The role of output and feedback in second language acquisition: a classroom-based study of grammar acquisition by adult English language learners

  • Ewa Donesch-Jezo


Second language acquisition (SLA) has been a concern of many teachers and researchers since the early 1960s. One of the issues related to SLA has been finding the techniques which effectively focus the learners’ attention on the target form. A number of theories and methods have been advocated for this purpose, ranging from implicit options to more explicit ones. Although each of the suggested methods has its own advantages, they have, so far, proved insufficient to get learners to be able to notice the gap between their own interlanguage forms and the target language forms. Swain (1995, 1998) has argued that a part from providing the learners with comprehensible input, comprehensible output also plays a beneficial role in L2 acquisition. By encouraging the learners to speak or write in the L2 and providing them with the opportunities to do so, the learners can notice that they are not able to say what they want to say in the target language. On the basis of Swain’s output hypothesis, we assumed that encouraging adult learners (university students) to produce target-like output would promote their achievement of the grammatical competence necessary for producing academic tests. The purpose of this article is to present the evidence from a class-room-based, small-scale study of the effect of output on learner acquisition of L2 modal verbs, adjectives and adverbs conveying the meanings of uncertainty, all of which are parts of speech that are important metadiscourse items. The results of the present study suggest that an approach in which students are encouraged to produce comprehensible output, combined with their being provided with learning reinforcement ensured by appropriate feedback, can be an effective source of establishing long-lasting grammatical accuracy in the students’ target language


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