Learners need to focus on form

General discussion about learning languages
Kraut
Brown Belt
Posts: 1185
Joined: Mon Aug 07, 2017 10:37 pm
Languages: German (N)
French (C)
English (C)
Spanish (A2)
Lithuanian
x 1500

Learners need to focus on form

Postby Kraut » Sat Feb 01, 2020 1:33 pm

https://www.pedocs.de/volltexte/2017/12 ... daktik.pdf

page 100

A limitation mentioned in the literature is however that meaning-focused language teaching does not guarantee high levels of linguistic accuracy (Lightbown & Spada, 2013), a problem that we turn to in the next section.


Learners need to focus on form


In the SLA fi eld, there is now a widespread acceptance that language learners need to attend to formal aspects of the target language in order to reach higher levels of lin-guistic performance (Ellis & Shintani, 2014). As already mentioned, results from the immersion context have revealed that despite massive input in the target language and possible opportunities for meaningful interaction, these L2 learners oft en failed to reach high levels of grammatical accuracy. SLA research has shown that learn-ers benefi t from explicit language teaching of formal aspects of the language (Ellis & Laporte, 1997; Keck & Kim, 2014). Most importantly, they need help to notice struc-tures in the target language that are infrequent, complex and/or opaque in the input. However, it is important that the teaching of formal aspects of the language is inte-grated within lessons with an overriding focus on communication (Long, 1991). In the SLA literature, this approach is oft en referred to as “focus on form” and it should not be confounded with the more traditional grammar teaching, referred to as “fo-cus on forms”. In the latter, the whole curriculum builds on explicit explanation and training of grammatical features in the target language (see “grammatical syllabus”, Ellis & Shintani, 2014, p. 54) and it is assumed that language learning is an accumu-lative process where linguistic elements are added to the learner’s repertoire one by one. Th e traditional “focus on forms” approach is not supported by SLA research.Nevertheless, a more integrated focus on form can push learners towards the next developmental stage and increase their control over structures that are not (yet) ful-ly automated. Furthermore, it has been observed that focus on form will speed up the language development of classroom learners as compared to learners in informal contexts. However, as emphasized in previous sections, it is important that the focus on form perspective does not turn into the only focus of the language classroom, as it tended to do (and still does) in certain teaching approaches. SLA research clear-ly indicates that explicit grammar teaching in isolation does not stimulate productive language use in L2 learners. Focus on form is a valuable ingredient in the language learning process when it is combined with output practice and meaningful interac-tion (ibidem).
8 x

User avatar
mentecuerpo
Blue Belt
Posts: 534
Joined: Sun Jun 23, 2019 6:15 am
Location: El Salvador, Centroamerica, but lives in Phoenix, Arizona.
Languages: Spanish (N) English (B2) Italian (A2) German (A1)
Language Log: https://forum.language-learners.org/vie ... 18#p155218
x 701

Re: Learners need to focus on form

Postby mentecuerpo » Sat Feb 01, 2020 4:20 pm

Kraut wrote:https://www.pedocs.de/volltexte/2017/12942/pdf/Romanistische_Fachdidaktik.pdf

page 100

A limitation mentioned in the literature is however that meaning-focused language teaching does not guarantee high levels of linguistic accuracy (Lightbown & Spada, 2013), a problem that we turn to in the next section.


Learners need to focus on form


In the SLA fi eld, there is now a widespread acceptance that language learners need to attend to formal aspects of the target language in order to reach higher levels of lin-guistic performance (Ellis & Shintani, 2014). As already mentioned, results from the immersion context have revealed that despite massive input in the target language and possible opportunities for meaningful interaction, these L2 learners oft en failed to reach high levels of grammatical accuracy. SLA research has shown that learn-ers benefi t from explicit language teaching of formal aspects of the language (Ellis & Laporte, 1997; Keck & Kim, 2014). Most importantly, they need help to notice struc-tures in the target language that are infrequent, complex and/or opaque in the input. However, it is important that the teaching of formal aspects of the language is inte-grated within lessons with an overriding focus on communication (Long, 1991). In the SLA literature, this approach is often referred to as “focus on form” and it should not be confounded with the more traditional grammar teaching, referred to as “focus on forms”. In the latter, the whole curriculum builds on explicit explanation and training of grammatical features in the target language (see “grammatical syllabus”, Ellis & Shintani, 2014, p. 54) and it is assumed that language learning is an accumu-lative process where linguistic elements are added to the learner’s repertoire one by one. Th e traditional “focus on forms” approach is not supported by SLA research.Nevertheless, a more integrated focus on form can push learners towards the next developmental stage and increase their control over structures that are not (yet) ful-ly automated. Furthermore, it has been observed that focus on form will speed up the language development of classroom learners as compared to learners in informal contexts. However, as emphasized in previous sections, it is important that the focus on form perspective does not turn into the only focus of the language classroom, as it tended to do (and still does) in certain teaching approaches. SLA research clear-ly indicates that explicit grammar teaching in isolation does not stimulate productive language use in L2 learners. Focus on form is a valuable ingredient in the language learning process when it is combined with output practice and meaningful interac-tion (ibidem).


It took me some time to figure it out, the S at the end of the second one, changes the meaning.

See the Wikipedia:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Focus_on_form
0 x

User avatar
mentecuerpo
Blue Belt
Posts: 534
Joined: Sun Jun 23, 2019 6:15 am
Location: El Salvador, Centroamerica, but lives in Phoenix, Arizona.
Languages: Spanish (N) English (B2) Italian (A2) German (A1)
Language Log: https://forum.language-learners.org/vie ... 18#p155218
x 701

Re: Learners need to focus on form

Postby mentecuerpo » Sat Feb 01, 2020 4:55 pm

I have a deep respect for professional language teachers (PLT), who truly help the student learn a new language.

It is my opinion, and it is not based on science and research.

The reflection comes when I think who the target audience for the above paper will be, I guess, PLT, and us, who are interested in language learning skills.

Self-studies are incredibly important, and many language students can achieve high levels alone by self-studies. But a professional teacher will guide the student and facilitate learning based on his understanding of Second Language Acquisition. Including knowledge on SLA research, especially if the PLT has learned another language and has acquired learning language skills by being a student himself and then enhanced by his SLA studies and research, and the teaching experience.
I would imagine that many of these PLT are bilingual.

My point is that the quality of the teacher's education (professional vs. empirical, or not so professional) can make all the differences in the world. I believe that a motivated language student who does tons of self-studies will find value in the guide provided by his PLT.

Papers and literature, like the one discussed in this blog, are the material that PLT read, consume, produce, and research. They are up to date with the SLA research, and I am sure they apply their knowledge to SLA to teach their students.

I am an empirical teacher in a different field. I teach students during their clinical rotations.
0 x

pilot_2270
White Belt
Posts: 26
Joined: Fri Mar 22, 2019 3:33 pm
Languages: English (N), Korean (low-intermediate)
x 51

Re: Learners need to focus on form

Postby pilot_2270 » Sat Feb 01, 2020 10:27 pm

I'll be honest and say that I like looking through the research a lot, but I don't think I get much more out of it anymore. I feel like I keep on reading and re-reading the research to see what practical advice I can get out of it, but I don't get much more out of it than when I started. And then I get the sinking feeling that I should really be doing actual work instead of this academic posturing. I especially get confused on the literature concerning "focus on form" and "focus on forms." The only thing I get out of it is that sometimes focus on grammar can be helpful and that we should not eschew focus on grammatical forms in place of input, but rather place them alongside each other at points in the curriculum.
4 x

Cainntear
Black Belt - 1st Dan
Posts: 1912
Joined: Thu Jul 30, 2015 11:04 am
Location: Scotland
Languages: English(N)
Advanced: French,Spanish, Scottish Gaelic
Intermediate: Italian, Catalan, Corsican
Basic: Welsh
Dabbling: Polish, Russian etc
x 4890
Contact:

Re: Learners need to focus on form

Postby Cainntear » Sat Feb 01, 2020 11:11 pm

This is where the whole natural/direct/exposure method falls apart. Krashen was pretty clear:
“WE ACQUIRE LANGUAGE WHEN WE UNDERSTAND MESSAGES, WHEN WE UNDERSTAND WHAT PEOPLE TELL US AND WHEN WE UNDERSTAND WHAT WE READ.”

That's 100% focus on meaning. He believed that if you understand, your brain will acquire the form effortlessly.

Bringing something across from the discussion on the thread about Pablo at DreamingSpanish:
Cenwalh wrote:Moreover, Pablo agrees that interaction is a good thing, so he's a big proponent of cross talk, and believes that it's more effective than watching his videos.

Crosstalk is pretty much 100% meaning-focused. No conscious attention will be directed to the forms, and if there is confusion between the two speakers, it will likely be cleared up by in long, roundabout explanations. The language weakness that caused the misunderstanding will never be addressed.

Focus-on-form is of course possible in a target-language only classroom, but that's a classroom, not a bunch of videos and conversations with untrained speakers.
5 x

Cainntear
Black Belt - 1st Dan
Posts: 1912
Joined: Thu Jul 30, 2015 11:04 am
Location: Scotland
Languages: English(N)
Advanced: French,Spanish, Scottish Gaelic
Intermediate: Italian, Catalan, Corsican
Basic: Welsh
Dabbling: Polish, Russian etc
x 4890
Contact:

Re: Learners need to focus on form

Postby Cainntear » Sat Feb 01, 2020 11:27 pm

pilot_2270 wrote:I'll be honest and say that I like looking through the research a lot, but I don't think I get much more out of it anymore. I feel like I keep on reading and re-reading the research to see what practical advice I can get out of it, but I don't get much more out of it than when I started. And then I get the sinking feeling that I should really be doing actual work instead of this academic posturing. I especially get confused on the literature concerning "focus on form" and "focus on forms."

I agree the terminology is confusing, and it's quite astounding that people who're supposed to be experts in language and communication could make words so unclear.

The only thing I get out of it is that sometimes focus on grammar can be helpful and that we should not eschew focus on grammatical forms in place of input, but rather place them alongside each other at points in the curriculum.

It isn't necessarily "alongside", though.

The term focus-on-form arose as a challenge to a large part of mainstream teaching of the time, which focused almost exclusively on meaning (Krashenite theories were in fashion). It was becoming more and more obvious that people just weren't noticing things, because 100% comprehension of message doesn't require 100% processing of the language -- for example, there are very few circumstances where an English sentence is ambiguous if you don't understand the difference between "a" and "the". Even if the rest of the sentence doesn't disambiguate, context almost always will.

So they started talking about "focus on form", and the response was essentially "we've already tried that", pointing to old grammar-heavy instructional courses, which wasn't what they meant.

Focus on form is a terrible name, because it's not just about form, it's about <i>form-meaning mappings</i>. They made the mistake of naming it after one ingredient. The point of focus-on-form is that it's not enough to just understand, you've got to pay attention to the form <i>too</i>, and it's not just enough to look at the form on its own -- if it doesn't mean anything, it isn't language.

This is a large part of the reason I've always liked Michel Thomas so much: the prompts he uses are rich in meaning, and give deep control of the form. Very few of his prompts left me feeling like I was just mechanically grinding things (which I have to admit I sometimes feel the exercises I write for my students sometimes do) -- I was always trying to express a meaningful thought.
12 x

User avatar
aokoye
Black Belt - 1st Dan
Posts: 1781
Joined: Sat Jul 18, 2015 6:14 pm
Location: Portland, OR
Languages: English (N), German (~C1), French (Intermediate), Swedish (beginner), Dutch (A2)
Language Log: https://forum.language-learners.org/vie ... 15&t=15953
x 3130
Contact:

Re: Learners need to focus on form

Postby aokoye » Sun Feb 02, 2020 4:33 am

[quote=mentecuerpo]The reflection comes when I think who the target audience for the above paper will be, I guess, PLT, and us, who are interested in language learning skills.[/quote]

Cainntear wrote:
pilot_2270 wrote:I'll be honest and say that I like looking through the research a lot, but I don't think I get much more out of it anymore. I feel like I keep on reading and re-reading the research to see what practical advice I can get out of it, but I don't get much more out of it than when I started. And then I get the sinking feeling that I should really be doing actual work instead of this academic posturing. I especially get confused on the literature concerning "focus on form" and "focus on forms."

I agree the terminology is confusing, and it's quite astounding that people who're supposed to be experts in language and communication could make words so unclear..

The primary audience of this article, and most articles like is people who are active in academia (in or outside of the ivory tower). More specificly SLTs and linguists who research SLA (these are two different groups though one can belong to both groups) as well as other linguists. The vast majority of people on this forum are not the target audience just as I am not the target audience for an article published in the Annals of Internal Medicine (though again, there are a few people on here who do fit into that audience). It's silly to expect that someone who is not practiced in reading articles aimed linguists would be able to read this as easily as they're able to read an article published in the NYTimes about multilingualism in the City School District of the City of New York.

While we all speak at least one language and while many people on this forum speak multiple languages, that doesn't mean that most people are well versed in linguistics (where "linguistics" does not mean studying/speaking foreign languages - so not using the US military's definition of a linguist). We all experience emotions, but that does not mean that we're all psychologists. Linguistics is a field of study in the same way that sociology, philosophy, math, etc are fields of study.

I skimmed this article and, outside of my surprise that the two papers that were cited with Ellis as the first author were by two different people (I only remembered Nick Ellis but I'm almost positive I've read things by Rod Ellis as well), nothing was especially difficult. This isn't because I have superhuman feats of reading, it's because I am in the target audience, I read these types of articles on a regular basis, and this is far from the first time I've come across various concepts that were talked about (ie interlanguage). This is something I would expect an undergraduate in an SLA class would be able to digest. I suspect a language teacher who doesn't read a lot of linguistics articles on a regular basis would have a fair amount of difficulty with this article, but that's becuase they're out of practice and/or may not have read a lot of linguistics articles in general. This isn't to say that dense articles don't exist, but that this an article that I or likely most of the author's intended audience would think is dense. For what it's worth, articles about computational linguistics are often pretty difficult for me. I can get through them, but it's not my subfield at all.

And yes, I'm sure I'll get some flack for this post, but such is life I suppose.
3 x
Prefered gender pronouns: Masculine

User avatar
ryanheise
Green Belt
Posts: 314
Joined: Tue Jun 04, 2019 3:13 pm
Location: Australia
Languages: English (N), Japanese (beginner)
x 1032
Contact:

Re: Learners need to focus on form

Postby ryanheise » Sun Feb 02, 2020 4:53 am

Cainntear wrote:This is where the whole natural/direct/exposure method falls apart. Krashen was pretty clear:
“WE ACQUIRE LANGUAGE WHEN WE UNDERSTAND MESSAGES, WHEN WE UNDERSTAND WHAT PEOPLE TELL US AND WHEN WE UNDERSTAND WHAT WE READ.”

That's 100% focus on meaning. He believed that if you understand, your brain will acquire the form effortlessly.

...

Crosstalk is pretty much 100% meaning-focused.

...

Focus-on-form is of course possible in a target-language only classroom, but that's a classroom, not a bunch of videos and conversations with untrained speakers.


You do draw a clear contrast between focus on meaning vs focus on form, and it makes sense, but I also can't outright disagree with the underlying philosophies of either of them and I'm in favour of seeing research continue in multiple competing directions (see my related comments below).

pilot_2270 wrote:I'll be honest and say that I like looking through the research a lot, but I don't think I get much more out of it anymore. I feel like I keep on reading and re-reading the research to see what practical advice I can get out of it, but I don't get much more out of it than when I started. And then I get the sinking feeling that I should really be doing actual work instead of this academic posturing.


I completely agree with this sentiment. There is typically a chain of experts that research output goes through before it is converted into a form that end consumers receive. Interestingly, seriously motivated self learners might be more inclined to bypass that chain and go straight to the source, but then find that the research is not all that practical for them specifically. Part of this may be that the research is mainly focused on improving traditional education, improving teaching methods and educational material, whereas the kind of person who might want to bypass the chain in the first place is probably a self learner who doesn't want that kind of education. If the research were more focused on the latter, it would aim to provide advice and techniques more on how a learner could "self"-improve their ability to notice things (like form) and improve their psychology and attitude, rather than on how the educator could create second order effects for the learner.

As someone who's gone through a higher research degree in a different field, I have huge respect for researchers who scientifically and rigorously arrive at new knowledge, but I also do not discount the "practical" advice of regular people without scientific training who've become successful at a skill and share their introspective views, especially in areas where the science is not as hard cut as you might like it to be. Here, I'm talking about successful language learners like Steve Kaufmann, Mike Campbell, and many others who have valuable introspective views to share that might be more practical for a self learner than the SLA literature would be, at least in its raw form. What I like about taking advice from people like this is that there is a much wider variety of approaches taken by successful language learners online, and so you can evaluate which approaches align most with your goals. For example, Khatz (AJATT), who's been rated by Japanese natives as having a near native accent, advocates for massive immersion and avoiding speaking until you've hit a certain immersion milestone and Anki sentence deck milestone (and some even more extreme things). However, reaching this milestone may take a year or more, depending on how much time you can put into it. Should you listen to him? That extreme approach might not align with some people's goals, but it might align with others. If you're a self learner with specific goals, you're bound to find multiple successful language learners online who share your goals and can share with you their specific tips in relation to those goals.

Also, from an outsider who reads the SLA literature as a hobby, the debate between the various SLA theories strikes me largely as a debate where all of the current, popular competing theories are right to an extent but none of them individually cover the whole truth. So to the extent that a motivated self-learner is looking for "practical" advice to try, they should in my opinion feel free to ignore the "debate" where even experts have strongly opposed and balanced views, be open to the truth being somewhere in the middle, mix and match different techniques that resonate with you, the individual, and as you say, get on with doing actual work which I'm sure is a more important factor to success than any other.

This reminds me of the comical religious debate in the computer programming world over which is the best text editor for writing code. Emacs or vi?

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Editor_war

These two text editors have completely different philosophies and the arguments for each seem to make sense within their respective bubbles and to the extent that there is internal consistency, it is self-reinforcing. What ended up happening over time is that 4 decades later, both editor philosophies still exist, and both have evolved, independently and with crossover influence, even new editors have come out that take a new spin on an old philosophy. The question of which philosophy is best may never be settled, but one thing is clear: there is benefit to having different people simultaneously working in completely different directions. This is how new ideas are discovered and how crossover influence becomes possible.
4 x

User avatar
mentecuerpo
Blue Belt
Posts: 534
Joined: Sun Jun 23, 2019 6:15 am
Location: El Salvador, Centroamerica, but lives in Phoenix, Arizona.
Languages: Spanish (N) English (B2) Italian (A2) German (A1)
Language Log: https://forum.language-learners.org/vie ... 18#p155218
x 701

Re: Learners need to focus on form

Postby mentecuerpo » Sun Feb 02, 2020 5:46 am

aokoye wrote:The primary audience of this article, and most articles like is people who are active in academia (in or outside of the ivory tower). More specificly SLTs and linguists who research SLA (these are two different groups though one can belong to both groups) as well as other linguists. The vast majority of people on this forum are not the target audience just as I am not the target audience for an article published in the Annals of Internal Medicine (though again, there are a few people on here who do fit into that audience). It's silly to expect that someone who is not practiced in reading articles aimed linguists would be able to read this as easily as they're able to read an article published in the NYTimes about multilingualism in the City School District of the City of New York.



I agree with you, and I had a feeling that this is written for linguists who specialize in SLA and, of course, professional language teachers.

I don't have the vocabulary to scan academic articles on the subject.

I like to read them from time to time because of my interest in language learning, but at times, it feels like the articles are in a different language.

So I need to spend time decoding the jargon, which I enjoy doing.

This forum helps, I have learned a lot since I became a member six months ago.
0 x

User avatar
aokoye
Black Belt - 1st Dan
Posts: 1781
Joined: Sat Jul 18, 2015 6:14 pm
Location: Portland, OR
Languages: English (N), German (~C1), French (Intermediate), Swedish (beginner), Dutch (A2)
Language Log: https://forum.language-learners.org/vie ... 15&t=15953
x 3130
Contact:

Re: Learners need to focus on form

Postby aokoye » Sun Feb 02, 2020 6:40 am

mentecuerpo wrote:
aokoye wrote:The primary audience of this article, and most articles like is people who are active in academia (in or outside of the ivory tower). More specificly SLTs and linguists who research SLA (these are two different groups though one can belong to both groups) as well as other linguists. The vast majority of people on this forum are not the target audience just as I am not the target audience for an article published in the Annals of Internal Medicine (though again, there are a few people on here who do fit into that audience). It's silly to expect that someone who is not practiced in reading articles aimed linguists would be able to read this as easily as they're able to read an article published in the NYTimes about multilingualism in the City School District of the City of New York.



I agree with you, and I had a feeling that this is written for linguists who specialize in SLA and, of course, professional language teachers.

I don't have the vocabulary to scan academic articles on the subject.

I like to read them from time to time because of my interest in language learning, but at times, it feels like the articles are in a different language.

So I need to spend time decoding the jargon, which I enjoy doing.

This forum helps, I have learned a lot since I became a member six months ago.

I definitely think that being able to easily digest an article like this is something that can be done as an autodidact. That said, it would likely involve already having done a lot of reading/listening to podcasts about linguistics/watching lectures posted online. And yes you're definitely right, you need the discipline specific vocabulary.
1 x
Prefered gender pronouns: Masculine


Return to “General Language Discussion”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: 7UR7L3 and 2 guests