SEARCH

SEARCH BY CITATION

Abstract

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. FORMULAICITY AND SLA
  4. SELF-SCAFFOLDING THROUGH EMPLOYING L1 IN LEARNING L2
  5. LEXICAL THEORY AND CONTRASTIVE ANALYSIS
  6. HOW AND WHEN TO BRING CLA INTO THE CLASSROOM
  7. POSTMETHODOLOGISTS' CRITICISMS REVISITED
  8. PEDAGOGICAL IMPLICATIONS OF CLA AND SUGGESTED TECHNIQUES
  9. CONCLUSION
  10. THE AUTHORS
  11. REFERENCES

Despite criticisms set against methods by postmethodologists who believe that teaching methods must be cast aside, new methods can be proposed that better meet learners' needs as a continuation of the chain of former methods introduced in the past. The present study proposes some language teaching techniques after introducing the theoretical underpinnings of a new approach in language teaching, that is, a Contrastive Lexical Approach (CLA) that responds to the major criticisms posed by postmethodologists through employing CLA tenets. It is argued that through equipping learners with first language (L1) equivalents for second language (L2) formulaic utterances learners have a chance to fall back on their L1, but this time they do not equate literal translations of L2 forms with their L1; rather they have the correct equivalents at their disposal to resort to. Formulaic utterances in L2 can be contrasted to their L1 equivalents to put learners at an advantageous position in their mastery of L2 and in enhancing their fluency.

With the advent of the postmethod era, whose advocates believe language teaching methodologies must be cast aside, attempts to introduce new methods and approaches declined. Although there is truth in some of contentions proposed by postmethodologists, one must be aware of the fact that there are criticisms posed against postmethodologists as well.

Kumaravadivelu (2003) asserts that the concept of postmethod must be considered as an alternative to method, and not an alternative method. Postmethodologists propose a three-dimensional system consisting of three pedagogic parameters—particularity, practicality, and possibility—as an alternative to method. According to the parameter of particularity, language teaching programs must be sensitive toward local contexts, with their particular group of teachers, involved in teaching particular learners, who have particular goals, who come from particular sociocultural milieus, learning in a particular institutional context. According to the parameter of practicality, methods are accused of imposing theories on teachers to be practiced. Such a view considers teachers only as consumers of knowledge and theorists as producers of knowledge. The parameter of practicality refutes this marginalizing dichotomy by proposing a personal theory of practice to be employed by teachers in their practices. The parameter of possibility brings into the picture the role of learners' cultural and social experiences, to be included and valued in the learning environment in order to empower them in appropriating the English language to their own values and visions. Such a parameter would prevent the situation in which learners' identities are startled and challenged as improper or deficient.

As an objection to Kumaravadivelu's assertions, it can be claimed that a new method can be considered as a postmethod method, not because it is proposed after the harsh attacks against teaching methods, but because it does its best to meet the challenges set against former prototypical methods and also because it satisfies all the tenets of the three pedagogic parameters proposed by postmethodologists as alternatives to methods. It is believed that postmethod era should not be viewed as a watertight proposal to be taken for granted, to the detriment of systematic attempts to teach languages through methods.

Through dispensing with criticisms presented so far by the advocates of postmethod pedagogy, and also through proving the fact that all three postmethod pedagogy parameters can be satisfied by one method, it is possible to propose new methods and approaches, which not only take advantage of the new findings in linguistics, learning theories, psycholinguistics, sociolinguistics, and other pertinent sources, but also are much more tenable and justifiable in the face of full-blown criticisms coming from the postmethod vanguard.

According to Bell (2003), methods work in a top-down manner compared to the bottom-up pattern of postmethod pedagogy. Such a state can be dispensed with through taking advantage of both top-down and bottom-up processes. Bell concludes that methods lead to methodological coherence, and postmethod deconstructs the totalizing tendency of methods by considering the vagaries of local necessities, and that methods and postmethod together can liberate teaching practices. Tosun (2009) contends that, although the majority of postmethodologists refrain from the concept of method, it is not wise to disregard them totally. Tosun further argues that it is possible that in the future the obsolete concept of method may come back in a post-postmethod condition.

The aim of the present study is to introduce a new approach to English language teaching, albeit with an eye on answering the criticisms posed against methods by postmethodologists. The present study is an attempt to provide second language acquisition (SLA) with the linguistic underpinnings of a new approach to language teaching termed the Contrastive Lexical Approach (CLA). We hope to illuminate theoretical truth in two major tenets of this approach: the promising role of formulaic utterances in SLA and the highly advantageous role of first language (L1) in SLA. Putting these two tenets together, this study advocates the use of a contrastive study of English–Persian equivalents of formulaic utterances. We will show how SLA and linguistic theories have close affiliations with CLA.

FORMULAICITY AND SLA

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. FORMULAICITY AND SLA
  4. SELF-SCAFFOLDING THROUGH EMPLOYING L1 IN LEARNING L2
  5. LEXICAL THEORY AND CONTRASTIVE ANALYSIS
  6. HOW AND WHEN TO BRING CLA INTO THE CLASSROOM
  7. POSTMETHODOLOGISTS' CRITICISMS REVISITED
  8. PEDAGOGICAL IMPLICATIONS OF CLA AND SUGGESTED TECHNIQUES
  9. CONCLUSION
  10. THE AUTHORS
  11. REFERENCES

There are some theories of second language acquisition that put emphasis on the role of formulaic utterances in facilitating learning a second language. Before dealing with SLA theories, it is worth mentioning two major linguistic theories that accept the effective role of chunks of language. Even in generative linguistics, there are some contentions that put their emphasis on the role of set phrases within language systems.

As Edelman and Waterfall (2007) put it, the minimalist program shares with formalist linguists this interest in abstract competence level. Through introducing the concept of lexical features into the minimalist program, Chomsky (as cited in Cook & Newson, 1997) has acknowledged the fact that lexical features determine a word's meaning, its morphological shape, and its syntactical behavior. Chomsky adopts a lexicon-is-prime stance and improves his former transformational/generative approach, which had a focus on syntax (Cook & Newson, 1997).

Another linguistic theory that accepts the role of set phrases in language learning is constructivism. From a constructionist point of view, as N. C. Ellis (2003) puts it, frequency of occurrence is effective in independent representation of even “regular” constructional patterns. Ellis further contends that “this usage-based perspective implies that the acquisition of grammar is the piecemeal learning of many thousands of constructions and the frequency-based abstraction of regularities within them” (p. 67), which means that grammar acquisition is realized through discovering regularities (maybe through hypothesis testing) in highly frequent constructions. Lexicon, thus, is considered as a source of crucial knowledge in learning and discovering syntax. Ellis further states that

since the late 1960s, theories of grammar have increasingly put more syntax into the lexicon, and correspondingly less into rules. The result is that lexical specifications now include not only a listing of the particular constructions that the word can appear in, but also the relative likelihood of their occurrence. (p. 84)

The positive role of lexical chunks has been emphasized by many scholars who maintain that the use of chunks can be considered a good strategy to be employed by language learners to promote their L2 learning (e.g., Conklin & Schmitt, 2008; N. C. Ellis, Simpson-Vlach, & Maynard, 2008; Erman, 2009; Harwood, 2008; Jiang & Nekrasova, 2007; Kecskes, 2000, 2010; Miller, 2010; Nekrasova, 2009; Perera, 2001; Wood, 2002; Wray & Perkins, 2000).

Such emphasis on the role of formulaic expressions in L2 learning calls for a more systematic approach through which learners can be made aware of the presence and high frequency of such chunks.

SELF-SCAFFOLDING THROUGH EMPLOYING L1 IN LEARNING L2

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. FORMULAICITY AND SLA
  4. SELF-SCAFFOLDING THROUGH EMPLOYING L1 IN LEARNING L2
  5. LEXICAL THEORY AND CONTRASTIVE ANALYSIS
  6. HOW AND WHEN TO BRING CLA INTO THE CLASSROOM
  7. POSTMETHODOLOGISTS' CRITICISMS REVISITED
  8. PEDAGOGICAL IMPLICATIONS OF CLA AND SUGGESTED TECHNIQUES
  9. CONCLUSION
  10. THE AUTHORS
  11. REFERENCES

Nowadays it is too simplistic and naïve to assume that the relations between L1 and L2 are accounted for by such concepts as interference or transfer. Some scholars have emphasized the positive role of L1 as a support for learning L2. R. Ellis (1994), for example, considers the role of L1 literacy as effective in shaping a metalinguistic skill to be employed by language learners. Cummins (1983) puts forward a dual iceberg analogy to describe the transfer of L1 to L2 that is in line with common underlying proficiency, a theory that emphasizes the positive influence of L1 on L2.

Vygotsky's (1986) notion of zone of proximal development is related to SLA because of the ways through which it focuses on finding out how teachers or other more proficient peers facilitate, through language, cognitive development of the L2 within the learner's zone of proximal development. The claim is that L2 learners try to build on an intrapsychological, or cognitive, means as a scaffold by employing their L1 experience as a tool for pushing their L2 competence beyond its current level. This is what Lantolf (2000) names self-scaffolding or scaffolding oneself through the use of L1.

Cummins (1978, 1979) also proposes a developmental interdependence hypothesis, based on which the learners' L2 competence, to some extent, is dependent upon L1 competence.

There are other scholars who put strong emphasis on the role of L1 in learning an L2. Sunderman and Kroll (2006), for example, believe that recent evidence demonstrating that words in L1 and L2 are activated in a parallel way in visual and spoken word recognition suggests that becoming proficient in L2 does not mean that the individual has been able to “switch off” his or her ability in L1. Sunderman and Kroll hold that although there is enough evidence to claim parallel activation of both languages during lexical access in proficient bilinguals, what is missing is research into the results of cross-linguistic lexical processing in less proficient L2 learners. They further provide two models of parallel lexical processing. The first one is the bilingual interactive activation model, which holds that when a proficient bilingual is visually faced with a string of letters as input, “several lexical candidates, regardless of language, are activated. The activated lexical alternatives compete with each other for selection; the winner surpasses its activation threshold and the losers are suppressed” (p. 389). According to Sunderman and Kroll, the main claim of the bilingual interactive activation model is that “proficient bilinguals activate information about words in both languages in parallel, regardless of their intention to function within one language alone” (p. 391). Research has provided evidence that at early stages of L2 learning the influence of L1 on L2 is greater than L2 on L1. As the mastery of L2 increases, the effects turn out to be more similar, with L1 and L2 influencing each other more equally. Sunderman and Kroll assert that because proficient bilinguals preserve the dominance in one of the two languages the effects rarely happen to be completely symmetrical.

The next model presented by Sunderman and Kroll (2006) is the revised hierarchical model, which proposes independent lexical representations for words in each language through an integrated conceptual system. The claim is that during early stages of SLA, L2 words are considered to be related to their translation equivalents. Because L1 words are considered to have direct access to their respective meanings, the activation of translation equivalents in L1 facilitates access to meaning for the new L2 words. This model assumes that word-to-concept connections are stronger for L1 than for L2 for everyone except for the most proficient and balanced bilinguals. Sunderman and Kroll maintain that

at the lexical level, there might be some feedback that allows direct translation from the L1 to the L2, but the model assumes that the strong conceptual connections from L1 to meaning will increase the likelihood that translation from the L1 to the L2 is conceptually mediated. (p. 392)

The claim is that during early stages of SLA, words in L2 are considered to be related to their translation equivalents. Because L1 words have direct access to their respective meanings, the activation of translation equivalents in L1 facilitates access to meaning for the new L2 words. Within this model, it is assumed that L1 word-to-concept connections are stronger than for the L2 for everyone except for the most proficient and balanced bilinguals. To put it into a zone of proximal development and scaffolding perspective, the L1 scaffolds L2 and gradually shrinks its support as learners' L2 proficiency increases.

It seems that both models are plausible theories in SLA, but the tenets of the revised hierarchical model are more compatible with the scaffolding nature of L1, the tenet that necessitates taking advantage of L1 in teaching L2. At the beginning stages of L2 acquisition, L1 can accomplish the good job of supporting learners to find connections between L2 forms and a conceptual framework. As L2 proficiency increases, the mediatory role of L1 shrinks only to leave L2 forms, independently used from their L1 equivalents. Such contentions also obviate the claims made about the detrimental role of L1 in L2 acquisition.

The idea that L1 scaffolds L2 has also been emphasized by neurolinguistic evidence gained through neuroimaging by Abutalebi (2008) who puts the issue within a lexico-semantic perspective when he claims that through gaining proficiency in L2, L2 brain activity converges to that of L1. Such emphasis on the role of L1 in facilitating L2 learning necessitates an approach to language teaching that draws on learners' L1 in a contrastive form.

The L1 = L2 Hypothesis and CLA

According to Gass and Selinker (2008), the L1 = L2 hypothesis was first proposed by Dulay and Burt (1974), who believed that a child's L2 acquisition is similar to his or her L1 acquisition. Gass and Selinker tried to prove that there exist similar developmental patterns among children with different language backgrounds. What is pertinent to the present study in the L1 = L2 hypothesis paradigm is what has been emphasized by N. C. Ellis (2003), who maintains that what is similar in L1 and L2 acquisition is the fact that both develop in the same fashion, that is, from formulae, through low-scope patterns, to constructions (abstract schema). On the other hand, the acquisition, processing, and use of formulaic language is the commonality between the L1 and L2 learning processes. Such a condition calls for a direct contrastive analysis of L1 and L2 formulaic structures. Through such analysis it is assumed that because L1 acquisition of formulaic expressions resembles that of L2 processing of formulaic expressions, learning L1 formulaic structures facilitates L2 acquisition of formulaic phrases.

Sparks, Patton, Ganschow, and Humbach (2009) also provide evidence for long-term cross-linguistic transfer of L1 to L2 skills. They maintain that studies about the impact of L1 on L2 stem mainly from two major hypotheses: bilingual studies and special education. With regard to bilingualism, Cummins (1979) introduces the linguistic interdedependence hypothesis, based on which L2 language and skills are to some extent dependent on L1 literacy competence when critically exposed to L2. On the other hand, language skills are transferred from L1 to L2 on the condition that there is sufficient exposure to L2 and enough motivation to learn L2.

The threshold hypothesis assumes that if a learner's L1 competence is low, his or her L2 competence will be low as well. Based on Spark and Ganschow's (as cited in Sparks et al., 2009) linguistic coding differences hypothesis, L1 and L2 learning are based on basic language learning mechanisms, similar in both languages.

In addition to the aforementioned perspectives, which put their emphasis on the similarity of L1 and L2 formulaic acquisition and processing, there are some other viewpoints that emphasize L1–L2 mutual influences and L1–L2 cohabitation patterns within the same mental lexicon and even brain areas.

Multicompetence and CLA

Multicompetence, first proposed by Cook (1992), was the first hypothesis to probe the influence of L2 on L1. The claim is that multicompetent people's knowledge of their L1 is different from that of monolinguals, due to the effects exerted by their L2 on their L1. What is of interest for this study is the contention within the multicompetence perspective that holds that L1 and L2 share the same mental lexicon—that is, that “two dictionaries are combined or that they depend on a language-neutral system which would support multicompetence” (p. 567).

Based on the concept-mediation hypothesis, the lexicons of two languages are connected through an underlying “amodal conceptual system” (Potter, So, von Eckhart, & Feldman, 1984, as cited in Cook, 1992, p. 568). The other tenet of multicompetence pertinent to this study is the claim that L2 processing cannot be cut off from L1; L2 users have access to their L1 in processing their L2. The third pertinent tenet is the fact that both languages are stored in the same area of the brain. Such close connection between L1 and L2 lends itself to an approach to language teaching that draws on contrastive L1–L2 pieces of language.

LEXICAL THEORY AND CONTRASTIVE ANALYSIS

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. FORMULAICITY AND SLA
  4. SELF-SCAFFOLDING THROUGH EMPLOYING L1 IN LEARNING L2
  5. LEXICAL THEORY AND CONTRASTIVE ANALYSIS
  6. HOW AND WHEN TO BRING CLA INTO THE CLASSROOM
  7. POSTMETHODOLOGISTS' CRITICISMS REVISITED
  8. PEDAGOGICAL IMPLICATIONS OF CLA AND SUGGESTED TECHNIQUES
  9. CONCLUSION
  10. THE AUTHORS
  11. REFERENCES

The advent of SLA is attributed to the field of contrastive analysis (CA). As Nunan (2001) puts it, the SLA discipline emerged from comparative studies of similarities and differences between languages. Such studies were carried out based on the idea that a learner's L1 has an influence on the acquisition of an L2. Contrastive analysis predicts and explains learners' problems based on a comparison between L1 and L2 through determining similarities and differences between them. CA was highly influenced by structuralism as a theory of language and behaviorism as a theory of learning psychology.

Lewis (1997) contends that the lexical approach is based on the idea that “language consists not of traditional grammar and vocabulary but often of multi-word prefabricated chunks” (p. 3). Lewis further asserts that the acquisition of considerable numbers of fixed and semifixed prefabricated items, as the basis of any novelty or creativity in language, enhances fluency. Rather than a focus on structures and syntax, the lexical approach is involved in teaching phrases.

Harmer (2001) claims that, although the lexical approach has promoted our understanding about the composition of language, it has neglected the necessity for generating a set of pedagogic principles or syllabus specifications in order to construct a new method. The claim is that through revisiting the tenets of contrastive analysis as a theory of learning and as the historical basis of second language acquisition, and merging it with the lexical approach as a theory of language, a new teaching approach can be generated that satisfies criticisms set forth against contrastive analysis, the lexical approach, and even criticisms against language teaching methodologies by postmethodologists.

All these arguments can be reduced to the prominence of a lexical approach in language acquisition through emphasizing the role of formulaic expressions as efficient fragmentations of language. The lexical approach takes lexical units as basic components of language. Lexical units within this approach are considered as finite units that can be learned in order to master a language.

CLA can be introduced as a new teaching approach that compares and finds equivalents for set phrases between languages and addresses the way such set phrases can be employed in order to serve certain functions. Bahns (1993) has already proposed a translational equivalence of collocations, but he has abandoned his attempts by reducing contrastive approach collocations to simply finding items with no translation equivalents between languages.

With regard to contrastive studies, it can be claimed that the main focus has been on dealing with the what of language teaching rather than the how of language teaching. CLA obviates criticisms set against contrastive analysis. Contrary to other forms of contrastive studies, CLA is a methodology in language teaching and employs contrasts between L1 and L2 as a learning strategy and does not involve itself with such issues as transfer, interference, prediction of errors, or hierarchy of difficulty, albeit it can take advantage of insights provided by CA studies (Fisiak, 1981), because after all CLA necessitates comparison.

In contrast with CA, CLA has a pragmatic aim in its contrasting exercises and helps learners gain communicative competence and still better communicative performance through gaining insight into proper use of language by taking advantage of the pragmatic knowledge of students' L1. It can be claimed that CLA is a new version of CA that has been adapted to the how rather than the what of language teaching. On the other hand, despite claims that CA serves only as a tool in sharpening teachers' perceptions toward determining what should be included in a language teaching program, CLA can generate a new paradigm for CA in which lexical contrasts per se serve teachers by accomplishing the good job of determining the way language should be taught, and at the same time does not lose sight of CA's insights about areas of difficulty in L2 learning.

HOW AND WHEN TO BRING CLA INTO THE CLASSROOM

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. FORMULAICITY AND SLA
  4. SELF-SCAFFOLDING THROUGH EMPLOYING L1 IN LEARNING L2
  5. LEXICAL THEORY AND CONTRASTIVE ANALYSIS
  6. HOW AND WHEN TO BRING CLA INTO THE CLASSROOM
  7. POSTMETHODOLOGISTS' CRITICISMS REVISITED
  8. PEDAGOGICAL IMPLICATIONS OF CLA AND SUGGESTED TECHNIQUES
  9. CONCLUSION
  10. THE AUTHORS
  11. REFERENCES

Because L2 learners are already equipped with an existing L1 at any stage of development and at any age, CLA can be practiced for almost all ages and language proficiency levels when geared to formulaic expressions in learners' repertoire of L1. Low-proficiency L2 learners can be supplied with lists of L1–L2 formulaic contrasts as a shortcut to compensate for their lack of communicative competence (Myles, Hooper, & Mitchell, 1998). This is compatible with Cummins's (1978, 1979) developmental interdependence hypothesis based on which the learners' competence in a second language is dependent on the level of competence they have already achieved in their L1. On the other hand, learners' L2 develops alongside their L1.

High-proficiency L2 learners can also benefit from CLA, because it provides them with conventional ways of expressing meanings equivalent to those in their L1. As a self-experience, one of the authors of the article has observed how often high-proficient L2 learners fail to put their messages across in an appropriate way. As an example, when asked to provide an English equivalent to the Persian expression darim miresim, they almost always use the expression we are getting there and have no idea about the expression we are almost there as the preferred native form.

Classrooms can turn into places in which learners constantly look for conventional and native-like rather than superficial equivalents to the meanings they want to express in their L1. Teachers can sensitize learners toward the presence of L2 equivalents for L1 formulaic expressions that represent higher levels of acceptability and are closer to what native speakers would choose given the same situation. Teachers should encourage learners to gather as many L1–L2 formulaic contrasts as possible and motivate them to use them in their oral and written productions, as a way to expand their knowledge and to stabilize such linguistic pieces within their repertoire of native-like knowledge.

POSTMETHODOLOGISTS' CRITICISMS REVISITED

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. FORMULAICITY AND SLA
  4. SELF-SCAFFOLDING THROUGH EMPLOYING L1 IN LEARNING L2
  5. LEXICAL THEORY AND CONTRASTIVE ANALYSIS
  6. HOW AND WHEN TO BRING CLA INTO THE CLASSROOM
  7. POSTMETHODOLOGISTS' CRITICISMS REVISITED
  8. PEDAGOGICAL IMPLICATIONS OF CLA AND SUGGESTED TECHNIQUES
  9. CONCLUSION
  10. THE AUTHORS
  11. REFERENCES

Before dealing with criticism posed by postmethodologists, it is worth emphasizing how CLA satisfies all three postmethod pedagogic parameters. CLA observes the parameter of particularity by allowing learners' and teachers' cultures to come into play, because it takes L1 as a support in learning L2. L1 introduces linguistic, sociological, and political particularities of the local context into language learning programs. CLA meets the parameter of practicality because it represents an approach that can be adapted and manipulated by language teachers who are equipped with L1; they can have their own personal theory of practice but within a CLA framework. CLA meets the parameter of possibility through respecting learners' and teachers' cultural and social experiences and their identities as L1 speakers.

After providing the theoretical basis for CLA, it seems beneficial to supply reasonable answers to criticisms posed by postmethodologists against methods. These criticisms and answers given to them from a CLA perspective are discussed in the following subsections.

Methods Result in Colonialism

According to Kumaravadivelu (2003), what gives the concept of method its colonial flavor is that the method is a construct of marginality. He contends that marginality values what comes from the colonial self and marginalizes what is related to the subordinate Other. Kumaravadivelu maintains that there are four interrelated aspects of colonialism. The first one is the scholastic dimension of colonialism, in which it is asserted that because of being dependent on theories, and because theories are reminiscent of the West, methods are colonial in the sense that they neglect local knowledge as redundant.

The answer to this criticism is that through introducing CLA, what gains prominence is local knowledge, because L1 needs to be incorporated and L1 knowledge is only possessed by locals. Within this perspective no one theory can be proposed without considerations of the influences of L1 and the role L1 has in helping learners acquire L2. In proposing CLA, it is inescapable to draw on implications from L1–L2, contrasts indeed, but contrasts based on a lexical theory. As a theory of language, a lexical-based linguistic approach is equally based on L1 and L2, and this fact compels scholars to base their conclusions on the nature of L1, thus reducing the colonial nature of linguistic and SLA theories. Through CLA, locals have a voice over SLA theories because they possess what native L2 teachers lack—their L1.

Linguistic Dimension of Colonialism

From this postmethod perspective, after marginalizing the local knowledge, the local languages are also dispensed with as irrelevant and useless in teaching and learning English as a second or foreign language. According to Kumaravadivelu (2003), this is what Phillipson (1992) calls the monolingual tenet, which holds that English is the only proper language to be used as a medium of instruction in English as a foreign or second language contexts. Kumaravadivelu asserts that this monolingual tenet represents the very linguistic dimension of method as a colonial reality that results in the marginalization of local languages. CLA obviates this problem quite easily through claiming the opposite, that is, not only does L1 play a role in L2 acquisition, but L1 also forms the backbone of CLA. Through CLA, local teachers' knowledge of L1 finds prominence, and they possess a clear advantage over native-English-speaking teachers who lack the necessary L1 knowledge.

Cultural Nature of Colonialism

Through presenting native speakers as cultural norms to be followed and imitated, and also through imposing on learners the thought patterns and cultural behaviors of the target society, prototypical methods introduced so far (according to postmethod theorists) stigmatize learners' cultures and identities as factors to be marginalized, if not suppressed. Methods, such theorists say, do not value what learners bring with them as their identity and experience. In this regard, Kumaravadivelu (2003) claims that both linguistic and cultural dimensions of colonialism mostly favor the native speakers of English to the detriment of other local languages and cultures. He also asserts that this overemphasis on the primacy of native English speakers has been challenged by Phillipson (1992), who terms this “the native speaker fallacy,” which is reminiscent of the time when culture was considered as an indispensable part of language.

By being presented with both L1 and L2 in CLA, learners feel more at ease because not only their already possessed identities but also the cultural components of their language are considered worthy of being engaged, respected, and valued as parts of their L2 acquisition. L1 brings to learners familiar cultural norms to be compared to that of L2 cultural beliefs, and if such norms are properly contrasted, they result in intercultural speakers and more tolerant language users through a critical cultural comparison process, by which the learner turns into an intercultural speaker who “is determined to understand, to gain an insider view of the other person's culture and at the same time to contribute to the other person's understanding of his/her own culture from an insider point of view” (Sercu, 2002, p. 63). Within a critical cultural comparison paradigm, as an effective strategy in comparing learners' first culture and target culture, taken-for-granted ideas are challenged. Through a critical cultural comparison, which can be realized through dialogues, taken-for-granted cultural norms are problematized and learners are defamiliarized only to experience new perspectives and viewpoints.

Economic Dimension of Colonialism

The English language teaching industry serves English-speaking countries economically, postmethod critics aver. Monolingualism as a marginalization tool works beneficially in the hands of native speakers by authenticating the role of English as the only tenable medium of instruction. Such a perspective gives credit and value to materials produced only in English-speaking countries (Kumaravadivelu, 2003). CLA, however, eliminates such a hegemony and results in a much more balanced ELT industry in which L1 materials developers are considered as even more reliable and qualified sources of ELT materials because they can easily put their L1 and L2 knowledge in practice, an ability lacked by native-English-speaking L2 materials developers.

Bell (2003) describes two further criticisms posed by postmethodologists against methods. The criticisms (with our responses) follow.

Generalization of Methods

Postmethodologists believe that methods are limited in that they deal only with the first lessons of mainly lower level courses. As a matter of fact, they criticize the unduly universal generalization of methods. Bell (2003) argues that such simplistic generalizations can be refuted easily, being aware that all methods have not been proposed to be generalized. Communicative language teaching (CLT) has never claimed universality; however, it has been the most widely used method.

Although Bell (2003) has given an answer to this criticism through rightfully mentioning the fact that methods have not claimed universal generalization, CLA, in keeping with this contention, also refutes a prescriptive attitude in its practices and leaves room for adaptation and manipulation for different educational contexts. Depending on different situations, CLA can begin from the lower level courses through higher level courses. It can even be realized as numerous methods in language teaching or be used only as a complementary approach to language teaching. In this respect, CLA exhibits the highest flexibility in its practices. CLA is an approach in the same way CLT is, and is flexible in that it can be put into practice in different ways depending on different contexts.

Methods in Practice

The second criticism by postmethodologists that Bell (2003) puts forward is that, because methods have not been prepared based on classroom practices, they have never been realized in their purest forms in accordance to the principles proposed by their originators. According to Richards (as cited in Bell, 2003), what is actually practiced as a method in the classroom is the result of the interaction of many factors, including the teacher, the students, the instructional materials, and the activities.

This notion of the social construction of method in millions of different classrooms suggests that what is called method is often a posteriori rationalization of many similar teaching practices rather than an a priori set of prescriptions emanating from one. (Bell, 2003, p. 329)

This adaptation of method to the local and social context of the classroom lends itself to the particularity aspect of postmethod pedagogy, thus refuting the idea that this parameter is a characteristic of postmethod pedagogy and not a parameter present in a new method. In other words, approaches can be adapted in different situations and thus be called methods as a priori, without the need to be practiced in the first place. Although one can also wait to observe the different realizations of CLA in different situations, it does not mean that its principles cannot be delineated a priori to be adapted by practitioners in real practice.

Brown (2002) also mentions some of the reasons for the demise of methods in language teaching that are presented and accounted for within a CLA framework.

Prescriptive Nature of Methods

According to postmethodologists, methods are prescriptive, that is, they assume what the context is even before the method has been introduced. CLA as an approach does not present any prescriptive actions to be taken by teachers. The techniques CLA provides can be easily manipulated in regard to learners' language proficiency level, age, the nature of their L1, their cultural backgrounds, learning styles, institutional pressures, and preplanned teaching materials. The approach is that L2 formulaic expressions are highly effective in language teaching when contrasted with their L1 equivalents. Techniques are later proposed, and it can be easily observed that they are highly flexible in meeting teachers' expectations and learners' needs. What is more, such techniques may not seem to be new, and they might be used extensively by teachers in language teaching contexts, but no one has ever formally and explicitly based his or her teaching practices on CLA due to the fossilized contention that L1 must be banned in language teaching, as proposed by behaviorists.

Methods Are Similar

Postmethodologists assert that methods are distinguishable from one another at the beginning stages of language teaching, but gradually they lose their uniqueness and very much look like one another. To account for such a phenomenon seems easy, considering the fact that no one method is comprehensive enough in satisfying practitioners' feeling for an ideal methodology. After all, teachers are tempted to go through more eclectic practices in their teaching, a fact that has resulted in the introduction of eclecticism as an alternative to methodological purity.

CLA does not claim a 100% purity to be imposed on teachers and learners. Rather, we contend that CLA awareness eliminates some of the most critical problems experienced by language teachers, mostly in their productions as fluent language users. Each method facilitates language learners and teachers in some way, and the fact that they are not always carried out in their purest forms does not eliminate the need for more methods; rather it calls for more methods to be introduced so that there is more choice to be made. This results in easier adaptation and manipulation of methods to suit certain contextual situations.

Testability of Methods

Postmethodologists have stated that methods are not empirically testable, given the artful and intuitive nature of language pedagogy; as a result, it is not possible to find out which method is the best. The answer is that the artful and intuitive nature of language pedagogy is part of the language learning process, and methods gain their meaning through being practiced in contexts that they have been designed for. What is more, the goal should not be finding the best out of many; rather, teaching methods must be considered as complementary, each one compensating for the shortcomings of the others. Methods must be viewed as various realizations of the same strategy employed to help language teachers and learners in gaining the most from their endeavors, each one suitable in a certain situation. The abundance of methods must be viewed as a positive, rather than a negative, phenomenon that provides teachers with more options to choose from in their practices.

PEDAGOGICAL IMPLICATIONS OF CLA AND SUGGESTED TECHNIQUES

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. FORMULAICITY AND SLA
  4. SELF-SCAFFOLDING THROUGH EMPLOYING L1 IN LEARNING L2
  5. LEXICAL THEORY AND CONTRASTIVE ANALYSIS
  6. HOW AND WHEN TO BRING CLA INTO THE CLASSROOM
  7. POSTMETHODOLOGISTS' CRITICISMS REVISITED
  8. PEDAGOGICAL IMPLICATIONS OF CLA AND SUGGESTED TECHNIQUES
  9. CONCLUSION
  10. THE AUTHORS
  11. REFERENCES

Based on CLA, some pedagogical techniques can be introduced to promote language learning, mostly in developing learners' fluency in both production and comprehension.

As one of the simplest techniques in CLA, learners can be asked to find formulaic utterances (FUs) or chunks in their readings in L2 and also their L1 equivalents of the same texts. This can enhance learners' awareness of the presence of FUs and their role in extracting the meaning of a text. Learners are not necessarily aware of the presence of such FUs in the first place, and this is one of the reasons that they never learn them. In keeping with Bishop's (2004) contention, the problem that second language users have with formulaic sequences is that they are not noticed and, as a result, not easily learned. The more they get familiar with FUs, the better they will become in fluency and accuracy (Miller, 2010; Wood, 2007; Wray & Perkins, 2000) and in the enhancement of their level of the learnability (N. C. Ellis et al., 2008).

In the case of writing, learners can be supplied with FUs and be asked to write based on those FUs. Erman and Warren (as cited in N. C. Ellis et al., 2008) maintain that about half of fluent native text is constructed idiomatically, and such an idiomaticity estimate is even higher in spoken language. Erman (2009) contends that the lack of fluency in L2 writing happens as a result of the lack of collocations. In other words, collocations are the main building blocks for writing in L2. Within a CLA perspective, it is believed that learners can be supplied with FUs as building blocks that help learners in their writing activities, but it does not mean that these blocks easily fit everywhere the writer decides; rather, through manipulating FUs, not only do learners enhance their fluency, but they also gain insights about analytic aspects of FUs. Presenting learners with L1 equivalents of L2, FUs make it easier to learn what L2 FUs mean and remove the unnecessary burden of discovering the meaning of each unfamiliar phrase from consulting dictionaries. In fact, the meanings of such FUs are hardly ever provided in dictionaries, which puts learners at a disadvantage in their attempts to discover meaning.

Yorio and Bolandar (as cited in Wood, 2007) found that adult learners use formulaic language to decrease effort and attention in communication and increase ease and economy in learning and use. According to Wray (2000), formulaic sequences function as shortcuts to the processing route of speech by passing round the need for accumulation of parts or use of short-term memory.

According to Kuiper (2000), one of the critical functions of formulae is constraining the linguistic resources of one speaker when the speaker's working memory is under pressure. In the case of speaking, learners can be given an L1 conversation with an L2 equivalent. Learners can be asked to memorize an L1 conversation. They will be asked to talk with another partner based on the L1 conversation provided for him or her on the board.

Listening can also be promoted through FUs. Native speakers are better listeners because they do not attend to all of the formal components of the language being presented to them. They have a chance to predict the future-coming forms through attending to formulaic units. This fact has been affirmed by Penny (2001), who believes that speakers who have the ability to guess the upcoming words and follow the rule of redundancy are more proficient listeners. In the same line, learners can be asked to discover FUs in a listening section and practice how they are pronounced as whole units. Through presenting learners with how FU pronunciation differs from that of one-by-one pronunciation of words, it is much easier to teach such prosodic aspects of language as accent and intonation.

Dual encoding (Bishop, 2004) is based on the idea that memory works through two systems: a rule-based grammar operating on words and a lexical-based system that provides fast access to prefabricated units. Bishop (2004) believes that both systems are employed by fluent language users, and it can be claimed that both systems are interrelated in the sense that the knowledge of one contributes to the better mastery of the other. The argument is that formulaic sequences are a major lexical component of dual encoding of considerable importance in fluent target language production. FUs, together with their L1 equivalents, can be employed as meaningful samples to be committed to different grammatical forms, a practice that better catches the attention of learners because they become curious when a formulaic unit changes its form in L1 to match a certain situation, what happens to that of L2 form. The argument is that rather than presenting meaningless and clichéd samples to be manipulated based on grammatical rules, L2 formulaic units compared to that of their L1 equivalents better catch learners' attention in learning grammar.

It is worth mentioning that the techniques mentioned are not mutually exclusive, in the sense that, when one's knowledge of FUs increases through one technique, it is likely that the knowledge acquired is taken advantage of in performing other skills.

As another technique in CLA, educational movies can be prepared in which L1 equivalents to L2 FUs are provided as subtitles, prior to characters' articulation of L2 equivalents. Learners have the chance to hear L2 FUs in the movies and get involved in the context after being asked to respond to the characters when they have access to L1 equivalents through subtitles. Such a technique promotes learners' guessing abilities and their sensitivity toward L2 natural forms for L1 meanings they want to express. It must be emphasized that this practice must be done under a teacher's supervision, because obviously there will be many possible equivalents for the same FU expressed in L2.

Translation can be another technique through which learners are first asked to find FUs in a text written either in L1 or L2 and then translate these FUs into the other language. Such a practice teaches different genres in both L1 and L2 and sensitizes learners to different genres of both L1 and L2. They will know which FUs are allowed in certain situations and which ones are prohibited.

Through a how to say technique, learners can be given a certain frame together with its scripts. Language learners are then asked to supply L2 FU equivalents for L1 FUs in the same frame and relevant scripts. A comparison between L1 and L2 forms in achieving the same function in the same frame can be a good practice that promotes learners' understanding of appropriate L2 forms in certain situations.

CONCLUSION

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. FORMULAICITY AND SLA
  4. SELF-SCAFFOLDING THROUGH EMPLOYING L1 IN LEARNING L2
  5. LEXICAL THEORY AND CONTRASTIVE ANALYSIS
  6. HOW AND WHEN TO BRING CLA INTO THE CLASSROOM
  7. POSTMETHODOLOGISTS' CRITICISMS REVISITED
  8. PEDAGOGICAL IMPLICATIONS OF CLA AND SUGGESTED TECHNIQUES
  9. CONCLUSION
  10. THE AUTHORS
  11. REFERENCES

Taking advantage of L1–L2 contrasts of formulaic expressions as a language teaching technique may have been employed quite frequently by language teachers and by language learners. Despite such a popularity of use, there has never been any explicit effort to introduce a new teaching approach based on comparisons between L1 and L2 formulaic utterances. This may be due to the notorious consequences of employing L1 in learning L2 proposed by behaviorists. The argument is that despite such a belief, L1 can be used in teaching and learning L2 as a highly useful support. When one does not know an L2 form, referring back to one's L1 should not be barred; rather, attempts must be made to render such recourse a positive and helpful one. Through equipping learners with L2 equivalents for L2 FUs, which is believed to happen through CLA, learners have a chance to fall back on their L1, but this time they do not equate literal translations of L2 forms with their L1; rather, they have the correct equivalent at their disposal. From a CLA perspective, no matter how similar or different languages are, and without being worried about transfer and interference of L1, L2 equivalents are taken as units of language acquisition, which results in fluent mastery of a second language.

THE AUTHORS

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. FORMULAICITY AND SLA
  4. SELF-SCAFFOLDING THROUGH EMPLOYING L1 IN LEARNING L2
  5. LEXICAL THEORY AND CONTRASTIVE ANALYSIS
  6. HOW AND WHEN TO BRING CLA INTO THE CLASSROOM
  7. POSTMETHODOLOGISTS' CRITICISMS REVISITED
  8. PEDAGOGICAL IMPLICATIONS OF CLA AND SUGGESTED TECHNIQUES
  9. CONCLUSION
  10. THE AUTHORS
  11. REFERENCES

Parviz Maftoon is an associate professor at Islamic Azad University, Science and Research Branch, Tehran, Iran. He received his PhD from New York University in TESOL in 1978. His research interests concern second language acquisition, second language and foreign language teaching methodology, and language syllabus design. He has published nationally and internationally and written and edited a number of books. He is currently on the editorial board of some language journals in Iran.

Meisam Ziafar is a PhD student at Islamic Azad University, Science and Research Branch, Tehran, Iran, and a faculty member in the Department of English Language Teaching, Science and Research Branch, Islamic Azad University, Khouzestan, Iran. His research interests are contrastive studies, second language acquisition, and foreign language teaching methodologies. Together with Dr. Maftoon he is working on a new approach to second language acquisition and language teaching which they have termed the Contrastive Lexical Approach. He has authored and published articles about this approach.

REFERENCES

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. FORMULAICITY AND SLA
  4. SELF-SCAFFOLDING THROUGH EMPLOYING L1 IN LEARNING L2
  5. LEXICAL THEORY AND CONTRASTIVE ANALYSIS
  6. HOW AND WHEN TO BRING CLA INTO THE CLASSROOM
  7. POSTMETHODOLOGISTS' CRITICISMS REVISITED
  8. PEDAGOGICAL IMPLICATIONS OF CLA AND SUGGESTED TECHNIQUES
  9. CONCLUSION
  10. THE AUTHORS
  11. REFERENCES