ABSTRACT  Formerly held distinctions which opposed “conscious” to “unconscious” learning, “controlled” to “automatic” processing, and “learning” to “acquisition“have eroded as tenable models of L2 learning processes. Recent formulations of L2 development instead favor an approach which integrates linguistic theory with the information-processing models advanced in cognitive psychology. Rather than relying on binary distinctions, processing-oriented, task-centered research features continua which accommodate the overlapping, interdependent dimensions of explicit and implicit knowledge, as well as learning with and without awareness.

In this study, learners performed metalingual and preference tasks requiring them to utilize L2 knowledge brought to mind under one of two conditions: 1)byan aural “priming” activity (a listening exercise) designed to tap into memory without recourse to explicit rules, or 2) by a written task (a multiple-choice grammar exercise) aimed specifically at invoking explicit L2 rules. Francophone secondary students of English as a foreign language (N=169) took a 50-item aural test involving judgments of well-formed and ill-formed English syntactic structures, and a parallel written multiple choice test containing corresponding strings. The “primed” group, which took the written test before the aural test, significantly outperformed the “unprimed” group (p ≤ .01), which took the aural test first; performance levels on the written tests were statistically comparable. Two-way ANOVA results indicate important differences between recall with awareness and recall without awareness, strongly suggesting a positive role for “priming” via the written channel in foreign language learning. That is, completion of the written task prior to the listening task appeared to enhance learners performance significantly on the latter, possibly because of the explicit character of the former.