The impact of comprehensible input on foreign language acquisition

Year: 2001

Author: Mizuno, Tokuya

Type of paper: Refereed paper

After the emergence of Krashen’s (1980, 1985) "comprehensible input" theory, the effect of international modification on comprehension has become the main area of scholarly concern, with a number of investigations being undertaken, both from the theoretical and empirical perspective in an attempt to identify the factors that make input comprehensible to the learners of a foreign language. However, one of the principal questions still to be addressed by research on foreign language and second language teaching is the way that native speakers, teachers and non-teachers alike, modify their speech, making their input comprehensible to learners.

In this thesis, in the first instance, communication strategies of two native speakers of Japanese are compared to delineate the modification features adopted by them in communication with a small group of beginner learners of Japanese. On the basis of distribution of the lexical features characterising each native speaker’s utterances, the efficacy of their individual strategies was tested for comprehensibility by using the amount and type of the learners’ participation in the interactions as the yardstick. It was found that the speech which contained many "teacher talk" features elicited a much greater degree of response from the learners than that of the speech which bore a greater resemblance to "native talk". However, despite the fact that the learner group participated more vigorously in conversation with the native speaker who modified along the "teacher talk" lines, some doubts are being expressed about the value of the interaction as a truly learning experience. It is proposed that an interaction where foreign speakers are forced to adopt a number of strategies for negotiation of meaning is by far more challenging and should be considered as more effective in terms of language acquisition.