Interlanguage (IL) Development and the Impact of Some Learner-external and Learner-internal Factors on the IL Development

Year: 1992

Author: Wu, Xudong

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Research into second language learning has been concerned with development of second language learner's interlanguage (IL) and the factors, both learner-external and learner-internal, that influence this development. Recent research has indicated that the "function-form" approach (e.g. Huebner, 1983) is more capable of accounting for the variations in second language learner's IL than other approaches to IL variations. However, few studies in this approach have been carried out on classroom second language learners. The learner-external and learner-internal factors examined in the recent research into second language learning include classroom instruction and interaction, input, attitude and motivation towards learning a second language, learning strategies and communication strategies, and the learner's native language. But these researches are fragmented in nature. The present study investigated within a single framework (1) interlanguage development of adult Chinese students of English in terms of the relationships between discoursal and temporality functions and the linguistic forms used to express them, and (2) whether the variables such as classroom instruction and interaction, the subjects' attitudes and motivations towards learning English, the subjects' learning styles and communication strategies contribute to the interlanguage development. Data for study were collected in an 18-month period from 20 students majoring in English in Foreign Languages Department of Fujian Teachers University in China. The subjects (six males and fourteen females) were chosen by stratified random sampling method from the l09 students enrolled in the autumn of 1989. The data comprised (1) orthographic transcriptions of the subjects' oral speech elicited on the monthly basis, two narratives each time for each subject, (2) orthographic transcriptions of every English class proceedings in the investigation period, and (3) three administrations of five types of questionnaires which looked into the subjects' affective variables, learning styles, and out-of-class contacts with English. The preliminary results obtained from the frequency count of part of the subjects' language performance seem to suggest that after the learners have achieved a certain degree of proficiency in the target language, their linguistic growth slows down, and their IL development manifests itself primarily through their growing awareness of the linguistic features that they are employing to achieve certain functions during the communication.