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Title:The impact of formal instruction on second language grammatical accuracy
Author(s):Liou, Hsien-Chin
Department / Program:Education
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):Education, Language and Literature
Education, Curriculum and Instruction
Abstract:It is commonly observed that many individuals continue to make grammatical errors in speaking a second/foreign language in spite of long years of study of the language and/or many years of residence in a country where the language is spoken. Although it was once commonly accepted that formal instruction (i.e., instruction emphasizing the grammatical forms of the language) could improve grammatical accuracy, there is now considerable debate about this issue. The purpose of the study was to investigate the extent to which and how such formal instruction could improve second language grammatical accuracy.
Two Chinese-speaking adult students who were adult learners of English participated in this study. They took three pre-instruction tests which included several oral tasks and a written grammaticality judgment test. Then 16 hours of formal instruction were given. During the instruction, subjects were interviewed weekly to show how they progressed. After the instruction, two post-instruction tests were administered with a lapse of six weeks in between.
All language data were analyzed with respect to the use of six linguistic structures: articles, subject-verb agreement, present/past tense verb markers, two-word verbs, WH questions, and topic-prominent features. Both subjects improved in their grammaticality judgment tests. However, only three features--generic articles, third person singular -s, and general subject-verb agreement--showed notable improvement in the oral tasks. The subjects appeared to monitor their English more as a result of grammatical consciousness-raising activities in the instruction. Evidence of restructuring of their second language knowledge was also found as indicated by reduced use and less accurate use of certain linguistic structures.
Based on findings in the study, it is argued that neither the interface nor the non-interface position is generally true concerning the impact of formal instruction on grammatical accuracy in spontaneous speech for all types of linguistic structures and learners. While the non-interface position is best supported by the results of this study, 'learning' can become 'acquisition' given the right type of instruction and enough practice for certain linguistic structures. More research is clearly needed both to replicate these findings of the limits of formal instruction and to attempt to determine which factors play a role in turning 'learning' into 'acquisition.' The impact of formal instruction on the written tests together with its limited impact on spontaneous speech as found in this study suggests that both formal instruction and communicative language teaching should be included in educational programs designed to teach both oral and written second/foreign language skills.
Issue Date:1989
Rights Information:Copyright 1989 Liou, Hsien-Chin
Date Available in IDEALS:2011-05-07
Identifier in Online Catalog:AAI9010938
OCLC Identifier:(UMI)AAI9010938

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