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The age factor: effects of processing instruction on the past simple tense

The age factor: effects of processing instruction on the past simple tense

Angelovska, Tanja and Benati, Alessandro (2012) The age factor: effects of processing instruction on the past simple tense. In: 8th BAAL Language Learning and Teaching Special Interest Group Conference. Beyond the beginner: sustaining second language learning, 4-5 Jul 2012, Oxford, UK. (Unpublished)

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Abstract

The goal of this paper is to discuss the effects of processing instruction (VanPatten, 1996) on the acquisition of the English past simple tense (Benati, 2005) with a particular focus on the age factor. The subjects involved in the present study are German school-age learners of English and adult group of German students, both residing in Germany. One interpretation and one production measure at a sentence level are used in a pre-test and post-test design (including two post-tests: immediate and delayed effect).

Results from the Barcelona Age Factor Project show that “older learners outperformed younger learners, especially in tests that were more academically-oriented (e.g., grammar)...” (Munoz, 2011: 116). The explanation was that older learners have cognitive advantages over younger ones and the younger ones lack enough exposure to the target language. On the other hand, Hahn’s study (2010) shows that students (although older learners) with no background in linguistics often lack linguistic concepts, normally used in traditional language instruction classes. In our experiment both groups have no background in linguistics and both receive equal input amounts of processing instruction (PI), which forces learners to attend to the meaning of the target form without explicit attention to form or understanding of complex linguistic terms. Hence, we can assume that the PI would have equal effects for both younger and older learners. We hypothesize that in the long term and after equal amounts of processing instruction among both younger and older learners, age will not be a predictor.

Several research questions guided this study. The first one is concerned with outcome differences depending on their age and asks how do younger and older learners instructed with the method of processing instruction differ in the acquisition of the past simple in English. The second refers to the long-term effects of starting age and asks whether younger learners will eventually reach higher gains in the acquisition of the past simple in English than older learners, as it has been observed to be the case in naturalistic L2 learning settings. The present study aims at answering the two following questions:
1. Are there any differences among the two age groups regarding their performance on the immediate post-test measuring of the interpretation and production of English past simple?
2. Are there any differences among the study groups regarding their performance on the delayed post-test measuring of the interpretation and production of English past simple?

Item Type: Conference or Conference Paper (Paper)
Uncontrolled Keywords: age, processing instruction, grammar acquisition
Subjects: P Language and Literature > P Philology. Linguistics
Pre-2014 Departments: School of Humanities & Social Sciences
School of Humanities & Social Sciences > Department of Social, Political & Cultural Studies
School of Humanities & Social Sciences > Applied Linguistics Research Group
Related URLs:
Last Modified: 14 Oct 2016 09:26
Selected for GREAT 2016: None
Selected for GREAT 2017: None
Selected for GREAT 2018: None
URI: http://gala.gre.ac.uk/id/eprint/10925

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