Academic journal article International Journal of English Studies

Investigating Negotiation of Meaning in EFL Children with Very Low Levels of Proficiency

Academic journal article International Journal of English Studies

Investigating Negotiation of Meaning in EFL Children with Very Low Levels of Proficiency

Article excerpt


Numerous studies hold that interaction has beneficial effects on second language acquisition among adults and children in second language contexts. However, data from children learning English as a foreign language are still unavailable. In order to fill this research niche, this study examines the conversational interactions of 8 pairs of young (ages 7-8) learners of English as a foreign language while playing a game in the classroom. The objective is to document which conversational strategies these learners use and to compare them to those previously reported for other populations. The analysis of our data shows that these children negotiate significantly less than other populations but use a variety of strategies to negotiate for meaning. Also, they resort to the L1 on some occasions and use explicit correction quite often. In light of these results we will argue in favour of using these types of interactive activities in the classroom.

KEYWORDS: negotiation, interaction strategies, feedback, L1, EFL, children, communicative tasks, language acquisition.


Numerosos estudios afirman que la interacción es beneficiosa para la adquisición de una segunda lengua tanto en adultos como en niños en contextos de segunda lengua. Sin embargo, aún no hay suficientes datos de niños en contexto de lengua extranjera. Por ello, este estudio recoge datos de 8 parejas de niños (7-8 años) que aprenden inglés como lengua extranjera mientras realizan un juego en el aula. El objetivo es identificar qué estrategias utilizan y compararlas con las encontradas en otros aprendices. El análisis muestra que estos niños negocian el significado menos a menudo que otras poblaciones pero utilizan estrategias variadas. También recurren a la L1 en alguna ocasión y utilizan la corrección explícita bastante a menudo. A la luz de estos resultados se defiende la utilización de tareas interactivas en el aula de lengua extranjera.

PALABRAS CLAVE: negociación, estrategias de interacción, feedback, L1, inglés lengua extranjera, tareas comunicativas, adquisición del lenguaje.


The interaction hypothesis (Long, 1996) states that second language acquisition (SLA) is facilitated when conversational partners modify their interactions in order to avoid communication breakdowns. Based on this, numerous studies have demonstrated the benefits of interaction in second language contexts, not only for adults, but for child learners as well (Mackey, 2007, 2012 for a review). However, to date, only very few studies have concentrated on children in foreign language contexts (Philp & Tognini, 2009; Tognini, 2008; Tognini & Oliver, 2012). In order to fill this research gap, our study examines the dialogues of eight pairs of 7-to-8-year-old learners of English as a foreign language (EFL) in Spain while they are performing a communicative task in the classroom. The participants were learning English in a school context exclusively, and, given the fact that they received a very limited amount of input, their level was lower than that of those participants reported in previous studies.

Addressing this population might not only provide deeper insights into interaction research, but it can also have important pedagogical significance: children learning EFL in schools worldwide represent an enormous (and fast-growing) number of English learners (Cameron, 2003), and communicative tasks, particularly those promoting negotiated interactions, have become common place in many L2 classrooms and are "being used more frequently in school-based foreign language classrooms" (Oliver, 2002: 98). Therefore, the findings of this paper could be of great interest to make decisions about more successful practices in EFL lessons the world over.

Thus, the purpose of the present study is to investigate whether young EFL children with a very low level of competence can negotiate for meaning while performing a task in the classroom and, if they can, to provide a description of the strategies they use and to compare them to those documented for adults and children in second language contexts. …

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