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.