Second Language Acquisition Processes in the Classroom: Learning Japanese

By Amy Snyder Ohta | Go to book overview

Chapter 2—
Private Speech:
A Window on Classroom Foreign Language Acquisition

This chapter examines the role of private speech in the interactions of the seven first- and second-year learners which make up the classroom corpus.1 This analysis of private speech allows us to better understand the role of attentional processes in second language acquisition. The various analyses also illustrate how speech is used, not only for social interaction, but also as a cognitive tool that is key to the process of language development. The findings show private speech to be a creative locus of linguistic manipulation and hypothesis testing, a covert social space in which learners actively involve themselves in language lessons when they are not the focus of teacher attention. The data show how even when the teacher is addressing another, all learners are tacitly invited to formulate their own responses as legitimate, peripheral participants (Lave & Wenger, 1991) in the interaction. These findings reveal learners to be proactive and learner centered in their activity, even when instruction is focused on the needs of other learners. Private speech was found to be a vehicle for hypothesis testing, where learners try out new language prior to using it in a social situation; this is a precursor to interactive hypothesis testing, which occurs when the learner uses the language in social interaction. Analysis reveals the extent to which covert learner activity is a centerpiece of learning processes, deepening our understanding of how learners appropriate language through interactive processes. Analysis here focuses on the question of

____________________
1
A portion of this research was previous presented at the 1998 annual meeting of the American Association for Applied Linguistics (Ohta, 1998) and at the Linguistics Society of American Linguistics Institute (Ohta, 1997a).

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