Saturday, February 19, 2011

The role of consciousness in second language learning

As I mentioned in an earlier post, last week I participated in a class debate on if Wes, one of Schmidt's participants, was a good language learner or not. It was really fun and I wanted to share a couple of articles by Schmidt that I had read some time ago. I miss reading on second language acquisition nowadays but there is never time. Sigh...

Schmidt, R. W. (1990). The role of consciousness in second language learning. Applied Linguistics, 11, 129-157.
Abstract: This paper summarizes recent psychological research and theory on the topic of consciousness and looks at three questions in second language learning related to the role of consciousness in input processing: whether conscious awareness at the level of 'noticing' is necessary for language learning (the subliminal learning issue); whether it is necessary to consciously 'pay attention' in order to learn (the incidental learning issue); and whether learner hypotheses based on input are the result of conscious insight and understanding or an unconscious process of abstraction (the implicit learning issue). I conclude that subliminal language learning is impossible, and that noticing is the necessary and sufficient condition for converting input to intake. Incidental learning, on the other hand, is clearly both possible and effective when the demands of a task focus attention on what is to be learned. Even so, paying attention is probably facilitative, and may be necessary if adult learners are to acquire redundant grammatical features. The implicit learning issue is the most difficult to resolve. There is evidence for it, as well as for a facilitative effect for conscious understanding, but accounting for implicit learning may entail abandonment of the notion of unconscious 'rules'of the type usually assumed in applied linguistics.

Schmidt, R. (1983). Interaction, acculturation and the acquisition of communicative competence: A case study of an adult. In N. Wolfson & E. Judd (Eds.), Sociolinguistics and second language acquisition (pp. 137-174). Rowley, MA: Newbury House.

Schmidt, R. W., & Frota, S. N. (1986) Developing basic conversational ability in a second language: A case study of an adult learner of Portuguese. In R. R. Day (Ed.), Talking to learn: Conversations in second language acquisition (pp. 237-322). Rowley, MA: Newbury House.

This chapter is a descriptive, analytical study of the development of conversa- tional ability in Portuguese by one subject during a 5-month stay in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The chapter attempts to deal with two basic issues:(1) the kind and amount of language that was learned in order to communicate with native speakers, and (2) the ways in which both instruction and conversational interaction contributed to learning the lang~ag

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