Formal and Informal Experiential Realms in German as a Foreign Language: A Preliminary Investigation


  • Alene Moyer

    1. University of Maryland
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      Alene Moyer (PhD, University of Texas at Austin) is Associate Professor of Germanic Linguistics and Second Language Acquisition at the University of Maryland, College Park, Maryland


Abstract: In this study of German as a foreign language, formal classroom experience is compared with informal use of German outside the classroom focusing on three syntactic features: main clause word order (subject–verb–object, or SVO), topicalization (subject–verb inversion), and subordinate word order (subject–object–verb, or SOV). T tests and correlation analyses comparing written and oral data from 31 learners demonstrate that: (a) written and oral fluency diverge significantly for these three features; (b) formal and informal target language experience both correlate to fluency; (c) formal experience correlates most significantly to written fluency; and (d) learner orientation is closely related to both experience and fluency in several ways. This preliminary study underscores the quality of experience—consistent, interactive target language contact across multiple domains—as more significant for acquiring certain features than is quantity, or mere duration of target language exposure.