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Roles of Output in Foreign Language Learning
Mohammad Nurul Islam, Ph.D.
In a foreign language context, grammar is always construed as an indispensable element to learn. It is the question of how to learn it that becomes a key issue to examine. Concern is placed on how grammar instructions can nurture and develop students' grammar interlanguage system. A wave of research ranging from intensive treatment toward specific linguistic features to focus on form in interactions is put forth.
Apart from the insightful research on grammar, some teachers still have a propensity to rely on language input through the adoption of meaning-oriented tasks. A common view held by teachers is that an abundant exposure to language use would warrant the development of students' grammar.
The communicativeness of the tasks is believed to enable the grammar learning to take care of itself. While the view, to a large degree, is justified, it might not be sufficient for the whole processing of the intricate development of L2 grammar learning to occur. Accordingly, Swain (1994) sheds light on roles of output as potential learning mechanisms to facilitate the process.
This study is an attempt to find some evidence of roles of output in L2 grammar learning. In particular, this study probes the degree to which the underlying process of output in a collaborative interactional grammar task can lead to grammar learning and might yield a different impact upon different levels of students. It is confirmed that output is vital in facilitating learners' noticing and acquisition of the targeted grammatical forms.
Keywords: Output, Noticing, grammatical forms, Acquisition.
Roles of Output in Language Learning
'What' and 'how' teaching can nurture and develop grammar learning are two substantial questions that teachers need to answer. In terms of 'what,' 'comprehensible input' that Krashen claims as "the only causative variable" in second language acquisition has been one of the major constructs in language learning. Krashen (1994) argues that if acquisition occurs in a predictable order and learners understand the input, it is hypothesized that she can acquire slightly in advance of her/his current level interlanguage system.
Universally, it can be said that input is an inseparable element in SLA. However, despite the fact that comprehensible input and interaction offer linguistic and discoursal aspects necessary for learning, their roles are likely to be primarily attributed to learners' comprehension. On the other hand, the development of language form seems to be untouched.
To complement this learning process, Swain (1994) proposes output theory. At a general level, producing language in the sense of practicing can develop fluency and foster accuracy. In contrast to comprehension that, to a large extent, relies on the ability of decoding the language to understand the meaning, producing language necessitates the breaking of the code to discover the linguistic systems in expressing meaning. The link between form and meaning implies that to some degree, output pushes learners to engage in deeper mental processing than comprehension. It is this dimension that provides 'complementary roles' of output.
Emphasizing that output could be part of the learning mechanism itself, Swain in particular proposes three primary functions of output. They are (1) the 'noticing'/ 'triggering' function, or what might be referred to as its consciousness-raising role; (2) the hypothesis-testing function; and (3) the metalinguistic function, or what might be referred to as its 'reflective role.'
This is only the beginning part of the article. PLEASE CLICK HERE TO READ THE ARTICLE IN PRINTER-FRIENDLY VERSION.
Mohammad Nurul Islam,Ph.D.
Department of English
Faculty of Languages & Translation
King Khalid University
Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
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