Fostering fluency in second language learning
- 1 Fostering fluency in second language learning: Testing two types of instruction
- 2 Abstract
- 3 Glossary
- 4 Research questions
- 5 Background and significance
- 6 Dependent variables
- 7 Independent variables
- 8 Hypotheses
- 9 Findings
- 10 Explanation
- 11 Annotated bibliography
- 12 Descendents
- 13 Further information
Fostering fluency in second language learning: Testing two types of instruction
Researchers: Nel de Jong and Charles Perfetti
Many studies have investigated the effect of exposure to language on fluency. It has been established, for instance, that fluency increases after a period of immersion or study abroad (Freed et al., 2004; Segalowitz & Freed, 2004). Nevertheless, only very few types of instruction have been designed to increase oral fluency, and even fewer have been tested. One such type of instruction is Nation’s 4/3/2 procedure, in which learners prepare a four-minute talk and repeat it twice to different partners, first in three minutes, then in two minutes (Nation, 1989). He found that the number of hesitations decreased in the retellings, and that sentences were more complex. It was not investigated, however, whether this transferred to new speeches, which is what we will do in this project. Another task that may increase fluency is shadowing, in which student talk (and read) along with a recording of a short speech by a native speaker. Shadowing should increase the feature strength of formulaic expressions, resulting in faster access to them in subsequent production tasks. Native-like locations of pauses may also be acquired.
In study 1 we will investigate what characteristics of fluency are affected by the 4/3/2 procedure. Measures include the number of syllables per second (speech rate); mean length of fluent runs between pauses; phonation/time ratio; number of interphrasal and intraphrasal pauses; morphosyntactic accuracy; and number of embedded clauses (syntactic complexity). The posttest will test transfer to a different topic. In study 2 we will investigate whether a pretraining of formulaic expressions further enhances fluency (e.g., the point is that, what I’m saying is that, and and so on). If students can use these expressions fast and effortlessly, this frees up headroom which can then be used to construct sentences. The effect will be that there will be fewer and shorter pauses, and/or that sentences will be more complex. In study 3, it will be investigated whether shadowing leads to increased use of formulaic expressions and native-like pauses in subsequent production tasks.
- 4/3/2 procedure
- formulaic expression
- speech rate
- phonation/time ratio
- interphrasal vs. intraphrasal pauses
- morphosyntactic accuracy
- syntactic complexity
- embedded clause
- proficiency level
- Study 1: What characteristics of fluency are affected by repetition of a short speech under increasing time pressure (the 4/3/2 procedure)?
- Study 2: 1. Does pretraining of formulaic expressions lead to an increase in their use in the subsequent 4/3/2 procedure and posttest? If so, does this lead to higher overall fluency?
- Study 2: 2. Does proficiency level affect fluency development during the 4/3/2 procedure?
- Study 3: What characteristics of fluency are affected by shadowing a text with formulaic expressions and a pausing pattern characteristic of spontaneous speech?
Background and significance
Many studies in the field of second language acquisition that have studied fluency have investigated the effect of study abroad, immersion and regular classroom practice on fluency (Freed, Segalowitz, and Dewey, 2004; Segalowitz & Freed, 2004). Very few studies, however, have investigated specific activities that lead to fluency, which can be done in classrooms. Two such activities are tested in this project.
The first activity that is tested is the 4/3/2 procedure as proposed by Nation (1989). He investigated the development of fluency during this task, but used a limited number of measures and did not test the long-term effect: he only analysed fluency during the task itself, not during the following weeks. This project will test the long-term effect and will include more measures, such as length and location of pauses. An attempt will be made to link these measures to cognitive mechanism.
Whereas study 1 focuses on a general effect of the 4/3/2 procedure on fluency development, studies 2 and 3 focus on specific aspects of the training. Study 2 investigates how a pretraining of a set of formulaic expressions affects performance during and after the 4/3/2 procedure. Study 3 investigates whether the presence of the same set of formulaic expressions leads to increased use of those expressions in later speaking tasks, and whether such an increase affects fluency measures.
- Speech rate: number of syllables per minute
- Pauses: mean length of fluent runs between pauses; mean length of pauses; phonation/time ratio; number of interphrasal and intraphrasal pauses
- Lexical phrases: number of appropriate formulaic sequences repeated from training
- Accuracy: morphosyntactic accuracy (subject-verb agreement, tense errors, definite/indefinite articles; see Mizera, 2006: 71)
- Complexity: number of embedded finite and non-finite clauses (cf. Nation, 1989)
- Near transfer, immediate: four to seven days after completing the last training session, students performed a similar task (spontaneous speech about a given topic), to test whether any gains in fluency during the training task were maintained in a new instance of the same task.
- Studies 1-3: pretest vs. immediate posttest vs. long-term retention posttest
- Study 1: repetition vs. absence of repetition
In the repetition condition students talk about one topic three times. In the control condition, students talk about three different topics.
- Study 2: 1. pretraining vs. no pretraining of formulaic expressions
In the Formulaic Expressions condition, students receive a short training of a number of formulaic expressions before they start the fluency training (4/3/2 task). In the control conditions, students do not receive this pretraining, and only do the 4/3/2 task.
- Study 2: 2. low intermediate vs. high intermediate proficiency level
Low intermediate students are enrolled in ELI Speaking courses at level 3, high intermediate at level 4.
- Study 3: shadowing text with formulaic expressions vs. without formulaic expressions
In the Formulaic Expressions condition, students shadow texts that contain formulaic expressions. In the control condition, students shadow the same texts, from which the formulaic expressions that are being studied have been removed.
- Study 1: It is hypothesized that repetition of a short speech (independent variable) under increasing time pressure increases speech rate and sentence complexity (dependent variables), and decreases the number and length of pauses (dependent variables). The reason is that repetition will lead to faster access to vocabulary and sentence structures (leading to increase speech rate, short and fewer pauses), leaving more headroom for other processes (higher accuracy and syntactic complexity).
- Study 2: It is hypothesized that the presence of a pretraining of formulaic expressions (independent variable) leads to an increase in their use in subsequent spontaneous speech (dependent variable). Effortless use of these expressions will free up headroom for sentence structure planning, which may lead to overall more fluent performance, in terms of speed and pausing patterns (dependent variables). Thus, the training of formulaic expressions may accelerate future learning.
- Study 2: Students at different proficiency levels may benefit in different ways from the 4/3/2 training. At lower proficiency levels, repetition may facilitate the use of particular words and grammar, leading to more instances of correct usage of vocabulary, morphosyntax and syntax. At higher proficiency levels, on the other hand, repetition may lead to a greater number of reformulations resulting in higher complexity.
- Study 3: It is hypothesized that shadowing a speech that contains formulaic expressions (independent variable) leads to an increase in their use in subsequent spontaneous speech (dependent variable). Since effortless use of these expressions will free up headroom for sentence structure planning, performance may become more fluent overall, in terms of speed and pausing patterns (dependent variables). Thus, shadowing may accelerate future learning. In addition, shadowing a text with target-language pausing patterns is expected to lead to a more native-like pausing pattern in subsequent spontaneous speech, mainly in terms of position (dependent variables: interphrasal and intraphrasal pauses).
- Near transfer, immediate: In all studies, a posttest is administered about a week after the last training session. This will be a similar task—a 2-minute monologue—with new content—a new topic.
- Near transfer, retention: In studies 1 and 2, another posttest is administered two to three weeks after the immediate posttest (three to four weeks after the last training session). Again, this will be a similar task—a 2-minute monologue—with new content—a new topic.
- Acceleration of future learning: In study 2, the students in the experimental condition first receive a pretraining of a number of formulaic expressions. It will be tested whether their fluency, accuracy and syntactic complexity increases more during subsequent training, than of students who do not receive this pre-training.
Data collection for study 1 was completed in October, 2006. Data collection for study 2 and 3 starts in January and March, 2007.
This project is part of the Refinement and Fluency cluster. The studies in this cluster concern the design and organization of instructional activities to facilitate the acquisition, refinement, and fluent control of critical knowledge components. The general hypothesis is that the structure of instructional activities affects learning. This project addresses the core issues of task analysis, fluency from basics, in vivo evaluation, and scheduling of practice. The 4/3/2 task has been analysed into its components. In study 1, the effect of the component of repetition is investigated. Practice with basics skills of well-known vocabulary and grammar is expected to increase fluency. This effect especially the case in the Repetition condition, where students have the opportunity to re-use the words, expressions and grammar in subsequent recordings. In study 2, students are encouraged to use formulaic expressions that have been taught before training. In study 3 it is investigated whether shadowing promotes the use of formulaic expressions in spontaneous speech. All three studies take place in an in vivo setting.
- Developing oral fluency with the 4/3/2 task. Presentation at The Multimedia Showcase, University of Pittsburgh, September 27, 2006.