Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Is Teaching L2 Phraseology Worth our Time?

The Problem
Most teachers have been faced with that awkward moment when they have had to tell a student that their grammatically correct utterance is “just not right”.  What can a teacher do to assist students to acquire the phraseological knowledge they need to avoid breakdowns in communication and sound more natural or nativelike in their L2? 

The Study 
In 1993, Michael Lewis suggested that increasing student awareness of phrases would also increase their ability to use L2 phrases.  Putting this theory to the test, Boers, Eyckmans, Kappel, Stengers, and Demecheleer (2006) looked at two groups of similarly proficient students; one group engaged in awareness raising activities and the other did not.  Both groups were later interviewed after given a reading assignment.  The students who had received the extra input more often used the phrases they encountered in the pre-reading during the interview. Also, this group was more frequently perceived as being at a higher proficiency level than the control group.  Another component of the interview required the students to speak freely on an everyday topic. Results of this part of the interview showed no significant difference between the two groups’ use of phrases, suggesting that students had learned to identify and use phrases from their reading, but did not extend this use beyond specific topics. 

The Take-Home Message 
The bottom line here is that students may benefit from spending time engaging in activities that raise phraseological awareness. By doing so, learners might notice and begin to use these forms, which can increase both their fluency and their oral proficiency as perceived by others.

Article Citation
Boers, F., Eyckmans, J., Kappel J., Stengers, H., and Demecheleer, M. (2006). Formulaic sequences and perceived oral proficiency: Putting a Lexical Approach to the test. Language Teaching Research, 10, 245–261.

Entry by Anna M. Gates

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