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PLENARY SPEAKERS


  • Diane Larsen-Freeman, Professor Emerita, School of Education; Department of Linguistics; Research Scientist Emerita, English Language Institute, University of Michigan.
  • ZhaoHong Han, Professor of Language and Education, Director of the Applied Linguistics and TESOL Program, Codirector of TCSOL (Teaching Chinese to Speakers of Other Languages) Program, Teachers College, Columbia University.
  • Ineke Vedder, Senior researcher Amsterdam Center for Language and Communication (ACLC), Department of Modern Foreign Languages & Cultures, Faculty of Humanities.
  • Olivier Durand, Professor of Arabic Dialectology and Semitic Philology, Italian Institute of Oriental Studies-Sapienza, Member of AIDA (Association Internationale de Dialectologie Arabe).


Abstracts


The Relationship between Language Norms and Variation: What Should We Teach?

Professor Emerita Diane Larsen-Freeman

With the mobilization of populations in our globalized world, we have become aware of language variation in a way that we perhaps had not appreciated earlier. Nonetheless, it has always been true that the norms of standard languages have varied in use. Language in use is creative in the Chomskyan sense of using rules to understand and produce novel utterances, but it is also innovative, which means that when speakers are intent on making (new) meaning, variation emerges in the language system.
These observations bring us to the question of what standards we should use to teach second/foreign languages at the tertiary and university levels. The answer is that we should see language use for what it is: in service of making meaning and for the purpose of positioning oneself in the social world. As such, learners are presented with choices for which forms to use, and they must come to understand the consequences of their choices.


Focus on form: What form?

Professor ZhaoHong Han

Focus on form (Long, 1990) has been thrust to the fore over the past twenty years as a preferred approach to foreign language teaching to focus on forms. Its rising prominence and growing acceptance owes to its appeal on two practical levels. First is that focus on form (FonF), unlike focus on forms, allows teaching to be meaning-oriented, hence treating language as a tool of communication and, in turn, language learning as learning how to use the language. Second, unlike prototypical communicative language teaching, FonF encourages contextualized attention to select language forms which learners have demonstrated difficulty with. Taken together, FonF potentially promotes a balanced development of fluency, accuracy, and communicative adequacy in instructed second language learners.
To date, a great number of studies have been conducted on the effectiveness of FonF in both classroom and laboratory settings - with mixed results. As the field of instructed second language acquisition (ISLA) continues to churn out studies, it becomes palpable that further understanding of the efficacy of FonF can be hampered by researchers’ (a) on-going attention to easy rather than difficult elements of the target language; (b) lack of attention to the agency of learners in the FonF process; and (c) skewed attention to formal properties of discrete elements.
In this plenary talk, I will explicate the critical importance of engaging with “acquisitionally complex” elements (Han & Lew, 2002), of accommodating learner agency, and of viewing and attending to learner language as culturally and semantically rich, in both FonF research and practice.


Measuring functional adequacy in L2 and L1 writing across languages. Proposal of a rating scale

Senior researcher Ineke Vedder

In SLA often general measures for assessing linguistic performance, such as complexity, accuracy and fluency (CAF) are employed (e.g. Housen, Kuiken & Vedder 2012). In the presentation I argue that not only the linguistic dimension but also the functional dimension is crucial when assessing L2 performance.
With this purpose in mind a rating scale of functional adequacy for L2 writing was developed, which is independent from linguistic descriptors in terms of CAF. The rating scale of functional adequacy can be employed across languages. In my contribution I will focus on the applicability of the scale in L2 and L1 writing for Dutch and Italian.
The importance of functional adequacy has been observed by several authors (Pallotti 2009; Kuiken, Vedder & Gilabert 2010). However, there has been no consensus as to how functional adequacy should be defined or assessed (Iwashita et al. 2008). Functional adequacy has been interpreted in various ways, in terms of: successful information transfer (Upshur & Turner 1995), socio-pragmatic appropriateness (McNamara & Roever 2007), and text coherence and cohesion (Knoch 2009). In the present study, functional adequacy is interpreted in terms of successful task completion (Kuiken & Vedder 2014; in press; De Jong et al. 2012a, 2012b).
In a first study set up in order to develop a rating scale for the assessment of L2 writing we investigated how functional adequacy can be defined and measured. We asked a group of expert raters to assess on a holistic six-point Likert scale the functional adequacy of a corpus of L2 texts, written by 32 adult L2 learners of Dutch and 39 of Italian at an intermediate level of L2 proficiency. The performance of 17 native speakers of Dutch and 18 of Italian served as a base-line and the texts written by the L1 writers were judged in a similar way by the same raters (Kuiken, Vedder & Gilabert 2010; Kuiken & Vedder 2014).
Based on the findings of the first study, the original rating scale was adjusted and a new rating scale was developed, in which four distinct components of functional adequacy are distinguished: 1) relevance of content, 2) task requirements, 3) comprehensibility, 4) coherence and cohesion (Kuiken & Vedder forthcoming; Vedder, forthcoming).
The adjusted scale was tested out by a group of non-expert raters, who judged the same set of data on the four scale dimensions of functional adequacy. Interrater reliability turned out to be high. We looked at a) correlations of the ratings on the four dimensions of the rating scale, b) differences between the ratings of the texts produced by L2 and L1 writers, and c) possible differences between the findings for Dutch and Italian.
In this paper I will report the findings and I will discuss the applicability of the scale for the assessment of the functional adequacy across languages and modes (oral and written), and for different types of learners.






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