Academic journal article Foreign Language Annals

A Closer Look at the Output Hypothesis: The Effect of Pushed Output on Noticing and Inductive Learning of the Spanish Future Tense

Academic journal article Foreign Language Annals

A Closer Look at the Output Hypothesis: The Effect of Pushed Output on Noticing and Inductive Learning of the Spanish Future Tense

Article excerpt

Introduction

The role of output in the language acquisition process and whether and how output facilitates second language learning is presently unclear. Swain's output hypothesis (1985), which is based upon her observations of long-term French immersion students in Canada, asserts that learners must be pushed to produce output in the second language in order to develop grammatical accuracy. Swain found that, although immersion learners developed native-like phonology and comprehension skills, they still lagged behind their native-speaking peers in production skills, especially with respect to grammatical accuracy. Swain attrib- uted these findings to the nature of the im- mersion education classes that she observed. She noted that students were exposed to large amounts of comprehensible input dur- ing subject matter instruction in the second language; however, she described the immer- sion learners' production as the minimum that was necessary to get by in class. Her findings countered Krashen'sinputhypothe- sis (1980, 1985): Swain (1985, 1993, 1995, 1998) argued that the provision of compre- hensible input alone is not enough for acqui- sition to take place. She also claimed that the production of output forces learners to pro- cess language more deeply, attending to both meaning and linguistic form simultaneously (Swain, 1985, 1993, 1995, 1998). Since she first proposed the output hypothesis, Swain (1995) has extended its scope and identified three functions of output: (1) the noticing/ triggering function, (2) the hypothesis-testing function, and (3) the metalinguistic function (p. 128). The noticing function of output, the focus of the present study, is consistent with the noticing hypothesis (Schmidt & Frota, 1986), which states that learners must notice the gap, or mismatch, between their interlan- guage production and the target language form for acquisition to take place (Schmidt & Frota, 1986). According to Swain (1995, 2000), when learners attempt to produce out- put in the second language, they may not know or remember the necessary linguistic forms and structures that are needed for com- munication. At that point (the moment of production), second language learners notice a hole in their interlanguage knowledge. Thus, by attempting to produce output, learn- ers are forced into noticing what they do not know, or what they know only partially. Fur- ther, Swain (1995, 2000) posited that noticing holes, or gaps, in their interlanguage primes learners to pay more careful attention to the relevant forms in their future input. Swain (2000) stated that when learners become aware of their linguistic deficiencies, they may attempt to fill in the holes in their inter- language "by turning to a dictionary or gram- mar book, by asking their peers or teachers; or by noting to themselves to pay attention to future relevant input" (p. 100). Thus, the production of output may serve as an internal priming device for learners to notice the lin- guistic features that they lack in their inter- language knowledge during exposure to subsequent target language input (Izumi, 2002).

While Swain promoted pushed output for second language learners in the 1980s, Sharwood Smith proposed the notion of in- put enhancement (1981), which is any type of pedagogical technique that makes certain aspects of the written input more salient for learners; for example, the use of bold or italics to draw attention to specific elements of text. Although Sharwood Smith (1991) suggested that input enhancement techni- ques may help second language learners pay attention to the formal features of language, he also cautioned that there is no guarantee that intake into the developing interlan- guage system will occur, as learners may make incorrect form-meaning connections. However, there is an increased likelihood that learners will notice the enhanced form, which may or may not lead to further language processing.

Izumi (2002) compared the production of output (an internal attention-drawing de- vice) to the presence of textual input en- hancement (an external attention-drawing device) in an attempt to determine if either technique, or a combination of the two, had an effect on the noticing and learning of relativization among advanced English lan- guage learners (ELLs). …

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