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Blog criado por Bruno Coriolano de Almeida Costa, professor de Língua Inglesa desde 2002. Esse espaço surgiu em 2007 com o objetivo de unir alguns estudiosos e professores desse idioma. Abordamos, de forma rápida e simples, vários aspectos da Língua Inglesa e suas culturas. Agradeço a sua visita.

"Se tivesse perguntado ao cliente o que ele queria, ele teria dito: 'Um cavalo mais rápido!"

domingo, 13 de setembro de 2015

Fluency versus complexity

Key characteristics

Learners’ language may be both relatively fluent and accurate but shows little evidence of appropriate grammatical development.

Complexity of learners’ language does not match their proficiency level.
A common distinction in language teaching is between fluency and accuracy. Fluency describes a level of proficiency in communication, which includes:

The ability to produce language with ease.

The ability to speak with a good, but not necessarily perfect command of intonation, vocabulary, syntax, and grammar.

The ability to express ideas coherently.

The ability to produce continuous speech without causing comprehension difficulties, with minimum breakdowns and disruptions.

However, there is an additional important dimension in language development, and that is the degree of complexity of the language learners have acquired. The development of fluency may mean greater ease of use of known language forms, but it does not necessarily imply development in complexity. Skehan (1998) argues that fluency, accuracy, and complexity ideally develop in harmony, but this is not always the case. In order for learners’ language to complexify, new linguistic forms have to be acquired and added to their productive linguistic repertoire. This was referred to in my last post as restructuring.

VanPatten (1993) suggests: “[that restructuring involves processes] . . . that mediate the incorporation of intake into the developing system. Since the internalization of intake is not a mere accumulation of discrete bits of data, data have to “fit in” in some way and sometimes the accommodation of a particular set of data causes changes in the rest of the system. In some cases, the data may not fit in at all and are not accommodated by the system. They simply do not make it into the long-term store” (p. 436).

For example, if learners have mastered the present and past tenses and are comfortable using them, once they encounter the perfect tense, their linguistic system has to be revised to accommodate new distinctions communicated by the perfect. There may be a time when learners overuse the known forms (present and past) until their systems have restructured to incorporate the perfect. But as VanPatten remarks, sometimes this restructuring may not occur, and the newly encountered form will not pass into learners’ linguistic systems. For learners’ linguistic systems to take on new and more complex linguistic items, the restructuring, or reorganization, of mental representations is required, as well as opportunities to practice these new forms (the output hypothesis).
Ways of increasing the opportunities for restructuring to take place can occur at three different stages during an activity: prior to the activity, during the activity, or after completing an activity. In each case, a language focus is provided in an attempt to support the learning of more complex language items.

Addressing language prior to the activity
Here, there are two goals: to provide language support that can be used in completing a task, and to clarify the nature of the task so that students can give less attention to procedural aspects of the task and hence monitor their language use during their performance. Skehan notes (1996), “Pre-task activities can aim to teach or mobilize, or make salient language which will be relevant to task performance” (p. 53). This can be accomplished in several ways:

By pre-teaching certain linguistic forms that can be used while completing a task.
For example, prior to completing a role play task that practices calling an apartment owner to discuss renting an apartment, students can first read advertisements for apartments and learn key vocabulary they will use in the role play. They could also listen to and practice a dialog in which a prospective tenant calls an apartment owner for information. The dialog serves both to display different questioning strategies and to model the kind of task the students will perform.

By reducing the cognitive complexity of the activity.
If an activity is difficult to carry out, learners’ attention may be diverted to the structure and management of the task, leaving little opportunity for them to monitor the language they use on the task. One way of reducing the cognitive complexity of the activity is to provide students with a chance for rehearsal. This is intended to ease the processing load that learners will encounter when actually doing a task. This could be achieved by watching a video or listening to a recording of learners doing a task similar to the target task, or it could be a simplified version of the activity the learners will carry out. Dialog work prior to carrying out the role play serves a similar function.

By giving time to plan the activity.
Time allocated to planning prior to carrying out an activity can likewise provide learners with schemata, vocabulary, and language forms that they can call upon while completing the task. Planning activities include vocabulary-generating activities such as brainstorming, or strategy activities in which learners consider a range of approaches to solving a problem, discuss their pros and cons, and then select which they will apply to the task.
Jack will be back tomorrow with some ideas on how you can address language while the activity is taking place.
Excerpted and edited from Moving Beyond the Plateau: From Intermediate to Advanced Levels in Language Learning by Jack C. Richards
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