June 2011
ALIS Forum

LEADERSHIP UPDATES

LETTER FROM THE CHAIR

Greetings! It is unbelievable that it has been more than a month since the 2011 TESOL Convention in New Orleans. For those who attended the convention, I hope you enjoyed it and found it rewarding. For those who did not have the opportunity to attend the convention, I hope you have now had the opportunity to take a look at the information, including copies of some of the presentation handouts posted online at the TESOL webpage.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of the approximately 25 ALIS members who attended our interest section’s open (business) meeting in New Orleans. At the meeting, outgoing chair Howard Williams gave a brief report about the major activities that the leadership of the interest section did or organized in the past year, including, among others, the reviewing of the proposals for the 2011 convention, the organization of the InterSection sessions, and the election of the new chair-elect (Kara Hunter of California State Polytechnic University at Pomona). Howard was also honored and presented a “certificate of appreciation” by TESOL’s Central Office.

Our interest section had a good showing in New Orleans with 30 individual presentations, one InterSection Session, and one Academic Session. Both the InterSection Session and the Academic Session were a great success. Howard Williams, the organizer of the InterSection Session, is covering the session in his contribution in this newsletter, so I will focus on the Academic Session.

The title of the Academic Session was “New Theories and Effective Practices in Teaching Vocabulary and Grammar.” The speakers included Diane Larsen-Freeman of the University of Michigan, Andrea Tyler of Georgetown University, Eli Hinkel of Seattle University, and me. Professor Larsen-Freeman started the session by discussing how complexity theory and other contemporary grammar theories such as emergent grammar may inform language teaching by helping us understand and treat grammar and vocabulary as a dynamic system. Then Professor Tyler gave an overview of cognitive linguistics and, on the basis of findings from an empirical study on the teaching of the V+N+N transfer of object construction (e.g., Mary gave Tom a book/Mike cooked Jean a dinner), demonstrated how cognitive linguistic theories could be applied in classroom teaching to make grammar instruction more effective. Professor Hinkel illustrated with numerous examples how a constructional approach to grammar and vocabulary could make language teaching more efficient and effective. Then, I concluded the session presentations by discussing, with specific examples, how corpus linguistics could be combined with cognitive linguistics to make the teaching of grammar and vocabulary more engaging, interesting, and effective. Following the presentations, the speakers answered questions from the audience. The Academic Session drew a very large crowd. In fact, the session room (with a capacity of 150) was packed and many attendees had to be turned away. As a result of the strong positive feedback, the organizing committee of next year’s TESOL convention have asked Professor Hinkel and me to be “invited speakers” on the topic of grammar and vocabulary teaching at TESOL 2012 in Philadelphia.

Another important piece of information I need to share with you is that TESOL has created a new community webpage called “The TESOL Community” at http://community.tesol.org.

This page is designed to facilitate communication (i.e., to make communication easier and faster) among TESOLers, especially among TESOLers with shared interests, such as the members of an interest section group or the leaders of the interest sections. On this page, you can find various kinds of information you need as a TESOLer, including contact information of members, interest section leaders, and the staff of the TESOL Central Office. I would like to encourage you all to check out the page. It is TESOL’s hope that, through this page, we can make TESOL a close professional community where members can exchange ideas and collaborate on teaching and research projects of common interests anytime they want. To access this page and participate in the various community activities, simply go to the webpage at http://community.tesol.org. (Note: Currently the page cannot be access via the TESOL webpage.) Log in using the same user name and password you use for your TESOL webpage login. After you log in, you will be prompted to provide your bio information and to upload your photo.

Finally, I wish you all a restful but also productive summer!

Dilin Liu

LETTER FROM THE PAST CHAIR

Lecturer in Linguistics and Language Education, Teachers College, Columbia University

howwil@aol.com

The 2011 ALIS InterSection at the New Orleans convention was well attended with 35 to 40 in the audience. We were sorry that this panel had to be reconstituted twice over the past year due to three panelists’ decisions not to attend TESOL this year. We were especially sorry to lose Marianne Celce-Murcia’s contribution and not thrilled to see her name still listed prominently in the program book. The losses did allow the two remaining panelists to develop their talks in more detail and enabled more post-talk discussion.

Susan Olmstead-Wang offered observations on modal use in advanced academic writing in research journal articles and presented findings from a small study on development of modal use over the drafting process. In writing research journal articles (IMRD, or Introduction, Methods, Results, Discussion), the particular section strongly determines the use of modals. Correct modal use in the methods section and in the literature review section of the introduction appears to be more clear-cut and easier to achieve. Correct modal use in articulating what is absent from the literature and why the present research questions and hypothesis emerged seems more difficult. A small study of native-speaking dissertation writers’ perceptions of modal use suggested that their confidence in their research findings, as well as in their authority (author’s voice), developed over time and was reflected in use of stronger, more “confident” modals. Olmstead-Wang suggested several practical and explicit ways to teach appropriate modals for each section of a research journal article and to help second language writers use modals to convey the author’s “degree of certainty” precisely and strategically. Approaches included explicit use of detailed rubrics for each section of IMRD articles and of charts that suggest combinations of modals and reporting verbs organized by degree of certainty of claim. She speculated on whether and how infixing of adverbs into the modal plus verb structure (for example, “will hopefully demonstrate,” “will potentially show”) in speech may become more common, if not acceptable, in English academic writing. Because much of her practice involves teaching and coaching Chinese writers of English, Olmstead-Wang concluded with comparison and contrast of auxiliary and “aspect” features that modify verbs in Mandarin in ways that may differ from English modal use.

In his contribution, Howard Williams addressed the common difficulty learners at the intermediate to advanced level have in selecting appropriate reporting verbs in writing summaries and paraphrases for research papers and critiques. Many students use a default strategy of selecting from a very narrow range of verbs such as “say,” “state,” and “prove,” and where additional verbs are used, they are often inappropriate semantically. He showed how reporting verbs divide rather neatly into factive and nonfactive types, where the truth of the reported statement either is or is not presumed by the reporter; beyond this he showed how verbs such as “claim,” “deny,” “assert,” “insist,” and many others may be decomposed lexically into component meaning units that recur in various combinations and values across a wide range of verbs. Lexical decomposition makes an excellent activity in the classroom because most higher level learners already have nascent intuitions about verb meanings; they may build upon that knowledge to sharpen their skills in verb choice.

LETTER FROM THE EDITORS

Olga Griswold

Jana Moore

Greetings everyone!

We, your new coeditors, Olga and Jana, are pleased to present you with this latest edition of AL Forum (31.2). As you may have noticed from the previous edition, there are changes in the air: new editors, a new format, and some new directions for the Forum. In this issue we are presenting news from the 2011 TESOL Convention in New Orleans, articles from the 2010 TESOL Convention in Boston, and proposals for new Forum directions. We will also introduce the new ALIS Leadership Team so you can learn who they are and what they do.

Be sure to check out the articles in this edition from the 2010 convention in Boston. These articles pertain to different areas within the field of applied linguistics and allow us to have a glimpse of some of the research occurring within our community.

The first article by Nick Andon raises new issues of task-based language teaching (TBLT). While TBLT has been in the field of language learning for some time, how teachers actually “do” these tasks with learners and the planning that goes into the lessons has not been researched in detail. Nick researched and analyzed the work of four teachers as they juggled the concept of TBLT. His article highlights the differences between research and teaching.

The next article, by Barburhan Uzum and Bedrettin Yazam, investigates learner motivation and corrective feedback. Their approach is a unique one in that they attempt to not only establish a relationship between motivation and feedback but also investigate the idea that the one may be able to predict the other.

Many tools exist to help with transcription, and Karen Price’s article presents a succinct account of the different software programs that can be used. Whether you are an experienced transcriber or a beginner and want to know what is out there to help with this aspect of research, her article is very informative.

The final article for this issue, from Priyanvada Abeywickrama, presents research on the topic of nonnative speech in test-taking situations. There are many high-risk tests, such as the TOEFL and TOEIC, and this article presents some interesting findings concerning test takers’ attitudes and performance concerning native, nonnative, and various accents in English by test speakers.

We hope you will take the time to not only read the articles presented by our members but also check out the new directions in which we, your new coeditors, would like to take the Forum. Your feedback and ideas are always welcome.

ARTICLES

TASK-BASED L2 PEDAGOGY FROM THE TEACHER'S POINT OF VIEW

Much research has been done on the ways in which carrying out tasks in the classroom contributes to L2 acquisition, but there are far fewer studies on the implementation of task-based language teaching (TBLT). In this paper I examine the extent to which TBLT has “filtered down” from the research literature into everyday pedagogy. The approach taken in this research is not normative: No claims are made that teachers should be using TBLT in ways prescribed in the literature. Instead, the investigation focused on which aspects of TBLT could be identified in teachers’ practices and teachers’ rationales for adopting, adapting, or rejecting TBLT.

DEFINING TASK AND TASK-BASED LANGUAGE TEACHING

Although there are several definitions of task, Ellis (2000) argued that Skehan’s criteria represented a consensus on what distinguishes tasks from exercises: “a task is an activity in which: meaning is primary; there is some sort of communication problem to solve; there is some sort of relationship to comparable real-world activities; task completion has some priority; assessment of the task is in terms of outcome” (Skehan, 1998, p. 95).

Defining TBLT is more complicated: Simply using tasks does not equate to a task-based approach. TBLT relates to the role tasks play within the curriculum, the rationale for their use, and how they are implemented. It is a language teaching approach in which tasks play a prominent role, not just providing practice and consolidation of language already taught, but also creating conditions that allow learners to acquire what they are ready to notice, understand, and integrate into their interlanguage. Tasks lead learners to negotiate meaning, elicit comprehensible input and produce output, and thus acquire new language.

The research described below examined the extent to which teachers’ understanding and use of tasks matched these concepts of task and TBLT, focusing on three themes:

  1. Teachers’ use of tasks as meaning-focused and goal-oriented communication. Ellis pointed out that “[a] task has a clearly defined communicative outcome” (2003, p. 10) and the presentation of the outcome back to the class for evaluation and discussion is seen as an important stage in implementing TBLT (Skehan, 1998; Willis, 1996).
  2. Authenticity in tasks. Skehan’s task definition included “some sort of relationship to comparative real-world activities” (1998, p. 95) and this can be related to situational and interactional or personal authenticity (Andon & Eckerth, 2009). Personal authenticity relates to the students having freedom to express their own meanings using whatever language they are able to.
  3. Tasks as knowledge-creating devices, a central concern of SLA research into TBLT, and one focused on by critics of TBLT (e.g., Bruton, 2002; Swan, 2005). Ellis noted a “general perception among language teachers and educators that task-based instruction is mainly directed at improving students’ abilities to use the target language rather than at enabling them to acquire new linguistic skills” (Ellis, 2000, p. 212).

RESEARCH METHODOLOGY

Participants

Case studies were conducted on four experienced, highly qualified EFL teachers at private language schools in London. David and Helen (pseudonyms) were both teacher trainers as well as classroom teachers while William and Graham (pseudonyms) were considered senior teachers in their schools. All four were near completion of a masters in TESOL and three of them had an intermediate qualification. Their students were highly motivated adults studying 15 hours a week in small, multilingual classes, with ample exposure to English outside the classroom. This context was considered well-suited to TBLT. The research focused on the teachers’ understanding of TBLT, their attitudes toward it, and the extent to which it was reflected in their practices.

Data Collection

The following data were collected:

  • An initial semi-structured interview to gather background data on each teacher.
  • Nonparticipant observation of one of each teacher’s lessons (1 to 3 hours in length).
  • A second semi-structured interview including stimulated recall protocols consisting of verbally walking the teacher through a description of the lesson to elicit comments on key issues.
  • A further cycle of observation and stimulated recall interview focusing on issues identified earlier.

Interviews were audio-recorded and transcribed, and lesson observations were recorded in fieldnotes.

Data Analysis

Data analysis was performed on coded transcriptions of interviews, written lesson descriptions, memos discussing the themes identified, and a written description of each teacher’s key practices and principles, focusing on the use of tasks and other communicative activities. Analysis was a recursive process and a number of steps were taken to safeguard the trustworthiness of the analysis, including triangulation, independent coding checks, participant checks, and constant comparison within and between case studies, checking for confirming and disconfirming evidence.

RESULTS AND DISCUSSION

Tasks As Meaning-Focused and Goal-Oriented Communication

In the four teachers’ lessons, students were actively engaged in interaction, communicating personal meanings and exchanging opinions in groups. Most of the lesson was spent on language-using activities rather than teacher explanation and form-focused practice. This provided ample opportunities for input, output, and negotiation. The informal chat, which took up a considerable proportion of lesson time, was often manipulated to build in communicative outcomes and both David and Graham highlighted the importance of this. Graham did not consider role plays to be tasks unless they incorporated an outcome; for example, a role-play job interview in which a choice had to be made was treated as a task. Helen’s classes also built in discussion and decision-making tasks in which pairs reported to the class. In William’s lessons, tasks were more language-focused, but work done, and decisions reached, were often reported to the class for discussion and evaluation. Personal information or opinion exchange activities provided opportunities for outcomes to be presented and evaluated. However, most of the time David and Graham stopped the activities after a few minutes and the lesson moved on, with no presentation of what had been discussed. Opportunities for feedback on outcomes were omitted, or done cursorily, and almost all of their post-task feedback to the students focused on the language, not content of discussions and decisions from task performance.

Authenticity in Tasks

All four teachers took steps to establish connections between language use within the classroom and in the world outside. Graham stressed the importance of students seeing tasks as relevant to their jobs, while David saw preparation for language use outside the class as the main rationale for using tasks. William saw the classroom as having its own authenticity involving different patterns of language use from the world outside. It seemed that all four teachers valued situational authenticity more than interactional authenticity. As for personal authenticity, students were encouraged to express their own ideas and use whatever language they wanted to in carrying out tasks, although both Graham and David intervened to suggest alternative forms for expressing what students were trying to communicate.

Tasks As Knowledge Creating

Graham and William felt learners could acquire new language from tasks and Graham also argued that, as not every student in the class was going to learn the same things from a task, the teacher should not decide in advance the language to be practiced or learned. However, this was not reflected in the way he, David, or Helen used tasks. They selected tasks to practice recently taught language, or pretaught language they felt students needed to do the task effectively. This method resembles PPP (presentation, practice, production) or task-supported learning. However, all the teachers also built on other language points and errors that emerged from task performance. They also combined tasks with other approaches, in particular PPP, indicating doubt that learners can acquire new language from tasks. This uncertainty is also found in the literature and in language teaching materials.

CONCLUSION

The ways in which the teachers in this study used tasks differed from the task-based literature in a number of striking ways. Most important, these teachers did not accept that new language could be learned from task performance. As a result, new language was presented outside of the task. Also, few opportunities were provided for task outcomes to be presented and evaluated, potentially devaluing the communicative goals of tasks in the eyes of learners. If TBLT is to achieve more widespread use in ESL, it is argued the following need to happen:

1. More research is needed on the effects and outcomes of using tasks in the way that teachers are currently using them.

2. Teachers need to take greater ownership of TBLT and research its use in their own classrooms, such as by documenting learner language output during task performance over time.

3. Teacher educators should do a better job of communicating the principles and practices of TBLT to teachers.

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

This article was based on a presentation at the 2010 TESOL Convention in Boston.

REFERENCES

Andon, N., & J. Eckerth (2009). Chacun à son gout? Task-based L2 pedagogy from the teacher’s point of view. International Journal of Applied Linguistics, 19, 286-310.

Bruton, A. (2002). From tasking purposes to purposing tasks. ELT Journal, 56, 280-288.

Ellis, R. (2000). Task-based research and language pedagogy. Language Teaching Research, 4, 193-220.

Ellis, R. (2003). Task-based language teaching and learning. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press.

Skehan, P. (1998). A cognitive approach to language learning. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press.

Swan, M. (2005). Legislation by hypothesis: The case of task-based instruction. Applied Linguistics, 26, 376-401.

Willis, J. (1996). A framework for task-based learning. Harlow, Essex, England: Addison Wesley Longman.


Nick Andon has been involved in EFL and ESP teaching, materials development, and teacher education projects worldwide since 1981. His research interests include teacher knowledge, beliefs, and expertise; teacher education; language teaching materials; and TBLT. He is currently director of the MA in ELT and Applied Linguistics Program at King’s College London.

INFLUENCES OF LEARNERS' MOTIVATION ON THE PROCESSING OF CORRECTIVE FEEDBACK

Baburhan Uzum
Michigan State University
East Lansing, MI, USA

Bedrettin Yazan
University of Maryland
College Park, MD, USA

Recently, many studies have emphasized the significance of interaction in second language acquisition. Several studies have investigated cognitive variables such as working memory, attention, inhibition, and noticing (Gass, 1997; Mackey, Adams, Stafford, & Winke, 2010); many others focused on the social aspect of learning (Firth & Wagner, 1997; Lave & Wegner, 1991). After all, learning takes place with the coparticipation of all agents involved. In a recent study, Ellis and Sheen (2006) invited more research on sociopscyhological factors that may influence learners’ receptivity to corrective feedback. Motivation, in our point of view, is a good candidate for such research because it can influence learners’ receptivity to teachers’ correction and direct their attentional resources.

PROBLEMS OF CORRECTIVE FEEDBACK IN THE CLASSROOM

Teachers traditionally situate corrective feedback episodes in a meaningful context. Though this is effective for the purposes of communicative teaching, it conflicts with grammar teaching purposes. These types of interactions are laid out in initiation‒response‒follow-up sequences. Teachers provide the correction at the followup section where learners expect a comment on the content of their response. Students, however, may not expect a comment on form and might fail to see this correction. Philp (2003) argued that with recasts, the most common type of feedback used in language classrooms (Leeman, 2003), learners may not notice the gap between their utterance and the correction because of learners’ limited cognitive capacities. When learners’ attentional resources are engaged in the meaning, they may not notice the mismatch between their interlanguage and language provided in the corrective feedback.

MOTIVATION

Learners’ motivation in learning L2 is dictated by their interest in the culture (intrinsic motivation) and the advantages associated with the knowledge of a particular language (extrinsic motivation) (Deci & Ryan, 1985; Gardner, 1985). The theoretical framework of the present study was informed by Deci and Ryan’s self-determination hypothesis. The researchers offered a continuum to explain learners’ motivation in three categories:

(a) amotivation (learners are not motivated to act)

(b) extrinsic motivation (learners want to learn languages due to the advantages associated with such knowledge)

(c) intrinsic motivation (learners enjoy the language-learning process)

THE STUDY

This study was carried out at the English Language Center of a Midwestern university. We investigated how learners (N = 13) with different types of motivation (high intrinsic/low intrinsic) responded to teachers’ corrective feedback. First, a motivation questionnaire (Noels, Pelletier, Clement, & Vallerand, 2000) was administered to explore learners’ motivational orientations. Because learners were all aware of the advantages of English language knowledge, they were considered somewhat extrinsically motivated. Therefore, we used their intrinsic motivation scores as a discriminating variable. We hypothesized that (a) learners with high intrinsic motivation will concentrate more on their errors to learn the correct forms and (b) learners with low intrinsic motivation may not be enthusiastic during the interaction and thus may not pay attention to teacher’s correction because of limited access to their attentional resources. Therefore, learners with high cognitive abilities might not use their actual potential because some psychological factors, such as objectives and reasons to learn, have not yet been fulfilled. We attempted to answer the research question: What is the relationship between the type/level of learners’ motivation and the uptake they produce?

METHOD

The questionnaire was designed by Noels et al. (2000) and included seven factors: amotivation, external regulation, introjected regulation, identified regulation, knowledge, accomplishment, and stimulation. After the students were grouped,the classes were video-recorded for analyzing student-teacher interactions. Learners’ responses following corrective feedback were coded and analyzed.

RESULTS AND DISCUSSION

The analysis of the questionnaire yielded two different groups (a) low intrinsic motivation (LIM) and (b) high intrinsic motivation (HIM). The mean scores are shown in Table 1.

Table 1. Mean scores for each category

Participants

  N 

Knowledge

Accomplish

Stimulation

 LIM

 6

 12.1

 11.6

 11.8

 HIM

 7

 16.2

 17.7

 18.5

Our first hypothesis that HIM learners will be more attuned to corrective feedback was not confirmed. Learners in the HIM group seemed responsive to semantic corrections through reformulations but not to form-focused ones. In the following excerpt with a HIM student, the teacher might be trying to clarify the meaning of the learner’s response and giving a recast to the tense error in the same turn. Because this is an overlapping correction where syntax and semantics are addressed at once, the student attends only to the semantic correction. The content is prioritized and the morpho-syntactic correction remains unanalyzed.

Excerpt 1 from a HIM student (after a quiz on a story)

1 Teacher: Mark, I watched you. You had many answers right. Why do you think you didn’t get a good grade on the quiz? (Initiation)

2 Student: Maybe I misunderstand (Response)

3 Teacher: Misunderstood the questions? (Clarification request)

4 Student: yeah (uptake)

5 Teacher: okay (teacher turns away) (Redirection)

6 Student: Oh no, the chapter! (Revised uptake)

7 The chapter? Okay, we’ll see now. (Follow up)

In the following excerpt, an HIM student fails to see the teacher’s correction on form and meaning, and seems to perceive teacher’s turn as an attempt to hear or understand the content of the previous turn. Student displays confidence and certainty in her response through falling intonation.

Excerpt 2 from a HIM student (grammar exercise)

1 Teacher: Catherine what does TY have? (question)

2 Student: When. (response with falling intonation)

3 Teacher: When or then? (question with rising intonation)

4 Student: When. (response with falling intonation)

5 Teacher: When I went to the supermarket to buy souvenirs. Well, it’s not perfect is it? Because there is a period there, so what’s better than when? (metalinguistic explanation with question)

6 Other students: Then. (response with falling intonation)

LIM learners did not show such attunement to either semantic or form corrections. Instead, they seemed to treat teacher responses as evaluation by an authority and accepted them as a default interaction strategy. Therefore, teacher-student interactions with LIM students unfolded in a less dialogic way than did those with HIM students. LIM learners responded to semantic and form-focused corrections through acknowledgments only.

Excerpt from an LIM student (talking about a short quiz)

1 Teacher: Why could he hide from the sun? Andy I saw your sentence, what did you say? (Initiation)

2 Student: He thought like the same landing. (Response)

3 Teacher: Okay. He could find somewhere to land. (Corrective feedback as follow up)

4 Student: [Nods] (Uptake)

5 Teacher: and do you want to add something Junk Yu? (Redirection)

CONCLUSION

The research findings indicate that the HIM group seemed to be attuned to semantic corrections. Given that these interactions are ideally naturalistic, the learners were concerned about conveying their message but not necessarily in the perfect form. Their tendency to continue the topic might be because of the intrusive nature of uptake in a natural conversation. Therefore, the HIM group chose to prioritize the successful maintenance of the interaction and to avoid any interruptions in the flow of a conversation unless their meaning was flawed. Because learners’ response after corrective feedback is believed to be useful for learning (Mackey et al., 2010), topic continuation as an alternative strategy, as displayed in this study, deserves further attention. From a pedagogical perspective, teachers should have the awareness that their questions and responses to students are perceived within the principles of social interaction. Further studies could look at the quality of corrective feedback and its interplay with other psycholinguistic variables that might determine learners’ receptivity to corrective feedback.

REFERENCES

Deci, E. L., & Ryan, R. M. (1985). Instrinsic motivation and self-determination in human behavior. New York: Plenum.

Ellis, R., & Sheen, Y. (2006). Reexamining the role of recasts in second language acquisition. Studies in Second Language Acquisition, 28, 575-600.

Firth, A., & Wagner, J. (1997). On discourse, communication, and (some) fundamental concepts in SLA research. The Modern Language Journal, 81, 285-300.

Gardner, R. C. (1985). Social psychology and second language learning: The role of attitudes and motivation. London: Edward Arnold.

Gass, S. (1997). Input, interaction and the second language learner. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.

Lave, J., & Wenger, E. (1991) Situated learning: Legitimate peripheral participation. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press

Leeman, J. (2003). Recasts and second language development: Beyond negative evidence. Studies in Second Language Acquisition, 25, 37-63.

Mackey, A., Adams, R., Stafford, C., & Winke, P. (2010). Exploring the relationship between modified output and working memory capacity. Language Learning, 60(3), 501-533.

Noels, K. A., Pelletier, L. G., Clément, R., & Vallerand, R. J. (2000). Why are you learning a second language? Motivational orientations and self-determination theory. Language Learning, 50, 57-85.

Philp, J. (2003). Constraints on noticing the gap: Nonnative speakers' noticing of recasts in NS-NNS interaction. Studies in Second Language Acquisition, 25, 99-126.


Baburhan Uzum is currently a doctoral student in second language studies at Michigan State University. His research interests include second language acquisition, language socialization, discourse analysis, and scholarship of teaching and learning.

Bedrettin Yazan is a doctoral student and teaching assistant in the Second Language Education and Culture program in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction at the University of Maryland, College Park. He is currently teaching the course titled Pedagogy of Teaching ELLs.

COMPUTER-ASSISTED TRANSCRIPTION AND ANALYSIS: SOFTWARE TOOLS FOR QUALITATIVE RESEARCH

Understanding the process of second language acquisition entails understanding the process of interaction. Observation of language-in-action accompanied by note-taking may provide only superficial insights or require greater detail for substantive discussion or analysis. Even observers with extensive training may lose one-half to two-thirds of the data in real-time coding (Kieren & Munro, 1985). Therefore, teachers and researchers may choose to capture classroom interactions with audio or video and then transcribe these events for subsequent review, discussion, and analysis of learner language.

There are many different ways to transcribe language. A transcript is simply an approach to the notation of language, a “selective process reflecting theoretical goals” (Ochs, 1979). The researcher’s decisions regarding what to transcribe and how to transcribe the data reflect the orientation of the researcher and constrain the analysis and interpretation of the language episode (Lapadat & Lindsay, 1999). For example, broad transcriptions document only sounds and words that are important to meaning. They often denote pauses and use standard spelling. Unlike broad transcriptions, narrow transcriptions document phonological features, using diacritics to transcribe how a word might be pronounced with contrasting accents in English, for example.

TRANSCRIPTION OF AUDIO FILES

Free software can assist in the manual transcription of audio recordings by enabling the transcriber to control the speed of the audio/video playback. Two options include Windows Media Player and Audacity, which allow the user to control the speed of playback or start and stop the audio through the use of assigned keys on the computer keyboard. A third option, Express Scribe, also enables the user to control the playback speed through the use of a foot pedal.

AUTOMATED TRANSCRIPTION OF AUDIO/VIDEO FILES

To date, attempts to automate the transcription of audio/video recordings through voice recognition have not been particularly successful. Errors in automated transcription are numerous even in high fidelity with only a single speaker. However, the use of software such as Adobe Premiere with Adobe After Effects, which result in many errors in the automated transcription, can be time-saving because the software allows the user to control the playback easily while making corrections to the transcript as the correct timecodes are automatically inserted for each edited word(s). Manual synchronization of words and timecode is thus avoided because the edited words continue to correspond to their precise occurrence in the video; the software automatically codes and inserts them as both words and metadata. Thus, searching for a word or string will queue the video to all the instances of the word(s) in one video or in several videos designated by the user.

ANNOTATION AND LINKING OF AUDIO/VIDEO FILES TO TRANSCRIPTS

The following free software applications are widely used by applied linguistics in the annotation and linking of media files to transcripts.

Anvil, originally designed for gesture research, is a video annotation tool that can import data from phonetic tools such as Praat. It can display waveform and pitch contour and offers frame-accurate, multilayered annotation.

CLAN-CA, developed in the context of the CHILDES and TalkBank projects, allows users to link audio and video documents, pictures, and notes to a transcript. The software aids in the transcription, coding, analysis, and sharing of transcripts of conversations linked to either audio or video media.

EXMARaLDA, an acronym of Extensible Markup Language for Discourse Annotation, is a system of data formats and tools for the computer-assisted transcription and annotation of spoken language, and for the construction and analysis of spoken-language corpora.

In addition to facilitating manual transcription, applications such as these provide numerous ways for users to annotate a broad or narrow language transcript, easily synchronizing a researcher’s notes with the words and phrases of the language transcript. For example, even though verbal behavior is situated in a larger, interactional context, nonverbal behavior is often not noted in transcriptions. Research papers are rife with illustrations of transcripts that note only the language spoken, sometimes leading to conflicting conclusions, depending upon the interpretation of the intent of a given utterance. The possibility that one of the speakers was pointing to direct an interlocutor’s attention, that another shrugged her shoulders in response, or that others were rolling their eyes may result in different interpretations of the language interaction. The notation of nonverbal behavior that triggers an utterance may yield information critical to the understanding of the language episode that is not apparent from a transcript of only the spoken language.

CAQDAS (COMPUTER-ASSISTED QUALITATIVE DATA ANALYSIS SOFTWARE)

Although not specifically designed for language research, CAQDAS applications offer extensive suites of integrated tools. Atlas.ti and Transana are two applications, each providing users many ways to identify, arrange, and rearrange pertinent clips, assign keywords to clips, and create complex collections of interrelated clips.

Like other applications, Transana also helps researchers annotate, segment, and code audio and video data as it automatically synchronizes the transcript with the (audio/video) data and annotations. However, researchers in different locations can use Transana to annotate the same video file simultaneously, using same or different coding schemas, without writing over the coding scheme or annotation of other researchers. While one researcher may code a segment for speech acts, another researcher may associate the same segment with imported data from Praat, software designed for the analysis of speech. A researcher interested in assessing language complexity might be interested in coding AS-units, a unit for measuring spoken language, defined as a single speaker’s utterance consisting of an independent clause or subclausal unit, together with any subordinate clause(s) associated with it (Foster, Tonkyn, & Wigglesworth, 2000). However, the researcher focused on assessing fluency may be more interested in coding various types of hesitation phenomena such as false starts, repetitions, reformulations, and replacements.

Coded segments can appear in a variety of visual displays, such as color-coded bars along the entire timeline, so that users can visualize patterns in the data. Users can click on components of the visual display to play the video or audio segments while displaying the associated transcript or notes from one researcher or multiple researchers. A segment can also be retrieved from a lexical search of lexical data (i.e., transcript, annotations, lexical codes) with which it is associated.

FRAMING LANGUAGE RESEARCH WITH COMPUTER ASSISTANCE

Just as the selective process of language transcription reflects theoretical goals, so does the process of determining what type of technology to use. Rather than assume that all language interactions should be recorded with the same technology in the same way, researchers should address the question: “What type of recording and what type of transcription might be most useful for my research purposes?”

For example, the author designed a system (Price, 1992) to record real-time data without any transcription of the language. The software simply identified individual speakers, when they spoke, and information about them as to gender, age, and language background. Through visual displays and automated quantitative analysis, teachers and students could, in real time, consult summaries of wait-time between speakers, directions of communication among speakers, volume of utterances, and amount of talk-time for an individual speaker. Summaries could be displayed, based upon gender, age group, or native-language group. Even without transcription of language, the querying of this data served as a catalyst for empowering change among the students and teachers. In one class, for example, students were intrigued to see significant differences in wait-time between the Asian and Latin-American students. Although measured in milliseconds, students saw significant differences, prompting discussion of the role of wait-time in turn-taking and participation in conversation.

Explicitly or implicitly, each technology and medium of recording influences what can be transcribed, and to some extent how the data is transcribed. Rather than assume that one process is always preferable to another, researchers must be attentive as to how the choices and variables may frame the conclusions. As Konopásek (2008) argued, these technologies should not be considered “mere tools for coding and retrieving, but also as complex virtual environments for embodied and practice-based knowledge making (pg.9).”

REFERENCES

Foster, P., Tonkyn, A., & Wigglesworth, G. (2000). Measuring spoken language: A unit for all reasons. Applied Linguistics, 21, 354-75.

Kieren, D. K., & Munro, B. (1985). The observational recording dilemma. Ottawa (Ontario) Canada: Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED 297 021)

Konopásek, Z. (2008). Making thinking visible with Atlas.ti: Computer assisted qualitative analysis as textual practices. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung / Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 9.

Lapadat, J. C., & Lindsay, A. C. (1999). Transcription in research and practice: From standardization of technique to interpretive positionings. Qualitative Inquiry, 5, 64-86.

Ochs, E. (1979). Transcription as theory. In E. Ochs & B. Schieffelin (Eds.), Developmental pragmatics (pp. 43–72). New York: Academic Press.

Price, K. (1992). Look who’s talking. CrossCurrents: An International Journal of Language Teaching and Intercultural Communication, 19, 73-79.


Karen Price has authored more than 20 articles and developed early prototypes of technology now commonly used, such as lexical searching of video. She enjoys conducting workshops and consulting in developing countries as well as for entities that have included Microsoft, Annenberg, USAID, U.S. State Dept., AmidEast, Fulbright, and Kodak. She is currently a visiting scholar at Boston University, where she conducts research and teaches graduate courses on SLA and CALL.

THE VALIDITY OF NONNATIVE SPEAKER INPUT IN LISTENING COMPREHENSION TESTS

English is currently spoken by more nonnative speakers than native speakers (Crystal, 2004). Therefore, in many target language use (TLU) domains, English use is not limited to native speakers. In higher education in the United States, students encounter varieties of English spoken by international students, international teaching assistants (TAs), and faculty (Gorsuch, 2003; Major, Fitzmaurice, Bunta, & Balasubramanium, 2005). The existence of different varieties of English leads to questions about the usefulness (Bachman & Palmer, 1996) of listening comprehension (LC) tests based only on a native speaker variety. This lack of correspondence between TLU tasks and test tasks limits the generalizability of tests and the validity of inferences made about test takers’ listening ability.

LITERATURE REVIEW

Major, Fitzmaurice, Bunta, and Balasubramanium (2002) pointed out that the relationship between accent and performance on LC tests is unclear. Nonnative varieties have been marked as the factor most contributing to comprehension difficulty (Goh, 1999). Flowerdew (1994, p. 24) furnished a summary of studies, some of which demonstrated listener advantage when listeners were familiar with the accent of the speaker, and some showed that accent familiarity provides no advantage in comprehensibility.

While research has looked at the effect of question preview (Sherman, 1997) and the influence of reading (Friedman & Ansley, 1990) on LC tests, the effect of accents (Ortmeyer & Boyle, 1985; Wilcox, 1978) has received limited attention. Most recently, Harding’s (2008) study found no significant difference in test takers’ LC performance when accented speech was used.

Another factor that confounds the use of nonnative varieties in listening comprehension is the attitudes toward accented speech (Lippi-Green, 1997). Nonnative speakers are often categorized as learners or uneducated or deficient speakers and stereotyped solely on their accents (Brennan & Brennan, 1981; Cargile, 1997). Harding (2008), however, found that listeners’ views on accented speech differed according to the purpose of the listening activity.

THE STUDY

The following research questions guided this study:

  1. Does the use of nonnative varieties of English reduce comprehensibility and affect test performance?
  2. Is there any interaction between test takers’ native language and the variety of English used in test input?
  3. What are test takers’ perceptions and attitudes toward nonnative varieties of speech in LC tests?

Data for this study were obtained from 110 test takers: the Koreans and Brazilians represent English as a foreign language (EFL) situations, and the Sri Lankans represent an English as a second language (ESL) situation, typical of students entering U.S. universities. Students were taking courses in various disciplines and were simultaneously enrolled in English classes at universities in their respective countries. Based on the performance on placement tests and in English classes, the Korean (N = 36) and Brazilian (N = 33) test takers were identified as having high-intermediate English proficiency, and Sri Lankan test takers (N = 38) as having low-intermediate proficiency.

The LC test consisted of eight listening texts, each followed by three or four comprehension questions for a total of 31 multiple-choice items. These listening passages were retired versions of the TOEFL exam (TOEFL Institutional Testing Program), with reliability estimates of 0.9 (TOEFL Test and Score Manual).

The speakers were TAs at leading universities in the United States: two native speakers of Chinese, one Korean, one Sri Lankan, and four native speakers of American English. The nonnative-English-speaking TAs had a Test of Spoken English (TSE) score of 50 or higher and had passed the Spoken Proficiency English Assessment (SPEAK) at their respective universities.

Test takers were randomly assigned to two groups based on their availability to take the test. Test takers in both groups heard Text 1, which was about American history and was read by an American TA. This was to help students familiarize themselves with the test. For the other passages the speakers were counterbalanced: Group 1 listened to passage 3 read by a Chinese speaker while Group 2 listened to the same text read by a Korean speaker.

Other instruments employed in the study included a background questionnaire administered at the beginning of the test to gather demographic information. Then, after each listening test, participants were asked to evaluate speaker comprehensibility using a 7-point Likert scale ranging from “strongly agree” to “strongly disagree.” After completing all eight LC tests, a final perception questionnaire was given to learn about test takers’ attitude toward the use of nonnative speaker input in LC testing.

RESULTS

A one-way analysis of variance (ANOVA) was conducted with the students’ performance as the dependent variable to answer research question 1. The difference in the mean performance across the two groups was not significant F (1, 0.565) = .452, p = 0.095, indicating that the use of nonnative speaker input did not make a difference in the participants’ performance.

Research question 2 asked if test takers would perform better when the speaker shared their first language (L1). A two-way ANOVA was conducted, where students’ performance was the dependent variable, and the input language and test takers’ L1 were independent variables. The interaction between the speaker’s L1 and the test takers’ L1 was not significant F (6, 0.103) = 0.996, p = 0.095, suggesting that, for example, Sri Lankan students did not perform significantly better than expected when the speaker was from Sri Lanka.

For research question 3, responses to the comprehensibility questionnaire did not provide any clear indication of perceptions of nonnative speech as test takers were not consistent in their judgment and were oftentimes unable to identify the cause of difficulty in comprehensibility. The attitude questionnaire, however, revealed that more than 62 percent of test takers preferred a native variety. While test takers seemed generally favorable of nonnative varieties (46 percent saying Yes because in real life they also hear nonnative varieties), when asked if using nonnative varieties in listening tests made a difference in test performance, 48 percent seemed certain that performance is better with native English. When asked if the type of speech input may cause test bias, almost 60 percent said that they thought Japanese test takers would better understand Japanese-accented English than would test takers from other countries. Finally, test takers were asked if they would prefer a native variety on a listening test even if a nonnative variety were easy to understand. They overwhelmingly responded Yes (65%).

DISCUSSION

Test performance data in this study suggest that nonnative varieties of English can be used as listening test input while attitude questionnaire results go counter. Although some test takers acknowledged the presence of nonnative or accented speech in their TLU domains, overwhelmingly they did not have a favorable attitude toward nonnative speech in tests. These findings support most of the previous research in this area.

Even though the test performance findings suggest the possibility of using nonnative varieties of English as test input, further research is necessary because of a number of limitations. First, the study was limited to three nonnative varieties of English. Second, although questions in each listening test had almost the same average difficulty (0.54 to 0.57 item difficulty), it was not possible to isolate the speaker input (nonnative English/accented English) as the only within-subjects factor. Another limitation of the study was the test takers’ level of language proficiency. In this study, all three groups were fairly similar, but different language proficiency levels may cause test takers to perform differently.

Until research shows that the use of nonnative English as input is irrelevant to the construct of listening, we may be unable to use such input in testing, especially in high-stakes tests such as TOEFL and IELTS. In order to address some of the issues of test usefulness, validity, and authenticity in particular, we should perhaps use nonnative varieties/accented English in low-stakes tests such as placement, diagnostic, or achievement tests in classrooms. Furthermore, introducing nonnative varieties of English in teaching listening and speaking skills will expose learners to a wider range of linguistic models and may help move learners away from the attraction of standard varieties. As nonnative speech gains recognition among language users and test takers, we hope the attitudes and perceptions toward the use of these varieties of English will change.

REFERENCES

Bachman, L., & Palmer, A. (1996). Language testing in practice. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press.

Brennan, E., & Brennan, J. S. (1981). Measurements of accent and attitude toward Mexican-American Speech. Journal of Psycholinguistic Research, 10, 487-501.

Cargile, Aaron C. (1997). Attitudes toward Chinese-accented speech: an investigation in two contexts. Journal of Language and Social Psychology, 16, 434-443.

Crystal, D. (2004). The language revolution. Cambridge, England: Polity.

Flowerdew, John. (1994) Academic listening: research perspectives. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Friedman, S. J., & Ansley, T. N. (1990). The influence of reading on listening test scores. The Journal of Experimental Education, 58(4), 301-310.

Goh, C. (1999). How much do learners know about the factors that influence their listening comprehension? Hong Kong Journal of Applied Linguistics, 4(1), 17-41.

Gorsuch, G. (2003). The educational cultures of international teaching assistants and U.S. universities. TESL-EJ, 7(3), A-1.

Harding, L. (2008) Accent and academic listening assessment: A study of test-taker perceptions. Melbourne Papers in Language Testing, 13(1), 1-33.

Lippi-Green, R. (1997). English with an accent. London: Routledge.

Major, C. R., Fitzmaurice, S. F., Bunta, F., & Balasubramanium, C. (2002). The effects of nonnative accents on listening comprehension: Implications for assessment. TESOL Quarterly, 36(2), 173-190.

Major, C. R., Fitzmaurice, S. F., Bunta, F., & Balasubramanium C. (2005). Testing the effects of regional, ethnic, and international dialects of English on listening comprehension. Language Learning, 55(1), 37–69.

Ortmeyer, C., & Boyle, J. P. (1985). The effect of accent differences on comprehension. RELC Journal, 16(2), 48-53.

Sherman, J. (1997). The effect of question preview in listening comprehension tests. Language Testing, 14(2), 185-213.

Wilcox, G. K. (1978). The effect of accent on listening comprehension: A Singapore study. English Language Teaching Journal, 25, 239-248.


A native of Sri Lanka, Priyanvada Abeywickrama teaches courses in TESOL methodology and curriculum and assessment in the MA TESOL Program at San Francisco State University. Her research in language assessment specifically examines issues of validity.

ABOUT THIS COMMUNITY

THE ALIS LEADERSHIP TEAM

Another convention brings in new leaders for the Applied Linguistics Interest Section. Below you will find the list of leadership positions, who the leaders are, and what they do. If you have questions about what we do, or you are interested in becoming a leader in the future, please feel free to contact us directly.

ALIS Current President

Dilin Liu is professor and coordinator of applied linguistics in the English Department at the University of Alabama. His main research interests include corpus-based description and teaching of lexis and grammar or lexicogrammar. His job as the chair of the ALIS entails, among other things, organizing next year’s review of the convention proposals submitted to our IS, working with the leaders of another interest section or two to organize InterSections (sessions on topics that are of special interest to the two sections involved), and conducting the IS annual open (business) meeting.

ALIS Outgoing President

Howard Williams has served twice as chair (2006-08, 2009-11). He teaches in the Applied Linguistics and TESOL programs at Teachers College, Columbia University, New York. His main interests are pragmatics, linguistic theory, and pedagogical grammar. As past chair, Howard takes part in the mentoring of the chair-elect and the vetting of convention proposals and heads the nominating committee for the next election for chair.

 ALIS Incoming President

Kara Hunter, ALIS chair-elect, is currently an MA student at California State Polytechnic University at Pomona in the English and Foreign Languages Department. As chair-elect, Kara is responsible for taking part in TESOL convention proposal vetting and attending IS business meetings, but her main responsibility is coordinating the ALIS Academic Session for the TESOL convention. Kara’s research interests include social responsibility and the sociolinguistic implications of English teaching related to power, equity, and justice in the classroom. Kara is also the executive director for C.A.S.A., a nonprofit that advocates for children and youth living in the foster care system.

ALIS Forum Coeditors

Olga Griswold is assistant professor and coordinator for the program in Composition for Multilingual Speakers at California State Polytechnic University at Pomona. Her research interests include the analysis of classroom discourse, L2 acquisition and use, and academic literacy among Generation 1.5 English users. She teaches courses in language acquisition, pedagogical grammar, and freshman composition. As a coeditor of ALIS Forum, she, along with Jana Moore, coordinates the production and publication of this community’s biannual newsletter.

Jana Moore is a lecturer at Ferris Women’s University in Yokohama, Japan. Her research interests include the analysis of group work, classroom discourse, and depth of processing. Jana also serves as a reviewer for the TESOL Journal. As a coeditor of ALIS Forum, she, along with Olga Griswold, coordinates the production and publication of this community’s biannual newsletter.

Community Manager

Scott Phillabaum received his doctorate in applied linguistics from UCLA and is currently an assistant professor in the MA TESOL program at San Jose State University. He has previously served the ALIS in two capacities: first as coeditor of the ALIS Forum and later as interest section chair. At present, Scott serves the ALIS as the community manager. As community manager, Scott is responsible for approving e-mail postings to the community list, updating news items, facilitating discussions, and maintaining the IS calendar.