Academic journal article Foreign Language Annals

Language Mediation in an L3 Classroom: The Role of Task Modalities and Task Types

Academic journal article Foreign Language Annals

Language Mediation in an L3 Classroom: The Role of Task Modalities and Task Types

Article excerpt


Previous learner-learner interaction studies indicated that pedagogical tasks promote interaction, which provides second language (L2) learners with opportunities to process authentic input and produce meaningful language output (see Philp, Adams, & Iwashita, 2014, for a review). During these interactions, learners use their entire language repertoire to mediate their output (Swain & Lapkin, 2000). Although language mediation has been investigated in various L2 settings, few studies have explored the mediating functions of plurilingual learners' language resources. Thus, the aim of the present case study was to examine specific mediating functions of language sources (i.e., first, second, and third language) in the oral and written modalities during three different types of pedagogical tasks among students learning French as a third language (L3) in Mexico. The present study contributes to an understanding of how task modalities and types may influence the cognitive and social functions of the multiple languages used by plurilingual learners.

Literature Review

Language Mediation During Pedagogical Tasks

From a sociocultural perspective of learning, researchers have examined how individuals rely on physical and symbolic tools to mediate the development and use of higher mental functions, including L2 development (Lantolf, 2011). Symbolic tools, namely language(s), may be internally directed to mediate or regulate mental functions. Increasingly, L2 research has shown that learners use their knowledge of a first language (L1) to mediate the development of an L2 (Anto^n & DiCamilla, 1998; DiCamilla & Anto^n, 2012; Lantolf, Thorne, & Poehner, 2015; Swain & Lapkin, 2000). Through L1 mediation, language learners gain control over their mental activities. Brooks and Donato (1994), for instance, examined how learners of Spanish used their L1 (English) while in the process of completing a speaking task in their L2. One of their findings was that learners turned to their L1 to talk about the language. Others have examined language mediation during writing tasks. For instance, Villamil and de Guerrero (1996) explored peer talk produced during writing activities with Spanish (L1) students from three intact English classes. In that study, the L1 (Spanish) mediated the students' interactions to make meaning, retrieve language knowledge, explore and expand on the content, guide actions, maintain dialogue, and provide scaffolding. Anto^n and DiCamilla (1998) focused on L2 learners of Spanish while completing a writing task in a laboratorybased setting. They found that the L1 (English) served inter-psychological functions: namely, accessing L2 form, reflecting on form and content, providing a scaffold, fulfilling metalinguistic functions, evaluating meaning, and fulfilling affective/social functions. It also served intra-psychological functions (i.e., self-directed questions and comments). In sum, findings suggested that discourse about language allowed the learners to initiate, sustain, and extend their output beyond what their level of proficiency in the L2 would have permitted.

Task Type and Task Modality Effects on Language Mediation Functions

Recently, several studies have investigated the relationship between L1 mediation and task types. Swain and Lapkin (2001), for example, identified three dominant L1 mediating functions during a story completion and a dictogloss task: task management, focusing attention, and interpersonal interaction. Compared to the dictogloss task, the story completion task led to greater L1 mediation for lexical searches. Storch and Wigglesworth (2003) also identified task effects. During a reconstruction task, the L1 was primarily shown to mediate meaning and grammar whereas in a composition task, the L1 mediated task management and task clarification functions. Similarly, Alegr^ia de la Colina and Garc^ia Mayo (2007) found that metacognitive turns mediated via the L1 (i. …

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