as subject and article realization. Data and Analysis We tested matched groups of 31 Turkish-German and 31 monolingual German children learning English in grades 3 and 4, and we compared sentence repetitions as well as oral sentence production across different grammatical phenomena using parametric statistics. Findings/Conclusions In both tasks, the two groups perform indistinguishably from each other, and both groups show selective transfer of grammatical properties from German. These findings suggest L2 transfer from a typologically related language in sequential child L3 acquisition. Originality This paper breaks new ground by testing the applicability of formal models of adult L3 acquisition of grammar to sequential child L3 learners. It uses aural comprehension and oral production tasks with carefully matched groups of L2 and L3 learners of English to isolate the source of grammatical transfer in L3 acquisition. Significance/Implications The research advances our understanding of cross-linguistic influence and unravels the dynamics of grammatical transfer in early child multilingualism. It adjudicates between current models of transfer in L3 acquisition in a multiple-methods design, it shows that these models apply to early L3 acquisition of heritage speakers, and it highlights that these models need to be expanded to include factors such as dominance and proficiency in prior languages.
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